General Charles Lee (February 6, 1732-October 2, 1782) was the third-ranking American general in the Revolutionary War and lived in Berkeley County later in life. He was born in Cheshire, England. Commissioned a lieutenant, Lee served in America with Braddock’s expedition during the French and Indian War and was later wounded in New York. He subsequently fought under Burgoyne in Portugal (1762) and as a major general in the Polish army during the Russo-Turkish War (1769–70).
Lee returned to America in 1773, settling in Berkeley County in 1778. A vigorous advocate of the American cause, he resigned his British commission and was appointed major general in the Continental Army. After acquitting himself well at the siege of Boston and in defense of Charleston, South Carolina, he was captured by the British during Washington’s retreat through New Jersey. Whatever his motives, Lee supplied the British with a plan to defeat the Americans before being exchanged. His later performance at the July 1778 Battle of Monmouth provoked verbal rebukes from Washington and led to a court martial in which he was found guilty of disrespect and suspended from command for one year. Insulting letters to Congress after the suspension led to Lee’s dismissal from the army in 1780.
Lee occupied his Berkeley County home, Prato Rio, until shortly before his death in Philadelphia.
This Article was written by Jack Wills
Last Revised on October 07, 2010
Alden, John Richard. General Charles Lee: Traitor or Patriot?. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951.
Billias, George Athan, ed. George Washington's Generals. New York: William Morrow, 1964.
Thayer, Theodore. The Making of a Scapegoat: Washington and Lee at Monmouth. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1976.