The Heroic Death of General Mercer

Kush Singh, Kelly Dong, Derek Ji, Ben Carter

Identity of the Author By: Kush Singh

John Trumbull was born on June 6, 1756. Throughout the American Revolution, Trumbull served as an aide to General Washington and eventually became a colonel. In 1780, Trumbull went to London via France, but he ended up being imprisoned there. Eventually, he was released and went back to London in 1784, and begin to study with a painted named Benjamin West. With West's and Jefferson's influence, Trumbull began to paint historical paintings and engravings. He drew upon his own personal experiences and the relations he formed during the war to depict the places and people involved in the war. He traveled to London, Paris, and New York City and painted scenes of the American Revolution along with life portraits of the the people involved. His birth and work along with George Washington influences his paintings by glorifying the Americans and debases the Red Coats.

Critique of the Painting By: Ben Carter

John Trumbull painted this piece during America’s infancy, a time when the new nation needed to rally behind an image of strength and perseverance. Trumbull’s goal here is to provide this image. Dark skies, fallen Americans, and a multitude of Redcoats would lead a viewer to believe that this day belonged to the British, but in the center of the painting we see General Mercer valiantly battling an ugly-faced British soldier despite being mortally wounded. Behind this glorious scene flies the American flag. Trumbull uses light and position to emphasize the general and the flag in contrast to the rest of the piece. The message here is simple: even in tough times, Americans are the most resilient and persevering people in all the world.

Story Truth By: Derek Ji

As General Washington’s troops advance towards Continental forces in the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777, General Mercer valiantly stands, holding off relentless attacks from British soldiers. He majestically holds off an attacker with one hand, while fending off another with a sword with his spare hand. Smoke fills the air as the two armies clashed boldly, one side fighting for freedom, the other hoping to maintain control over the colonists. General Washington overlooks the battle as he arrives, on the scene, encouraging his fellow Americans to press on in the name of liberty. While both sides suffered multiple casualties, the American flag still flew, acting as a symbol of determination to win the day. Although the fight looked bleak for the Americans, the leadership of General Washington and General Mercer along with the influx of reinforcements proved the unity of the thirteen colonies to ensure an American victory.

Happening Truth By: Kelly Dong

On the night of January 2, 1777, Washington’s army left Trenton in order to try to strike Cornwallis’s forces from the rear as well as capturing Princeton. General Mercer was leading his specific wing of the army in one direction and were the first to encounter the British resistance. General Mercer soon became separated from the rest of his army and was surrounded by several British soldiers. They mistook him for George Washington, and thus ordered him to surrender. After Mercer refused, he instead charged the British soldiers and was then severely beaten and stabbed in a violent fracas. He in fact, did not immediately die, and was taken to the Thomas Clarke House for treatment; he eventually succumbed to his wounds nine days later.

War Story

We marched forth, hoping to capture Princeton and surprise Cornwallis's soldiers from the rear. Unfortunately, our regiment was the first to come upon the British. I valiantly charged ahead of my regiment, in an attempt to lead my men into the fray. The ugly and oppressive redcoats soon approached me, violently yelling that I simply ought to surrender, and that there was no hope in trying to rebel against the mother country. From my viewpoint, I could see the British army, exuding its foreboding aura. I knew that we would come out victorious, and responded to the Redcoats with a rousing cry “We will never give up the liberty that is so precious to us!”. Only now had I realized that I had distanced myself too far from my men; multiple Brits soon encircled me, like a flock of crows in anticipation of their next meal. They hurled insults and obscenities at me, yet there was no fear in my heart, as I knew that my army would overcome them. The redcoats then dismounted, drawing their weapons and began to torture me. Musket butts slammed down on my body from all sides, like a barrage of punches from all sides. All I could do was grit my teeth under the brunt of the force, as I was unable to resist under their numbers. The real pain, however, began once they started to stab me with their bayonets; in and out, in and out. As I began to lose consciousness, I did not feel scared so much as peaceful, as that I knew I had done my duty and had been instrumental in leading my men and America to liberty.