Facts and Events
Sydney Smith Lee had a distinguished naval career for over forty years, beginning as a midshipman when fourteen years of age. He commanded a vessel at Vera Cruz, was three years commandant at Annapolis, and for the same period in charge of the Philadelphia navy yard, commanded Commodore Perry's flagship in the Japan expedition, and when the first Japanese ambassadors came to America, he was associated with Farragut and D. D. Porter in a committee for their reception and entertainment.
He resigned his position as chief of the bureau of coast survey to join the Confederacy, and was on duty at Norfolk; in command of fortifications at Drewry's bluff; chief of the bureau of orders and detail, and in command of fortifications on the James during the siege of Richmond.
Fitzhugh Lee was graduated at the United States military academy in 1856, and after serving until January 1, 1858, in the cavalry school at Carlisle, Pa., as an instructor, he was assigned to frontier duty in Texas with his regiment, the Second cavalry.
He served at several Texas posts, and on May 13, 1859, in a fight with Comanche Indians was shot through the lungs with an arrow, and his life despaired of. In 1860 he was ordered to report to West Point as instructor of cavalry.
In 1861 he resigned his commission as first lieutenant, and tendered his services to his native State. He was commissioned first lieutenant, corps of cavalry, C. S. A.; promoted lieutenant-colonel, First Virginia cavalry (Stuart's regiment), August, 1861, and colonel, March, 1862.
His first service was rendered in staff duty, under General Beauregard at Manassas, and as adjutant-general of Ewell's brigade during the battle of First Manassas. In the spring of 1862, with his regiment, he aided in covering the retreat from Yorktown, and in the raid of the cavalry under Stuart, around McClellan's peninsular army, he was particularly distinguished in the capture of the camp of his old Federal regiment, and in the defense as rear guard while Stuart's other commands built a bridge over the Chickahominy, which he was the last man to cross.
He was recommended by Stuart for promotion to brigadier- general, which soon followed, and at the organization of the cavalry division, July 28th, he was put in command of the Second brigade, consisting of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Virginia regiments and Breathed's battery.
He took an active part in the cavalry operations in August, connected with Jackson's advance northward, and in the capture of Manassas depot; participated in Stuart's advance into Maryland, screening the movements of the army, and after McClellan could no longer be held in check at South mountain, his brigade covered the retreat through Boonsboro, where there was a fierce and protracted fight.
He succeeded in delaying the enemy through the greater part of September 16th, and then joined the army before Sharpsburg.
In November his brigade was reorganized. He served on the Confederate left above Fredericksburg in December, took part in the raid on Dumfries and Fairfax Station, and in February, 1863, moved to Culpeper to guard the upper Rappahannock, giving battle to Averell at Kellysville, an action which Stuart reported as "one of the most brilliant achievements of the war," which he took "pride in witnessing."
At the field of Chancellorsville he led the advance of the flank movement, rode with Jackson to reconnoiter the position of Howard, and commanded the cavalry in the Sunday battle.
During Stuart's raid of June, 1863, he captured part of Custer's brigade at Hanover, and reached Gettysburg in time for a fierce hand-to-hand cavalry fight on July 3rd. During the retreat he rendered distinguished service.
He was now promoted major-general and in September took command of one of the two cavalry divisions, with which, when R. E. Lee decided to push Meade from his front on the Rapidan, he held the lines while the main army moved out on the enemy's flank.
He fought about Brandy Station and encountered Custer at Buckland Mills. After the contest with Grant in the Wilderness his division, thrown in front of the Federal advance toward Spottsylvania, engaged in one of its most severe conflicts.
The Confederate troopers were a terrible annoyance to the Federals, "swarming in the woods like angry bees," and Sheridan started on a raid to Richmond to draw them off. At the resulting battle of Yellow Tavern, where Stuart was fatally wounded, at Hawes' Shop and Cold Harbor, and at Trevilian's, he contested with Sheridan the honors of the field, and August, 1864, found him again opposed to that famous Federal officer in the Shenandoah valley.
Here he commanded the cavalry of Early's army. He fought the spirited battle of Cedarville, and at Winchester, September 19th, displayed great courage and energy in attempting to save the field. In the midst of a terrible artillery fire his famous horse "Nellie" was shot, and at the same time he received a wound in the thigh which disabled him for several months.
On recovering he made an expedition into northwestern Virginia in the following winter. Upon the promotion of Hampton to lieutenant-general, Lee became chief of the cavalry of the army of Northern Virginia, and commanded that corps at Five Forks.
After rendering invaluable service on the retreat, he was ordered to make an attack, on April 9th, at Appomattox, supported by Gordon, and in this movement, which met overwhelming opposition, his cavalry became separated from the main body. He participated in the final council of war, and after the surrender returned to Richmond with Gen. R. E. Lee.
He then retired to his home in Stafford county, and resided later near Alexandria. In 1874 he delivered an address at Bunker Hill which greatly aided the restoration of brotherly feeling. He was a conspicuous figure at the Yorktown centennial, and at the Washington centennial celebration at New York city, at the head of the Virginia troops, he received a magnificent ovation.
In 1885 he was nominated for governor by the Democratic party and made a memorable and successful campaign against John S. Wise. After serving as governor until 1890, he became president of the Pittsburg & Virginia railroad.
In 1896 he was sent to Cuba as consul-general at Havana, under the circumstances one of the most important positions in the diplomatic service. In this he represented the United States with such dignity and ability that he was retained in the place after the inauguration of President McKinley, through all the trying difficulties preceding the war with Spain.
After the outbreak of war he was made a major-general of volunteers in the United States army, and at the close of hostilities was appointed military governor of the province of Havana.
Source: Confederate Military History, vol. IV, p. 622
Lee, Fitzhugh, born in Virginia, appointed from Virginia cadet United States Military Academy, July 1, 1852; graduated forty-fifth in a class of forty-nine.
Brevet second lieutenant, Second Cavalry, July 1, 1856.
Second lieutenant, January 1, 1858.
First lieutenant, March 31, 1861.
Resigned May 21, 1861.
Major general, United States Volunteers, May 6,1898.
Source: General Officers of the Confederate States of America
First lieutenant, Corps of Cavalry, C. S. A., March 16, 1861.
Lieutenant colonel, First Virginia Cavalry, August, 1861.
Colonel, First Virginia Cavalry, March, 1862.
Brigadier general, P. A. C. S., July 24, 1862.
Major general, P. A. C. S., August 3, 1863.
Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Virginia Regiments of Cavalry, and Breathed's Battery of Six-Gun Horse Artillery, Army of Northern Virginia.
brigades of W. H. F. Lee, Lomax and Wickham, to January 31, 1864.
of Northern Virginia, composed of the divisions of W. H. F. Lee, Rosser and Munford.
Northern Virginia, composed of Fitzhugh's Division. Brigades of Garry, Payne and Wickham.
and Roberts' Brigades.
and McCausland's Brigades.
For more information, see the EN Wikipedia article Fitzhugh Lee.