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Daniel Morgan wound and Mercer Family

Compiled, written by Jim Moyer 14 Feb 2016, updated 14th ,15th and 16th of April 2017, 4/27/2019, 5/2/2019

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Easter Sunday was April 18, 1756.

This is according to the Gregorian Calendar

authorized by the Pope in 1582

but not approved and fully enacted until 1752.

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Daniel Morgan

On that day the Battle of the Great Cacapon

was fought outside Fort Edwards.

Daniel Morgan was convalescing in that fort

from a bullet shot through his neck

out his mouth 2 days prior.

He no doubt heard the noise of that battle.

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INCIDENTS BEFORE THE BATTLE

And a day before Daniel Morgan’s adventure,

400 Indians were wildly claimed to have surrounded Fort Ashby.

At the end of March or beginning of this month

was the Battle of the Trough.

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And all around this time Indians

were everywhere picking off “straglers”

as Col George Washington would write Lt Gov Dinwiddie

on the same day as the

Battle of Cacapon whose news didn’t reach Winchester yet.

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16 April 1756

DANIEL MORGAN SHOT

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See a letter  dated 17 April 1756 by John Fenton Mercer to George Washington, refers to the wound Daniel Morgan received.

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“Yesterday Morning one of Captn Ashby’s Men,  who has been on Forlow some Time, with one Hintch who came down with Us as a Pilot, were in their Return to Ashby’s Fort & were fired on by seven Indians, Hintch killed dead on the Spot and the other returned here wounded in the Neck [Daniel Morgan], but no ways dangerous2—This happen’d about fourteen Miles from hence in the Road to Parker’s Fort,3 “

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One day later the above writer of that letter,  John Fenton Mercer,  dies in the Battle of the Great Cacapon 18 April 1756 on EASTER SUNDAY near Fort Edwards.

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MAP and PORTRAIT

Follow the thin red line on the map below. This is the route between Fort Edwards and Fort Ashby in which Daniel Morgan would escort militia back and forth

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On April 16th, 1756, Daniel Morgan and maybe 2 others, departed from Fort Edwards on their way to Fort Ashby.  It was at the yellow star icon at Hanging Rock where the Indians caught up with Daniel Morgan and shot him through the back of the neck. The bullet came out the left side of his mouth.

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About this Portrait: 38 years after the wounding, Charles Willson Peale paints a portrait of “General” Daniel Morgan in 1794, on his way to the western frontier at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion. This painting was thought to be a copy until recent conservation removed earlier overpaint, uncovering the distinctive scar on Morgan’s upper lip.

The portrait of Daniel Morgan shows this exit wound. In this portrait see a thin line scar on the right side of the nose? Click on photo to enlarge.

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Daniel Morgan made it back to Fort Edwards in safety.

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Daniel Morgan might have made his fame in the War for Independence  but he got his life long wounds from the French and Indian War.

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Click or Touch portrait to enlarge.

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2 days after Daniel Morgan’s narrow escape from death, on Easter Sunday, is the Battle of the Great Cacapon near Fort Edwards, the fort in which Daniel Morgan was convalescing and no doubt he heard the sounds of that battle.

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Court Martials following the Battle

There was heroism and charges of cowardice after that battle.

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Drawing by Eric Cherry who has illustrated for Detective Comics and Marvel and who does oil paintings on Civil War, the Rev War and who is part of our Fort Loudoun Productions group. Click to enlarge. Worth a view.

So on May 2, 3, 4, 1756 in Winchester Court Martials were held on various charges of desertion and there were those who did not enjoin the battle for fear of friendly fire, retreated back to Fort Edwards to safety.

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William Stark writes this letter Easter Sunday 8pm on the day of the Battle of the Great Cacapon, 18 April 1756 :

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The purport of this is to acquaint you of an Engagemt we had with the Indians late this Evening—Three of our Men going out on pretence of looking after some Horses met with a party of Indians within sight of the Fort two of which escaped and alarm’d us, we immediatly pursued them with a party of between fourty & fifty Men undr Command of Capt: Mercer Lieut: Williams, Ensn Carter Ensign McCarty Lt Lemen & myself1—after following them abot a Mile & an half, on rising a Mountain we were fired on very smartly which we warmly return’d for half an hor then finding ourselves almost surrounded we retreated in the best manner We could to the Fort we unhappily lost Capt. Jno. Mercer Ensign Carter and fifteen Soldiers & had two wounded, we imagined the Number of the Enemy to be upwds of an hundred. I am Sr &c.

