Gen. Hugh MERCER

Gen. Hugh MERCER

Male 1726 - 1777

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  • Name  Gen. Hugh MERCER  [1, 2, 3
    Prefix  Gen. 
    Born  1726  Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender  Male 
    Died  12 Jan 1777  Princeton, Mercer Co., New Jersey, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Buried  1840  Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., Pennsylvania, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Hugh was first buried at Christ Churchyard and later moved to Laurel Hill Cemetery.
    Person ID  I3706  Munro
    Last Modified  31 May 2013 

    Father  Rev. William MERCER,   b. 25 Mar 1696, Aberdeen, , Aberdeen, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1767 
    Mother  Ann MUNRO,   b. Est 1700,   d. 19 Jan 1768 
    Married  8 Jun 1723 
    Family ID  F22355  Group Sheet

    Family  Isabelle GORDON,   b. Abt 1727,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    >1. Mary Gordon MERCER,   b. Abt 1775,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified  20 Jan 2009 
    Family ID  F2703  Group Sheet

  • Notes 
    • Hugh was a medical student at the University of Aberdeen 1740-1744. He immediately became a follower of Prince Charles Edward Stuart when he arrived in Scotland in 1745. Hugh served Bonnie Prince Charlie as an Assistant Surgeon and was with him at his disasterous defeat at Culloden. He barely escaped with his life from the field of battle and fled to Aberdeen. As a rebel and a hunted man, facing possible execution, he couldn't stay in Scotland. About a year later, he slipped aboard a vessel at Leith and sailed for Philadelphia.

      He arrived in Philadelphia in May 1747 with just 30 pounds in his pocket that he had earned for medically treating the ship's captain. Still not feeling safe from English vengance, he headed west to Conococheague, a settlement in western Pennsylvania. There he organized and became the leader of a company of "rangers" who would be able to assemble quickly in case of attack by the Indians.

      In 1755, Hugh met 23-year old Colonel George Washington. They became life-long friends.

      As the Indian menace became worse, money was appropriated to raise a disciplined militia. Hugh was appointed captain in the Second Battalion on 6 Mar 1756. His company was stationed at Fort McDowell and Fort Shirley. During an attack on, Kittanning, an Indian stronghold, Hugh was wounded. He had lost a lot of blood and was left for dead in an unknown country. After a 10-day walk, subsisting on rattlesnake meat and fresh-water clams, wild plums and blackberries, Hugh barely made it back to the fort. He was later awarded a medal by the City of Philadelphia for this action.

      In 1758, now Colonel Mercer took part in the second attack on Fort Duquesne, led by General Forbes and aided by Colonel Washington. The fort was destroyed. The fort was later rebuilt and renamed Fort Pitt. Col. Mercer was made its first commandant.

      Hugh was discharged on 8 Jan 1761 because the Indian threat was greatly abated.

      At the urging of George Washington, Hugh moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia leaving the rugged frontier life for the more luxurious life of a Virginia Doctor. In 1762, he became the civilian doctor to the Virginia military regiment. He later served as vestryman of St. George's Episcopal Church and head of George Washington's Masonic Lodge #4.

      Now with a wife and family, Hugh began buying land in Virginia. Within 10 years, he owned about 13,000 acres. He also bought Washington's 600-acre Ferry Farm for 2,000 pounds in Virginia money. Washington allowed him to pay in three, four or five equal annual payments as it should suit him.

      By 1771, Hugh's medical practice was extensive and he had opened an apothecary shop which had a sitting room and small library that George Washington used as an office whenever he came to Fredericksburg.

      In Aug 1775, the Virginia Convention voted to form three regiments and balloted for officers. Although Hugh Mercer's name was proposed, he lost each time. Many of his friends were annoyed that Patrick Henry, a lawyer, orator and patriot, was chosen over a man of military experience. But Hugh said, "Hugh Mercer will serve his adopted country and the cause of liberty in any rank or station to which he may be assigned."

      In Sep 1776, another regiment was organized and Hugh was elected Colonel by the Virginia Convention. He moved his wife and five children to Williamsburg and started organizing and drilling his men. Very soon after this, George Washington and the Continental Congress made him a brigadier-general in the Revolutionary army. He was placed in charge of small moveable forces of militia from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey and charged with protecting the area of New Jersey between New York and Philadelphia.

