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Foreword
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


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Chapter

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. I
p1
Chapter I

A Carriage Goes to Alexandria

They had come so often, those sombre men from the sheriff. Always they were polite and always they seemed embarrassed, but they asked so insistently of the General's whereabouts and they talked of court papers with strange Latin names. Sometimes they lingered about as if they believed Henry Lee were in hiding, and more than once they had tried to force their way into the house. That was why Ann Carter Lee's husband had placed those chains there on the doors in the great hall at Stratford. The horses had been taken, the furniture had been "attached" — whatever that meant — and tract after tract had been sold off to cancel obligations. Faithful friends still visited, of course, and whenever the General rode to Montross or to Fredericksburg the old soldiers saluted him and told their children that he was "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, but she knew that people whispered that he had twice been in jail because he could not pay his debts. Of course, he wanted to pay, but how could he? She could not help him, because her father had put her inheritance in trust. Robert Morris, poor man, had died without returning a penny of the $40,000 he owed Mr. Lee, and that fine plan for building a town at the Great Falls of the Potomac had never been carried out, because they could not settle the quitrents. If General Lee had been able to do that or to get the money on that claim he had bought in east, all would be well. As it was, they could not go on there at Stratford, where the house was falling to pieces and everything was in confusion. Besides, Stratford was not theirs. Matilda Lee had owned it and she had left it to young Henry and he was now of age. So, the only thing to do was to leave and go to Alexandria, where they could live in a simple home and send Charles Carter to the free school and find a doctor for the baby that was to come in February.

That was why they had Smith and three-year‑old Robert in the p2 carriage, with their few belongings, and were driving away from the ancestral home of the Lees. Perhaps it was well that Robert was so young: he would have no memories of those hard, wretched years that had passed since the General had started speculating — would not know, perhaps, that the long drive up the Northern Neck, that summer day in 1810, marked the dénouement in the life drama of his brilliant, lovable, and unfortunate father.1

Fairer prospects than those of Henry Lee in 1781 no young American revolutionary had. Born in 1756, at Leesylvania, Prince William County, Va., he was the eldest son of Henry Lee and his wife, Lucy Grymes. From boyhood he had the high intelligence of his father's distinguished forebears and the physical charm of his beautiful mother. He won a great name at Princeton, where he had been graduated in 1773. But for the coming of the war he would have gone to England to study law. Instead, before he was twenty-one, he entered the army as a captain in the cavalry regiment commanded by his kinsman, Theodoric Bland. Behind him had been all the influence of a family which included at that time three of the outstanding men of the Revolution, his cousins Richard Henry Lee, Arthur Lee, and William Lee.

His achievements thereafter were in keeping with his opportunities, for he seemed, as General Charles Lee put it, "to have come out of his mother's womb a soldier." A vigorous man, five feet nine inches in height,2 he had strength and endurance for most arduous of Washington's campaigns. He made himself the talk of the army by beating off a surprise attack at Spread Eagle Tavern in January, 1778. Offered a post as aide to Washington, he was promoted major when he expressed a preference for field service; he stormed Paulus Hook on the lower Hudson with so much skill and valor that Washington praised him in unstinted terms and Congress voted him thanks and a medal; he was privileged to address his dispatches directly and privately to Washington, whose admiring conference he possessed; he was given a mixed command of infantry and cavalry which was p3 officially designated as Lee's partisan corps; when he wearied of inaction in the North he was transferred to the Southern department in October, 1780, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Although he was just twenty-five when he joined General Nathanael Greene in January, 1781, "Light-Horse Harry" Lee was already one of the most renowned of American soldiers.


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MAJOR GENERAL HENRY ("LIGHT HORSE HARRY") LEE,
FATHER OF GENERAL R. E. LEE
No well-authenticated portrait of the mother of Robert Edward Lee is known to be in existence, although what is believed by some to be a painting of her was found in Rome several years ago.a
After a painting by Peale.º
With not more than 280 men, Lee took the field in the Carolinas. The stalwart, dependable Greene was friendly and ready to take counsel. His theatre of operations was wide, the British posts were scattered. Surprises and forays invited the adventuresome commander. Marion and Sumter were worthy rivals. In Wade Hampton and Peter Johnston, father of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Joseph E. Johnston, Lee found loyal comrades. Dazzling months opened before him. He was in the raid of Georgetown and won new honors at Guilford Courthouse. At least as much as any other officer, he was responsible for the decision of General Greene to abandon the march after Cornwallis and to turn southward instead, a decision that changed the whole course of the war in that area and brought about the liberation of Georgia and the Carolinas. Rejoining Marion on April 14, 1781, Lee co-operated with him in capturing Fort Watson and Fort Motte, and then advanced with only his own command to Fort Granby, which he bluffed into surrender, though not without starting some murmurs that he allowed overgenerous terms in order that he might receive the capitulation before the arrival of General Sumter. From Fort Granby, Lee swung again to the south. Marching more than seventy-five miles in three days, he reduced Fort Galphin, and had a large part in the capture of Fort Cornwallis at Augusta. His was the most spectacular part in the most successful campaign the American army fought, and his reputation rose accordingly. In the remaining operations of the year he was less successful, though he had the good fortune to be sent with dispatches from Greene to Washington in time to witness the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.3