William Stark

From Founders Online:

https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/02-03-02-0012

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INDIAN SCALP

During those court martials over the insubordination and cowardice in the Battle of the Great Cacapon,   Col Washington writes Lt Gov Dinwiddie, 3 May 1756,

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I have sent down an Indian scalp, which was taken at the place where Captain Mercer had his engagement. He [ THE INDIAN ] was found thrust under some rocks, with stones piled up against them. They believe more were killed, from the quantity of blood found on the ground, and from other discoveries of their attempts to make more graves. But a hard shower of rain prevented their making a farther search.”

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MERCER FAMILY

Washington knew the whole Mercer family, the father and the sons.

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John Fenton Mercer’s brother, George Mercer, was Washington’s aid de camp at Fort Loudoun and Captain of a company.  In 2016 a re-enactment group formed to represent George Mercer’s Company, one of the first companies to start the building of Fort Loudoun.

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George Mercer’s and John Fenton Mercer’s  father,  John Mercer,  was George Washington’s lawyer and a founding member of the Ohio Company of Virginia.

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Back to the story of Daniel Morgan’s wound

MORGAN_exb

Click on the picture to enlarge. Notice the line above Daniel Morgan’s lip. That’s the wound. The bullet entered the back of the neck crashing through some teeth in his mouth and exiting above his lips.

About this Portrait: 38 years after the wounding, Charles Willson Peale  paints a portrait of “General” Daniel Morgan in 1794,  on his way to the western frontier at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion. This painting was thought to be a copy until recent conservation removed earlier overpaint, uncovering the distinctive scar on Morgan’s upper lip.

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WRONG DATE OF INCIDENT?

This national park website wrongly states this wound occurred in 1758.

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The source of that wrong date comes from James Graham’s 1856 The Life of General Daniel Morgan, pages 32 – 34, who based much of his information from Reverend William Hill’s notes, who was pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Winchester VA and who was a friend of Daniel Morgan. Hill compiled extensive notes but never followed through with a published biography.

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Don Higginbotham, in his book, Daniel Morgan Revolutionary Rifleman , published 1961, in a footnote on Page 7 states that Graham “confuses the time and place of the event.” Graham did not have access to John Fenton Mercer’s letter to Washington 17 April 1756.

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QUESTION

How do we know Mercer’s letter to Washington 17 April 1756 refers to Daniel Morgan?

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PROOF?

And how do we know this phrase, “and the other returned here wounded in the Neck, but no ways dangerous”   in that same letter refers to Daniel Morgan and his neck-mouth wound?

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From our tough pioneers, “no ways dangerous,” meant NOT life threatening.

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Don Higginbotham, in his book, Daniel Morgan Revolutionary Rifleman , published 1961, in a footnote on Page 7 states that Graham “confuses the time and place of the event.”

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Graham did not have access to John Fenton Mercer’s letter to Washington 17 April 1756.

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According to this site, a listing of Daniel Morgan’s name is on a return Ashby submits to Washington:

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Morgan is listed on “Weekly Return of the 2nd Co. Of Rangers Stationed at Sellars’s: Plantation on Pattersons Creek under Command of Capn John Ashby 29 Dec 1755“, in the Library of Congress GW Papers. The incident of Morgan’s wound is described in a letter from Captain John Fenton Mercer to GW dated 17 April 1756 in GW Papers 3:11.

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Excellent Resource here:

See this link referencing Virginia Military Records. showing Daniel Morgan’s name.  

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More follow up on this later.  Stay tuned.

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JAMES GRAHAM’S STORY

And about the STORY itself that led to Daniel Morgan’s wound?

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Although James Graham, in his book published 1856, may have gotten details of the dates wrong, he had direct access to the notes  from the minister who was the contemporary friend of Daniel Morgan who recorded the stories he heard as it were from the “horse’s mouth.”

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So we cannot ignore all the details.

Take a moment to read this Daniel Morgan ADVENTURE story.

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Here’s the excerpt:

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He [Daniel Morgan] was sent with an escort of two soldiers from one of these forts, with dispatches to the commanding officer at Winchester.

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About a mile from the place where this fort formerly stood, is a remarkable precipice called the Hanging Rock.

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We know that Daniel Morgan was a private in Ashby’s Rangers and he was on his way to Fort Ashby but when attacked and got shot sped to Fort Edwards for safety. See letter:

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Yesterday Morning one of Captn Ashby’s Men,  who has been on Forlow some Time, with one Hintch who came down with Us as a Pilot, were in their Return to Ashby’s Fort & were fired on by seven Indians, Hintch killed dead on the Spot and the other returned here wounded in the Neck [Daniel Morgan], but no ways dangerous2—This happen’d about fourteen Miles from hence in the Road to Parker’s Fort,3 “

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JAMES GRAHAM continues:

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A part of the road, along which Morgan and his companions had to travel , lay between the fort and this precipice, and the margin of a water-course, leaving an intervening space, just wide enough for a man to pass.

