Ferry Farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia—childhood home of George Washington, who sold it to Hugh Mercer in 1772
General Mercer supervised the building of Fort Washington and Fort Lee, both lost to the British in 1776. Some historians believe that the secret attack on Trenton on December 26, 1776 was originally Mercer’s idea, which Washington accepted and implemented. In any event, Mercer successfully led one of the columns in the attack, at the absolute nadir of American prospects, striking a physical and psychological blow that saved the Cause.
Battle of Trenton, December 26, 1776
Washington placed Mercer’s Brigade at the point in his maneuver to capture Princeton on January 3, ten days after Trenton. Bypassing the main British forces under Lord Cornwallis, Mercer took 350 men to seize a strategic bridge and cut off the post road—the British regiments’ main avenue of retreat. Spotting the Scotsman making the maneuver in the early morning fog, the British General deployed his men along a fence line and opened fire. General Mercer led his troops in a direct attack, driving the ad hoc group of the 17th Foot Regiment from their position. Mercer fell wounded and in the ensuing melee and retreat of his troops, General Mercer was bayonetted seven times, the British thinking they had killed Washington. Mercer lingered for nine days under the ministrations of fellow-doctor Benjamin Rush, before dying on January 12. George Washington had lost what biographer Douglas Southall Freeman said “was the peer, and perhaps the superior, of [Nathaniel] Greene”, considered second only to Washington himself.
General Mercer is wounded at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777. Mercer would survive another nine days, but eventually die on January 12.