Then something happened to Lee. In a strange change of p4 mental outlook, the tragedy of his life began. As soon as the fighting was over he became sensitive, resentful, and imperious. He felt that Greene had slighted him, and that his brother officers were envious and hostile. A curious conflict took place in his mind between two obscure impulses. One apparently was a desire to be master of himself and to remain in the profession for which he seems to have known he was best fitted. The other impulse was to quit the camps of contention for the quiet of civil life, there to win riches and the eminence he felt had been unjustly denied him in the army.

This inward battle may have had its origin in the restlessness of a soldier whose campaigning was over. Exhaustion and ill-health may have caused a temporary warp of mind. Resentment may have been at the bottom of it, the resentment that is so easily aroused in the heart of a young man whom praise has spoiled. More particularly, a love-affair then developing doubtless made Henry Lee discontented with his life. The mental conflict, in any case, was one that Lee felt himself unable to win by the exercise of will or of judgment, though he looked upon it as objectively as if it had been the struggle of another man. "I wish from motives of self," he wrote General Greene, "to make my way easy and comfortable. This, if ever attainable, is to be got only in an obscure retreat." And again: "I am candid to acknowledge my imbecility of mind, and hope time and absence may alter my feelings. At present, my fervent wish is, for the most hidden obscurity; I want not private or public applause. My happiness p5 will depend on myself; and if I have but fortitude to persevere in my intention, it will not be in the power of malice, outrage or envy to affect me. Heaven knows the issue. I wish I could bend my mind to other decisions. I have tried much, but the sores of my wounds are only irritated afresh by my efforts."4

In this spirit Henry Lee debated — and chose wrongly. Early in 1782 he resigned from the army. He took with him Greene's acknowledgment that he was "more indebted to this officer than to any other for the advantages gained over the enemy, in the operations of the last campaign,"5 but he left behind him the one vocation that ever held his sustained interest.

For a while all appeared to go well with him. He seemed to make his way "easy and comfortable," as he had planned, by a prompt marriage with his cousin, Matilda Lee, who had been left mistress of the great estate of Stratford, on the Potomac, by the death of her father, Philip Ludwell Lee, eldest of the famous, brilliant sons of Thomas Lee. Their marriage was a happy one, and within five years, four children were born. Two of them survived the ills of early life, the daughter, Lucy Grymes, and the third son, Henry Lee, fourth of that name.6

Following the custom of his family, Henry Lee became a candidate in 1785 for the house of delegates of Virginia. He was duly chosen and was promptly named by his colleagues to the Continental Congress, which he entered under the favorable introduction of his powerful kinsman, Richard Henry Lee. In that office he continued, with one interruption and sundry leaves of absence, almost until the dissolution of the Congress of the Confederation.7 To the ratification of the new Constitution he gave his warmest support as spokesman for Westmoreland in the p6 Virginia convention of 1788, where he challenged the thunders of Patrick Henry, leader of the opposition.8 Quick to urge Washington to accept the presidency, he it was who composed the farewell address on behalf of his neighbors when Washington started to New York to be inaugurated.9 The next year Lee was again a member of the house of delegates, and in 1791 he was chosen Governor of Virginia, which honorific position he held for three terms of one year each. Laws were passed during his administration for reorganizing the militia, for reforming the courts, and for adjusting the state's public policy in many ways. Some dreams of improved internal navigation were cherished but could not be attained.10

In the achievements of these years Lee was distinguished but not zealous. His public service was all too plainly the by-product of a mind preoccupied. For the chief weakness of his character now showed itself, and the curious impulse with which he had battled before he resigned from the army took form in a wild mania for speculation. No dealer he in idle farm lands, no petty gambler in crossroads ordinaries. His every scheme was grandiose, and his profits ran to millions in his mind.

