Hugh Mercer was born in Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire, on 26th January, 1725, the son of Rev. William Mercer and Ann Munro. He was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen where, in 1744, he graduated as a medical doctor. Although his father’s sympathies were with King George II, Hugh was a supporter of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and joined the Jacobite cause. In 1746 he fought at the disastrous battle of Culloden where he was an assistant surgeon and as a result he was forced in 1747 to flee Scotland when the Jacobites lost that final battle.
Hugh settled in America which at that time was still a British colony. He carried on his profession on the western Pennsylvania frontier where he was a country doctor and apothecary. The town of Mercersburg was later named for him. By 1755 Hugh was a captain in the Continental Army and was badly wounded in the army’s attempt to capture Fort Duquesne. He managed to make a long trek home and resumed his position as local doctor. He was a captain in the militia and was promoted to major in 1757. He first met George Washington in 1758 and the two formed a lifelong friendship. At Washington’s urging Hugh moved from Pennsylvania to settle in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Another famous Scot, Lt. John Paul Jones of the Continental Navy, had his home in Fredericksburg and it is believed the two would have met from time to time. As the situation between Britain and America grew worse and developed into a revolution, Colonial Armies were formed and in 1776 Hugh Mercer was made Colonel in command of the Army of Virginia. In June of that year he was promoted again to the rank of Brigadier General of the Continental Army. It is reported that it was Hugh Mercer’s plan that saw Washington cross the Delaware river at night to carry out a successful surprise attack on the forces of the British General Cornwallis, who were holding Trenton. Cornwallis was ordered to counter attack but delayed until the following morning by which time the Americans had gone around him and reached Princeton. In the ensuing battle of Princeton, Mercer, having dismounted from his disabled horse, was struck by the musket butt of a British soldier. Refusing to surrender, he was bayoneted multiple times. He was rescued by his men and taken under an oak tree, later to be known as “the Mercer Oak”. He was then taken to a nearby farm house for treatment of his wounds but a few days later, on the 12th of January 1777, he died.
Hugh became a hero of the American War of Independence and several American towns and counties were named in his memory.
He was the ggg grandfather of the singer/songwriter and co-founder of Capital Records, Johnny Herndon Mercer.
He was also a direct ancestor of General George Patton of WWII fame as his daughter Anne Gordon Mercer married another Scottish settler, Robert Patton around the year 1793.
It is also believed that Hugh Mercer was a descendant of Sir Henry Mercer, 1476 – 1513, a prominent member of the family, Mercer of Perth. (see tree below.)
Hugh Mercer Tree
Sir Henry Mercer 1476 – 1513 (killed at Flodden) married Margaret Douglas of Lochleven.
John Mercer 1506 – 1567 married Elizabeth Adamson 1462 – after 1536.
William Mercer 1526 – 1559 married Beatrix Smeatoun 1536 – 1584.
John Mercer 1558 – 1631 married Isobel Reid
Thomas Lancelot Mercer 1592 – 1646 married Agnes Beanis 1603 – 1675
John Mercer 1624 – 1676 married Lilias Row
Thomas Mercer 1658 – 1723 married Elizabeth Smith
William Mercer 1696 – 1767 married Ann Monro
Hugh Mercer 1725 – 1777 married Isabella Gordon
George Weedon M, John M, William M, Hugh Tenant M and Anne Gordon M.
Hugh Tenant Mercer and his wife Louisa Griffin were the gg grandparents of Johnny Herndon Mercer. (mentioned above)
References. 1. The Life of General Hugh Mercer by John T Goolrick.
2. Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae
3. The Mercer Pedigree compiled by Maj. William Lindsay Mercer
Hugh Mercer tree submitted by Philip Mercer
Note. Verification is required for the relationships of William M 1526 – 1559 and John M 1558 – 1631. Suggestions welcomed.