Charles Lee, born in Dernhall, England, in 1731, served in the British Army in America during the French and Indian War. In 1773 he settled in Virginia, and his strong words in support of the Patriot cause and his professional military training won him a commission as major general in the Continental Army 17 June 1775. He helped besiege Boston and early in 1776 went to New York to prepare Continental defenses of the area. After assuming command of Continental Forces in the South in March he rejoined Washington’s army shortly before the American defeat at White Plains in October 1776. An ambitious man who held Washington in light regard, he was captured by the British in December after crossing the Hudson into New Jersey. For more than a year he was held in New York where he offered assistance to Sir William Howe in planning the capture of Philadelphia. Regrettably, the British exchanged Lee in 1778 and on 20 May he rejoined the Continental Army. During the nearly disastrous Battle of Monmouth 28 June 1778, Lee led troops against Sir Henry Clinton’s retreating army. In the midst of battle he retreated; Washington removed him from command on the spot and led a prompt and skillful counterattack, which saved the day for the Continentals. Lee was court martialed for disobeying orders and suspended from duty for a year. His criticism of Washington persisted, and in 1780 he was dismissed from service. He died in Philadelphia in 1782.
Richard Henry Lee, born at “Stratford” in Westmoreland Co., Va., 20 January 1732, entered the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758. He strongly opposed the Stamp Act in 1765 and later joined Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson in resisting the usurpation of powers in the Colonial assemblies by the English Parliament. In 1768 he first suggested the formation of intercolonial Committees of Correspondence as a means of directing public opinion in support of the patriot cause. Five years later Virginia organized Committees for Intercolonial Correspondence which had legislative standing. Elected to serve in the First Continental Congress in 1774, he led the patriot faction. In 1775 he was a member of the committee that placed Washington in command of Continental Forces. On 7 June 1776 he introduced the resolution “...that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Congress adopted the resolution 2 July and on the Fourth of July voted in favor of the Declaration of Independence. Lee remained in Congress until 1780. He returned to Congress in 1784 during the Confederation period and strongly supported States’ rights. Serving until 1787, he opposed the Federal Constitution; but, after its adoption in 1788, be served as Senator from Virginia from 1789 until 1792. He vigorously advocated the passage of the Bill of Rights and authored the 10th amendment. Lee retired from public life in 1792 and died at Chantily, Va., 19 June 1794.
The first Lee was named after Charles Lee, the second after Richard Henry Lee.
(Gy: t. 48; l. 43'9"; b. 16'3"; dph. 4'8"; cpl. 86; a. 1 12-pdr., 1 9-pdr., 4 4-pdrs.)
The second Lee was a cutter galley built under direction of Gen. Benedict Arnold at Skenesboro, N.Y., in 1776 for service on Lake Champlain. Constructed of timber, captured in October 1775 at St. Jean’s, the British shipyard on the lake. Lee, commanded by a Captain Davis, joined Arnold’s squadron 6 September 1776; the galley cutter operated on Lake Champlain for shortly over a month, ready to defend the inland waterpath which connected Canada and New York.
When the British moved south, the American flotilla met them in the Battle of Valcour Island 11 October 1776. Lee ran aground and bilged, during the action in which the small American squadron was all but wiped out. However, while suffering a serious tactical defeat, General Arnold’s ships won a great strategic victory by delaying for a year the British advance on New York, a year in which the patriots prepared for the new British offensive which ended with the capture of the British Army at Saratoga.