Later in the conflict Lee purchased a military command in the Mohawk Valley, where he casually married a Mohawk woman and was adopted by the tribe.
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Lee was a gangly man whose unhandsome face was dominated by a huge nose — a tempting target for caricaturists of the day. Despite an excellent education and a record of great achievement, he felt throughout his life the need to inflate his reputation with long-winded accounts of his adventures. He disliked most people, but made exceptions for fellow soldiers and prostitutes.
His closest companions were dogs; he was nearly always surrounded by a pack of ill-trained hounds and his prized Pomeranian. His vanity led him to buy expensive tailored uniforms, but he seldom bothered to have them cleaned. Some of his contemporaries preferred the smell of the dogs to that of Lee himself. Lee was badly wounded in the attack on Ticonderoga in , but recovered in time to participate in the campaigns at Niagara and Montreal. He returned to England in before being assigned to Portugal, where he served under John Burgoyne.
Like many career soldiers of the era, Lee sought employment in foreign armies during peacetime. He served twice in the Polish army and hoped to parlay that experience into a lucrative appointment from George III. During a face-to-face meeting with the king, who declined to offer the desired command, Lee rebuked the monarch and swore that he would never give the king an opportunity to break another promise. An embittered Lee became enmeshed in Whig politics and retired to America on half pay in From the beginning of his new life in the colonies, Lee was an outspoken radical.
He aligned himself with the emerging patriot cause and became an early advocate of a separate colonial army. Thanks to the support of the Adams cousins in Massachusetts and encouraging words from Washington , Lee was made a major general and third in the line of command. Following initial service at the siege of Boston, Lee was given command of the Southern Department in March His assignment was to protect Charleston , the most important port in the South, from a sea-based British force under Sir Henry Clinton.
Hostilities in that theater commenced in June.
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Lee emerged from the successful defense with a heightened reputation, despite the fact that much of the credit rightly belonged to Colonel William Moultrie. Both were honored by Congress for their efforts. That sum equaled uncollectible debts owed him in England and was used to purchase an estate in Virginia. Some have speculated that Lee wanted to see his superior defeated so that he could take command.
Charles Lee Facts
Accompanied by only a small guard, Lee was surprised the next morning by the arrival of a British party under Benastre Tarleton, a former comrade who had sworn an oath in a London club to track down and decapitate Lee. Following a brief skirmish during which escape routes were cut off, a humiliated Lee was taken prisoner and removed to New York City. Lee's unexpected capture was the cause of great celebrations at the British headquarters and officers there predicted a swift end to the conflict.
Washington was distraught with the loss of his difficult subordinate and attempted to arrange a prisoner exchange. Over time, he proved himself to be a committed American patriot.
In April , Reed became a lieutenant colonel of the Continental Army and was soon promoted to adjutant-general as an aide-de-camp, or military secretary, to Washington. Their frequent correspondence reflected a trusting relationship, until a letter to Reed from General Charles Lee was opened by Washington in December In , Reed was elected to the Continental Congress and was one of five Pennsylvania delegates to sign the Articles of Confederation. Reed also carried on a very public feud with Benedict Arnold when the latter served as the military commander of Philadelphia between and In February , Reed publicly accused Arnold of eight accounts of corruption.
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Arnold demanded a court martial to clear his name, which he received. In January , Arnold was cleared of the most serious charges, but the episode hurt his reputation and he resigned his military command of Philadelphia that April. He was elected again to Congress in , but declined because of deteriorating health. Joseph Reed died at his home in Philadelphia on March 5, Philander D.
Museum of the American Revolution
Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, , pp. Pavao, Esther.
Accessed October 12, Philbrick, Nathaniel. Accessed November 30, Roberts, Cokie. New York: Harper Collins,
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