Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

In Greek mythology, references to the goddess Athena often identify her as “Pallas Athena,” in recognition of her victory over the Titan Pallas in Zeus’s battle for supremacy over the Titans. According to the tale, Athena stripped the skin from the dead Pallas and used it as a shield in the continuing fight. Images of Pallas Athena thereafter were displayed as talismatic guardians or shields, particularly the wooden image that stood before the walls of Troy, known as the “Palladium,” which was believed to have been thrown down from the heavens by Zeus. Only after this statue was captured by Odysseus...

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Acknowledgements

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pp. xiii-xvi

This work started many years ago, with my curiosity about the name of a town on the Palisades of New Jersey, Fort Lee. This curiosity blossomed into a full-fledged preoccupation with its namesake, Charles Lee, and his extraordinary life. My research and writing would have remained a hobby except for the good fortune to have time to pursue it further and for the assistance of many diligent librarians, including those at Rutgers University, Princeton University, the New Jersey State Library, the New York Historical Society...

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Chapter 1. The Fateful Choice

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pp. 1-9

George Washington’s physical presence alone gave him the aura of command. At six feet two inches tall, he towered over many of the other delegates in Philadelphia, just as he had at the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg, Virginia. He stood erect and carried himself with confidence. John Adams, who dominated the debates in and outside of the chamber in which the Continental Congress was meeting, stood at only five feet seven inches tall. He discovered early in his work that Washington did not need to dominate the debates to gain the respect of his peers. Sure knowledge on those subjects...

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Chapter 2. Lee's "American Expedition"

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pp. 10-24

Great Britain’s on again, off again war with France heated up in 1753 when the French in North America moved into the Ohio River Valley and began constructing forts. This disputed territory separated the French settlers in Canada and the British settlers in the colonies. The extending French military presence unnerved not only the British settlers on the adjacent frontiers in Pennsylvania and Virginia, but throughout the colonies. Fighting erupted almost immediately between French and British colonials, even though the two European governments preferred to posture for some time. Once Great...

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Chapter 3. Lee's European Experience

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pp. 25-37

Charles Lee did not linger on the memories of his “American Expedition.” He left North America sometime in 1760, no doubt with the hope and expectation that he could secure advancement in the British military. His uncle, Sir William Bunbury, suggested in a 1759 letter that the prospect existed: “We wish you to come again amongst your friends, and probably some change might be procured as well as advance on this side of the water if you desire it.”1 Filled with a knowledge of North America and tested as a soldier in the field, Charles Lee returned home...

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Chapter 4. Personality and Political Philosophy

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pp. 38-61

Without question, Charles Lee’s personal and political opinions and his overwhelming desire to express his opinions cut short any chance he had of advancement in the British military after 1764, a time when officers were many and positions few. Lee’s apologists could maintain that he chose principle over advancement if, indeed, his writings and his opinions demonstrate a principle that is proved worthy. But what great tenets did he espouse or defend in England other than simply “the rights of man” and the obligation to oppose tyrants? And could Charles Lee distinguish a just king from a...

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Chapter 5. A "Love Affair" with America

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pp. 62-78

At some point in the summer of 1773, Charles Lee decided to leave England for New York. His correspondence leading up to this decision is missing, or nonexistent, leaving his motives unclear. Perhaps he was bored with the amusements of the European continent. Perhaps his outspoken political opinions made remaining in England uncomfortable. Perhaps he at last realized that his fortune was better tied to the zealots in the thirteen rebellious colonies than laid at the door of the British ministry. Most likely, however, he had time on his hands, and it seemed a suitable occasion to review his...

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Chapter 6. Foreign Officers in Service to America

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pp. 79-98

Charles Lee’s love affair with America was consummated on June 17, 1775, when he was named a major general in the Continental Army. Lee did not stand alone as a former British officer named to a high post in the newly formed colonial armed forces. His good friend Horatio Gates was named adjutant general, and Richard Montgomery received a commission as a brigadier general. Both, like Lee, had served as officers in the British military. The remaining officers commissioned in June 1775—Philip Schuyler, Israel Putnam, David Wooster, Seth Pomeroy, William Heath, Joseph Spencer,...

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Chapter 7. America's Soldier

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pp. 99-119

George Washington and Charles Lee were both in Philadelphia in June 1775 to accept their commissions from the Continental Congress. Independence was more than twelve months away and not a foregone conclusion, but the American soldiers across from the British regulars in Boston needed more than Artemas Ward to bolster their confidence. Boston was under siege. Men had already died for the cause. If the Americans were to continue their opposition to king and Parliament, they needed officers to lead the men attempting to chase the British from the city that started...

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Chapter 8. Rejoining Washington

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pp. 120-138

Charles Lee finished up his southern command shortly after the victorious defense of Charleston, South Carolina. And before he could do much damage to his burnished reputation. George Washington needed all the help he could get to drive the British from New York, or, more specifically, to keep from losing his army and the war in New York. Lee was called back in August 1776.

