Hugh Mercer


I was a Patriot leader who will be known forever as a martyr to the cause.

I was born in Scotland in 1725 and studied medicine at the University of Aberdeen. In 1745, I joined the forces of Bonnie Prince Charlie, which tried and failed to restore the Stuart family to the throne, after which I escaped Scotland by going to America. I worked for eight years as a doctor in Philadelphia. And then I fought in the French and Indian War as a captain in the militia. In a raid in western Pennsylvania against Shawnee and Delaware native nations, I was severely wounded, got detached from my company, and spent two harrowing weeks alone in the wilderness before finding safety. Coming home, I moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, married Isabella Gordon and established a successful medical practice.

When the Revolution started, General Washington named me commander of the Flying Camp – a part of the Continental Army assigned to defend the colonies from the British –  so I came to New Jersey to defend against British invasion from New York City in the summer and fall of 1776.

Later, the Flying Camp was disbanded and I led forces at the Battles of Trenton. On January 3, 1776, we surprised the enemy at the Battle of Princeton by circling around them and attacking them from behind. I was out front, my horse was shot out from under me, and I was surrounded by British soldiers. I drew my sword and attacked, but I was overwhelmed, beaten with muskets and stabbed with bayonets.

General Washington sent reinforcements, and they carried me from the field. I was cared for at the Clarke House, and I survived for nine days before my death on January 12.

Later, in 1838, when a new county was created around Trenton, it was named Mercer in my honor. The county seal features an oak that I leaned against after receiving my wounds. And that tree, known as the Mercer Oak, lived until the year 2000.

Learn More
Image Hugh Mercer

Related Stories