John T. (John Tackett) Goolrick.

The life of General Hugh Mercer : with brief sketches of General George Washington, John Paul Jones, General George Weedon, James Monroe and Mrs. Mary Ball Washington, who were friends and associates of General Mercer at Fredericksburg : also a sketch of Lodge no. 4, A.F. and A.M., of which Generals online

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Online LibraryJohn T. (John Tackett) GoolrickThe life of General Hugh Mercer : with brief sketches of General George Washington, John Paul Jones, General George Weedon, James Monroe and Mrs. Mary Ball Washington, who were friends and associates of General Mercer at Fredericksburg : also a sketch of Lodge no. 4, A.F. and A.M., of which Generals → online text (page 1 of 6)
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With brief sketches of General George Wash
ington, John Paul Jones, General George Weedon,
James Monroe and Mrs. Mary Ball Washington,
who were friends and associates of General Mercer
at Fredericksburg ; also a sketch of Lodge No.
4, A. F. and A. M., of which Generals Washington
and Mercer were members; and a genealogical
table of the Mercer family.








General Hugh Mercer Frontispiece


Hugh Mercer as a country doctor in Pennsylvania. 26

The office and apothecary shop of Hugh Mercer,
Fredericksburg, Va 32

The Quaker Meeting House, Princeton, N. J 52

The battlefield of Princeton 54

The Clark House, Princeton, where Gen l Mercer
died 56

The monument to General Hugh Mercer at Fred
ericksburg, Va 68

The grave of General Mercer in Laurel-Hill Ceme
tery, Philadelphia, Pa., monument erected by
St. Andrews Society 70

The Rising Sun Tavern, Fredericksburg, Va 76

Kenmore, at Fredericksburg, where Major Lewis
lived 78

John Paul Jones 82

"The Sentry Box" the home of Mercer, Fred
ericksburg, Va 88

The home of Mary, the mother of Washington,
Fredericksburg, Va 92

The monument to Mary, the mother of Washington,
Fredericksburg, Va 98

General George Washington as a mason and mem
ber of Lodge No. 4 A. F. and A. M., Fredericks
burg, Va 100


THIS book is affectionately dedicated to
my wife, a great-granddaughter of George
Mason, who was an intimate friend and
associate of General Hugh Mercer.


INTRODUCTION is only necessary to
this Life of Mercer in order to return
thanks to others for what I have herein ob
tained from them, as well as to disclaim
any very marked originality for some
things herein written. For instance, I
could not and do not claim any great origi
nality for the brief description of the
battles of Culloden or of Princeton. Both
have been described so often and by so
many writers, that there is "nothing new
under the sun" to be said about them. I
only introduce them here that I may give
a full and complete history of the life of
Mercer ; without them I could not have done
so. I return thanks and acknowledge my
self under obligations to James D. Law,
Esq., of Germantown, Pa. ; Eev. J. Lindsay
Patton, Ashland, Ya.; Judge Beverly B.
Wellford, Bichmond, Va., and Corbin W.
Mercer, Esq., Bichmond, Va., for some
things that I have embodied in this small
volume, and which appear with quotation

10 Introduction

I was constrained to write of General
Hugh Mercer because I thought that such a
life as he lived, and such a death as he died,
should be written about; and should be
written about by some one who is identi
fied with Fredericksburg, the home of Mer
cer. How perfectly or imperfectly I have
performed the task which I have voluntar
ily undertaken, I submit to the charitable
criticism of my readers.



Fredericksburg, Va., March 1, 1906.


THE Highlands of Scotland, land of
brown heath and shaggy wood "land of
the mountain and the flood" has always
been celebrated in song and story. Its
stern and wild mountains, its dark and si
lent glens, its deep-lying lochs beneath the
shadow of the hills, its silent, whirling
mists and sudden storms, are the scenes of
strange romance and ghastly tragedy. It
is a very playground for the novelist s ex
cited imagination and the poet s wildest
fancy. But withal, so barren in soil and
harsh in climate, that the inhabitants of the
Highlands early gave themselves up to the
delights of the chase, or the dangers of the
sea, the pursuit of arms, or the joy of

Picturesque in costume, splendid in mus
cular development, trained in the use of
arms, proud of their race, loyal to their
clan, they boasted their fidelity to their
friends, and that they never turned their
backs to a foe. Restless, inclined to travel,
quick to adapt themselves to new surround-

