The Intriguing Life of Revolutionary War General Charles Lee, by Ken Staffey

Story & Photos: Ken Staffey

This home in Lee, Massachusetts is not far from the October Mountain State Forest. The town was originally known as Dodgetown in honor of Asahel Dodge, one of its first European settlers. It was renamed for Revolutionary War General Charles Lee, whose namesakes also include Fort Lee, NJ, Lee, NH, and Leetown, West Virginia. He even appears in the Broadway musical “Hamilton.”

Despite all these honors, Lee’s record is not exactly impeccable. After serving in the British military, he served with Portuguese, Russian, and Polish forces. Along the way, he cheated death in the face of attempted murder, an earthquake, and freezing temperatures. He then moved to the American colonies where he married the daughter of a Mohawk chief who gave the temperamental Lee a name that meant “Boiling Water.”

He joined the colonists’ cause, expecting to be the Commander of the Continental Army, but the post went to George Washington, who served without a salary. Lee often questioned Washington’s leadership. When summoned to meet Washington in Pennsylvania, Lee stopped at White’s Tavern to enjoy the company of women.

The British seized him in his dressing gown and held him for 16 months in relatively posh quarters. While there, he shared ideas on how to defeat Washington with his captors. Once free, he was given the command of the Battle of Monmouth. Lee ignored Washington’s commands and led a disastrous retreat, which resulted in his court martial, where he was found guilty. He was relieved of his duties and died two years later in 1782. On a lighter note, Lee was quite fond of dogs and often traveled with half a dozen canines. The image of Charles Lee is from Wikipedia.


This post is not sponsored and was contributed by Ken Staffey