Henry Lee was born on January 29, 1756 in Leesylvania, Prince William County, Virginia. At seventeen years old, he graduated from Princeton. He was preparing to leave for England when the Revolutionary War broke out.
Revolutionary War: 1776-1781
Thanks to Patrick Henry's nomination, Henry Lee was commissioned a Captain in Bland's Regiment of Virginia Light Cavalry on June 18, 1776. In April 1777, his company joined General George Washington's main army. On January 20, 1778, he brilliantly avoided capture by Captain Banastre Tarleton at the Spread Eagle Tavern about five miles south of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. His actions resulted in promotion to Major with the addition of two more troops of horse to his present corps.
Lee next received one of only eight medals awarded by the Continental Congress with his actions at Paulus Hook (now in Jersey City), New Jersey on August 19, 1779. He captured the fort and 400 men with only one casualty. On October 21, 1780, 'Lee's Legion' was formed with the addition of three infantry companies to support his three troops of hrose. On November 6, 1780, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and he was still shy of his twenty-fifth birthday. He was almost immediately ordered south to join the new Southern Department CommanderMaj. General Nathanael Greene, who desperately needed cavalry. Lee arrived in South Carolina on January 13, 1781.
Southern Campaign: 1781
On January 24, 1781, Lee's cavalry supported Francis Marion in actions at Georgetown, South Carolina. He next led his legion in screening maneuvers against Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton's cavarly during Greene's retreat to the Dan River. Lee recrossed the Dan back into North Carolina with Andrew Pickens and defeated a band of Tory cavarly at Haw River, North Carolina on February 25, 1781. Able to use deception by masquerading as Tarleton because of the similarity in uniforms between his and Tarleton's unit. he was able to gain close quarters to the Tories. The Tories under the command of Colonel Pyle were caught completely by surprise and easily subdued. Some consider the action to be a massacre and is also referred to as Pyle's Hacking Match.
Lee's Legion was effective in supporting Maj. General Nathanael Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina on March 15, 1781. Greene again detached Lee's Legion. Lee joined Francis Marion in laying seige to Fort Watson, South Carolina on April 15, 1781. The garrison was under the command of Lt. McKay and manned by eighty British regulars and forty Tories. The rebels built a tower from which riflemen were able to fire into the garrison, which finally surrendered on April 23rd. On May 8, 1781, Marion and Lee arrived at Fort Motte, South Carolina which was a strategically located mansion that had been fortified and held by British Lt. McPherson with over 150 men. After three days of regular approaches and time running out because of the approach of Lord Rawdon from Camden, Lee decided to fire flaming arrows onto the mansion's roof and burn them out. On the morning of May 12th, two arrows were fired and surrender quickly followed.
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