Hugh Mercer Dies After Battle of Princeton – 1/12/1777

US History |

When it comes to those who serve bravely and effectively in the military, many would hope these individuals would live to see and enjoy their retirement. Others have the mentality that if someone has to die, let it be on the battlefield so that their death should be an honorable one. Finally, there are those that survive the battle but die shortly afterwards do to their injury sustained during a conflict.

Such was the case for one individual during the late 1770s for an individual fighting during the American Revolution. American Brigadier General Hugh Mercer was such a person who on January 12th, 1777, passed away from seven bayonet wounds inflicted upon him while fighting at the Battle of Princeton.

Mercer’s service for the military was impressive as it ranged over three armies and two continents. He was born Rosehearty, Scotland and eventually studied at the University of Aberdeen while originally serving as a surgeon’s assistant in Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Army in 1745. Before spending a year in seclusion to Pennsylvania in March of 1747, he was involved during the Scots uprising against the British until its devastatingly bloody conclusion on April 16th, 1746.

Mercer joined in the army of the Hanoverian king, George III once he arrived in America; Mercer sought to overthrow him while being part of the uprising in Scotland. While serving in the Seven Year War, he originally served in General Edward Braddock’s expedition that was a disaster in which he was wounded in 1755 and again in 1756 when he served under Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong’s army during the attack at Kittanning.

Mercer began to work as an apothecary while practicing medicine in Fredericksburg, Virginia from 1760 to 1775; he was an individual who prepared and then sold drugs and medicine. Mercer immediately reverted back to his rebellious roots when he learned that the colonies had taken up arms to fight against the British. Mercer was tasked with commanding the Independent Company of the Town of Fredericksburg when he was originally commissioned to become a captain in the Continental Army; he would eventually be made a lieutenant colonel and command a militia battalion. He continued to move up the ranks by December of 1775 as he went from being a lieutenant to becoming a full colonel and the first commander of the 3rd Virginia Regiment. This was with luminaries that included John Marshall and James Monroe under his command. Again, Mercer earned another promotion in June of 1776 and then became brigadier general as this was personally requested by General George Washington.

Mercer would lead a brigade at the Battle of Princeton six months later. Sadly, the seven bayonet wounds he received was too much for him to be saved even though skilled medic Benjamin Rush tended to him; Rush was unable to heal his fellow Patriot and medical colleague. Nine days after the battle had concluded in favor of the Patriots, Mercer passed away at the Thomas Clarke House located on the eastern end of the field of battle.

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