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Hugh Mercer: An unexpected life
After escaping from Scotland to freedom in America, Dr. Hugh Mercer became a Revolutionary War hero. He is profiled in a series by Paula S. Felder on 'The Fredericksburg Patriots.' Hugh Mercer: An unexpected life

Date published: 9/4/2004

Last of a series

DR. HUGH MERCER arrived in Fredericks- burg in 1761 at the age of 35. He was a seasoned veteran of the Pennsylvania militia that had defended against the French and Indians on the frontier after the English withdrew to Canada in 1755.

In 1758, with renewed English support and under an English general, Pennsylvanians and Virginians combined to accomplish the ouster of the French. When the Colonial troops were demobilized, Hugh Mercer made his way to Fredericksburg.

After 15 years of civilian life in Fredericksburg as a doctor, Mercer resumed his military career in the Virginia regiments created in 1775 and soon was appointed by the new Congress as an officer in the Continental army.

His service in the War for Independence was brief but heroic. He won high praise from Gen. George Washington, who utilized him in an important and much-needed victory at Trenton in December 1776.

Mercer died on Jan. 12, 1777, of bayonet wounds received in the follow-up attack on Princeton. His death was mourned by thousands in Philadelphia, for he had been a Pennsylvanian and a hero in the earlier war before he came to Fredericksburg.

But it was in Fredericksburg that he seemed to form and to realize his aspirations. And he showed new qualities of taste and temperament that enable us to enrich our impression of him while he lived here.

Hugh Mercer was born in 1726 into a family of Presbyterian ministers in the lowlands of Scotland near Aberdeen. He received a rigorous classical education and in 1744, he earned a master's degree and was in training to become a surgeon.

But Scotland was in a state of turmoil, with the country roused to support the claim of Charles Stuart to the throne of England occupied by the House of Hanover. Young Mercer's family and mentors were all devoted to the Stuart cause. With an army of 5,000, Bonnie Prince Charlie began his quest in 1745. Mercer joined as a physician's assistant and, though not a combatant, was thus present at the calamitous Battle of Culloden in April 1746, which ended the uprising with enormous casualties.


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