THE LEE MEN
Stratford Hall was home to four generations of the Lee family of Virginia. It was the boyhood home of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, the only brothers to sign, and it was the birthplace of Robert Edward Lee.
RICHARD LEE I (1618-1664)
the emigrant, sailed from England to Jamestown in the 1630s. He began his political career as a clerk and ended up on the Virginia Council of State. He amassed large acreages of land and arranged for his family to settle in Virginia after his death.
RICHARD LEE II (1647-1715)
second son of Richard I and Anne Lee, inherited the Machodoc property in Westmoreland County. Like his father, Richard II was appointed to the Virginia Council.
THOMAS LEE (1690-1750)
Thomas Lee, fourth surviving son of Richard Lee II, was born at his father’s home Machodoc in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Through family connections, Thomas was appointed to the office of agent for the Fairfax Proprietary and Naval Officer for the South Potomac port. These positions helped him develop his talent for acquiring valuable land and his negotiating skills. At age 27, Thomas sailed to England purchased The Clifts Plantation – a property along the tall cliffs lining the Potomac River shore.
Soon after Thomas married Hannah Ludwell of Green Spring in 1722, he began his political career as a burgess in Williamsburg. In 1733, Thomas was selected to fill a seat on the prestigious Council of Virginia. Thomas began building a large brick house at The Clifts in the winter of 1737-8, renaming the property Stratford after his grandfather’s home near London. By 1742, the Lees had moved into their new home, along with their 8 children.
In 1744, Thomas was a member of the Virginia delegation that negotiated The Treaty of Lancaster with the Six Nations of the Iroquois. Three years later, he became a founder and the first president of the Ohio Company, which focused on westward expansion of the Virginia colony. By his death in 1750, Thomas Lee, senior member of the Virginia Council of State, had assumed the title President of Virginia and performed the duties of governor. Although Thomas considered himself a loyal Englishman, his sons and daughters were to become revolutionaries.
PHILIP LUDWELL LEE (1727-1775)
Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee’s eldest son, Philip, had not yet completed his law studies in England when he was called home to Virginia when Thomas died in 1750. Col. Phil, as he was called, inherited the bulk of his father’s properties, including Stratford, and the responsibility of six younger siblings.
After he was elected to the House of Burgesses, Col. Phil was soon advanced to the Council of Virginia—a seat occupied by three prior generations of Lees. Col. Phil was successful as an entrepreneur. He built a public wharf, warehouse, and tobacco inspection station at Stratford Landing and also ran a store selling provisions to ships and a gristmill.
Phil died suddenly, at age 49, on the eve of the Revolution. Described as a “patriot” by his cousin Henry, Phil did not live to see his “band of brothers” in action.
RICHARD HENRY LEE (1733-1794)
third surviving son of Thomas Lee, grew up at Stratford Hall, and for the remainder of his life made his home at Chantilly, built on the easternmost part of the Stratford Hall property. He became a burgess from Westmoreland County and was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress where he made the resolution for independence from Great Britain on June 7, 1776. Richard Henry was president of the Confederation Congress and one of Virginia’s first two senators under the Constitution.
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE (1734-1797)
fourth surviving son of Thomas Lee, lived at Menokin in Richmond County, Virginia. He served as burgess from Loudoun and Richmond Counties and was a delegate to the Continental Congress. He and his brother, Richard Henry Lee, were the only two brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence.
ARTHUR LEE (1740-1792)
the youngest child of Thomas and Hannah Ludwell Lee, was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and grew up at Stratford. By the time he reached age 10, both of his parents had died, leaving him under the care of his older brother, Philip Ludwell Lee.
Arthur became one of the chief supporters of the American colonies in their pursuit of independence from Britain. With war imminent, the Continental Congress named Arthur its secret agent in London. Soon afterward, Congress named Arthur, along with Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, as Commissioner to the court of Versailles to seek support for the colonies. Vicious controversy, where Arthur questioned Deane’s allegiance to America, ensued, resulting in the recall of both men.
The Silas Deane affair embittered Arthur as well as the entire Lee family. The Lee brothers, who had fought tirelessly for America’s freedom, spiritedly defended one another, but felt that the accusations made by their political enemies had tarnished the family’s name. It wasn’t until the papers of King George III were published—long after Arthur’s death—that his accusations against Deane were proved to be true. Arthur died, unmarried, at his home, Lansdowne, in Urbanna, Virginia.
HENRY “LIGHT HORSE HARRY” LEE III (1756-1818)
great-nephew of Thomas Lee, married his second cousin Matilda Lee and came to live at Stratford Hall. A Revolutionary War hero, Henry was not as successful at managing a plantation. After Matilda’s death, he married Ann Hill Carter and started a second family at Stratford Hall. Henry served as Virginia’s governor and is remembered for his eulogy of George Washington, describing him as “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”
HENRY LEE IV (1787-1837)
Henry, the eldest surviving son of Henry “Light Horse Harry” and Matilda Lee, was the last Lee master of Stratford. Like his father, Henry IV was a legislator, soldier, and writer. After graduating from The College of William & Mary, he began his career in the Virginia House of Delegates, followed by a major’s commission during the War of 1812. He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates and speechwriter for Andrew Jackson. By that time, his father, Harry Lee, had given up his life interest in Stratford and Henry IV could claim his inheritance. In 1817, Henry married Anne McCarty and they moved into the Great House at Stratford.
Henry was involved in a personal scandal, which cut short his political career and forced him to sell Stratford Hall. Henry and Anne ended up in a small apartment in Paris, where he wrote the first volume of The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Before he could complete the second volume, Henry died in a flu epidemic there.
ROBERT EDWARD LEE (1807-1870)
Robert, the youngest son of Henry “Light Horse Harry” and Ann Hill Carter Lee was born at Stratford and spent nearly four years before moving with his family to Alexandria. As a teenager, Robert was a constant caregiver to his invalid mother, who stressed the benefits of learning and virtue to her children.
Robert E. Lee was appointed to the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, where he studied to be an engineer and graduated second in the class of 1829 without a demerit. He married Mary Ann Randolph Custis in 1831 while serving as Second Lieutenant of Engineers at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
For 32 years, the Army of the United States was his life’s work. In April 1861, Robert E. Lee was offered command of the army being assembled to invade the seceding Southern states. Although he opposed secession, he had to choose between his strong conviction to see the country united and his responsibility to family, friends, and his native Virginia. He decided to resign his U. S. Army commission and cast his lot with that of his state. In June 1862, Robert assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, and in February 1865, near the end of the Civil War, he was named Commander in Chief of all Confederate forces. In April 1865, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia. After the war, Robert became President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, where he transformed a struggling school into a successful, thriving university. After Lee’s death in 1870, his name was joined with that of his lifelong hero, and Washington College became Washington & Lee University.