Charles Lee: Self Before Country

Charles Lee: Self Before Country

by Dominick Mazzagetti

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Received an Honorable Mention for the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond's 2014 Book Award

Dominick Mazzagetti presents an engaging account of the life of Charles Lee, the forgotten man of the American Revolution. History has not been kind to Lee—for good reason. In this compelling biography, Mazzagetti compares Lee’s life and attributes to those of George Washington and offers significant observations omitted from previous Lee biographies, including extensive correspondence with British officers in 1777 that reflects Lee’s abandonment of the Patriots’ cause.

Lee, a British officer, a veteran of the French and Indian War, and a critic of King George III, arrived in New York City in 1773 with an ego that knew no bounds and tolerated no rivals.  A highly visible and newsworthy personality, he quickly took up the American cause and encouraged rebellion. As a result of this advocacy and his military skills, Lee was granted a commission as a major general in the Continental Army and soon became second-in-command to George Washington. He helped organize the defense of Boston, designed defenses for New York City, and commanded the force that repelled the British attack on Charleston.

Upon his return to New York in 1776, Lee was considered by some leaders of the Revolution to be an alternative to George Washington, who was in full retreat from British forces. Lee’s capture by the British in December 1776 put an end to that possibility. Lee’s subsequent release in a prisoner exchange in 1778 and return to an American command led to a dramatic confrontation with Washington on the battlefield at Monmouth, New Jersey, in June 1778. Washington chastised Lee publicly for ordering an unnecessary retreat. Lee suffered the ignominy of a court-martial conviction for this blunder and spent the remaining years to his death in 1782 attacking Washington. Although few doubted Lee’s loyalty at the time, his actions at Monmouth fueled speculation that he switched sides during his imprisonment.

A discovery years after his death completed Lee’s tale. In 1862, a researcher discovered “Mr. Lee’s Plan,” a detailed strategy for the defeat of the American rebels delivered to British General William Howe while Lee was held in captivity. This discovery sealed Lee’s historical record and ended all further discussion of his contributions to the American Revolution. Today, few people even realize that Fort Lee, on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge, was named in his honor.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813562384
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Series: Rivergate Regionals Collection
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

DOMINICK MAZZAGETTI is the author of True Jersey Blues: The Civil War Correspondence of Lucien A. Voorhees and William Mackenzie Thompson. A lawyer and banker with a fervent interest in American history, he has served as law secretary to the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Table of Contents

Title Page Copyright Contents Preface Acknowledgements Chapter 1. The Fateful Choice Chapter 2. Lee's "American Expedition" Chapter 3. Lee's European Experience Chapter 4. Personality and Political Philosophy Chapter 5. A "Love Affair" with America Chapter 6. Foreign Officers in Service to America Chapter 7. America's Soldier Chapter 8. Rejoining Washington Chapter 9. Captivity, Betrayal, Exchange Capter 10. Monmouth Chapter 11. Court-Martial Chapter 12. Bitterness, Despair, and Death Epilogue. A Man Without a Country Appendix A. James Wilkinson, Memoirs of My Own Times (1816): The Capture of Charles Lee Appendix B. "Mr. Lee's Plan - March 29, 1777" Appendix C. Washington and Lee's Battlefield Confrontation Appendix D. Shades of Monmouth Notes Bibliography Index

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