He plunged deeply, and always unprofitably. Financially distressed as early as 1783‑85, he put £8000 of hard money into some magnificent and foolish venture in the Mississippi country.11 Losing there, he sought to recoup by purchasing 500 acres of land at the Great Falls of the Potomac, where he hoped to sell off innumerable lots to those who were to build a great city at the turning-basins of the canal. This project must have had real possibilities, for it won Washington's approval and it interested James Madison. Despite an attempt to finance it in Europe, the enterprise fell through.12 Before Lee had abandoned all hope of p7 succeeding with this scheme, he had pondered the possibilities of getting inside information on the financial plans of the new Federal Government, presumably in order that he might buy up the old currency and make a fortune by exchanging it for the new issues. In November, 1789, he presumed on his friendship with Alexander Hamilton to attempt to procure from the Secretary of the Treasury a confidential statement of the administration's policy. Hamilton affectionately but firmly refused to tell him anything, whereupon this, also, had to be added to Henry Lee's futile dreams.13 A little later Lee was involved in transactions that prompted Washington to declare downrightly that Lee had not paid him what was due.14

By this time, though there never was anything vicious in his character or dishonest in his purposes, Henry Lee had impaired his reputation as a man of business and was beginning to draw heavy drafts on the confidence of his friends. His own father, who died in 1789, passed over him in choosing an executor, while leaving him large landed property.15 Matilda Lee who had been in bad health since 1788, put her estate in trust for her children in 1790, probably to protect their rights against her husband's creditors. Soon afterwards she died, followed quickly by her oldest son, Philip Ludwell Lee, a lad of about seven.

Desperate in his grief, and conscious at last that he had made the wrong decision when he had left the army, Lee now wanted to return to a military life. He sought to get command of the forces that were to be sent to the Northwest to redeem the Saint Clair disaster. When he was passed over for reasons that he did not understand, he was more than disappointed. "It is better," he wrote Madison, "to till the soil with your own hands than to serve a government which distrusts your due attachment — even in the higher stations."16 For a time, he became antagonistic to the fiscal p8 policy of his old commander and was sympathetic with the bitterest foe of the Federalists in the American press, Philip Freneau. He might formally have gone over to the opposition had he not been rebuffed when he made overtures to Jefferson, who seems instinctively to have distrusted him.17

If he could not wear again the uniform of his own country there was an alternative, to which Lee turned in the wildest of all his dreams. He was head of an American state, but he would resign, go to France and get a commission in the army of the revolutionaries! First inquiries led him to believe he would be accepted and be given the rank of major-general, but he had some misgivings about the ability of the French to victual and maintain their troops. Before setting out for Paris he decided to take counsel with Washington. "Bred to arms," he confided to his old commander, then President, "I have always since my domestic calamity wished for a return to my profession, as the best resort for my mind in its affliction." Washington, of course, warned him to stay away from a conflict that was leading to chaos. The veteran diplomatist, William Lee, his cousin, volunteered like counsel.18

Despite his reverence for Washington, Henry Lee might have placed his sword at the disposal of the French terrorists had not his mind been turned to a softer subject: Like many another widower he found consolation for a lost love in a new. Visiting Shirley, the James River plantation of Charles Carter, who was then probably the richest man in Virginia except George Washington, he became attached to Ann Hill Carter, then twenty, Charles Carter's daughter by his second wife, Anne Moore.19 Lee was seventeen years her senior but he must have appealed to her from the first. Was he not a Revolutionary hero, a gentleman of impeccable manners and flashing conversation, and was he not Governor of Virginia withal? Besides, there was the romance of p9 his chivalrous purpose to offer his sword to republican France, the distressed land of his comrade Lafayette.

Charles Carter did not look at Lee through his daughter's eyes. As a father and a man of affairs, he would not permit Ann to marry a Virginian foolish enough to throw in his lot with the madmen of Paris. There were parleys and exchanges that ended finally in Lee's decision to abandon his French adventure. Carter at once softened and gave his consent to a union which he was considerate enough to say he had opposed on no other grounds. So, on June 30, 1793, when Robespierre was filling the tumbrels with the victims of the law of 22d Prairial, the two were joined in the marriage of which Robert E. Lee was born.20

For a time after his second marriage, Henry Lee seemed to be stabilized. Returning to his former political support of his adored Washington, he received the confidences of the President in the delicate matter of French neutrality, and he supported the executive in a much-applauded proclamation.21 When the "Whiskey Boys' Rebellion" broke out the next year he forgot his former grievance and gladly led the expedition sent to crush the rising, though his absence almost cost him his office as governor.22 Meantime, he became vehemently critical of Jefferson.23

Retiring, as was then customary in Virginia, on the expiration of his third term as governor, Lee was enough in the public eye to be mentioned as a possible successor to Washington.24 Instead of climbing onward to that office, however, all that remained to him were a few years of service in the general assembly, a temporary commission as major-general at the time of the threatened war with France, and a single term in Congress, where he eulogized his dead chieftain, as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."25 Thereafter he held no p10 political office of importance and probably could have gained none.

