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AMERICA'S FIRST MEDALS
US TREASURY DEPARTMENT
MEASURES ABOUT 38mm
The Battle of Paulus Hook was fought on August 19, 1779 between Continental Army and British forces in the American Revolutionary War. The Patriots were led by Major Light Horse Harry Lee, and launched a nighttime raid on the British-controlled fort in what is today downtown Jersey City. They surprised the British, taking 158 prisoners, and withdrew with the approach of daylight. Despite retaining the fort and its cannons, the British lost much of their control over New Jersey. Lee was rewarded by the Second Continental Congress with a gold medal, the only non-general to receive such an award during the war.
On one side of the medal awarded to Major Lee is a bust of the hero, with the words Henrico Lee, Legionis Equit Praefecto Comitia Americana. The American Congress to Henry Lee, Colonel of Cavalry." On the reverse, Non Obstantib fluminibus vallis astutia et virtute bellica parva manu hostes vicit victosq armis humanitate devinxit. In mem. pugn. ad Paulus Hook, die XIX August, 1779. "Notwithstanding rivers and entrenchments, he with a small band conquered the foe by warlike skill and prowess and firmly bound by his humanity those who had been conquered by his arms. In memory of the conflict at Paulus Hook, nineteenth of August, 1779
Henry Lee III (January 29, 1756 – March 25, 1818) was an early American patriot who served as the ninth Governor of Virginia and as the Virginia Representative to the United States Congress. During the American Revolution, Lee served as a cavalry officer in the Continental Army and earned the nickname "Light-Horse Harry". Lee was the father of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
Life and career
Lee was born near Dumfries, Virginia, the son of Henry Lee II (1730–1787) of "Leesylvania" and Lucy Grymes (1734–1792) the "Lowland Beauty". His father was the second cousin of Richard Henry Lee, twelfth President of the Continental Congress. His mother was an aunt of the wife of Virginia Governor Thomas Nelson, Jr. His great-grandmother Mary Bland was also a grand-aunt of President Thomas Jefferson.
Lee was the grandson of Henry Lee I, a great-grandson of Richard Bland, and a great-great-grandson of William Randolph. He was also a descendant of Theodorick Bland of Westover and Governor Richard Bennett.
Lee graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1773, and began pursuing a legal career. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, he became a captain in a Virginia dragoon detachment, which was attached to the 1st Continental Light Dragoons. In 1778, Lee was promoted to major and given the command of a mixed corps of cavalry and infantry known as Lee's Legion, with which he won a great reputation as a leader of light troops.
It was during his time as commander of the Legion that Lee earned the sobriquet of "Light-Horse Harry" for his horsemanship. On September 22, 1779 the Continental Congress voted to present Lee with a gold medal—a reward given to no other officer below a general's rank—for the Legion's actions during the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey, on August 19 of that year.
Lee was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was assigned with his Legion to the southern theater of war. Lee's Legion raided the British outpost of Georgetown, South Carolina with General Francis Marion in January 1781 and helped screen the American army in their Race to the Dan River the following month. Lee united with General Francis Marion the Swamp Fox and General Andrew Pickens in the spring of 1781 to capture numerous British outposts in South Carolina and Georgia including Fort Watson, Fort Motte, Fort Granby, Fort Galphin, Fort Grierson, and Fort Cornwallis, Augusta, Georgia. They conducted a campaign of terror and intimidation against Loyalists in the region, highlighted in Pyle's Massacre. Lee and his legion also served at the Battle of Guilford Court House, the Siege of Ninety-Six, and the Battle of Eutaw Springs. He was present at Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown, but left the Army shortly after claiming fatigue and disappointment with his treatment from fellow officers. During the infamous Whiskey Rebellion, Lee commanded the 13,000 militiamen sent to quash the rebels.
From 1786 to 1788, Lee was a delegate to the Continental Congress, and in the last-named year in the Virginia convention, he favored the adoption of the United States Constitution. From 1789 to 1791, he served in the General Assembly and, from 1791 to 1794, was Governor of Virginia.
In 1794, Lee accompanied Washington to help the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. A new county of Virginia was named after him during his governorship. Henry Lee was a major general in the U.S. Army in 1798–1800. From 1799 to 1801, he served in the United States House of Representatives of the Congress. He famously eulogized Washington to a crowd of 4,000 at the first President's funeral on December 26, 1799: "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
The Panic of 1796–1797 and bankruptcy of Robert Morris reduced Lee's fortune. He served one year in debtor's prison in Montross, Virginia, when his son Robert E. was two.
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