The nephew of Robert E. Lee, Fitzhugh was born in Fairfax County, Virginia at Clermont, on November 19, 1835. Even if he had not had the greatest general of the Confederacy as his uncle, Fitzhugh would still have been remembered as one of the South's youngest and finest cavalry commanders.
Fitzhugh attended West Point, graduating in 1856, forty-fifth in this class. During his attendance at West Point, his uncle, Robert E. Lee was the superintendent of the academy, and almost had to expel Fitzhugh for misconduct. After graduation, he fought in the Indian wars where he was severely injured. Following his recovery, he taught at West Point in 1861, and when the war began, he resigned his commission as 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
He entered the Confederate army at his previous U.S. Army rank and first served in the Peninsula Campaign as a Confederate staff officer. Within a short time he transferred to the cavalry and served with Major General J.E. B. Stuart. At the age of twenty-seven, he was promoted to brigadier general on July 24, 1862, and again to major general the next year.
At the Battle of Antietam he commanded a cavalry brigade, as well as in the battles of Chancellorsville, and on the third day at Gettysburg. Following Gettysburg he was sent to aide General Early in the Shenandoah Valley and soon thereafter was severely wounded during the Third Battle of Winchester. Unable to return to duty as a result until the next year, he found his cavalry division had returned from the Shenandoah Valley. Rejoining them he then served on the Richmond front. As war's end was near, he became General Robert E. Lee's chief of cavalry corps, and in this position, made his way with his troops away from the Union concentration at Appomattox. However, upon learning that his uncle had surrendered, he as well surrendered two days later.
After the war he spent many years as a farmer before entering politics, serving as the governor of Virginia from 1885 to 1889. Following this he served as consul general in Havana, Cuba from 1896 to 1898. When the Spanish-American War was imminent, he joined the U.S. Volunteer Army, entering as a major general in command of the VII Corps. He retired from the military in 1901.
In addition to spending his postwar years in politics and farming, Fitzhugh also wrote a book characterizing his uncle as well as other aspects of the Civil War.
Fitzhugh Lee died in Washington, D.C. (District of Columbia) on April 28, 1905.
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