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Charles Lee


General Charles Lee (February 6, 1732-October 2, 1782), who was at one time the third-ranking American general in the Revolutionary War, lived in Berkeley County (present Jefferson County) late in his 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 wounded later in the war at the 1758 Battle of Fort Ticonderoga, 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 present Jefferson 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 performing well at the siege of Boston and in the defense of Charleston, South Carolina, Lee was captured by the British during Washington’s retreat through New Jersey. Whatever his motives, before being released in a prisoner exchange Lee supplied the British with a plan to defeat the Americans. 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 Jefferson County home, Prato Rio, until shortly before his death in Philadelphia.

Written by Jack Wills


  1. Alden, John Richard. General Charles Lee: Traitor or Patriot?. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951.

  2. Billias, George Athan, ed. George Washington's Generals. New York: William Morrow, 1964.

  3. Thayer, Theodore. The Making of a Scapegoat: Washington and Lee at Monmouth. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1976.