And Good Riddance!

Today in History, December 13: 1776 – This is one of those “God knows what you need more than you do” stories. When the Continental Congress chose George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, they bypassed an extremely experienced and competent alternative; Gen. Charles Lee…

Charles Lee has served as an officer in the British Army, serving with distinction in the French and Indian War. Lee never forgave the perceived slight.

In the fall of 1776, Washington and the army he commanded had fled in horrible conditions across New Jersey and were holed up at the Delaware River, bedraggled, barely clothed, starving, and facing a vastly superior force of British regulars. What was worse was that many of Washington’s soldier’s enlistments were up soon, and few were likely to stay.

Washington sent repeated messages to Lee encouraging him bring his well rested army to the Delaware. Lee, satisfied to see Washington fail, hesitated, delayed and finally responded slowly. On this day in 1776 he left his Army and went with a small guard contingent to look for female companionship at a local tavern.

Loyalists to the crown were often informing the British of Colonial movements. Two days later Lee was caught in his bedclothes as he relaxed in the tavern where he had partaken of his chosen prostitutes. British Col. Banastre Tarleton and his troops raided the tavern and captured Lee, who was the Colonial’s most experienced Officer; many had called for him to lead the Army rather than Washington.

The British were exhilarated at having captured Lee, the Americans were demoralized. Washington, however, was privately relieved. Now the army that had been commanded by Lee could be utilized by more loyal officers to continue the fight.

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