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This description is contradicted by John Fenton Mercer’s letter of April 17, 1756.   Mercer speaks of an escort and pilot. This implies a wagon is involved.   Why would there be an escort for a man or for men?  And pilot?  Does that only mean guide, or does it also mean wagonner?

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This place was rendered memorable from being the scene, years before, of a terrible encounter between contending parties of Catawba and Delaware Indians, and was admirably adapted for an ambuscade.

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We can find no reference to this battle elsewhere.  However, absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence.

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For this purpose it appers to have been selected by a party of Indians and a few Frenchmen, who were then prowling about, seeking an opportunity for plunder and slaughter.

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Fully aware of the vicinity of the fort, they were not disappointed in their expectations of surprising some party going to, or coming from it.

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Vicinity of the fort?  Please see map above of the forts and location of this Hanging Rock.  Winchester was the main headquarters for George Washington, and Winchester was to be the final retreat point if a massive invasion occurred.  We know that Fort Edwards was a stopping point for the Virginia Regiment, which also meant this fort had supplies.  Wagonners with escorts would carry supplies to all the outer forts from Fort Edwards.  The Old Road followed  in a general way today’s Route 50.  Cold Springs Road to the 2 Parker forts was the other way west from Fort Edwards.

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The enemy hid themselves among the rocks above the road, and lay quietly until Morgan and his escort came under them, when, taking deliberate aim, they fired, killing the escort, and desperately wounding Morgan himself.

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The men fell instantly from their horses, which the Indians had taken care not to injure.

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The ball which strick Morgan entered in at the back of the neck, grazing the left side of the neck-bone, then passing through into the mouth, near the socket of the jaw bone,, came out through the left cheek. In its passage, the ball knocked out all of the teeth on the left side, without, however, otherwise materially injuring the jaw.

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See scar on Daniel Morgan’s left side a thin line by the nose. Click or Touch to Enlarge.

Judging by the portrait 38 years after this incident, we believe the reference to the back of the neck by John Fenton Mercer’s letter of April 17, 1756 was instead the travel of the musket ball through the left cheek and out just under the left side of the nose.

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Although terribly wounded, Morgan kept his seat.

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The blood ran in a stream from the fearful wound and he became helplessly weak ; yet he preserved his senses until he secured himself from further harm.

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The animal upon which he mounted, a fine young filley, was so frightened by the unexpected discharge, that for a few moments she stood motionless, as if spellbound. At length, leaning forward, and grasping her neck with his arms, he urged her into motion. Fortunately for the rider, she took the direction back to the fort.

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The Indians, supposing him to be mortally woundied, left him to be followed by one of their party only. and turned to scalp the two who had fallen, and to catch their horses.

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Morgan, in the mean time, feeling certain that he had but a short time to live, was only anxious to get beyond the reach of his pursuers, before he died, that he might prevent his body from being mangled.

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He urged on his mare with his heels, and the noble animal, putting forth her utmost strength, bore him beyond the reach of the Indian, never slackening her speed until she reached the fort.

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The late Morgan Neville, Esq. ( a grandson of Morgan), in a biographical sketch of the general, written by him, remarks on this fortunate escape as follows: —

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“I will remember, when a boy, to have heard General Morgan describe, in his own powerful and graphic style, the expression of the Indian’s face, as he ran with open mouth and tomahawk in hand, bythe side of the horse, expecting every moment to see his victim fall. But when the panting savage found the horse was fast leaving him behind, he threw his tomahawk, without effect, and abandoned the pursuit with a yell of disappointment.”

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Morgan was taken from his horse perfectly insensible. For a long time his case was a critical one; but with care and judicious treatment, he recovered, after a confinement of more than six months. It may be remarked her, that notwithstanding the numberless perils which he encountered, as well before as after this event, during his long and active military career, this was the only wound ever received.

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Morgan was now about twenty three years of age.

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CAPTAIN “JACK” – AN ASIDE

No date assigned

Family tradition relates John Ashby’s close escape from a vengeful, long-legged Indian known locally as “The Crane.” Surprised on the hill, Ashby outraced him to the fort. 

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Colorful Captain “Jack” John Ashby head of Fort Ashby and overseer of Daniel Morgan was one of the first 2 Captains  authorized by Lt Gov Dinwiddie and his fort was one of the two first forts authorized by Virginia Regiment to be built .

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BACKCOUNTRY WHITES LEAVING

24 April 1756

Col Washington writes  John Robinson, Speaker of the  Virginia House of Burgesses 24 April 1756,

“Frederic county will not be mistress of fifteen families. They are now retreating to the securest parts in droves of fifties. In short, every thing has too melancholy an appearance for pen to communicate. “

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