Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee distinguished himself as one of the Revolutions most skilled and able guerrilla fighters. He began his military career as a captain of the 5th Virginia Light Dragoons and quickly earned a renowned reputation for horsemanship, hence the moniker “Light-Horse Harry.” In 1773, he was promoted to major and took command of a mixed cavalry and infantry corps called Lee’s Legion.
Lee advanced his reputation at the Battle of Paulus Hook in New Jersey on August 19, 1779. Leading a surprise nighttime raid on the British held fort, Lee and his men captured over one hundred British with only a few loses. After Paulus Hook, Washington commended Lee for the “remarkable degree of prudence, address and bravery” shown on this occasion. The Continental Congress voted to present Lee with a gold medal—an award not given to any other officers without a general’s rank.