A legendary cavalry officer whose nickname matched his prowess, “Light-Horse Harry Lee,” commanded a partisan legion that contributed to critical victories against the British. He was also known for his contentious temperament.
Leesylvania, where Lee was born in 1756, was located just a few miles south of George Washington’s home, and the boy grew up among the Virginia elite. When war came to the colonies, the young man, who had been riding since his youth, was commissioned as a captain in the Virginia Light Horse and then in the Continental Army’s First Regiment of Light Dragoons. His courage was admired, but his self-righteousness and ruthless behavior made him unpopular among his peers and men. Lee formed his own legion in 1778 and in 1779 led a successful raid against the British at Paulus Hook on the Hudson. In 1780 he was ordered south to join Nathanael Greene’s army, where he raided British outposts and gathered intelligence alongside the militia units of Francis Marion and Andrew Pickens. He served in the battles of Guilford Courthouse, Ninety-Six, the Siege of Augusta, and Eutaw Springs.
Lee resigned from the army in early 1782, after the British surrender at Yorktown. He later wrote a popular memoir about the Southern Campaign, served as Virginia’s governor and in the U.S. Congress, and helped suppress the Whiskey Rebellion. His famous words about George Washington–“first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”--are often quoted. Lee died in 1818. He was the father of Civil War General Robert E. Lee.
Cavalry Commander, General
DATE OF BIRTH - DEATH
January 29, 1756 - March 25, 1818
For more on the life of Light-Horse Harry Lee, visit Battlefields.org.