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Hugh Mercer: An unexpected life page 4
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


In 1760, a few militia units from both colonies were reactivated to rebuild some of the old French forts. George Weedon and William Daingerfield were among the contingent of 100 Virginians who reported to Fort Pitt in the summer of 1760. Hugh Mercer also arrived at the fort with 150 Pennsylvanians.

Both groups worked at Presque Isle, a fort on Lake Erie, from July until September, building a blockhouse and making other improvements for the English troops.

The small fort expected no military action and the "only enemy as yet has been the Musketoes," Weedon wrote his friend Charles Lewis in Spotsylvania. There was plenty of time for camaraderie among the officers.

Mercer knew by now that he would be demobilized by the end of the year, though he had made no plans. Yet a few weeks after his discharge in December, Hugh Mercer arrived in Fredericksburg.

"This place was recommended as likely to afford a genteel subsistence in the [practice of Physick]," he wrote a former military colleague in Pennsylvania in February. "Whether it will answer any expectations I cannot yet judge; but from the reception I met from the Gentlemen here, have reason to imagine it worth a few months trial."

Hugh Mercer's early years in Fredericksburg remain something of a mystery. He did join the new Masonic Lodge in December 1761, so he had obviously been well received. And the presence of a lively Scottish community was a haven after his years as a refugee.

(The Scotsmen must have viewed with some amusement the street names of their adopted home, which honored the royal family of Hanover, especially William, the brutal conqueror at Culloden.)

Mercer's friend Weedon had not yet taken up residence in the town; he was still a member of the Masonic Lodge at Port Royal. But Mercer could have found a room in hospitable quarters at the upper end of town where some Scottish merchants had congregated.

Also, the widow Barbara Jones still operated her small tavern on upper Caroline Street and had suitable accommodations for bed and board. The Masons used to meet there before they moved across the street in 1756 to the ordinary of Charles Julian, a new lodge member. (The little tavern was the very building Mercer would rent for his apothecary shop a few years later.)

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