The reason was that his old passion for wild speculation returned. Already it had entailed grief, loss, and the estrangement of friends. Now, everything was subordinated to his desperate efforts to make a fortune — his peace of mind, his family's comfort, his standing in the eyes of old comrades. His own son, Henry, who idolized his father, had to write of him: "He entered into a course of sanguine and visionary speculations, endeavoring to acquire wealth, not by rational and productive industry, but by a combination of bargains which could hardly benefit one party without injury to the other, and which were often mutually detrimental. To the task of making one yield what others failed to return, he devoted no little of misapplied talent and activity — in bearing the weight of distress and ruin which they finally entailed, he wasted a degree of fortitude which, however inglorious the struggle, could not be witnessed without admiration.26

Lee became involved with the Marshalls in the purchase of a part of the vast Fairfax estates in the Northern Neck and endeavored to finance it through Robert Morris, but, in the end, advanced Morris $40,000, which the old Philadelphian could not repay. Next Lee, it would seem, was entrusted by some of his friends with the sale of Western lands in 1797. In expectation of early payment, certain of these men made loans or assumed obligations they were unable to meet when the settlement was delayed. Lee worked feverishly to raise the funds through his attorney and agent, William Sullivan of Boston. He was harassed "by those distressed individuals who are all about me now," as he wrote Sullivan, and he had the humiliation of having one of his creditors, "poor Glassel," thrown into jail, presumably for debt.27

Undeterred, he was lured by the mysterious Western adventure of Aaron Burr, for whom he voted in 1801. He was not in Burr's p11 counsels, but his interest in the attempt to create a new empire was so great that it was reported he had left Staunton, Va., to join Burr.28 It was at this stage of his speculative mania, when he was dreaming of a fortune that was to be won by the conquest of a new frontier, that his son Robert was conceived. At the time when the expectancy of the mother kept Henry Lee at home, in January, 1807, he was busy on a scheme to wipe out all his debts and to enjoy affluence once more by prevailing upon the British Lord Chancellor to order a final distribution of an estate which had been contested for sixty years. Lee had no claim to the property through kinship, but he and two others had bought up certain claims to it as a speculation. The letter that bears a closer date to that of Robert's birth than any of Henry Lee's extant correspondence is one in which he asked the help of James Monroe, then minister to England, in this chimerical enterprise.29

Ann Lee's pregnancy was not happy. Too many shadows hung over it. During the early years at Stratford, though her husband had forever been spurring restlessly about, she had been content. In the year when Henry Lee had been thundering against the Virginia resolutions, she had written the wife of her brother-in‑law: "I do not find [my life] in the slightest degree tiresome: my hours pass too nimbly away. When in company, if agreeable company, I greatly enjoy it: when alone my husband and Child excepted, I am not sensible of the want of society. In them I have enough to make me cheerful and happy." She had then been from home for only one night in seven months.30 But sickness after 1800 had brought suffering and many weeks of invalidism.31 Henry Lee had been more and more frequently absent for long periods; the pinch of poverty had taken from her the comforts she had known in girlhood; she had lost even her carriage;32 life had grown gray on the narrowed, untilled acres of Stratford. While the child was in her womb, she had gone to Shirley after p12 the death of her father and had found it a house of mourning.33 On her return home at the end of December, 1806, she had been forced to ride in an open carriage and had caught a cold from which she was suffering as the time for the delivery of her child approached. Eight days before the pains of labor came upon her she wrote Mrs. Richard Bland Lee, who also was enceinte, "You have my best wishes for your success[,] my dear, and truest assurances, that I do not envy your prospects nor wish to share in them."34


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ENTRY OF THE BIRTH OF ROBERT EDWARD LEE,
AUTOGRAPH OF ANN HILL CARTER LEE, IN THE FAMILY BIBLE
Now in the possession of Robert R. Lee, son of R. E. Lee's oldest brother, Charles Carter Lee.
On January 19, 1807, Ann Carter Lee's fourth child was born, an unblemished boy, who was named Robert Edward, after two of his mother's brothers, Robert and Edward Carter. His first cry was in the east chamber on the main floor of the old house,35 the room nearest the garden, the very chamber in which, according to tradition, Richard Henry and Francis Lightfoot Lee, signers of the Declaration of Independence, had seen the light.

