© 2008 Bryant White
What little we know of Moses Sash is due to his participation in the American Revolution and his capture and arrest during the Massachusetts Regulation, or "Shays' Rebellion." Moses Sash enlisted as a private in August 1777 during the war, joining a regiment commanded by Colonel Ruggles Woodbridge of South Hadley. He re-enlisted in 1781 for a bounty from the town of Cummington for three years and served in the 7th Massachusetts regiment around West Point, New York, under Colonel John Brooks. According to his military records, Sash was a farmer and laborer in civilian life, was 5'8" and had a black complexion, with black hair "wool". When the war ended, Sash was discharged and returned to his home in Worthington, a small town in western Massachusetts. In the turbulent 1780s, Sash joined the protests against the Massachusetts government. He was part of the pell-mell retreat of the Regulators (referred to as "insurgents" by the government and its supporters) following their failed attempt to capture the United States Arsenal at Springfield, Massachusetts, in January 1787. At the time of his capture by government troops commanded by General Benjamin Lincoln, Sash was apparently trying to obtain arms for the Regulators encamped at Pelham where they had retreated following the bloody encounter at Springfield. Of the thirty-three indictments issued by a Hampshire County jury at Northampton, only Moses Sash was identified as a "Labourer." The first of the two indictments issued against Sash identified him as "a Captain & one of Shaises council." According to the jurors, Sash was a Negro man & Labourer" who, "being a disorderly, riotous & seditious person & minding and contriving as much as in him lay unlawfully by force of arms" had "promote[d] and maintain[ed] riots tumults mobs insurrections in this Commonwealth." Sash was further accused of taking a leading role in recruiting and encouraging armed opposition to the state: he "did advise persuade invite incourage and procure divers persons…by force of arms to oppose this government and Commonwealth." To achieve these ends, Sash had "unlawfully & seditiously" procured "guns, bayonets, pistols, swords, gunpowder, bullets, blankets and provisions" to arm fellow "riotous & seditious persons." The second indictment declared that Sash "did steal and carry away" two guns valued at five pounds. It is not clear why the court identified him "one of Shaises Councill" although this may have referred to Sash' activities in recruiting men to join the Regulators. Despite the gravity of the charges, no subsequent action was taken. With the election of Governor Hancock in April 1787, the government dropped the charges.
Note: All narratives about people are, to the extent possible, based on primary and secondary historical sources.
See Further Reading for a list of sources used in creating this narrative. For a discussion of issues related to telling people's stories on the site, see: Bringing History to Life: The People of Shays' Rebellion