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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
Promoted to major in 1757, Mercer was advanced to the rank of colonel in May 1758 and placed in charge of a new battalion. The English Prime Minister William Pitt had launched his plan to escalate the war against the French on the frontier.
It was this campaign in the fall of 1758--to capture Fort Duquesne--that brought the Pennsylvanians and Virginians together under the command of the newly arrived English general, John Forbes.
As Washington with his men approached from Fort Cumberland in Maryland, Col. Mercer was approaching from the east. On Sept. 22, the Pennsylvanians and Virginians made camp at Raystown (today Bedford), about 100 miles east of the fort, where the final road was to be agreed on. Washington urged continuing the route begun by Gen. Braddock in 1755, but Gen. Forbes elected to clear a more direct route from the west.
According to surviving orderly books, Mercer and Washington--and the colonels of the other two Pennsylvania battalions--had turns as commanding officer of the encampment. This period from Sept. 22 to mid-October was the time that the two men had contact.
(But the supposition that this brief association in the midst of tense preparations for war ripened immediately into a close personal friendship cannot be supported. Though Washington undoubtedly took notice of Mercer's excellent performance and reputation, he was himself concerned with his own regiment's mission; and he was no doubt also personally preoccupied with his resignation plans and upcoming marriage.)
Mercer's principal mission was to prepare the road to Fort Duquesne, and Washington's was to advance to the post at Loyalhanna (today Ligonier), halfway to the fort. There was a last council of war at Loyalhanna on Nov. 11, which Mercer and the other colonels attended. Mercer then returned to Raystown, while Washington led the combined forces toward Fort Duquesne.
On Nov. 25, the French destroyed and then abandoned the fort. Washington took possession on Nov. 28 and left the area almost immediately. Mercer arrived with a contingent of 200 men to rebuild and protect the fort, now renamed Fort Pitt.
Because of the more secure defenses, the Virginia militia was reduced in 1759. Pennsylvania also reduced its militia strength from three battalions to two companies, leaving Hugh Mercer in charge of one company.