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Charles Willson Peale, from life, c. 17827

Oil on canvas. H 23, W 19 in (H 58.4, W 48.3 cm)
Independence NHP
INDE 14041

About the Man
About this Portrait:
As one of the Revolution's most celebrated commanders, Lee was a natural subject for Peale's Museum. The portrait is listed in the October 13, 1784 issue of the Freeman's Journal and Philadelphia Daily Advertiser. The artist may have painted this portrait as early as 1782 when Lee came to Philadelphia to receive his Congressional commendation for the victory at Paulus Hook and to resign his military commission. Sometime in 1785, "Light Horse Harry" sat for Peale a second time when the artist painted a miniature of him (now in a private collection) that remained in the museum collection until Peale's death.

Ownership History:
Listed in the 1795 Peale Museum catalog. Purchased by the City of Philadelphia at the 1854 Peale Museum sale.

ee was born near Dumfries, Virginia, on January 29, 1756. He graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), and then chose a military career in the Virginia militia, followed by one in the Continental Army. In 1779, Lee captured the British fort at Paulus Hook, New York, and earned the nickname "Light Horse Harry." Later, during the southern campaign, he and his men protected the Continentals during their retreat from superior British forces, and fought in the Carolinas and Georgia at the battles of Guilford Courthouse and Eutaw Springs.

fter the Revolution, Lee entered the Virginia legislature and then Congress. In 1792, he became Virginia's governor for a term. During that time, he commanded a militia troop sent to western Pennsylvania to quell the popular revolt there against the federal whiskey tax. Later, he returned to Congress for
one term, during which he delivered the official funeral eulogy for George Washington, proclaiming his late friend as ;first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen. Lee was also a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1799 to 1801.

lthough Lee's retirement was plagued by imprisonment for debt, he successfully managed to publish his wartime memoirs in 1812. An ill-advised public statement of support for a Baltimore critic of the impending war with England led to a jail term for Lee and a severe beating by irate citizens. Afterward, he secluded himself on the Georgia plantation of his former Revolutionary commander, Nathanael Greene. Lee died there on March 25, 1818.

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Last Modified: Wednesday, October 17, 2001