When Robert was sixteen months old, his half-brother Henry passed out of his minority and came into possession of Stratford. After that "Light-Horse Harry" and his family by his second marriage could only remain on the estate as the guests of the young master. With this prospect before him and his financial plight daily worse, the old soldier could see no alternative to beating a retreat. He must leave the country, if he could, and find shelter in some foreign land, where his creditors could not pursue him. Contemplating this, and presenting Mrs. Lee's ill-health as a reason, he solicited a government appointment to Brazil or to the West Indies.36

For the time, it was all to no purpose. There were no vacancies to be filled, and no new appointments to be made. Credit was gone, reputation was almost gone, civil judgments against him multiplied with the months. During the spring of 1809, when Robert was receiving his first impressions of Stratford as a place p13 of beauty and of glory, his father came to the last humiliation: Odds and ends of real estate that had been left to him after nearly thirty years of wild trading had to be deeded away. Of everything that could be sold, he was stripped bare. And even this did not save him. On April 11, 1809, he was arrested for a debt of some 5400 Spanish dollars, with accrued interest for nearly seven years, and was confined to jail at the county seat of Westmoreland. Later in the year he was imprisoned for the same reason in Spotsylvania. Not until the spring of 1810 was he at liberty, and then he had nothing left him except some lands he could not market.37 While incarcerated, he had written a large part of his Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States. With a shadow of his old optimism, he flattered himself this book would enjoy a great run;38 but that, of course, was almost as much a gamble as any of those on which he had lost his fortune.

At home again, writing furiously on his book, but with no immediate income, he decided on the move to Alexandria. Henry was twenty-four and could not be expected to supply food and shelter indefinitely. There was no money with which to employ a tutor for the three children, who were now requiring instruction. Everything left to Mrs. Lee and her young brood was the return from a trust that had been set up for her benefit under the will of her father. When the estate was settled, the revenue from this fund, which Henry Lee could not dissipate, would provide shelter, food, and clothing but nothing besides.

The little caravan from Stratford ended its journey at a small, but trim and comfortable brick house on Cameron Street in Alexandria, close to the Episcopal church. Life was easier there than in the sprawling Stratford mansion, but cares increased. During the winter, after the family settled in town, the new baby, a girl, was born to the burdened mother.39 There were now five p14 children, ranging from the new-born infant to a boy of thirteen, and one of the quintet, Ann, was sickly. Before the infant had ceased to be an hourly charge, and when Robert was five and a half, the final blow came.

Henry Lee's strong Federalism had led him to oppose a second war with Great Britain. Seeing no grievance that he did not believe could be corrected in amity, he had written repeatedly to Madison, over a period of five years, in the interest of peace.40 When hostilities opened in June, 1812, Lee was unreconciled to the conflict and quick to sympathize with those who became the victims of war's passions. Among these sufferers was the young editor of The Baltimore Federal Republican, Alexander C. Hanson, whose plant, press and building were wrecked by a mob which an antiwar editorial in his paper had inflamed. Hanson was no coward, and though he left Baltimore temporarily and came to Georgetown, not far up the Potomac from Alexandria, he determined to return to the city and to resume the circulation of his journal.

Hearing some whisper of Hanson's plan, Lee was aroused. On July 20, he wrote the editor how to conduct a defense in a barricaded house, though he advised him to call on the authorities for assistance and not to provoke the mob again. Lee apparently was not privy to Hanson's movements, but he either had business in Baltimore about the time of the expected return of the editor, or else he made business an excuse for going there to see what befell the courageous critic of Madison's war policy.

On July 27, 1812, Hanson issued in Baltimore a paper which had been printed in Georgetown. Henry Lee had paid two visits to Hanson after he had reached Baltimore, and when he observed the sensation created by the paper, he hastened to him again. He found the editor and a few friends assembled in a house that Hanson was using as a combined office and residence. Soon after Lee arrived, idlers in the street were swollen into a wrathful mob that threatened an assault. As an experienced soldier, Lee was asked to assist in protecting the premises. Undertaking this task with his war-time alacrity, he sent out for additional arms, barricaded the place, and disposed the little garrison. Firing soon p15 broke out. One man was killed in the street and another was wounded. Maddened by these casualties, the mob would doubtless have attacked the building and would have slain the volunteer garrison then and there, had not the militia arrived and taken position in the street.

