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Henry Lee III

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Title: Henry Lee III  
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Subject: Robert Brooke (Virginia), Pyle's Massacre, Robert E. Lee, Henry Lee II, Lee County, Georgia
Collection: 1756 Births, 1818 Deaths, American People of English Descent, American Planters, Bland Family of Virginia, Burials at Lee Chapel, Carter Family of Virginia, Congressional Gold Medal Recipients, Continental Army Officers from Virginia, Continental Congressmen from Virginia, Delegates to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, Federalist Party Members of the United States House of Representatives, Federalist Party State Governors of the United States, Fendall Family, Governors of Virginia, Lee Family of Virginia, Members of the United States House of Representatives from Virginia, Members of the Virginia House of Delegates, People from Alexandria, Virginia, People from Prince William County, Virginia, People Imprisoned for Debt, Princeton University Alumni, Randolph Family of Virginia, United States Army Generals, Virginia Federalists
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Henry Lee III

Henry Lee III
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 (1756-01-29)January 29, 1756
Dumfries, Colony of Virginia, British America
Died March 25, 1818(1818-03-25) (aged 62)
Resting place Lee Chapel
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Matilda Ludwell Lee
Anne Hill Carter
Children Robert E. Lee, others
Alma mater College of New Jersey
Military service
Nickname(s) "Light-Horse "
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Continental Army
United States Army
Years of service 1776–1783 (Continental Army)
1798–1800 (U.S. Army)
Rank Lieutenant colonel (Continental Army)
Major general (U.S. 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 1
    • Military career 1.1
    • Marriages and children 1.2
    • Politics 1.3
    • Death 1.4
  • In popular culture 2
  • Published works 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Life and career

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

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. In September of the same year, Lee commanded a unit of dragoons which defeated a Hessian regiment at the Battle of Edgar's Lane.

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 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

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 Alexander Lindsay, 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)


Lee's house in Alexandria, Virginia.

From 1786 to 1788, Lee was a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation, and in 1788 at 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 E(dward) Lee was two.[10][11]


On July 27, 1812, Lee received grave injuries while helping to resist an attack on his friend, James Lingan, died.

Lee suffered extensive internal injuries as well as head and face wounds, and even his speech was affected. He later sailed to the Georgia.

Lee was buried with full military honors, provided by an American fleet stationed near Lee Chapel, on the campus of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.[12]

In popular culture

The fictional character of Colonel Harry Burwell in the film The Patriot is thought 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

  • 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


  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 bob is life 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. ^  
  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 Benedict Arnold.
  5. ^ Discovery of medal that Congress granted to Lee
  6. ^
  7. ^ Fontaine, William W. The Descent Of General Robert Edward Lee From Robert The Bruce, Of Scotland. 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". 
  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. ^ / Private Fastness: TALES OF WILD

Further reading

  • Herrera, Ricardo A. "`[T]he zealous activity of Capt. Lee': Light-Horse Harry Lee and Petite Guerre," Journal of Military History, 79 (Jan. 2015), 9-36.
  • Royster, Charles. Light-Horse Harry Lee and the Legacy of the American Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1981)

External links

  • Henry Lee III at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  • Observations on the writings of Thomas Jefferson, by Henry Lee and Charles Carter Lee
  • Baltimore Riots of 1812
  • contemporary account
  • a summary
  • "Lee's Legion Remembered: Profiles of the 2nd Partisan Corps"
  • Gen Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee at Find a Grave – Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia
  • Gen Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee at Find a Gravecenotaph at Greene-Miller Cemetery, Dungeness, Georgia
Archival Records
  • A Guide to the Governor Henry Lee Executive Papers, 1791–1794 at The Library of Virginia
Political offices
Preceded by
Beverley Randolph
Governor of Virginia
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
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