The Delegation of American Stories

Exposing the TRUTH Behind the War

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The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, New Jersey, 3 January 1777; Painted by John Trumbull 1787-97

Story Truth, by Uma Kelavkar

At dusk, I galloped my way through the flat terrain of New Jersey towards Princeton to aid my fellow soldiers in a time of great struggle against the wretched British soldiers. The wind whipped through my hair as the majestic steed I rode rushed to the scene of absolute mayhem. As I tried to discern the battle scene through the smoke of the shots from the bayonets, I saw glimpses of many of my courageous men falling to their deaths. Perched upon a hill, I could see thousands of Recoats marching their way towards the battle ground. I unsheathed my sword at the sight of this chaos and charged my way towards a conglomerate of Redcoats. My heart throbbed at the sight of my valiant men, who served the great nation of America with nothing but bravery, falling to their demise at the hands of Britain. Piles of dead bodies in blue coats surrounded me and the soil which I was riding upon was soaked red with the blood of my soldiers.

And that is when I saw my dear friend and revolutionist, General Mercer, struggling against a strong-built Redcoat. The Redcoat was jabbing at Mercer with the end of his bayonet as Mercer was on his knees pushing aside the blade of the bayonet with one hand and defending himself with a sword in the other. Mercer was being pushed against a dead horse by the Redcoat who had no look of sympathy in his eyes. But Mercer, his expressions embodied the spirit of the American Revolution. His eyes showed determination and he emitted an aura of absolute valor. I knew Mercer was not going to be able to save himself from the Redcoat so I started towards the brawl but unfortunately, I was too late. General Mercer was brutally stabbed to death by the Redcoat. He will always be remembered for his dauntless actions against the cruel British reign; rest in peace, the great General Mercer.

Happening Truth, by Elizabeth Jenkins

On January 3, 1777, Hugh Mercer, a physician and a General for the American, met two British regiments and a mounted unit on their way to Princeton, New Jersey. As the battle progressed, Mercer’s horse was shot beneath him and he was forced to fend for himself surrounded by Red-coats, he attempted to fight them back using his Saber. Getting to his feet, he was quickly surrounded by British troops who mistook him for George Washington and ordered him to surrender. Unfortunately, he was stabbed seven times by a Bayonet. General Washington rallied Mercer's men and pushed back the British regiments, but Mercer had been left on the field to die with multiple bayonet wounds to his body. Famed medic Benjamin rushed to his side to tend his wounds received in battle, but he could not be saved. Mercer died In the Tomas Clarke House on the eastern end of the battle, nine days after the battle ended in the victory for the patriots.

Critique of the Painting, by Will Hopkins

In John Trumbull’s painting The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, the viewer is smacked in the face with a violent revolutionary battle scene, where we are able to see the dramatics from soldiers suffering at the hands of death in the foreground, the nobleness of George Washington atop his steed near the center of the painting (possibly a focal point for the viewer), and another battle ensuing in the distance. Trumbull placed General Mercer at the forefront of the painting, with a sword in one hand and an enemy bayonet in the other, so as to symbolize Mercer’s outstanding amount of valor and grit in the last moments before his death. I find Mercer’s separation of a large amount of Redcoats veering off to the right to be rather insignificant, as if he put them there just to fill up space. Trumbull distinctly separated the Redcoats and the Patriots to adjacent sides of the work in order to draw a line in the visual break between allegiances. Interestingly enough, Trumbull’s purpose was to convey Mercer as a brave patriot amidst the revolution, most likely as an inspiration to other soldiers of the revolution, since he finished the work whilst the revolution was at its height. Obviously, Trumbull’s exigence is the Battle of Princeton, one of the first major victories for Washington’s continental army during the Revolutionary War.

Identity of the Author, by Ayaz Hafiz

Born in Lebanon, Connecticut, Trumbull was raised in a very prominent, prosperous Puritan family. Serving as the Governor of Connecticut, Trumbull's father had a wide array of connections which allowed Trumbull to attend and graduate from Harvard College in 1773. At Harvard, Trumbull found the ministry and law courses his father had suggested to be quite unappealing and pursued painting instead, focused primarily on Classical elements.

Trumbull's first professional experience in painting began during the American Revolutionary War, where he was required to sketch British forts and outlets. He resigned from the army in 1777, after which he went London and was mentored by Benjamin West, who along with Thomas Jefferson encouraged Trumbull in his painting of revolutionary events. Interestingly, Trumbull was only able to see through one eye, which caused him to paint in a very detailed fashion. Trumbull particularly emphasized classical traditions in his works, a standard of the time. In 1785, Trumbull went to Paris to make portrait sketches of French officers. In the same period, Trumbull acquired the assistance of Thomas Jefferson to paint the Declaration of Independence. Having realized his passion for paintings of the War of Independence, Trumbull continued his trend, painting over 250 such paintings within his lifetime (The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton included).

Later in his life during the 1830s, Trumbull sold a variety of his paintings to Yale University for $1000. Throughout his life, Trumbull created a variety of portraits, most of them being Founding Fathers of the United States. Receiving a wide recognition for all his works, Trumbull was enacted as secretary to John Jay in 1794 to settle the boundary with Canada. In his late life, Trumbull was made president of the American Academy of Fine Arts; however, as he aged and his painting skills diminished, almost two thousand of his students withdrew.

War Story

We headed across a large stream under General Mercer, running out of food. We were tired and our spirits low, but we kept going.

Johnny opened up a can of beans, almost rotten and with a pungent smell, but he told us we were lucky to have anything.

“Ye wants some slop?” he asked with a slight grin.

And then Johnny fell. It seemed almost stuck in frame – the blood splattered out and his face turned white with seeming realization of his rapid death.

We ran the opposite way, and only a minute later realized we were under attack by the British. The enemy coming in from all directions, we ran until we heard the scream of a horse. It yelled, it bleed, it fell.

“Come back! FIGHT!” we heard from our general, and sporadically I turned my head around to the oncoming sea of reds – blinding me for a half moment.

I saw the general covered with the reds, I tried to run to him. I remember stepping on some soft flesh and hearing a crackling noise, but my eyes only saw residual smoke of the bayonets and cannons.

It was like a story. Our general was surrounded by the reds, who seemed to be yelling “George Washington” or “Weorge Gashington” or something of the like. I yelled, I screamed and I could not anything, shoved through crowd around me. For a moment, all seemed to stop until again I heard screams around me and saw our general stumbling to the ground. I noticed the red was not only from the British uniforms.

Again I ran. I fell in slop and tasted something of rot, but it did not matter. I ran, and I fought, shoving my blade as accessibly possible. I tasted tears on my tongue and saw the stagnant, emotionless black eyes of those reds.

Then I heard the neighing of more horses, and a cry, “fight, patriot!” before I heard a crack on my right side and felt a break to the ground.

I woke up. Johnny was dead. They were all dead.