After a night of excitement, negotiations were opened between the troops and the friends of Hanson. Finally the twenty-three occupants of the house submitted themselves to the officers of the law, who escorted them to a large cell in the jail as the safest place in which they could remain until the passions of the hour had cooled. But the rioters were not so easily shaken off. All day of the 28th, the mob spirit spread through the town. After nightfall, a crowd of armed men gathered before the jail, intent on murder. Through negligence or connivance, the troops were not called out again. The jailer was helpless. An entrance was soon forced. The hallway was immediately packed with wild ruffians. Death seemed so certain that Lee proposed to his companions that they should take the few weapons they had and shoot one another rather than let themselves be torn to pieces by the mob. But better judgment prevailed, and when the door of the cell was beaten down, the defenders made a sally. Instantly there was a confused mêlée. When it was over, half of Hanson's friends had escaped, but one of them had been killed and eleven others had been frightfully beaten. Eight were thought to be dead and were piled together in front of the building, where they were subjected to continued mutilation.

Henry Lee was among this number. Drunken brutes thrust penknives into his flesh, and waited to see whether there was a flicker when hot candle grease was poured into his eyes. One fiend tried to cut off his nose. After a while, by asserting that they merely wished to give him decent burial, some of the town physicians succeeded in carrying him to a hospital. His condition was so desperate that his death was reported in Washington, but his great physical strength sufficed to keep him alive, and good nursing made it possible for him to return home later in the summer. But he was weak, crippled, and disfigured, doomed to invalidism for the remaining six years of his life, wholly dependent on the income of his wife, and of course incapable of p16 accepting the military command that would almost certainly have been given him when the first tide of the war in Canada turned against the United States.41

Hope was dead now in the heart of Henry Lee. He dreamed no more of the fortune that was to be made in his very next venture. His one ambition was to leave the country, both for his health and for his peace of mind. In pressing for the means of escape, he did not even attempt to conceal his poverty. "As to my change of clime," he wrote Monroe, "without money, as I am, it will be difficult to execute my object even with your promised aid."42 It was doubly difficult because Lee wished to go to a British island, inasmuch as he spoke neither French nor Spanish. The consent of the British admiral had to be procured if he was to pass the blockading squadrons and land unhindered. But Monroe was as good as his word, and after some months he arranged for Lee to go to the Barbadoes.

So, one day in the early summer of 1813,43 Robert must have shed tears with the rest, as he shared the final embraces of his father. Behind him, in his own household, "Light-Horse Harry" left only sorrow. For, with all his financial follies, he had never lost the respect, much less the affection, of his family. Fully conscious of his failings, which they pitied, they still were awed by his dignity and fascinated by his conversation. On the youthful mind of Robert, his father's vices made no impress, but always in his memory the picture of his sire was glamorous with charm.

But Henry Lee could not have been greatly comforted, as he went down the Potomac, by the knowledge that he was still king of his fireside. He had received Congress's medal and had enjoyed p17 the entrée to the commander-in‑chief; his name had been on every patriot's tongue; he had told General Greene that he wished to put himself where it would not be "in the power of malice, outrage or envy" to affect him. And now he was sailing away from the state he had governed, from the creditors he could never pay, from a family he might not see again, and he knew he was passing over the gray horizon of failure.


The Author's Notes:

1 The whole course of Henry Lee's speculations and financial distresses is traced in Thomas Boyd: Light Horse Harry Lee (cited hereafter as Boyd), 180 ff., 277 ff.

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2 National Portrait Gallery, vol. 3.

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3 For the dates of Lee's commissions and for the augmentation of his command, see Congressional Directory, 1774‑1911, p801, Washington Papers, 597; E. J. Lee, Lee of Virginia (cited hereafter as E. J. Lee), 331‑32; 8 Ford's Washington, 489; H. Lee, Campaign of 1781 in the Carolinas (cited hereafter as H. Lee's Carolinas), 67 ff., 70; Washington Papers, 531, 532. For the offer of post as aide to Washington, see Washington (p4)Papers, 589. For the authorization to address his letters to Washington "private," see George Washington to Henry Lee, MS., Oct. 7, 1779; Washington Papers, Library of Congress, vol. 118. The Paulus Hook affair is set forth in Henry Lee: Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States (edition of 1869, cited hereafter as Henry Lee's Memoirs), 23‑24; E. J. Lee, 332; 8 Ford's Washington, 27, 33; Washington Papers, 1119, 1120, 1128. Lee's restlessness in 1780 is reflected in Washington Papers, 1297, 1302, 1305, 1307, 1337; Henry Lee to George Washington, MS., July 25, 1780; Washington MS. Papers, Library of Congress, vol. 143; Henry Lee to Thos. Sim Lee, MS., Sept. 10, 1780, New York Public Library. The details of Lee's operations in the South are fully set forth in his Memoirs, 223‑25; 331‑47; 350‑52; 361 ff.; 371 ff.; 389 ff.; 473; 528. See William Johnson: Sketches of the Life and Correspondence of Nathanael Greene (cited hereafter as Johnson's Greene), vol. 2, 121‑23, for the charge that Lee hurried the capitulation of Fort Granby. For his presence at Yorktown, see Washington Papers, 1965; Henry Lee's Memoirs, 507 ff.; H. Lee: Observations on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson (second edition, cited hereafter as H. Lee's Observations), 153. To distinguish the writings of General Henry Lee from those of his son Major Henry Lee, the former is cited as Henry Lee, and the latter as H. Lee.

