Lee, Henry

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Lee, Henry

Henry Lee, 1756–1818, American Revolutionary soldier, known as Light-Horse Harry Lee, b. Prince William co., Va. He was a cousin of Arthur Lee, Francis L. Lee, Richard H. Lee, and William Lee and was the father of Robert E. Lee. As a cavalry commander he established an enviable record in the Revolution. He first gained wide notice for his capture of the fort at Paulus Hook (now in Jersey City), N.J., on Aug. 19, 1779. His service under Nathanael Greene after 1780 in the Carolina campaign was notable for daring and brilliance and he distinguished himself at Guilford Courthouse and Eutaw Springs. After the war he was elected (1785) to Congress. He favored a stronger government and in 1788 was a leader in the struggle to have Virginia ratify the Constitution. He was (1791–94) governor of Virginia, and in 1794 he commanded the troops who suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion. A Federalist Congressman (1799–1801), he was author of the description of George Washington as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen" in the resolutions on the first President's death. A poor business manager, Lee was imprisoned (1808–9) for debt. In 1812 he was severely injured when an angry mob dragged Alexander Hanson, Lee, and others from a jail where they had gone for protection after Hanson's Federalist newspaper had denounced President Madison and the War of 1812. He wrote Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department (1812, repr. 1869 with a biographical sketch by Robert E. Lee).

See biographies by T. Boyd (1931) and N. B. Gerson (1966).

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