12 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

ings, the Highlanders of Scotland sought
their fortunes abroad, rising to fame and
wealth in many a Continental country, be
coming the leaders in trade and commerce,
in Colonial enterprise and in war, in all
parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Fru
gal, industrious, persevering and brave,
success rewarded their undertakings.
Characterised beyond all else by loyalty to
their King, they were the most devoted of
the adherents of the ill-fated house of
Stuart, and they gathered around that fatal
standard with romantic devotion. To their
loyalty this land is indebted for not a few
of its best citizens and noblest heroes. The
land of the Highlanders Bonnie Scotland
has given to the world in all departments
of life, great men who have taken conspicu
ous parts in its history in war and peace.
The men from the land of Bobby Burns
have made their impress on the age and on
the people among whom they have lived,
and none occupies a higher niche in its Hall
of Fame than General Hugh Mercer.

Hugh Mercer was born in Aberdeen,
Scotland, in the year 1725. He descended
on his paternal side from a long line of min
isters of the Church of Scotland. The Eev.
William Mercer, his father, was in charge
of the Manse at Pittsligo, Aberdeenshire,

The Life of General Hugh Mercer 13

from 1720 to 1748, and although some biog
raphers of Mercer give the date of his birth
as 1721, the records of this church show
that he was baptised in 1726 ; it is therefore
thought now, that more accurate history
should place his birth in the year 1725.
On his mother s side he was closely related
to the Munro family; her name being Anna
Munro, daughter of Sir Eobert Munro, who
fought with conspicuous distinction in the
British Army at Fontenoy, on the Conti
nent, and elsewhere; and who, ordered
home to oppose the young Pretender, was
killed in 1746 while commanding British
troops at the Battle of Falkirk.

Mercer matriculated in the School of
Medicine of Marschall College in the year
1740, graduating in the year 1744. He had
hardly commenced the practice of his pro
fession ere Prince Charlie made his "dash
for a throne " which startled and, for a
while, stupefied the British by its daring
and brilliancy, but which was very ephem
eral in its existence. The Scotch, espe
cially those from the Highlands, were al
ways loyal to the House of Stuart, and
"Wha shall be King but Charlie!" as
it was played on the bagpipes by the kilted
Highlanders, his admiration for the people
whom the Pretender represented, and his

14 The life of General Hugh Mercer

convictions of the justice of his cause,
stirred up the martial and patriotic spirit
of Hugh Mercer, who joined Charles Ed
ward s Army as an Assistant Surgeon.
History and tradition are both silent as to
when Mercer "linked his fortune and his
fate" to the cause of the Pretender.
Whether he was on the fatal field of Fal-
kirk on January 17, 1746, we have no rec
ord; but on April 16, 1746, at Culloden,
near Inverness, he is found in the army of
Prince Charles. The Duke of Cumberland
was on that day in command of the Royal
forces against the Highlanders, and when
the sun went down on the field of carnage,
Mercer shared with his chieftain the gloom
of his defeat a defeat that marked the end
of the ambition of the Pretender and the
hopes of the Stuarts. The victorious shouts
of the army of the Duke sounded a veritable
dirge to a cause that was then irrevocably
lost. The last grand stand had been made,
and all was over.

Sir Walter Scott, with his splendid
genius for picturing and portraying, in the
"Tales of a Grandfather," gives a graphic
account of the Battle of Culloden; an ex
tract from which may not be inappropriate
to embody in this sketch. After narrating
the events of importance that led up to the

The Life of General Hugh Mercer 15

battle, the marching and the counter
marching of the armies of Prince Charles
and the Duke of Cumberland, and especi
ally the unsuccessful night attack on April
15th by the Army of the Pretender, Sir
Walter Scott wrote :

4 As the lines approached each other the
artillery opened their fire by which the
Duke of Cumberland s army suffered very
little and that of the Highlanders a great
deal, for the English guns being well served
made lanes through the ranks of the enemy,
while the French artillery scarcely killed a
man. To remain steady and inactive under
this galling fire would have been a trial to
the best-disciplined troops, and it is no
wonder that the Highlanders showed great
impatience under an annoyance peculiarly
irksome to their character; some threw
themselves down to escape the artillery,
some called out to advance, and a few broke
their ranks and fled.

