Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: Henry

Last Name: Lee

Birthplace: Dumfries, VA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Continental Army (1775 - 1784)

Date of Birth: 29 January 1756

Date of Death: 25 March 1818

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Henry Lee III
'Light-Horse Harry'

•  Revolutionary War (1775 - 1783)


Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee III
Major General, Continental Army

Henry Lee III was born on 29 January 1756 near Dumfries, VA, the son of Henry Lee II (1730-87) 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 a great 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. He was also a descendant of Theodorick Bland of Westover and Governor Richard Bennett.

Military Career

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.

It was during his time as Commander of the Legion that Lee earned the sobriquet of "Light-Horse Harry" for his horsemanship. On 22 September 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 19 August of that year.

Lee was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was assigned with his Legion to the southern theater of war. Lee's forces served at the Battle of Guilford Court House, the Battle of Camden and the Battle of Eutaw Springs. He was present at Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, but left the Army shortly after due to an illness. During the infamous Whiskey Rebellion, Lee commanded the 13,000 militiamen sent to quash the rebels.


From 1786-88, Lee was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and in the last-named year in the Virginia convention, he favored the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. From 1789-91, he served in the General Assembly and, from 1791-94, 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 U.S. House of Representatives of the Congress. He famously eulogized Washington to a crowd of 4,000 at the first President's funeral on 26 December 1799: "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

The Panic of 1796-97 and bankruptcy of Robert Morris reduced Lee's fortune. He served one year in debtor's prison in Montross, VA, when his son Robert E. was two.


On 27 July 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 was jailed. Laborer George Woolslager led a mob that forced its way into the jail and removed and beat the Federalists over the next three hours. 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.

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."

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.)


Between 8 and 13 April 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 the Honorable Philip Ludwell Lee Sr., Esq., and Elizabeth Steptoe. Matilda had three children before she died in 1790:

Philip Lee (1784-94)

Henry Lee IV (28 May 1787 - 30 January 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 18 June 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 Earls of Crawford. They had six children:

Algernon Sidney Lee (2 April 1795 - 9 August 1796) died at "Sully" Plantation, buried there in an unmarked grave

Charles Carter Lee (1798-1871)

Anne Kinloch Lee (1800-64)

Sydney Smith Lee (1802-69)

Robert Edward Lee (19 January 1807 - 12 October 1870) the fifth child of Henry and Anne, served as a Confederate General during the American Civil War

Mildred Lee (1811-56)

Death and Burial

Henry Lee III died on 25 March 1818 at Dungeness on Cumberland Island, GA. Lee was buried with full military honors provided by an American fleet stationed near St. Mary's, GA. In 1913 his remains were removed to the Lee Family crypt at Lee Chapel Museum, on the campus of Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2750   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image