Henry Lee III

Henry Lee III

Nofootnotes|date=February 2008Infobox Governor
name = Henry Lee III

order1 = 9th
office1 = Governor of Virginia
term_start1 = 1791
term_end1 = 1794
lieutenant1 =
predecessor1 = Beverley Randolph
successor1 = Robert Brooke
order2=Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 19th district| term_start2 = 1799
term_end2 = 1800
predecessor2 = Walter Jones
successor2 = John Talifierro
birth_date = January 29, 1756
birth_place = Dumfries, Virginia, British America
death_date = March 25, 1818
death_place = Cumberland Island, Georgia, United States
party = Federalist
spouse =
profession =
religion =

Henry Lee III, called "Light Horse Harry", (January 29 1756March 25 1818) was a cavalry officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was the Governor of Virginia and a U.S. Congressman, as well as the father of American Civil War general Robert E. Lee.

Early life and career

Lee was born near Dumfries, Virginia, the son of Maj. Gen. Henry Lee II (1730–1787) of "Leesylvania" and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792) the "Lowland Beauty". His father was first cousin once removed to Richard Henry Lee, sixth 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 a great-aunt of President Thomas Jefferson and he descended once from King John of England, twice from King Edward I of England, once from King Jean de Brienne of Jerusalem, twice from King Edward III of England and once from King Pedro I of Castile. With a view to a legal career, he graduated (1773) from The College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), but, soon afterwards, on the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he became a captain in the revolutionary forces.

Military career

In 1776, he was promoted to captain of a Virginia dragoon detachment, which was attached to the 1st Continental Light Dragoons; and, in 1778, he was promoted to major and given the command of a small irregular corps, with which he won a great reputation as a leader of light troops.

His services on the outpost line of the army earned for him the sobriquet of "Light Horse Harry". His greatest exploit was the brilliant surprise at the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey, on August 19 1779; for this feat he received a gold medal, a reward given to no other officer below a general's rank in the entire war.(See also [http://library.princeton.edu/about/news/lm011106.php Discovery of medal that Congress granted to Lee] ). The medal is on view with other pieces from Princeton University’s Numismatic Collection, including two pewter continental "dollars", large cents from 1793 and 1794, a silver dollar of 1794, the Thomas Jefferson inaugural medal of 1801 and an Indian Peace Medal of James Madison (Princeton class of 1771). Also included are a signed letter of Lee 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.

He was promoted to lieutenant colonel with a picked corps of dragoons (Lee's Legion) to the southern theater of war. Here he rendered invaluable services in victory and defeat, notably at Guilford Court House, Camden and Eutaw Springs. He was present at Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, and afterwards left the army owing to ill health.

During the infamous Whiskey Rebellion, Lee commanded the 13,000 militiamen sent to quash the rebels. However, this command existed more on paper than in actuality, as President George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, military men both, accompanied him.

Marriages and family

Between April 8–13, 1782, at "Stratford Hall", he married his second-cousin, Matilda Ludwell Lee (1766–1790), who was known as "The Divine Matilda". Matilda was the daughter of Hon. Philip Ludwell Lee, Sr., Esq. (1727–1775) and Elizabeth Steptoe (1743–1789). Matilda's mother later married Philip Richard Fendall I, Esq. (1734–1805). Philip would eventually marry three wives, all Lee women. Thus, he was a cousin, brother-in-law, and stepfather-in-law to Light Horse Harry Lee. Fendall was the builder of the "Lee-Fendall House" in Alexandria, Virginia, on land purchased from Lee. Matilda bore three children before she died in 1790.

On 13 June 1793, Henry Lee married the wealthy Anne Hill Carter (17 years his junior) at Shirley Plantation. They had six children, one of whom died in infancy in 1796. Their fifth child, Robert Edward Lee would later gain fame as a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Anne Hill Carter was the daughter of Charles Carter, Esq., of Shirley, and his wife Ann Butler Moore, and a descendant of Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood and Robert Carter I, who was also a descendant of Thomas More and King Robert II of Scotland through the 2nd Earls of Crawford. [ cite web
title=The Descent Of General Robert Edward Lee From Robert The Bruce, Of Scotland
author=Wm. Winston Fontaine
date=March 29th, 1881 (unconfirmed)
publisher=Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War
] .

Unfortunately for Lee and his family, he invested large sums in numerous, highly speculative schemes, including partnerships with Aaron Burr and merchant Robert Morris. Although financial speculation was not rare among the Founding Fathers, Lee's handling of his personal finances was notably incompetent, and subjected his family to financial hardship. In 1810, to meet the demands of his creditors and be released from debtor’s prison, Lee was forced to sell all of his possessions. He instead took what he could from the house and left his family behind to pay the debts he owed.


In 1785, he presented George Washington with twelve horse chestnut saplings as a token of friendship. Washington later gave two of these to his friend and aide, General Robert Brown. Washington planted his ten saplings on his estate at Mt. Vernon.

Brown planted his two at his home in Bath, Pennsylvania, near East Allen Township; the sole surviving tree managed to last 136 years until lightning damaged it beyond repair in 1921. In 1928, 876 of its seeds were distributed to all of the 48 state universities at the time and various nations around the world. This symbol of outward friendship led to the recognition of Brown's Horse-chestnut as America's Friendship Tree.

From 1786 to 1788, Lee was a delegate to the Continental Congress, 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 in 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 wrote the famous phrase used by John Marshall in the address to Congress on the death of Washington—"first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."


On 27 July 1812, in Baltimore, while helping to resist the attack of a Democratic-Republican mob on his friend, Alexander Contee Hanson, editor of the "Baltimore Federal Republican", which had opposed the War of 1812, Lee received grave injuries from which he never recovered.

Lee and about two dozen Federalists had taken refuge in the three-story office building on Charles Street. With the help of Brigadier General John Stricker and other city officials, Lee and the rest surrendered the following day and were escorted to the county jail a mile away. Laborer George Woolslager led a mob that forced its way into the jail and removed and beat the jailed Federalists and Lee over the next three hours. One Federalist, James M. 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 attempt to heal his wounds. He died at "Dungeness" on March 25 1818 (Dungeness was built on Cumberland Island, Georgia by Nathanael Greene as a summer home). Greene's daughter Louisa was in possession of the house at the time of Lee's death.

Lee was buried with full military honors provided by an American fleet stationed near the St. Marys. For many years his body rested in the same little cemetery as Louisa's mother, Catherine, but in 1913 his remains were removed to the Lee family crypt at Lee Chapel, on the campus of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. [ [http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1972/3/1972_3_26.shtml AmericanHeritage.com / Private Fastness: TALES OF WILD ] ]

Lee wrote the valuable "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department" (1812; 3rd ed., with memoir by his son Robert E. Lee, 1869) while in debtor's prison.

His brother Richard Bland Lee was a U.S. Congressman from Virginia for three terms.

ee also


External links

*CongBio|L000195 Retrieved on 2008-07-02

Baltimore Riot of 1812

* [http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Topics/history/American_and_Military/1812_Baltimore_Riot/Sep1_1812_pamphlet/home.html contemporary account]
* [http://www.common-place.org/vol-03/no-04/baltimore/ a summary]

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