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First Name: Daniel

Last Name: Shays

Birthplace: Hopkinton, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Ogden

Date of Birth: 1747

Date of Death: 29 September 1825

Rank: Captain

Years Served:
Daniel Ogden Shays

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


Daniel Ogden Shays
Captain, U.S. Army

Daniel Ogden Shays was born in August 1747 in Hopkinton, MA, the son of an Irishman who came to America as an indentured servant.

Little is known about his life prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. With no formal education, Daniel began work as a farm laborer, an occupation that would provide a stable and secure life, even if it was on the lower end of the economic scale. He married Abigail Gilbert on 18 July 1772 in Brookfield, MA.

Daniel first came into prominence when the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775. He joined the Massachusetts Militia and, due to his leadership, was commissioned an Ensign, serving at the Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston, where he was recognized for his gallantry. In 1777, he was promoted to Captain in the 5th Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army, and participated in the battles of Ticonderoga, Saratoga and Stony Point, NY. His service record was considered notable, and at the end of his service in 1780, the Marquis de Lafayette presented him with a ceremonial sword for his distinguished service.

Following his resignation, he took up farming at Pelham (now Prescott), MA, and served in several local government positions. After the war, economic conditions in the U.S., and especially in western Massachusetts, began to spiral into a recession and many farmers, hard pressed economically, expressed their disenchantment with the lack of support from the Massachusetts government. While the farmers' complaints were many, most thought that the state governor ignored their plight, the state senators were aristocratic rich men, and taxes were too high. Many believed the state courts were merely instruments of governmental oppression, especially in their enforcement of debt collection. Imprisonment for failure to pay debts was common.

Eventually, the farmers rose in revolt, and by 1786 Shays became one of several leaders in the revolt against high taxation. The uprising soon become known as Shays' Rebellion, after an encounter between a force of 800 farmers under Shays and a militia unit of 1,000 at Springfield, MA, on 26 September 1786. Four rebels were killed when the militia opened fire on the protesting farmers, who were trying to prevent the state Supreme Court from convening and bringing indictments against farmers who were in arrears from their debts.

By the winter of 1787, there was open fighting between Massachusetts' forces and rebelling farmers. On 25 January 1787, Shays' force of 1100 farmers were repulsed in their attempt to capture the Army arsenal at Springfield, which was defended by General Shepard with 1000 men. General Shepard was soon reinforced with 4,000 militiamen led by General Benjamin Lincoln, who pursued the retreating farmer force to Petersham, MA, where Shays' Army was defeated again, on 2 February 1787, with over 150 captured and the rest disbursed. Most of the leaders were condemned to death for treason, with the others imprisoned, but within a year, all of the rebels were released by Governor John Hancock who realized that economic conditions were the reason for the farmers' revolt and not treason. Shays escaped capture by slipping into Vermont, then an independent republic not subject to the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, and in February 1788, Shays petitioned Governor Hancock for amnesty, which was granted on 13 June.

Shays then moved to Sparta, NY, where he reunited with his family. He was later granted a monthly federal government pension of $20 for his service in the Revolutionary War. For the rest of his life, Shays would state that his service in the Revolution and his leadership of the Rebellion were for the exact same principles. During his life, he never allowed a portrait of himself to be made, so it is unknown what he actually looked like. Images of him in newspapers and other periodicals were drawn without seeing him, and are not considered accurate.

Death and Burial

Captain Daniel Ogden Shays died on 29 September 1825 in Sparta, NY. He is buried at Union Cemetery in Conesus, NY.

Honoree ID: 3070   Created by: MHOH




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