"The cannonade lasted for about an
hour ; at length the Clans became so impa
tient that Lord George Murray was about
to give the order to advance, when the
Highlanders from the centre and right
wings rushed, without orders, furiously
down, after their usual manner of attack
ing, sword in hand, being received with

16 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

heavy fire both of cannon and grape-shot.
They became so confused that they got hud
dled together in their onset, without any
distinction of Clans or regiments. Not
withstanding this disorder, the fury of
their charge broke through Munro s and
BurrePs regiments, which formed the left
of the Duke of Cumberland s line; but that
General had anticipated the possibility of
such an event, and had strengthened his
second line so as to form a steady support
in case any part of his first should give
way. The Highlanders, partially victori
ous, continued to advance with fury, and al
though much disordered and partly dis
armed (having thrown away their guns
on the very first charge), they rushed on
SempilPs Kegiment, in the second line, with
unabated fury. That steady corps was
drawn up three deep, the first rank kneel
ing, and the third standing upright. They
reserved their fire until the fugitives of
BurrePs and Munro s broken regiments
had escaped round the flanks and through
the intervals of the second line. By this
time the Highlanders were within a yard of
the bayonet point, when Sempill s battalion
poured in their fire with so much accuracy
that it brought down a great many of the
assailants, and forced the rest to turn back.

The Life of General Hugh Mercer 17

A few pressed on, but unable to break
through SempilPs Eegiment were bayon
eted by the first rank. The attack of the
Highlanders was the less efficient that on
this occasion most of them had laid aside
their targets, expecting a march rather
than a battle.

"While the right of the Highland line
sustained their national character, though
not with their usual success, the MacDon-
nalds on the left seemed uncertain whether
they would attack or not. It was in vain
Lord George Murray called out to them,
* Claymore, telling the murmurers of this
haughty tribe that if they behaved with
their usual valor they would convert the
left into the right and that he would in fu
ture call himself MacDonnald. It was
equally in vain that the gallant Keppoch
charged with a few of his near relations,
while his Clan, a thing before unheard of,
remained stationary.

4 The Chief was near the front of the
enemy and was exclaiming, with feelings
that cannot be appreciated, My God, have
the children of my tribe forsaken me? At
that instant he received several shots,
which closed his earthly account, leaving
him only time to advise his favorite nephew
to shift for himself.

18 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

"The three regiments of the MacDon-
nalds were by this time aware of the rout
of their right wing, and retreated in good
order upon the second line. A body of
cavalry from the right of the King s army
was commanded to attack them on their re
treat, but was checked by a fire from the
French pickets, who advanced to support
the MacDonnalds. At the same moment
another decisive advantage was gained by
the Duke s army over the Highland right
wing. A body of horse making six hundred
cavalry, with three companies of Argyle-
shire Highlanders, had been detached to
take possession of the Park walls ; the three
companies of infantry had pulled down the
east wall of the inclosure and put to the
sword about a hundred of the insurgents to
whom its defense had been assigned. They
then demolished the western wall, which
permitted the dragoons, by whom they were
accompanied, to ride through the inclosure
and get out upon the open moor to the west
ward, and form so as to threaten the rear
and flank of the Prince s second line.

i Gordon of Abbachie, with his Lowland
Aberdeenshire regiment, was ordered to
fire upon these cavalry, which he did with
some effect. The Campbells then lined the
north wall of the inclosure and commenced

The Life of General Hugh Mercer 19

a fire upon the right flank of the Highland
ers second line. That line, increased by
the MacDonnalds, who retired upon it, still
showed a great number of men keeping
their ground, many of whom had not fired a
shot. Lord Elcho rode up to the Prince and
eagerly exhorted him to put himself at the
head of those troops who yet remained and
make a last exertion to recover the day and
at least die like one worthy of having con
tended for a crown."

But all this was too late the Pretender
had been defeated; and his army, broken
and shattered, fled from the field, hotly pur
sued by the Duke of Cumberland and his
army. Of the treatment of the fallen and
their allies, Sir Walter Scott thus writes :
"The soldiers had orders to exercise to
wards the unfortunate natives the utmost
extremities of war; they shot, therefore,
the male inhabitants who fled at their ap
proach; they plundered the houses of the
chieftains; they burnt the cabins of the
peasants; they were guilty of every out
rage against women, old age, and infancy,
and where the soldiers fell short of these
extremities it was their own mildness of
temper or that of some officer of gentler
mood which restrained the license of their

20 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

And in conclusion, in his discussion of
this battle, its causes and its results, Sir
Walter Scott wrote: "Looking at the
whole in a general point of view, there can
be no doubt that it presents a dazzling pic
ture to the imagination, being a romance of
real life, equal in splendour and interest to
any which could be devised by fiction. A
primitive people, residing in a remote quar
ter of the empire and themselves but a
small portion of the Scottish Highlanders,
fearlessly attempted to place the British
Crown on the head of the last scion of those
ancient kings whose descent was traced to
their own mountains.

