'Light Horse Harry' Lee Quells The Whiskey Rebels

'Light Horse Harry' Lee Quells The Whiskey Rebels

Henry Lee III was an important cavalry leader in the Continental Army.

Lee was one of the most successful commanders who never received the rank of General.

He would go on to have a career in politics, including becoming Governor of Virginia.

Henry Lee III

Henry Lee III was a 20-year-old Princeton graduate when he joined the Continental Army.  

Lee was given command of the Virginia Dragoons, a cavalry unit.  Henry would eventually make his way up to Lieutenant Colonel, earning the nickname ‘Light Horse Harry’ along the way.

Henry participated in several important battles throughout the Revolutionary War.  He became known for fighting guerrilla skirmishes behind enemy lines.

Light Horse Harry

In 1779, Lee led his troops in the Battle of Paulus Hook.  This nighttime raid was astonishingly successful, capturing over 150 British soldiers while taking very small losses.

Henry was given a gold medal for his actions at Paulus Hook.  He was the only person to be so honored who never obtained the rank of General during the Revolution.

Afterward, Lee was sent to the Southern Department where he was responsible for attacking several enemy camps.  Henry also participated in Pyle’s Massacre, the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, the Siege of Ninety-Six, and the Battle of Eutaw Springs.

Finally, Light Horse Harry was with the Continental Army when the Revolutionary War was won at the Victory at Yorktown.


After the war, Henry Lee was selected by the State of Virginia as a delegate to the Confederation Congress.  He served from 1786-88, when little was accomplished by this body, other than the Northwest Ordinance.

Lee was also present at the Virginia Ratification Convention.  Knowing well the problems of the Confederation Congress, Henry strongly supported the Constitution.

After this, Lee was elected as Governor of Virginia for the maximum three years.

Whiskey Rebellion

When the Whiskey Rebellion broke out, George Washington famously led the United States Army to suppress the revolt.

Washington’s presence, however, was mostly for show.  The President selected Henry Lee to take the actual command of the 13,000 soldiers who marched through Pennsylvania.  

Fortunately, the Rebellion stopped when Lee arrived and no violence was needed.

Baltimore Riots

Henry Lee was appointed Major General by President John Adams in anticipation of war with France.  Although a Quasi-War happened, Lee did not see any actual fighting.

Soon after, Light Horse Harry was chosen by his constituents to represent Virginia in the House of Representatives.  After two years he retired from politics.

A decade later, as the War of 1812 approached, Lee was a victim of the Baltimore Riots.  After defending his friend’s printing press (as both gentlemen were against the war) Henry was taken into the street and beaten by a mob.

Lee never fully recovered from these injuries, apparently suffering from PTSD for the rest of his life.  He passed away on a return trip from the West Indies.


Henry Lee III was a member of the famous Lee Family of Virginia.

He was cousins with Richard Henry Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and Arthur Lee.  Perhaps most famously, his son was Robert E. Lee. Robert would be Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the United States Civil War.

To read about other Governors of Virginia, check out our articles on Thomas Nelson Jr and Benjamin Harrison.

To learn more about Henry Lee, pick up a copy of ‘Light-Horse Harry Lee’ from the affiliate link below.

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