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LEE, Charles, Captain. American War of Independence. 1777


LEE, Charles, Captain and later "General Lee in in ye American Service." A copy, dated 1777, with corrections, of a slightly earlier 18th century "letter written by Capt Charles Lee (now General Lee in ye American service) when he was quartered in Bury, Suffolk, to Robt. Pocklington of Chelsworth Esq, one of his Majesty's Justices of ye Peace for that County, in answer to an expostulatory letter sent to Captain Lee by that magistrate, complaining of some irregularities wch his soldiers had been guilty of committing. "Sr, I this day read a letter from you fraught with nonsense, impertinence & absurdity. You are pleased to make in this ingenious epistle two observations. I shall beg leave to make one; wch is that you seem to be equally knowing in our business, as you are in your own. If my party has done anything illegal prosecute them - as to your threats of complaining the the Secretary of Warr, I despise them as much as I do the folly of the denouncer. Yours Charles Lee. Oct. 23rd." Charles Lee was one of the most talented American military leaders in the War for Independence, but his erratic performance and loutish behaviour forever tarnished his considerable contributions. He was born in England to Irish parents, and initially went to school in Bury St Edmunds. His father was a colonel in the British army and enrolled his son in a Swiss military school. Young Lee was commissioned as an ensign in the army at age 12. Three years later he entered regular service in his father's regiment. During the French and Indian War, Lee was assigned to the American colonies, where he was counted among the survivors of Braddock's disastrous defeat in 1755, sharing his good fortune with comrades George Washington, Horatio Gates and Thomas Gage. 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. His unpredictable behaviour and violent temper earned him the name of "Boiling Water" among the natives. 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