Biography of Hugh Mercer
Hugh Mercer was an important General in the Continental Army during the early days of the American Revolutionary War. He was from Scotland, where he was a doctor, and participated in the Jacobite Rebellion. When the Rebellion was crushed, he fled Scotland and emigrated to Pennsylvania. He worked as a doctor and then joined the British forces in America as a soldier during the French and Indian War. During the war, he met George Washington and the two became friends. Mercer was part of the Forbes Expedition, which built Fort Pitt on the remains of Fort Duquesne at the Forks of the Ohio. Mercer was put in charge of building a smaller, temporary fort, which became known as Fort Mercer. After the war, Mercer moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, and worked as a doctor. In 1775, he was appointed a member of the Fredericksburg Committee of Safety, and in November he was commissioned by Congress as a Brigadier General in the Continental Army. He was sent to New York where he oversaw the construction of Fort Lee. He participated in the Battle of Trenton. At the Second Battle of Trenton, he was in command of the defenses of the town. On January 3, 1777, while Washington marched to attack Princeton, Mercer’s men were attacked by British forces. Mercer’s horse was shot and fell and as Mercer tried to get up, he was bayoneted by British soldiers. Washington was able to rally the Americans to victory at the Battle of Princeton, but Mercer died soon after from his wounds.
This painting by John Trumbull depicts British soldiers attacking Mercer at the Battle of Princeton. Image Source: Wikimedia.
5 Things to Know About Hugh Mercer
- Mercer was born on January 16, 1726, in Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and died in Princeton, New Jersey on January 12, 1777.
- He was a member of the Independent Company of the Town of Fredericksburg, which sent a letter to George Washington to inform him about the Virginia Gunpowder Alarm.
- At the Battle of Princeton, Mercer led the advance force and had orders from Washington to destroy Stony Brook Bridge. Mercer and his men were spotted by British forces and a fierce fight took place in an orchard on a farm owned by Thomas Clarke.
- After Mercer fell from his horse and was bayoneted, he continued to rally his men and ordered them to push forward.
- The British thought he was George Washington and left him to die on the battlefield.
Hugh Mercer was important to United States history for his leadership in the early days of the American Revolution. After his death, he was seen as a hero for the American Cause.