Henry Lee III

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This article is about Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, the American Revolutionary War officer. For many other individuals with similar names, Harry Lee or Henry Lee.
Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee III
HenryLee.jpeg
9th Governor of Virginia
In office
December 1, 1791 – December 1, 1794
Preceded by Beverley Randolph
Succeeded by Robert Brooke
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 19th district
In office
March 4, 1799 – March 3, 1801
Preceded by Walter Jones
Succeeded by John Taliaferro
Personal details
Born January 29, 1756 (1756-01-29)
Dumfries, Colony of Virginia
Died March 25, 1818(1818-03-25) (aged 62)
Cumberland Island, Georgia
Resting place Lee Chapel
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Matilda Ludwell Lee
Anne Hill Carter
Children Robert E. Lee, others
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Signature
Military service
Nickname(s) "Light-Horse Harry"
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Continental Army
 United States Army
Years of service 1776 - 1783 (Continental Army)
1798 - 1800 (US Army)
Rank Lieutenant Colonel(Continental Army)
Major General (US Army)
Battles/wars American Revolutionary War
Whiskey Rebellion

Henry Lee III (January 29, 1756 – March 25, 1818), also known as Light-Horse Harry Lee, was an early American patriot who served as the ninth Governor of Virginia and as the Virginia Representative to the United States Congress. During the American Revolution, Lee served as a cavalry officer in the Continental Army and earned the nickname "Light-Horse Harry".[1][2] Lee was the father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Life and career[edit]

Lee was born near Dumfries, Virginia, the son of Henry Lee II (1730–1787) of "Leesylvania" and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792) the "Lowland Beauty". His father was the second cousin of Richard Henry Lee, twelfth President of the Continental Congress. His mother was an aunt of the wife of Virginia Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr. His great-grandmother Mary Bland was also a grand-aunt of President Thomas Jefferson.

Lee was the grandson of Henry Lee I, a great-grandson of Richard Bland, and a great-great-grandson of William Randolph.[3] He was also a descendant of Theodorick Bland of Westover and Governor Richard Bennett.

Military career[edit]

Letter from Henry Lee to Colonel Shreve, 1780

Lee graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1773, and began pursuing a legal career. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he became a captain in a Virginia dragoon detachment, which was attached to the 1st Continental Light Dragoons. In 1778, Lee was promoted to major and given the command of a mixed corps of cavalry and infantry known as Lee's Legion, with which he won a great reputation as a leader of light troops. At that time, such military groups would engage the enemy using what is now known as guerrilla tactics.[citation needed]

It was during his time as commander of the Legion that Lee earned the sobriquet of "Light-Horse Harry" for his horsemanship. On September 22, 1779 the Continental Congress voted to present Lee with a gold medal—a reward given to no other officer below a general's rank—for the Legion's actions during the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey, on August 19 of that year.[4][5]

Lee was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was assigned with his Legion to the southern theater of war. Lee's Legion raided the British outpost of Georgetown, South Carolina with General Francis Marion in January 1781 and helped screen the American army in their Race to the Dan River the following month. Lee united with General Francis Marion and General Andrew Pickens in the spring of 1781 to capture numerous British outposts in South Carolina and Georgia including Fort Watson, Fort Motte, Fort Granby, Fort Galphin, Fort Grierson, and Fort Cornwallis, Augusta, Georgia. They conducted a campaign of terror and intimidation against Loyalists in the region, highlighted in Pyle's Massacre. Lee and his legion also served at the Battle of Guilford Court House, the Siege of Ninety-Six, and the Battle of Eutaw Springs. He was present at Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, but left the Army shortly after claiming fatigue and disappointment with his treatment from fellow officers. During the Whiskey Rebellion, Lee commanded the 12,950 militiamen sent to quash the rebels.[6]

Marriages and children[edit]

Between April 8 and 13, 1782, at Stratford Hall, Lee married his second cousin, Matilda Ludwell Lee (1764–1790), who was known as "the Divine Matilda". Matilda was the daughter of Philip Ludwell Lee, Sr., and Elizabeth Steptoe. Matilda had three children before she died in 1790:

  • Philip Lee (1784–1794)
  • Lucy Grymes Lee (1786–1860)
  • Henry Lee IV (May 28, 1787 – January 30, 1837), was a historian and author who also served as a speech writer for both John C. Calhoun and presidential candidate Andrew Jackson, also helping the latter to write his inaugural address.

On June 18, 1793, Lee married the wealthy Anne Hill Carter (1773–1829) at Shirley Plantation. Anne was the daughter of Charles Carter, Esq., of Shirley, and his wife Ann Butler Moore. She was also a descendant of King Robert II of Scotland through the 2nd Earl of Crawford.[7] They had six children:

  • Algernon Sidney Lee (April 2, 1795 – August 9, 1796), died at Sully Plantation, buried there in an unmarked grave[8]
  • Charles Carter Lee (1798–1871)
  • Anne Kinloch Lee (1800–1864)
  • Sydney Smith Lee (1802–1869)
  • Robert Edward Lee (January 19, 1807 – October 12, 1870), the fifth child of Henry and Anne, served as Confederate general-in-chief during the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee ranks among the most famous and revered American soldiers in U.S. history, and his campaigns are still studied by military tacticians and historians around the world
  • Mildred Lee (1811–1856)

Politics[edit]

Lee's house in Alexandria, Virginia.

