First Cousin, Once Removed: Edwin Gray Lee

This is the third installment of the “Tales from the Tombstone” series 

His grandfather  was Edmund Jennings Lee, Sr. a brother of “Light Horse Harry” Lee. Hisfather stayed out of politics altogether. With a last name of Lee and a Confederate general, he would probably be the least known of the “Lee’s” in that regard.

His name? Edwin Gray Lee, who was born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (West Virginia)  on May 27, 1836. A graduate of the College of William and Mary and Washington College with a law degree in 1859, Lee practiced law for the few years prior to the Civil War. 

Brigadier General Edwin Gray Lee
Brigadier General Edwin Gray Lee

During that time, he also married Susan Pendleton, whose brother was “Sandie” Pendleton and father was William Nelson Pendleton, both also served prominently in the Confederate cause.

Like his brother-in-law he served on the staff of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and was present at First Manassas. Following the battle, Lee was elected to major and then lieutenant colonel of the 33rd Virginia. With that regiment he served in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, through the Peninsula engagements, and up through Antietam where he was captured.

Paroled in time to serve during the Battle of Fredericksburg, after which he resigned because of ill-health. Yet, he returned to service in 1863 and was recommissioned as colonel on November 12, 1863 and assigned to the defenses of Richmond.

In May 1864 he was assigned to duty in Staunton to both command the post and recruit int the local area for the defense of the Shenandoah Valley.

Within that same year, on September 23, 1864 Lee was commissioned a brigadier general and served with General Thomas Rosser and the cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley.

Yet, throughout his service he was constantly suffering from bad health, specifically “disease of the lungs.” In November 1864, Lee took sick leave and never returned to active duty, being granted a six-month leave of absence because of his continued bad health.

Instead his wife, Susan, and Lee ran the Union blockade to Canada on a secret service mission. While serving abroad, Lee’s nomination to brigadier general was rejected by the Confederate Senate on February 24, 1865 but he continued on the army rolls until the end of the conflict. When the war ended  the Lees elected to remain in Montreal until the spring of 1866 when they returned to the Old Dominion.

Lee, unfortunately, never regained his full health and while at Yellow Sulphur Springs, Virginia, still looking to recuperate from his ailments, Lee died on August 24, 1870. He was only 34 years old.

His remains were interred at the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington, Virginia, next to his brother-in-law, “Sandie” Pendleton.

Grave of Brigadier General Edwin G. Lee
Grave of Brigadier General Edwin G. Lee

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