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Battle of Great Cacapon
Part of the French and Indian War
Date April 18, 1756[1]
Location near present-day Capon Bridge, Hampshire County, West Virginia
Result Indian victory
Union flag 1606 (Kings Colors).svg Kingdom of Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
Killbuck[3] John Mercer
Over 100 Approximately 60 Virginia militia
Casualties and losses
Unknown more than 17 killed

The Battle of Great Cacapon — also known as Mercer's Massacre — was fought on April 18, 1756[1] between members of Colonel George Washington's Virginia Regiment and French-allied Shawnee and Delaware Indians. Captain Mercer and a company of his men were pursuing some Indians when they were ambushed by a larger number of Indian raiders. Mercer and at least 16 of his men were killed.


Following the outbreak of the French and Indian War in 1754, and the failure of British General Edward Braddock's expedition in 1755, French commanders in the Ohio Country encouraged their Indian allies to raid British colonial settlements. Northwestern Virginia (an area including what is now the state of West Virginia) was one area subjected to frequent Indian raids. In an attempt to defend against these raids, Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie ordered a series of defensive fortifications to be constructed. These forts were manned by members of Virginia provincial militia under the overall command of Colonel George Washington.


A Delaware leader named Bemino, known as John Killbuck to the whites, a number of years after the incident, described how he and a band of Indians (probably composed of Delawares and Shawnee) killed two men near Fort Edwards, not far from the Cacapon River in what is now Hampshire County, West Virginia. Deliberately leaving a trail of corn meal, they established an ambush along a high stream bank. Captain John Mercer led a band of militia (said to number from forty to one hundred, depending on sources) in pursuit. When they passed the concealed Indians, the trap was sprung, and the Indians opened a murderous crossfire, killing Mercer and 16 men. More of the militia were chased down and killed, with Killbuck claiming that only six men escaped.[3][4]

Indians continued to raid in the area throughout the war.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Some sources (e.g. Cartmell and Kercheval et al) place this event in 1757, apparently as they rely on Killbuck's account of the events. Correspondence by George Washington concerning Mercer's death is in 1756, and newspaper reports from that year (see Lucier) also place it then.
  2. None of the referenced sources indicate that any Frenchmen took part in this event, although there may have been some in the area.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cartmell, p. 73
  4. West Virginia Archive report indicates Mercer's force as 100, while Killbuck (as recounted in Cartmell) claims 40.

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