Likely born in 1747 in the small town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Shays fought in many American Revolution battles as a captain in the Continental Army. After he retired from the army, he settled in Pelham. Like many former soldiers, he found the “scrip” he had been paid for his services was now worth little. At the same time, new taxes were levied to pay for the Revolutionary War debts, and farmers who couldn’t pay their taxes were having their land seized. In 1786, he became a leader of an army of 800 poor farmers. They marched to Springfield to prevent the courts from opening so their land could not be taken. In the first skirmish with government forces, four men were killed. The fighting continued through 1787, when many of the farmers, including Shays, fled to the Vermont Republic. Shays Rebellion was over, and Shays was charged with treason and condemned to death. However, he was given an amnesty, and eventually granted a small pension for his exemplary service in the Revolution. He died in poverty in New York.
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