court-houses were attacked and their session sometimes prevented. The party in favour of the state government, and, of course, of the support of the laws, was commonly called the court party. An Englishman might smile at such an application of the term.
The insurrectionary spirit was very general throughout the commonwealth; and it might be said that the western counties were in the possession of the rebels against republicanism. It endured, however, but for a few months, and was chiefly put down by the voluntary and spirited exertions of the peaceable inhabitants. While it lasted, there was, of course, a considerable degree of license, and occasional pilfering, for it could hardly be called plunder; but there was little destruction of property, and no cruelty. Sometimes a few individuals of the court party, and sometimes a few Shaysites were made prisoners; and in such cases they were shut up in rooms during the stay of the conquering party, and occasionally marched off with them on their retreat.
It is probable that about fifteen or twenty individuals perished in battle during the Shays war. Not one suffered by the sentence of a civil magistrate.
The most severe engagement which occurred during the contest, took place in Sheffield, on the 27th of February, 1787. The government party was composed of militia from Sheffield and Barrington; in number about eighty men, and commanded by Colonel John Ashley, of Sheffield. This party, hearing that the rebels had appeared in force, in Stockbridge, where they had committed some depredations, and taken several prisoners, pursued them for some time without success, and did not fall in with them until their return to Sheffield, to which place the rebels had marched by a different route. The insurgents were more numerous, but possessed less confidence than the government party. This circumstance was every where observable during the contest. Upon this occasion, as the most effectual protection, they placed their prisoners in front of their line, and between themselves and their assailants.