      General Mercer had difficulty keeping his forces together. Many men went home when their enlistment expired and many deserted. At the same time, Washington had evacuated New York and was retreating toward Philadelphia. A victory was badly needed to raise the morale of the troops and of the colonies. Hugh suggested attacking the Hessian soldiers guarding Trenton and Princeton, timing the attack for the morning of 26 Dec when many of the defenders would be sleeping off hangovers.

      The dramatic crossing of the Deleware River by Washington's forces was followed by a complete route of the British and Hessians in the streets of Trenton.

      Hugh was leading a brigade to scout the Princeton area when he encountered a larger body of British soldiers sent by General Howe to relieve Trenton. During the battle, Hugh was thrown from his horse. As he tried to rally his brigade on foot, he was surrounded. Despite efforts to defend himself with his sword, he received seven bayonet wounds and was left for dead. He was still alive when he was carried to a nearby house by seminary students from the College of New Jersey (which later became Princeton). He died of his wounds the next day.

      He was buried with civic and military honors in Philadelphia's Christ Churchyard. In 1840, his body was transferred to Laurel Hill cemetery and marked by a monument and the words "The worthy and brave Mercer, who died while fighting for American independence at the Battle of Princeton in 1777."

      Mercersburg, Pennsylvania was named in his honor in 1786 and ultimately counties in eight states were named after him.
      iThe Life of Hugh Mercer

      Hugh Mercer was born in Pitsligo parish, northeastern Scotland the son of a Presbyterian minister in 1726.

      He attended Marischal College (now the University of Aberdeen) studying under a doctor on the faculty. After graduating he served as a surgeon's mate in the rebel army of Scotland's Prince Charles Stuart who was attempting to claim the English crown of King George II.

      When the rebellion was defeated by the English, Mercer managed to escape to America to save his life. The English were trying to solve the Scottish "problem" permanently by killing every suspected rebel they could find.

      He settled in the wilderness of Pennsylvania near the present city of Mercersburg (named for him by its founder in 1780) and began a medical practice.

      When the French and Indian War began Mercer joined the Pennsylvania militia (1756) as a captain and was subsequently in command of various forts along the frontier.

      He participated in the capture of Fort Duquesne and was left in charge of re-building the fort renamed Fort Pitt.

      During this time he met and became a friend of George Washington and other Virginia officers. At the end of the war it was Washington and these gentlemen who recommended Fredericksburg as a good place to resume his medical practice. He came here in 1761.

      Dr. Mercer's practice flourished. His patients were the influential families of the area including Mary and Charles Washington and James Madison's father.

      As the Revolution approached, Mercer was appointed a member of the local Committee of Safety and was in charge of the local Minutemen.

      He called a large body of men together to avenge Governor Dunmore's removing the powder from the magazine at Williamsburg although they prudently reconsidered and didn't act.

      In 1775 Mercer was chosen to command the 3rd Virginia Regiment of militia and given the responsibility of guarding Virginia's Northern Neck from British invasion.

      As hostilities began in earnest, Mercer was appointed a Brigadier General in the Continental Army by Congress at the recommendation of George Washington and was sent to New Jersey in command of a mobile trouble-shooting unit designed to protect the New Jersey coast. Later he helped plan and participated in the victorious attack on Trenton.

      Mercer was severely wounded while heroically rallying his men during the battle of Princeton and died nine days later, January 12, 1777. He is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

      George Washington: "... (the victory at Princeton) was counter-balanced by the loss of the brave and worthy General Mercer."

      Hugh Mercer: "We are not engaged in war of ambition or I should not have been here ... For my part I have but one object in view and that is the success of the cause and God can witness how cheerfully I would lay down my life to secure it."/i

      ("The Life of Hugh Mercer" - author unknown)

      Ref: Clan Munro files - Patton, David Wilson
      "The Highlander" - Jul/Aug 88 - p. 38-40

      Compiled and edited by Allen Alger, Genealogist, Clan Munro Association, USA

  • Sources 
    1. [S84] Clan Munro files - Rapaport, Diane, Diane Rapaport, Copies of pages from The William and Mary Quarterly - sen t 19 Mar 2001 - p. 742 (Reliability: 3).

    2. [S280] Clan Munro files - Vorwald, Thelma Shipman, Thelma Shipman Vorwald, Membership application for Thelma Shipman Vorwald dated 1 5 Mar 1998 (Reliability: 3).

    3. [S435] Clan Munro files - Alger, Allison Munro, Allison Munro Alger, The Life of Hugh Mercer - author unknown (Reliability: 3).