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William Shepard to James Bowdoin Regarding Attack on Arsenal

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BOSTON, February I.
Copy of a letter from the Hon. General SHEPARD to his Excellency the GOVERNOR.
SPRINGFIELD, January 26, 1787.
THE unhappy time is come in which we have been obliged to shed blood. Shays, who was at the head of about 1200 men, marched yesterday afternoon about four o'clock, towards the public buildings, in battle array.—He marched his men in an open column by platoons. I sent several times by one of my Aids, and two other gentlemen, Captain Buffington and Woodbridge, to know what he was after, or what he wanted. His reply was, he wanted barracks, and barracks he would have, and stores. The answer returned was, he must purchase them dear, if he had them. He still proceeded on his march, until he approached within 250 yards of the arsenal. He then made a halt. I immediately sent Major Lyman, one of my Aids, and Capt. Buffington, to inform him not to march his troops any nearer the arsenal on his peril, as I was stationed here by order of your Excellency and the Secretary at War, for the defence of the public property; in case he did, I should surely fire on him and his men. A Mr. Wheeler, who appeared to be one of Shays' Aids, met Mr. Lyman, after he had delivered my orders in the most peremptory manner, and made answer, that that was all he wanted. Mr. Lyman returned with his answer.

Shays immediately put his troops in motion & marched on rapidly near one hundred yards. I then ordered Major Stephens, who commanded the artillery, to fire on them, he accordingly did. The two first shot he endeavoured to overshoot them, in hopes they would have taken warning without firing among them, but it had no effect on them. Major Stephens then directed his shot through the centre of his column. The fourth and fifth shot put the whole column into the utmost confusion. Shays made an attempt to display the column, but in vain. We had one howit which was loaded with grape shot, which, when fired, gave them great uneasiness. Had I been disposed to destroy them, I might have charged upon their rear and flanks with my infantry and the two field-pieces, and could have killed the greater part of the whole army within twenty-five minutes. There was not a single musket fired on either side.

I found three men dead on the spot, and one wounded, who is since dead. One of our artillery-men, by inattention, was badly wounded.

Three muskets were taken up with the dead, which were all deeply loaded. I enclose to your Excellency a copy of a paper sent to me last evening. I have received no reinforcement yet, and expect to be attacked this day by their whole force combined.

I am, Sir, with great respect,
Your Excellency's most obedient,
Humble servant,
His Excellency James Bowdoin, Esq.

The following is a copy of the paper inclosed in the above letter.
Head-quarters, West-Springfield, Jan 25, 1787.

THE body of the people assembled in arms, adhering to the first principles in natural self-preservation, do, in the most peremptory manner, demand,

1. That the troops in Springfield lay down their arms.

2. That their arms to deposited in the public stores, under the care of the proper officers, to be returned to the owners at the termination of the present contest.

3. That the troops return to their homes upon parole.

To the Commanding Officer at Springfield, Jan. 25, 1787,
Luke Day, Captain Commandant of this division
On the back,--"By Col. Eli Parsons"