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4 Johnson's Greene, 321 ff.; Henry Lee's Memoirs, 38‑40, 550. For Johnson's charge and H. Lee's denial that Henry Lee had quarrelled with Marion and Sumter, and that his resentment grew out of his subordination to Laurens in the operations against John's Island, see 2 Johnson's Greene, 121‑23, 129, 328; H. Lee's Carolinas, 328.

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5 Garden's Anecdotes, 66.

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6 Lucy was born in 1785 and Henry, May 28, 1787 (E. J. Lee, 165‑67, 340, 403). The date of Henry Lee's marriage is not known, but it was prior to April 30, 1782 (E. J. Lee, 340n). Lucy Grymes Lee married Bernard Carter, brother of Ann Hill Carter, second wife of Henry Lee.

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7 The general assembly of 1786 failed to re-elect him, much to the humiliation of Lee and to the distress of George Washington and James Madison, but when a vacancy occurred soon thereafter, Lee was returned (2 Hunt's Madison, 284‑85, 286‑88; 11 Ford's Washington, 88 and note). For Richard Henry Lee's introduction, see 2 Letters of Richard Henry Lee, 406.

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8 3 Elliott's Debates, 42, 187, 272, 333, 405.

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9 Henry Lee to George Washington, MS., Sept. 13, 1788; Washington MS. Papers, Library of Congress, vol. 241; 5 Marshall's Washington, 154.

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10 13 Hening's Statutes at Large of Virginia, 340, 357, 411, 427; James Madison to Henry Lee, Jan. 21, 1792, Henry Lee's Memoirs, 44.

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11 Henry Lee to John Fitzgerald of Alexandria, MS., Aug. 3, 1783; Henry Lee to unnamed correspondent, MS., Jan. 28, 1785, Morgan Collection, New York Public Library; R. H. Lee to William Shippen, May 8, 1785, 2 Letters of Richard Henry Lee, 355‑56; 3 Elliott's Debates, 182.

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12 Henry Lee to James Madison, MS., Oct. 29, Nov. 19, Dec. 8, 1788, Madison MS. Papers, Library of Congress, vol. 16; same to same, MS., March 8, March 14, 1789, Aug. 6, 1791; Madison to Lee, MS., Jan. 8, 1792, Madison MS. Papers, loc. cit., vol. 18; 1 (p7)Madison's Writings, 436; George Washington to James Madison, MS., Nov. 17, 1788, Washington's Letterbook No. 9, Library of Congress; Madison Calendar, 458, 459, 460; 5 Hunt's Madison, 306; James Madison to Henry Lee, Dec. 18, 1791, 6 Hunt's Madison, 69‑70.

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13 Henry Lee to Alexander Hamilton, Nov. 16, 1789; Hamilton to Lee, Dec. 1, 1789; MS. copies, New York Public Library.

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14 George Washington to Henry Lee, MS., Sept. 8, 1791, New York Public Library; Boyd, 246 ff.

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15 See will of Henry Lee the second in E. J. Lee, 295‑97.

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16 Henry Lee to James Madison, MS., April 4, 1792, Writings to Madison, Library of Congress, vol. 18. Washington decided against giving Lee the command because he was (p8)convinced that officers who had been Lee's seniors in the Revolution would not serve under him in this expedition (see 1 Madison's Writings, 547, 551, 553; Henry Lee's Memoirs, 44‑45; 2 Letters of Richard Henry Lee, 549; 12 Ford's Washington, 137 ff., 514).

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17 6 Hunt's Madison, 82 ff., 84n; Madison Calendar, 459, 460; H. Lee's Observations, 121.

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18 12 Ford's Washington, 287‑88, 288n; Henry Lee's Memoirs, 48.

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19 There seems to be no foundation for the story (F. and C. Hutchins, Virginia, 275‑76) that Lee fell in love with Ann Carter when he observed her struggling at the table with a great bowl of strawberries, which she was about to drop.