"This gigantic task they undertook in
favor of a youth of twenty-one, who landed
on their shore without support of any kind
and threw himself on their generosity.
They assembled an army in his behalf with
men unaccustomed to arms, the amount .of
the most efficient part of which never ex
ceeded two thousand; they defeated two
disciplined armies commanded by officers
of experience and reputation, penetrated
deep into England, approached within
ninety miles of the capital, made the Crown
tremble on the King s head, and were only
suppressed by concurrent disadvantages
which it was impossible for human nature

The Life of General Hugh Mercer 21

to surmount. It is, therefore, natural that
this civil strife should have been long the
chosen theme of the poet, the musician, and
the novelist. "

In his flight, the Pretender was like a
hare hunted by hounds. Flora MacDon-
nald, a Scottish maiden, foiled his pur
suers ; and at length he reached France in
safety. His loyal and loving followers
found refuge in any way possible, hunted
down, mercilessly butchered when caught.
The terrible tragedy of the battle was as
nothing compared to the butchery of these
fugitives by the relentless and implacable
Duke of Cumberland. Historians may dif
fer as to the right and righteousness of the
cause of Prince Charles Edward. None
can deny that William, Duke of Cumber
land, has rightly written his name as in
famous by his treatment of the fallen foe.
Campbell sweetly though sadly sang of
Culloden :

Lochiel, Lochiel, beware of the day
When the Lowlands shall meet thee in

battle array;
For a field of the dead rushes red on my

And the Clans of Culloden are scattered in


22 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

They rally, they bleed, for their kingdom

and crown;
Woe, woe to the riders that trample them


For dark and despairing my sight I may

But man cannot cover what God would

reveal ;
Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical

And coming events cast their shadows

I tell thee, Culloden s dread echoes shall

With the bloodhounds that bark for their

fugitive king.


HAVING, as has been before stated, fallen
under the shadow of a great sorrow by the
disastrous ending of the Battle of Culloden,
and having eluded the vigilance of the min
ions of the " Bloody Butcher, " Dr. Hugh
Mercer, in the fall of the year 1746, em
barked at Leith for America, landing a few
weeks thereafter at Philadelphia. He did
not remain long, however, in that city, but
made his home on the western borders of
the State of Pennsylvania, near what was
then known as Greencastle, now Mercers-
burg. And for some years he practised his
profession as a physician and, what was
customary in those days, as an apothecary.
In that then sparsely settled section, the
territory over which he rode, dispensing
calomel and using the lancet, was very
large. Among the varied experiences of
this eventful and heroic life, none proved
more helpful and beneficial than the ardu
ous, unselfish years spent as a country doc
tor in Colonial times on the frontier of civi
lisation in Pennsylvania, a profession for

24 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

which he was well fitted by education and
training, and by the high qualities of en
durance, patience, skill and courage. For
the country doctor s life of that day needed
all the strength of body and of brain, the
steadfast will and tireless energy. It was a
wild and busy life in an unsettled region of
scattered homes ; distance and danger were
daily encountered, for the Indians still hov
ered upon the frontier, and life and liberty
were often imperiled by their unexpected

To this strange chance of fate and for
tune came the soldier-surgeon of Culloden,
and here he lived and labored for many
years, amid privation and peril, dauntless
and devoted; friend, healer, counsellor,
benefactor to all within the circle of his
far-reaching ministry of comfort and cure
the country doctor of the past. How shall
we picture a life, a man, so worthy of repro
duction and remembrance?

God gives to every man
The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
Just in the niche he has ordained to fill.

Known to all the inhabitants of the re
gion round about, loved ancl welcomed

The Life of General Hugh Mercer 25

everywhere, believed in and looked up to
as one who not only healed the sick, but one
who strengthened the weak, comforted the
weary, and cheered the sorrowing, Hugh
Mercer s life as a country doctor day by
day in active duty, with saddle-bags filled
with remedies for human ills, the old-fash
ioned medicines and the ever-ready lancet
for bloodletting, was a splendid prepara
tion for the hardships and privations he
was in the future called upon to endure. A
life of hardship ennobled by duty well done,
and consecrated by self-sacrifice.

