American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Key for figures in painting
Artist: John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843

The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777

ca. 1789–ca. 1831

Oil on canvas

21 × 30 3/4 in. (53.3 × 78.1 cm)
Trumbull Collection

Trumbull here represents multiple moments in the battle of Princeton, New Jersey. At the center, Brigadier General Hugh Mercer, cut off from his beleaguered men, with his dying horse beneath him, awaits the fatal blow from a British bayonet. In the middle distance, General George Washington, on a brown horse, accompanied by Dr. Benjamin Rush, charges onto the field to rally his troops. By lowering the position of the head of Mercer’s horse, which was raised in an earlier oil sketch of this scene, Trumbull shifted the focus from Mercer’s death to the commander in chief, whose bravery gave the American army a crucial victory.

Depicted Princeton, New Jersey
On view
18th–19th century

Trumbull Collection, to 1832; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Christie’s, New York, George Washington at Princeton: From the Collection of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, sale cat. (2006), 13, ill.

Dennis P. Ryan, New Jersey in the American Revolution (Trenton, N.J.: New Jersey Historical Commission, 1975), 73, fig. plate 6.

David McCullough, 1776 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), 223, ill.

Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 66, 90–91, 106, no. 35, ill.

Victoria Bissell Brown and Timothy J. Shannon, Going to the Source: The Bedford Reader in American History, 3rd, 1 (Bedford, Mass.: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009), 246, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.