- Paul David Nelson
Lee, Charles (26 January 1731–02 October 1782), revolutionary war general, was born in Chester, England, the son of John Lee, a British officer, and Isabella Bunbury. Possessing the important social advantage of gentle ancestry, his education was not neglected. His father, desiring that he familiarize himself with peoples and languages other than English, enrolled him at an early age in an academy in Switzerland. Over the years, Lee became proficient in Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, Italian, and German. In 1746 he entered grammar school at Bury St. Edmunds, where he became lifelong friends with important and well-placed companions such as William Butler and Charles Davers. His father, colonel of the Fifty-fifth Regiment of Foot, also determined that young Lee would continue the family’s tradition of military service. Thus when Lee was fourteen years old, Colonel Lee purchased for him an ensigncy in the Fifty-fifth Regiment, soon renumbered the forty-fourth; when young Lee completed his education he reported for active duty. His father died in 1750, and four years later Lee fell out with his mother. Their problems likely stemmed from a strain of eccentricity in the Bunbury family, which Lee inherited, and which manifested itself in moodiness and a choleric temper. As Lee himself later admitted, he suffered from a “distemper of … mind.” Thereafter, Lee was on close terms only with his unmarried sister, Sidney Lee, who like himself had survived a childhood scarred by the deaths of five siblings....