It was a rough school, but a thorough
one, in which the country doctor learned
the lessons of life. As he rode amid the
forest solitudes, vigilant, alert, or visited
the waiting homes to which his presence
brought succor and relief, his memories of
the past merged in duties of the present,
with only faith and fortitude as guides
upon the way, his life might have seemed
unsatisfying to a nature less hopeful, less
heroic. All honor to this man, and the
many like him, whose daily round of sym
pathetic toil is brightened by the approval
of his conscience and the benedictions of
suffering humanity. The country doctor s
lasting monument lives in the hearts that
loved and reverenced him; and no higher

26 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

tribute to his memory can be written than
the tender and inspiring words of heavenly
recognition and reward, "I was sick and ye
visited me."

It was a history-making era, that of the
year of 1755 the time of Braddock s dis
astrous defeat by the French and Indians,
in his attempt to capture Fort Duquesne.
There and then George Washington s
splendid career began, and there Mercer
made his first public and prominent ap
pearance as a Captain in the ill-fated army
of Braddock, conspicuous for his bravery
on the memorable July 9, 1755, of which
has been said, "The Continentals gave the
only glory to that humiliating disaster. "
"History," says another, "furnishes few
pages so replete with instances of official
incompetence and consequent failure as
that expedition, yet in the list of its Colo
nial heroes, the name of Hugh Mercer
stands ever bright." In this engagement,
Mercer was severely wounded ; and, having
been left behind by his own army in its
panic-stricken flight, after a perilous tramp
through a trackless wild, he at length re
joined his comrades and again commenced
the work of healing the sick at his old lo

The Indians with their French allies be-

Hugh Mercer as a Country Doctor in Pennsylvania


The Life of General Hugh Mercer 27

coming very aggressive and warlike, its
residents for self-protection formed them
selves into military associations of which
Colonel Armstrong was made Commander.
In one of these companies Hugh Mercer
was made Captain. His commission as
such is dated March, 1756, and he was given
the supervision of a very large territory,
with Bridgeport (then called McDowell s
Fort) as his headquarters.

During all this time he practised as a
physician among the people and as surgeon
to the garrison. In one of these Indian
fights he was again wounded and aban
doned to his foes. Closely pursued by his
savage foes," says a very interesting his
torian, "he providentially found a place of
safety in the hollow trunk of a tree, around
which the Indians rested and discussed the
prospect of scalping him in the near future.
When they had taken their departure, he
took out in another direction and com
pletely outwitted them." Sick with his
wounds and worn out with his recent strug
gles, he began a lonely march of over a hun
dred miles through an unbroken forest. To
sustain existence, he was compelled to live
on roots and herbs, the carcass of a rattle
snake proving his most nourishing and pal
atable meal. He finally succeeded in re-

28 The Life of General Hugh Mercer

joining his command at Fort Cumberland.
He was in command of one of the com
panies which captured an Indian settle
ment at Kittanning in 1756, but was again
wounded. In recognition and appreciation
of his services, sacrifices and sufferings in
these Indian wars, as well as his deeds of
daring, the Corporation of Philadelphia
presented him with a note of thanks and a
splendid memorial medal.

Mercer was placed in command of the
garrison at Shippensburg in the summer of
1757, and was promoted to the rank of Ma
jor in December of that year, and placed in
command of the forces of the province of
Pennsylvania west of the Susquehanna. In
that year, 1758, he was in command of a
part of the expedition of General Forbes
against Fort Duquesne. Whether Hugh
Mercer met George Washington at Brad-
dock s defeat, or at the headquarters of the
Forbes expedition against Fort Duquesne,
there seems to be some conflict of opinion
and statement among his biographers. The
time and place of that meeting is of no very
material moment. One thing seems to be
absolutely certain, that they did meet, and
an attachment sprang up between them
which lasted as long as Mercer lived. And,
further, that as a result of that meeting and

The Life of General Hugh Mercer 29

that attachment, on the advice and at the
suggestion of Washington, Virginia be
came the home of Hugh Mercer, and the

1 3 4 5 6

Online LibraryJohn T. (John Tackett) GoolrickThe life of General Hugh Mercer : with brief sketches of General George Washington, John Paul Jones, General George Weedon, James Monroe and Mrs. Mary Ball Washington, who were friends and associates of General Mercer at Fredericksburg : also a sketch of Lodge no. 4, A.F. and A.M., of which Generals → online text (page 1 of 6)