January 25, 1787: Shay’s Rebellion comes to Springfield

On Thursday the Twenty fifth day of January, One thousand Seven hundred & Eighty Seven, having the command of a Company of Light-Horse, and being under the command of Maj. Gen William Shepard, (who commanded the Forces Shays arsenal_militiastationed at Springfield for the defense of the Arsenal and Public Buildings) I was ordered to reconnoiter with a Party of horses, the Main Road from Springfield to Wilbraham, to watch the motions of the Insurgents under Daniel Shays who was approaching.

I accordingly met them at five Miles distance from Springfield on the main Road at which time they were halted – several of their Officers, on seeing me, advanced to me – I asked them if they were Shays’ Party—they said yes.—I then asked if Shays was with them—they said yes; and then observed, they had a fine Body of Troops; I readily assented, and asked the Officer, who by his conversation seemed chief, to exchange Names, which he declined; another Officer coming up, and calling my Name several of them said I should not return.—

One of them then said, if the matter was not settled before Sunset, New England would see such a day as She had never yet seen –I answered probably enough she might, and left them. On their nearer Approach to the Arsenal I again met them and spoke with their Officers and asked if Capt Shays was yet with them; they Answered General Shays was, on which he advanced and with his sword in his left hand drawn, his Pistol in his Right hand, and familiarly asked, how are you Buffinton –

I replied, you See, I am here in defense of that Country you are endeavoring to destroy—he rejoined, if you are in defense of the Country, we are both defending the same Cause—I added, I expected we should take very different Posts before night He said the Post he should take, would be the hill on which the Arsenal and Public Buildings stood; I told him if he attempted it, he would meet a very warm Reception –

He asked, will they fire I replied, they undoubtedly would he answered , that was all he wanted: –I then observed to him, if he advanced, he must  meet those Men we both had once been accustomed to obey.

When the Insurgents had advanced within about One hundred Rods of our Lines I was again Sent, in company with Mr Lyman, General Shepard’s Aid, to tell Shays, that General Shepard was posted not only by the Authority of this State, but by Congress, and that the Post would be defended at all Regards. On warning to the front of their Column was called for the Commanding Officer they asked if Gen Shepard was here; we answered yes, they said he was not—they did not see him, on either of the Horses, and replied, if Gen Shepard will come here, Gen Shays will come forward.

We asked will he not without they said no—we told them they might go about their Business then they said they meant to we told them as soon as they pleased I then told them, Gen Shepard bid me tell Shays he was posted not only by the Authority of this State but by Congress, and that he should defend this post at all hazard.

I was sent to observe their motions again and to tell them if they advanced forward they would be fired on, which I accordingly did, in Company with Mr Lyman, the General’s aid ~ they said it was all they wanted, and immediately gave orders, march on—march on.~

Sam Buffinton

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