William Henry Fitzhugh Lee

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For William Henry Fitzhugh Lee's cousin, also a Civil War officer and politician, see Fitzhugh Lee.
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee
WHF Lee.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1887 – October 15, 1891
Preceded by John S. Barbour, Jr.
Succeeded by Elisha E. Meredith
Member of the Virginia Senate
for Loudoun, Alexandria,
Fairfax, and Prince William
In office
December 1, 1875 – December 3, 1879
Personal details
Born (1837-05-31)May 31, 1837
Arlington House, Virginia
Died October 15, 1891(1891-10-15) (aged 54)
Alexandria, Virginia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) 1st Charlotte Wickham, 2nd Mary Tabb Bolling
Children Robert Edward Lee III and George Bolling Lee (sons with Mary)
Alma mater Harvard University
Military service
Allegiance  United States
 Confederate States
Service/branch  United States Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1857–1859 (USA)
1861–1865 (CSA)
Rank Union army 2nd lt rank insignia.jpg Second Lieutenant (USA)
Confederate States of America General-collar.svg Major General (CSA)
Commands 9th Virginia Cavalry
Battles/wars American Civil War

William Henry Fitzhugh Lee (May 31, 1837 – October 15, 1891), known as Rooney Lee (often spelled "Roony" among friends and family) or W.H.F. Lee, was the second son of General Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Randolph Custis. He was a planter, a Confederate cavalry General in the American Civil War, and later a Congressman from Virginia.[1]

Early life[edit]

Lee was born at Arlington House in Arlington, Virginia, and named for William Henry Fitzhugh, his mother's uncle. At an early age, his father began to call him Rooney; what prompted him to use this nickname is not known, but it stuck as a way to differentiate him from his cousin Fitzhugh Lee.[2]

Rooney Lee attended Harvard University, where he befriended Henry Adams, who wrote about his relationship with Lee in chapter four of his autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams.

Rooney Lee, about 8 years old, with his father Robert E. Lee

Lee followed in his father's footsteps after graduation, entering the United States Army in 1857 as a second lieutenant. He served with the 6th U.S. Infantry under Albert Sidney Johnston, and participated in the Utah War against the Mormons. In 1859, he resigned from the U.S. Army to operate his White House Plantation, on the south shore of the Pamunkey River, in New Kent County, Virginia.

Civil War[edit]

With the outbreak of the Civil War, Lee was commissioned as a captain in the Confederate Army cavalry and was soon promoted to major. He initially served in western Virginia under the command of Brig. Gen. William Loring during 1861 and early 1862. He was assigned to the command of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel, and later as colonel of the 9th Virginia Cavalry.

After the Battle of South Mountain, Lee was promoted to brigadier general. He fought at Antietam under the command of Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, his cousin. He commanded the 3rd Brigade of Stuart's Cavalry Division at the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He was wounded during combat at Brandy Station at the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign and was captured by Union forces at Hickory Hill, Virginia, two weeks later, while recuperating.

He was shipped to New York State, where he was held as a prisoner of war until returned to the Confederate Army on February 25, 1864, in exchange for Union Brig. Gen. Neal S. Dow. In April, Lee was promoted to major general and commanded a division in the Cavalry Corps during the breakout from Petersburg and the retreat of his father's army in the Appomattox Campaign.

By the end of the war, Rooney Lee had risen to second-in-command of the Confederate cavalry. He surrendered along with his father at Appomattox Court House.

Postbellum career[edit]

Lee returned to White House Plantation and planting after the war. Nearby, his younger brother Rob lived at Romancoke Plantation across the river in King William County.

After their mother died in 1873, Rooney inherited Ravensworth Plantation, the old Fitzhugh family property (near present-day Springfield) in Fairfax County with 563 acres (2.28 km2) of land. He moved there with his family from White House.

In 1875 Rooney was elected to the Virginia Senate, serving until 1878. He was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in 1887. He served in the House until his death at Ravensworth in 1891. He is interred in the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, with his parents and siblings.

Marriage and family[edit]

Lee married twice, first in 1859 to Charlotte Wickham, a descendant of the attorney John Wickham and his wife. They had two children, Robert Edward, born in 1860, and Mary Custis, born in 1862, both of whom died in infancy. Charlotte died in 1863.

On November 28, 1867, he married Mary Tabb Bolling. They had two sons, who both lived to adulthood: Robert Edward Lee III, born February 11, 1869 at Petersburg, and George Bolling Lee, born August 30, 1872 at Lexington.

Lee's mother, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, was the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis and Mary Lee Fitzhugh. George was the great-great grandson of Martha Dandridge and step-grandson of President George Washington. Rooney was also a descendant of Charles II of England through Lady Charlotte Lee, granddaughter of Barbara Villiers, who married the 4th Baron Baltimore, and possibly, a descendant of George I, through Benedict Swingate Calvert, the illegitimate son of 5th Baron Baltimore and whose mother was supposed to be Melusina von der Schulenburg, illegitimate daughter of the King.

See also[edit]



Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John S. Barbour, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Elisha E. Meredith