Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hugh Mercer Day!

Hugh Mercer served as an assistant surgeon in the army of Bonnie Prince Charlie in “The 45”. He fled for his life at the defeat of the Jacobites on Culloden Moor and was a hunted man by the British. He made his way to the American colonies and settled in Pennsylvania establishing a medical practice in the frontier.

Several years later in caring for British soldiers of General Edward Braddock wounded in defeat in battle by the French and Indians in the Seven Years War, he joined the British as a soldier. Becoming a Captain in a Pennsylvania regiment and quickly becoming in a Colonel. He became friends with another Colonel, George Washington. At the end of the French and Indian War, Washington convinced Mercer to move to Virginia. Mercer opened his medical practice in Fredericksburg, Virginia. His Apothecary Shop where he practiced medicine remains there, today as a museum. Washington would also sell him his boyhood home, Ferry Farm across the Rappahannock River from the city of Fredericksburg.

Mercer’s plan to establish a town in Ferry Farm was never realized due to the outbreak of the American War of Independence. General Washington convinced Mercer to join him in the American Continental Army and commissioned him a Brigadier General. Although not documented it is believed by some historians, it was Mercer who conceived of Washington’s night crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Eve to surprise the Hessians defeating them in the Battle of Trenton in December 26, 1776.

Mercer would die of wounds in the Battle of Princeton. His brigade outnumbered by two British regiments and cavalry thought he was General Washington. Demanding his surrender Mercer responded in attacking the British. Overwhelmed by the British, Mercer received seven bayonet wounds and beatings to the head. Washington learning of the route of his friend rode to his rescue only to find him dying on the battlefield. Mercer would succumb to his wounds nine days later.

Washington’s victories in Trenton and Princeton would revitalize his army and received world acclaim. Mercer is recognized for his significant contribution in these victories.

There will be a celebration of Hugh Mercer's birthday this Sunday, the 15th at the Apothecary Shop on Caroline Street from noon to 4 PM.