The Hugh Mercer Statue is located just 2,000 feet off Route 1, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Hugh Mercer was a Scottish soldier and physician, born on January 16, 1726 in Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and died on January 12, 1777 in Princeton, New Jersey. Hugh Mercer was buried at the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, which is also only 1,000 feet off Route 1.
Hugh Mercer was a General in the Revolutionary War. When he rose to the rank of colonel and commanded garrisons. It was during this period that Mercer developed a lifelong and warm friendship with another colonel, George Washington.
There are rumors that Mercer exclusively originated Washington’s plan to cross the Delaware River and surprise the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776, and he was certainly a major contributor to its execution. Due to the victory at Trenton (and a small monetary bonus), Washington’s men agreed to a ten-day extension to their enlistment. When Washington decided to face off with Cornwallis during the Second Battle of Trenton on January 2, 1777, Mercer was given a major role in the defense of the city.
The next day, January 3, Washington’s army was en route to Princeton, New Jersey. While leading a vanguard of 350 soldiers, Mercer’s brigade encountered two British regiments and a mounted unit. A fight broke out at an orchard grove and Mercer’s horse was shot from under him. Getting to his feet, he was quickly surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and ordered him to surrender. Outnumbered, he drew his saber and began an unequal contest. He was finally beaten to the ground, then bayoneted repeatedly—seven times—and left for dead.
When he learned of the British attack and saw some of Mercer’s men in retreat, Washington himself entered the fray. Washington rallied Mercer’s men and pushed back the British regiments, but Mercer had been left on the field to die with multiple bayonet wounds to his body and blows to his head. Legend has it that a beaten Mercer, with a bayonet still impaled in him, did not want to leave his men and the battle and was given a place to rest on a white oak tree’s trunk, while those who remained with him stood their ground. The tree became known as “the Mercer Oak” and is the key element of the seal of Mercer County, New Jersey.
When he was discovered, Mercer was carried to the field hospital in the Thomas Clarke House (now a museum) at the eastern end of the battlefield. In spite of medical efforts by Benjamin Rush and left in the care of two Quaker women, Mercer was mortally wounded and died nine days later on January 12, 1777. In 1840 he was re-buried at Philadelphia’s Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Christopher Gentile VA Fredericksburg Apr 19, 2021 History Nostalgia Then & Now