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Hugh Mercer: An unexpected life page 2
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


This catastrophe had unforeseen consequences that eventually led Mercer to Fredericksburg--for the English gave "no quarter" to the survivors, who became hunted men.

According to the biographers of Mercer's early life, he slipped away on a ship bound for Philadelphia. Upon his arrival, he went to the Pennsylvania back country where he served as a doctor to the widely dispersed settlers for several years.

These certainly seem like rugged and isolating surroundings for a man of his education and breeding. And though some fugitives who came to America established themselves in more familiar routines, we can assume Mercer still felt unsafe at the hands of the English.

In 1755, the English Gen. Edward Braddock had met a crushing defeat by the French in Pennsylvania as he sought to forge a route from Virginia to capture Fort Duquesne, a major French stronghold (today the city of Pittsburgh).

The defeat caused a major change in English policy. The government withdrew its protection of the frontier of the American colonies and made Canada the next arena in its war with France for global power.

Virginia's frontier was immediately endangered. Gov. Dinwiddie called for a regiment of 1,000 men and placed young George Washington in charge in August 1755; his command would last for three arduous years.

The change in English policy had also wreaked havoc on the Pennsylvania frontier and caused many of the settlers to begin a migration down the great road being forged through the western valley. That option must have been evident to Hugh Mercer. But because of the increasing brutality and terror, the Pennsylvania militia was being mobilized, and in March 1756, Mercer opted for a commission as a captain.

Before the year was out, he had experienced a harrowing ordeal from which he miraculously escaped with his life. He and a small party, who had become isolated from the main battalion, were set upon by Indians. All were killed except Mercer, who was left 100 miles from his fort without a horse or a weapon and with a shattered arm which he set himself. Though given up for dead, he survived a 10-day walk to Fort Shirley. The account of his experience in the Pennsylvania Gazette made him a celebrity.

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