SHEPARD, WILLIAM. (1737–1817). Continental officer. Massachusetts. Born in Westfield, Massachuetts, William Shepard was the son of a tanner and deacon of the local Congregational church. He enlisted as a private in a Massachusetts provincial regiment at the age of seventeen, in 1755. By the end of the final French and Indian war, he was a captain with six years of valuable military experience. A farmer, selectman, and member of the Westfield Committee of Correspondence prior to the Revolution, he led his company of Colonel Timothy Danielson's minuteman regiment in response to the Lexington alarm in April 1775, and was elected lieutenant colonel of Danielson's regiment in May 1775, while serving in the New England army besieging Boston. On 1 January 1776 he was named lieutenant colonel of the Third Continental Infantry (Massachusetts), was wounded at the battle of Long Island on 27 August, and was promoted to colonel on 2 October, with seniority from 4 May. He performed well, but was wounded again, at Pell's Point, New York, on 18 October 1776. On 1 January 1777 he took command of the Fourth Massachusetts and led his regiment in the battles around Saratoga as part of John Glover's Second Massachusetts Brigade. After spending the winter at Valley Forge, he went on recruiting duty around Springfield, Massachusetts. By the time he retired from the army, on 1 January 1783, he had fought in twenty-two separate engagements. Breveted a brigadier general on 30 September 1783, he returned to his farm at Westfield.
As a major general of militia in Hampshire County in 1786, Shepard defended the federal court at Springfield during Shays's Rebellion. Starting on 25 January 1787, he held off Shays's attack on the arsenal until General Benjamin Lincoln arrived with a relief force. He was never fully reimbursed for public expenditures from his own pocket, and some of his personal property was destroyed by Shays's sympathizers. In addition to other public offices, he served in the House of Representatives for three two-year terms, starting in March 1797. He spent his last fifteen years quietly on his farm.
revised by Harold E. Selesky