Hugh W. Mercer
|Hugh Weedon Mercer|
November 27, 1808|
|Died||June 9, 1877
|Place of burial||Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah|
|Allegiance|| United States of America
Confederate States of America
|Service/branch|| United States Army
Confederate States Army
|Years of service||1828–1835 (USA)
|Rank|| First Lieutenant (USA)
First Lieutenant (Georgia Militia)
Brigadier General (CSA)
|Unit||2nd U.S. Artillery|
|Commands held||10th Georgia Infantry Battalion
1st Georgia Infantry Regiment
District of Georgia
|Battles/wars||American Civil War
- Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
- Battle of Atlanta
Hugh W. Mercer was born in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to a wealthy and well-known family. His grandfather and namesake Hugh Mercer of Pennsylvania had been a general under George Washington during the American Revolution. Mercer graduated from West Point in 1828 (3rd out of 33), and served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Artillery, spending much of his service time in Georgia. After an assignment as an aide to Winfield Scott, he left the army, married a woman from Savannah and settled in that city. Mercer worked as a bank cashier, and was an artillery officer in the local militia. He started building the Italianate-style Mercer House. However, construction was interrupted by the Civil War, and no Mercer ever lived there.
In 1861, he enlisted in the Confederate army, and was commissioned as the colonel of the 1st Georgia Infantry. He was promoted to brigadier general by the end of October. He served as commander of the District of Georgia. In August 1862, he played a major role in impressing the first group of slaves and free blacks into service for the Confederacy. By November, however, he lost his authority to impress workers, and depended on Gov. Joseph E. Brown and local sheriffs to provide slaves to join the Confederate effort. At the beginning of the Atlanta Campaign, he left Savannah and took command of a brigade in the Army of Tennessee. Fighting at Dalton, Marietta, Kennesaw Mountain (where his son was wounded), and the Battle of Atlanta, he became ill during the subsequent campaigning in Tennessee. Mercer was relieved of command and sent home to Savannah, serving under Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee. He commanded the 10th Battalion, Georgia Infantry, which was charged with the defense of the Savannah area. When Hardee retreated in December 1864, Mercer left the city, returning after the fighting ended. He was briefly imprisoned on at Fort Pulaski, which he had once commanded, on Cockspur Island after the end of the war, along with other prominent Confederate leaders.
After the war, he again returned to Savannah and resumed his work in banking, and moved to Baltimore in 1869, where he worked as a commission merchant. Mercer traveled to Baden-Baden, Germany, in order to find a cure for his illness. Instead, he died there. His body was returned to Savannah and buried in Bonaventure Cemetery, owned by City of Savannah, located in Thunderbolt, Ga.
One of his descendants, great-grandson Johnny Mercer, became an internationally known lyricist and composer.