1776 - The Last Shadow of Liberty
General Charles Lee
Lee was born on 5 February 1732 in Cheshire, England. He was sent with the regiment to America in 1754 for service in the French and Indian War under Major General Edward Braddock, and was at his defeat at the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755. During this time in America, he married the daughter of a Mohawk Indian chief who gave birth to twins. Lee was known to the Mohawks as Ounewaterika, or “Boiling Water”. On 11 June 1756 Lee purchased a Captain’s commission. The following year he took part in an expedition against the French fortress of Louisbourg, and on 1 July 1758 he was wounded in a failed assault on Fort Ticonderoga. He was sent to Long Island to recuperate where an attempt on his life was made by a surgeon he had earlier rebuked and thrashed. After recovering, he took part in the capture of Fort Niagara in 1759 and Montreal in 1760, which brought the war on the North American theater to an end by completing the Conquest of Canada.
In 1775, when war appeared inevitable he resigned his Royal commission and volunteered his services to the colonies. He expected to be named Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, being the most experienced candidate. On the other hand, he was born in Britain, somewhat eccentric, slovenly in appearance, coarse in language, and perhaps most of all, he wanted to be paid: by joining the rebellion, he forfeited all his properties in England, and wanted to be compensated. Washington, on the other hand, was sober, steady, calm, and best of all, would work without pay, asking only that the Continental Congress should cover his expenses. Washington received the appointment, and Lee was offered the subordinate rank of Major General. Lee was often considered second in command of the Continental forces, although Artemas Ward, who was not in good health, officially held this position.
In January 1776 Washington ordered Charles Lee to raise troops and take command of New York’s defenses. Lee had made some progress on the city’s defenses when word arrived in late March 1776 that the British army had left Boston after Washington threatened them from heights south of the city. Concerned that General Howe was sailing directly to New York, Washington hurried regiments from Boston, including General Israel Putnam, who commanded the troops until Washington himself arrived in mid-April. Congress appointed General Lee to command the Continental Army troops in the southern colonies, and he departed for Charleston, arriving in May.