"THEY IMMEDIATELY BROKE INTO THE GREATEST CONFUSION" (MASSACHUSETTS.) Hoyt, Epaphras. An officer's long eyewitness description of the principal battle of Shays' Rebellion. Autograph Letter Signed as "Epaphras Hoit" to brother Seth in Deerfield, MA. 3 pages plus integral address leaf, 13 x 8 1/2 inches, on one sheet; minor wear. (MRS) Springfield, MA, 26 January 1787
Estimate $5,000 - 7,500
Epaphras Hoyt (1765-1850) of Deerfield, MA was a longtime officer in the Massachusetts militia, reaching the rank of Major General. He wrote several books on American military tactics and history. This letter gives Hoyt's contemporary account of the central battle of Shays' Rebellion, in which an army of thousands of disaffected western Massachusetts men had risen against high taxes, and were preparing to storm the state armory at Springfield. Hoyt, writing from Springfield to his brother Seth, wrote: "Yesterday being informed that the insurgents were upon the march toward our encampment . . . with an intent to possess themselves of our barracks and our stores, the army immediately got under arms . . . and put out patroles to scour the reach toward the enemy (I myself had the honour to command a patrole). . . . Though the enemy were superior to us in number they were (as we afterwards found) very scantily provided with ammunition. . . . Their commander had told them that we should not dare to fire on them, which they generally believed." The state militia retreated cautiously back into camp, and "our General sent to them to let them know that he should not suffer them to advance any further, that he was stationed there not only by order of Commonwealth but by Congress, but this was not sufficient to stop them." Upon the first artillery barrage, "they immediately broke into the greatest confusion and dispersed, and left the field to us with three killed and one wounded who died soon after. It would have been easy to have made the greatest part of them prisoners had our Gen. put in his light troops. But he supposed that he had brought them to their senses, which was soon found to be true, for great numbers of them saw their homes before they slept, though some of them were thirty miles from them." A vivid and apparently unpublished description of the central incident of Shays' Rebellion; we are aware of no other contemporary manuscript accounts at auction. with--a small group of Hoyt's correspondence and other papers: Brother Seth Hoyt's response from Deerfield five days later, 1 February 1787: "Every man from this town who joined Shays was at home in 24 hours time after they were fired upon in Springfield . . . they pretended they had been only spectators but some person looked in their slays & found their arms laid close in the bottom" * 4 letters from Epaphras Hoyt to his wife while travelling in Maine and Canada, 1805-11 * Hoyt's letter (retained draft?) to the renowned cartographer Andrew Ellicott describing an eclipse, 1811 * Hoyt's 16-page description of an 1825 visit to the site of the 1777 Battle of Bemis Heights * 3 letters from other correspondents, 1824-27 * and 3 other documents including Hoyt's 1815 commission as Brigadier General in the Massachusetts Militia.