The Death of General Mercer at TBoP

John Trumbull- 1777

Artist Biography- Caitlin Sharrock

  • John Trumbull, born in Lebanon, Connecticut in 1756. Despite the fact that a childhood accident left him with only one functioning eye, he did not let that stop him from becoming an incredibly famous painter, architect, and author. Trumbull became a teacher after graduating from Harvard in 1773. In 1777, during the American Revolution, Trumbell completed The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton. During the war, he served as George Washington’s personal aide and gained much respect among the ranks. He later moved to London, was captured, released, and moved back to America. Trumbell spent the rest of his life moving back and forth from England to America and creating many works of art.

Happening Truth: David Lee

General Hugh Mercer was a soldier and physician who was involved in the Seven Years War and American Revolution. Although he worked for British Army during the Seven Years War, he joined the Continental Army and became a close friend of George Washington. The last battle he was involved in was the Battle of Princeton with George Washington. Mercer had to protect the city and it was one of the major plans of the whole battle. On January 3rd, Mercer’s brigades encountered the British Army and started the fight. Unfortunately, one of the British soldier shot Mercer’s horse, so he got capture more quickly by the British Army. Mercer decided to rather resist than surrendering to the British army. As a result, Mercer got killed violently.

Art Critique: Tori Van de Kop

  • The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, New Jersey, January 3rd, 1777 by John Trumbull features vibrant color contrast, men in action, and symbolism. Hugh Mercer, shown in the center attempting to protect his fallen horse, is the main focus of the work, even though he is not depicted visually as the most important person. Eyes are immediately drawn to the British soldier attacking General Mercer due to the bright red color of his coat. Color is an essential part of artistry, and it is evident in this piece that Trumbull wanted there to be a contrast between the Americans and the British. This painting is also filled with strong action by the men featured in the battle: attacking with bayonets, raising swords in defiance of oppression, and physically shoving back the enemy. With these colors and actions, symbolism is prevalent throughout the piece, whether it be the storm cloud approaching from the left of the frame, or the pristine American flag shown in the middle of all the action. All in all, this piece vividly depicts an important event in American history through the visual means of oil on canvas.

Story Truth: Paige Lauro

Diary of George Washington January, 4 1777

These past few have been extremely depressing, motivating, and uplifting at the same time. The 26th of December I snuck my troops around the back of the British camp. For the 24 hours I had my men hiding behind the Delaware river. I received word that the British were beginning to close in on us. We managed to escape but i faced another dilemma, most of my men had terms that ended the night of December 31. I managed to convince most of them to stay and fight for another six weeks. The battle began the night of January 2. It was pouring down rain by the time the battle engaged. The British moved in from all angles, trying desperately to push us back through the mud towards the Trenton. We fought stubbornly and would not surrender. Soon, however, the rain came down so hard that both sides gave in to the weather and broke with the intent of resuming our quarrel in the morning. I decided I was not ready to submit my men to the suicide waiting for us. That night, we snuck around the sleeping British headed for Princeton. By morning I received word that the British were on our tails. We then outnumbered the British. Far in the distance I witnessed my friend, General Mercer, get thrown off his horse and stabbed through the chest. My heart ached and it took everything in me to not run towards him. We fought a long and hard battle but eventually overtook Princeton and defeated the British army. I may have lost a close mate but as Americans we gained a victory

War Story: David, Tori, Paige, Caitlin

It was a cold night. George asked me to stay in the city and protect this city, since it is of great importance for the Continental Army. Throughout this war, we have lost so many friends, family, and other people who fought for our liberty. I can still remember their faces and the passion for the freedom. Next day, I lead my brigades to Princeton. Throughout our marching, we talked about what we would do after the war; this conversation helped us to not tire from marching. We did not feel any immediate threat, but the threat hid itself. As we reached the mountain, we stood face to face with the British army. Panic spread as the British started attacking.They shot my horse first, and I fell aggressively to the ground. I was then surrounded by 10 or 11 British soldiers who seemed to have violent intentions. British officers asked me to surrender, but how could I? The soldiers alongside me died for one another, and now I have a chance to live for them, but what kind of life. Who in this world would surrender to the people who took our liberty,and who killed my brother and sister? As I said this to the officers, they decided to kill me within one hour. The last thoughts that crossed my mind before I died for my country: God bless America, and long live our freedom.