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20 Charles Carter to Henry Lee, May 20, 1793, Henry Lee's Memoirs, 48‑49.

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21 12 Ford's Washington, 308 ff.; Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, 1793, pp31, 69.

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22 H. Lee's Observations, 13n; Henry Lee's Memoirs, 47; 12 Ford's Washington, 480; Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, 1793, pp23, 24, 28, 29. Lee was already the commander of one of the divisions of Virginia militia and had undertaken to organize it (Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia, 1793, p104; divisional order of June 30, 1794, MS., New York Public Library, 7975).

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23 Henry Lee to George Washington, Aug. 17, 1794, H. Lee's Observations, 13n; George Washington to Henry Lee, 12 Ford's Washington, 458.

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24 2 Madison's Writings, 83.

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25 He was in the general assemblies of 1795, 1796, 1797‑98 and 1798‑99. At the last of these sessions he opposed the famous "Virginia resolutions" on the alien and sedition (p10)laws (Virginia Report of 1799‑1800, Randolph Edition, 108‑9. Cf. ibid., 150, 155, 158). For his election to Congress, see H. Lee's Observations, 121, 193.

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26 H. Lee's Observations, 179.

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27 Henry Lee to William Sullivan, MS., July 14, Oct. 1, Nov. 12, Dec. 10, 1797, New York Public Library; Boyd, 245.

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28 Thomas Jefferson to H. Lee, Feb. 1, 1807; 19 Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition), 158.

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29 Henry Lee to James Monroe, MS., Jan. 10, 1807; New York Public Library.

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30 Ann Lee to Mrs. Richard Bland Lee, MS., Feb. 18, 1799, Richard Bland Lee Papers, Library of Congress.

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31 Same to same, MS., Oct. 14, 1800, May 10, 1803, May 3, 1804; loc. cit., Ann Lee to Doctor Robert Carter, Oct. 1, 1805, Carter MSS.

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32 Ann Lee to Mrs. Richard Bland Lee, MS., Nov. 2, 1806, loc. cit.

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33 Ibid. and Boyd, 284.

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34 Ann Lee to Mrs. Richard Bland Lee, MS., Jan. 11, 1807, loc. cit. Mrs. R. B. Lee, née Elizabeth Collins of Philadelphia, must have lost her baby, as it is not listed in E. J. Lee.

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35 On the right as one faces the front of the building, which looks south.

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36 Henry Lee to James Madison, Feb. 10, March 21, Dec. 17, 1808, Madison Calendar, 461.

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37 Boyd, 297 ff.; H. Lee's Observations, 180‑81; Orderbook of the Court of Spotsylvania County, Virginia, 1805‑7, p308; 1807‑10, pp199, 208, 252, 262, 267, 268, 277, 288, 296, 300, 305; 1810‑11, p35.

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38 Henry Lee to Colonel Rhea, Trenton, N. J., MS., March 16, 1811, New York Public Library.

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39 Catharine Mildred Lee, known in the family as Mildred, born Feb. 27, 1811.

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40 Madison Calendar, 461‑62.

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41 Niles Register, Aug. 8, 1812; National Intelligencer, Aug. 1, 1812; A Correct Account of the Conduct of the Baltimore Mob, by General Henry Lee, One of the Sufferers; Published by a Particular Friend, C. B.; To which is Prefixed an Introductory Detail of the Circumstance, Substantiated by many Concurrent Evidences; Winchester, Va., July, 1814. See also An Exact and Authentic Narrative of the Events which Took Place in Baltimore on the 27th and 28th of July last . . . (n. p.) 1812. Cf. Boyd, 309 ff. It was believed in the Lee family that despite his injuries, General Henry Lee was given a commission of Major General during the War of 1812. See Henry Lee's Memoirs, 53, where President Monroe is cited as authority for this statement. No record of any such commission, however, is to be found in the office of the Adjutant-General of the United States army.

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42 Henry Lee to James Monroe, MS., Jan. 13, 1813, New York Public Library. Cf. Henry Lee to James Madison, April 24, 1814, Madison Calendar, 462.

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43 He was in the Barbadoes by Aug. 4, 1813, according to the Madison Calendar, 462. In reaching his destination he owed much to the kindness of Admiral Sir John Warren.


Thayer's Note:

a An attractive portrait said to be of her, possibly the one Freeman goes on to mention, could once be seen (Ann Hill Carter Lee) on a page at the Lee Boyhood Home Museum; the page has vanished now that the house has apparently come into new ownership, and, in keeping with the continued shrinkage of the Web, is now represented online by a new, less informative site.


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Page updated: 31 Oct 13