From 1786 to 1788, Lee was a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation, and in the last-named year in the Virginia convention, he favored the adoption of the United States Constitution. From 1789 to 1791, he served in the General Assembly and, from 1791 to 1794, was Governor of Virginia.

In 1794, Lee accompanied Washington to help the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. A new county of Virginia was named after him during his governorship. Henry Lee was a major general in the U.S. Army in 1798–1800. From 1799 to 1801, he served in the United States House of Representatives of the Congress. He famously eulogized Washington to a crowd of 4,000 at the first President's funeral on December 26, 1799: First in war—first in peace—and first in the hearts of his countrymen...[9]

The Panic of 1796–1797 and bankruptcy of Robert Morris reduced Lee's fortune. He served one year in debtors' prison in Montross, Virginia, when his son Robert Edward was two.[10][11]

Death[edit]

On July 27, 1812, Lee received grave injuries while helping to resist an attack on his friend, Alexander Contee Hanson, editor of the Baltimore newspaper, The Federal Republican. Hanson was attacked by Democratic-Republican mob because his paper opposed the War of 1812. Lee and Hanson and two dozen other Federalists had taken refuge in the offices of the paper. The group surrendered to Baltimore city officials the next day and were jailed. Laborer George Woolslager led a mob that forced its way into the jail, removed the Federalists, beating and torturing them over the next three hours. All were severely injured, and one Federalist, James Lingan, died.

Lee suffered extensive internal injuries as well as head and face wounds, and even his speech was affected. Lee later sailed to the West Indies in an effort to recuperate from his injuries. He died on 25 March 1818, at Dungeness, on Cumberland Island, Georgia.

Lee was buried with full military honors provided by an American fleet stationed near St. Marys. In 1913 his remains were removed to the Lee family crypt at Lee Chapel, on the campus of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

The fictional character of Colonel Harry Burwell in the film The Patriot is thought[by whom?] to have been inspired by the historical exploits of Lee.

In the musical 1776 Lee's nickname is mentioned (anachronistically) during the song "The Lees of Old Virginia," sung by the character of his older cousin Richard Henry Lee.

Published works[edit]

  • Lee, Henry, and Robert E. Lee. Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States. Eyewitness accounts of the American Revolution. [New York]: New York Times, 1969. (originally published 1812; 3rd ed. published in 1869, with memoir by his son Robert E. Lee)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ In the military parlance of the time, the term "Light-horse" had a hyphen between the two words "light" and "horse". See the title page of "The Discipline of the Light-Horse" by Captain Robert Hinde of the Royal Regiment of Foresters (Light-Dragoons) published in London in 1778.
  2. ^ Hinde, Captain Robert (1778), Discipline of the Light-Horse, London: W.Owen, retrieved 20 August 2010 
  3. ^ Dillon, John Forrest, ed. (1903). "Introduction". John Marshall; life, character and judicial services as portrayed in the centenary and memorial addresses and proceedings throughout the United States on Marshall day, 1901, and in the classic orations of Binney, Story, Phelps, Waite and Rawle I. Chicago: Callaghan & Company. pp. liv–lv. 
  4. ^ The medal (which is actually silver) finally presented to Lee is in Princeton University’s Numismatic Collection. Also included are a signed letter of Lee's to the New Jersey quartermaster from 1780 and a signed letter of the same year from George Washington to Lee approving Lee’s plan to capture Benedict Arnold.
  5. ^ Discovery of medal that Congress granted to Lee
  6. ^ http://www.whiskeyrebellion.info/rebell.htm
  7. ^ Fontaine, William W. The Descent Of General Robert Edward Lee From Robert The Bruce, Of Scotland. www.civilwarhome.com. Retrieved 13 October 2008.
  8. ^ Gamble, Robert S. Sully: Biography of a House (Sully Foundation Ltd: Chantilly, VA, 1973), p. 40
  9. ^ "Papers of George Washington". Gwpapers.virginia.edu. 
  10. ^ A Princeton Companion(Lee, Henry), 1978, retrieved 20 August 2010 
  11. ^ Stratford Hall/Lee Family Tree: Henry Lee III, retrieved 20 August 2010 
  12. ^ AmericanHeritage.com / Private Fastness: TALES OF WILD

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Archival Records
Political offices
Preceded by
Beverley Randolph
Governor of Virginia
1791–1794
Succeeded by
Robert Brooke
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Walter Jones
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 19th congressional district

4 March 1799 – 3 March 1801 (obsolete district)
Succeeded by
Edwin Gray