WHY THERE WAS “THE BATTLE OF NEW BRAINTREE”
A LITTLE BACKGROUND TIMELINE
1666 – Freeholders and other inhabitants of the south shore town of Braintree, Massachusetts petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts for an additional grant of land. This request was made because these founding permanent residents of Braintree were now not able to pay the high rents and other town expenses as much of the town was owned by rich non-residents and speculators from Boston.
1751 – On January 31 the final order from the court establishing 6,000 acres called “Braintree Farms” was ordered and the area, now called “New Braintree”, was incorporated.
1754 – The new district of New Braintree took action to provide for the town’s defense by purchasing a stock of ammunition.
1773 – New Braintree unanimously passed the resolve not to buy or use any East India tea from Great Britain.
1774 – Officers were chosen for a standing New Braintree Minutemen Militia.
1776 – New Braintree unanimously passed a vote to support the General Congress of Massachusetts if it declared independence from England. Independence was declared and the Revolutionary War was on.
1786 -1787 – When the Revolutionary War ended, Massachusetts found itself in a serious economic depression. High taxes and low prices for farm products forced foreclosures and bankruptcies on small farmers. Western Massachusetts farmers demanded relief in the forms of: paper money, a moratorium on debts, and an end to debt imprisonment. The state government disappointingly took no action.
1786 – Dismayed at the lack of response from the state, disgruntled farmer Daniel Shays formed and led an armed rebellion of like-minded farmers in hopes of forcefully closing the civil courts in Worcester and Boston and therefore prevent future farm foreclosures for debt.
FINALLY – THE BATTLE OF NEW BRAINTREE
1787 – Late on February 2, a bitterly cold night, 150 government infantry and 20 horsemen, set on neutralizing Shays’ rebel group, approached New Braintree center. The goal was to stop supplies that were passing through the rebel outpost of New Braintree and then to continue on to surprise Shays’ rebels at their headquarters in Pelham.
Although the 23 New Braintree minutemen, housed that night primarily in Moses Hamilton’s tavern, received an early warning of the government militia’s approach, the brave farmers fought hard, but were defeated. They were hopelessly out numbered and out gunned. Word of this defeat and loss of the much-needed supply point reached Shays’ group in Pelham, forcing them to quickly retreat to Petersham. It was there, during a fierce winter storm that Shays’ rebels, thinking they were temporarily secure due to the storm, were surprised by the militia forces and they were also defeated. It is acknowledged that the defeat in New Braintree may have ultimately been responsible for the defeat of Shays’ rebellion.