The Patriot Resource - The Patriot

The Patriot Film Fact or Fiction: People

In The Patriot:
Screenwriter Robert Rodat has said that Colonel Harry Burwell was based on Lt. Colonel Henry 'Lighthorse Harry' Lee. However, it is difficult to find any historical background that Lee shares with Burwell.

This character and its historical ties are a bit of a mystery. Henry Lee was in his early twenties during the war and would have had no experience in the French and Indian War. He also was a favorite of General George Washington and fought with Maj. General Nathanael Greene in the Northern Department. He did not arrive in the South until December 1780, when Washington sent him to assist Greene in his efforts. Prior to that, Lee had fought in the Northern and Middle Theatres with Washington and Greene.

Needless to say that Henry Lee was nowhere near the Battle of Camden and couldn't have taken temporary command of the remaining forces after that battle. Henry Lee also probably would not have had the authority to issue the field commission of Colonel of the militia as Burwell does to Benjamin Martin. At the time that Colonel Burwell is appealing to the South Carolina State Assembly for support of the Continental Congress in 1776, Henry Lee was a fresh young officer, who had yet to make his mark.

Henry Lee was only 19 at the start of the Revolution. His young age also makes a long friendship impossible with the actual Indian-fighters, Francis Marion (who was 43 at the start of the Revolution), Elijah Clarke (42), Andrew Pickens (36) and Thomas Sumter (41) on which Benjamin Martin was based. Henry Lee was a cavalry man, but there is no indication that Colonel Burwell was such.

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