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Light Horse Harry Lee

Light Horse Harry Lee

Henry Lee III

Henry Lee III (January 29, 1756 – March 25, 1818) was an early American Patriot and U.S. politician who served as the ninth Governor of Virginia and as the Virginia Representative to the United States Congress. Lee's service during the American Revolution as a cavalry officer in the Continental Army earned him the nickname by which he is best known, "Light-Horse Harry".[note 1] He was the father of Robert E. Lee, who led Confederate armies against the U.S. in the American Civil War.

Lee was born on Leesylvania Plantation in Prince William County in the Colony of Virginia. He was the son of Col. Henry Lee II (1730–1787) of "Leesylvania" and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792). His father was the first 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.[1] He was also a descendant of Theodorick Bland of Westover and Governor Richard Bennett.

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 instead 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 capable leader of light troops. At the time, highly mobile groups of light cavalry provided valuable service not only during major battles, but also by conducting reconnaissance and surveillance, engaging the enemy during troop movements, disrupting delivery of supplies, raiding and skirmishing, and organizing expeditions behind enemy lines;[2][3] part of such tactics now are known as guerrilla warfare and maneuver warfare. In August, Lee led a detachment on a raid on a British fort, culminating in the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey on August 19, in which 50 British soldiers were killed or wounded and 158 captured, while the Americans suffered two dead, three wounded and seven captured. (Despite his success, some of his fellow officers saw to it he was brought before a court martial on eight charges, over George Washington's disapproval; he was acquitted on all counts.[4]) 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—an honor given to no other officer below the rank of general—for the Legion's actions during the Battle of Paulus Hook.[5][6]

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, South carolina, Fort Galphin, Fort Grierson, and Fort Cornwallis, Augusta, Georgia.[7] 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 Charles Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, but left the Army shortly after, claiming fatigue and disappointment with his treatment from fellow officers.

In 1794, Lee was summoned by President George Washington to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. Lee commanded the 12,950 militiamen sent to quash the rebels; because of a peaceful surrender, there was no fighting.[8] In 1798, in anticipation of a war with France, Henry Lee was appointed a major general in the U.S. Army. In 1808, he was recommissioned by President Thomas Jefferson as major-general when war with Great Britain was imminent; Lee organized the Virginia militia. He asked President James Madison for a commission at the onset of the War of 1812 but without success. In 1812 he published his Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States, where he summarized his military experiences during the Revolutionary War.

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