In the days and weeks after Charleston, Lee pursued several causes. First of all, he made sure that all of his superiors and friends knew of the events in Charleston. He continued, quite correctly, to keep a vigilant watch on the...

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Chapter 9. Captivity, Betrayal, Exchange

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pp. 139-152

Congress rejected Charles Lee’s demands for an audience in the first months of 1777. His reaction reflected the frustrations of a person who does not understand the rationale and a desperation at becoming marginalized. Unless he could return to the Continental Army quickly, the war might end without him in a leadership position, preferably on the winning side. Exchange was a possibility but not a viable option at the moment; the British were still working through their legal position relative to Charles Lee (traitor or prisoner of war?), and Washington did not have a comparable British...

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Capter 10. Monmouth

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pp. 153-178

As spring arrived in 1778, the war between Great Britain and its American colonies was about to enter a new phase. The Americans had suffered harsh cold and depravations in winter camp at Valley Forge but spent the time training and drilling to prepare for the spring campaign. The British, safely ensconced in Philadelphia during the winter, learned with the spring thaw that they now faced a new and more dangerous foe: France recognized the fledgling United States on February 6 and entered the war against its longtime enemy, Great Britain....

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Chapter 11. Court-Martial

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pp. 179-191

Washington, still glowing from the events of June 28 and engaged in writing to the Congress to announce his victory, had to take time to deal with this sticky personnel issue. Charles Lee would not sit quietly and wait for Washington to assess the situation. His impertinent letter demanded a response. Nor would Washington’s other officers stand by.

Generals Wayne and Scott barely waited for the dust to settle on the field before writing to Washington to explain their actions that morning and to excoriate Lee: “We have taken the liberty of stating these facts, in order...

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Chapter 12. Bitterness, Despair, and Death

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pp. 192-207

From the verdict of his court-martial on August 12, 1778, to his death on October 2, 1782, Charles Lee lived a lonely and bitter life. He devoted the totality of his being to two goals: proving himself innocent of the charges against him for his conduct at Monmouth and attempting to tear down the man he held responsible for his ignominy, George Washington. Lee failed on both counts.

“Queries”

After the Continental Congress confirmed the verdict of the court-martial in December 1778, Charles Lee spent much of his time and energy developing an...

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Epilogue. A Man Without a Country

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pp. 208-212

In the short period from December 1773 to June 1778, Charles Lee held a prominent place in the hearts and minds of Americans arguing and fighting for their independence from Great Britain. His contributions to the political dialogue that justified the revolution bolstered the spirits and the courage of the patriots; his name figured prominently in every discussion about military readiness and military strategy. Any discussion of Lee’s life must begin with his role in the American Revolution. At various times during this period, Lee held center stage: in Congress, in New York City, in Charleston, in the controversy...

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Appendix A. James Wilkinson, Memoirs of My Own Times (1816): The Capture of Charles Lee

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pp. 213-216

I was presented to the General as he lay in bed, and delivered into his hands the letter of General Gates....I arose at the dawn, but could not see the General, with whom I had been previously acquainted, before eight o’clock. After some inquiries respecting the conduct of the campaign on the northern frontier, he gave me a brief account of the operations of the grand army, which he condemned in strong terms. He observed, “that our siege of Boston had led us into great errors; that the attempt to defend islands against a superior land and naval force was madness; that Sir William Howe could have...

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Appendix B. "Mr. Lee's Plan - March 29, 1777"

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pp. 217-220

(From The Lee Papers, 2:361–366.)

As on one hand it appears to me that by the continuance of the War America has no chance of obtaining the ends She proposes to herself; that altho by struggling She may put the Mother Country to very serious expence both in blood and Money, yet She must in the end, after great desolation and havock and slaughter, be reduc’d to submit to terms much harder than might probably be granted at present—and as on the other hand Great Britain tho’ ultimately victorious, must suffer very heavily even in the process of her...

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Appendix C. Washington and Lee's Battlefield Confrontation

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pp. 221-224

Much of the writing on the Battle of Monmouth deals with the confrontation between George Washington, astride his white horse, and Charles Lee, which occurred somewhere between the morasses on the battlefield shortly after noon on June 28. General Charles Scott (a prolific swearer himself) reported that Washington cursed Lee; the Marquis de Lafayette remembered that Washington called Lee a “damned poltroon.”1 But Scott was probably in the rear with his retreating men, and Lafayette’s telling was many years after the fact. The contemporary reports of the confrontation contain less color but...

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Appendix D. Shades of Monmouth

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pp. 225-228

An incredible amount of attention has been drawn to the details of the Battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778, and the events leading up to it, based on the formal reports written by both sides, the testimony at Charles Lee’s courtmartial, letters from officers and soldiers in the field, and oral histories given by people claiming to have witnessed the events. Here are some of the stories.

Molly Pitcher

The best-known popular story concerns “Molly Pitcher,” a woman traveling with an artillery unit of the Continental Army who took up the...

Notes

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pp. 229-252

Bibliography

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pp. 253-260

Index

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pp. 261-271

About the Author

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p. 272