Author: Colin Edward Woodward

editor of the Lee Family Digital Archive at Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall is a 1,500-acre plantation located in Westmoreland County on the Potomac River. The politician and planter Thomas Lee purchased the land for Stratford in 1717; although no records exist to indicate when the house was built, construction likely began in 1738 and was completed sometime in the 1740s. The plantation was home to two signers of the Declaration of Independence—Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee—and was the birthplace of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Thomas Lee’s descendants lived at Stratford until the 1820s, when Henry Lee IV sold the plantation to cover his debts. Since 1929, the Robert E. Lee Memorial Association, or RELMA, has owned Stratford Hall.


Robert E. Jr. Lee (1843–1914)

Robert E. Lee Jr. was a soldier, farmer, and biographer of his father, Robert E. Lee. Born at Arlington, the Lee family plantation, Lee did not seek a military education but instead attended the University of Virginia. With the start of the American Civil War (1861–1865), however, he joined the Confederate army and rose to the rank of captain. He fought in some of the bloodiest battles of the war, including the Seven Days’ Battles (1862), the Chancellorsville Campaign (1863), and the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House (1864). His letters home document the daily life of a soldier and the rise and fall of Confederate morale. After the war, Lee stayed out of politics and instead struggled to succeed as a farmer at Romancoke, the King William County estate he inherited from his grandfather. He also sold insurance in Washington, D.C. In 1904, he achieved fame as the author of the Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, a collection of his father’s letters as well as anecdotes drawn from family accounts. It was published to widespread acclaim and has been frequently reprinted. Lee died in 1914.


Henry Lee (1787–1837)

Henry Lee, also known as Henry Lee IV, was a writer, politician, diplomat, army officer, and the last member of the Lee family to own Stratford Hall. The son of Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, a governor and hero of the American Revolution (1775–1783), Lee was educated at Washington Academy in Lexington and then the College of William and Mary. He represented Westmoreland County in the House of Delegates from 1810 to 1813 and served as a major in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. In 1817 he married Anne McCarty, a distant cousin, and became ward of her younger sister, Elizabeth “Betsy” McCarty. The Lees had a daughter who died in a fall, and in the wake of their mourning, Henry Lee began an adulterous and legally incestuous affair with Betsy McCarty, embezzling profits from her estate, which was under his management. The resulting scandal earned him the nicknames “Black Harry” and “Black-Horse Harry” and thwarted his political career. He was forced to sell Stratford Hall. Despite his notoriety, Lee wrote campaign materials for Andrew Jackson and briefly served as consul to Algiers. In 1831 he moved with his wife to Paris, France, where he later died of influenza.


Henry Lee (1756–1818)

Henry Lee, also known as Light-Horse Harry Lee or Henry Lee III, was an officer in the Continental and U.S. armies, a representative from Virginia to the Confederation Congress (1786–1788) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1799–1801), a member of the House of Delegates (1789–1791), the governor of Virginia (1791–1794), and the master of Stratford Hall. Born in Prince William County and educated at Princeton, he was the father of eight children who survived to adulthood, including Henry Lee IV, Charles Carter Lee, and Robert E. Lee. A gifted cavalryman, Lee distinguished himself in the American Revolution (1775–1783), fighting under generals George Washington and Nathanael Greene. After the war, Lee played an active role in state and national politics, but his ambitions were undermined by disastrous land deals and financial mismanagement. He served time in debtor’s prison, and in 1812, an encounter with an anti-Federalist mob in Baltimore left him disfigured and ailing. After traveling abroad to escape his creditors, Lee died in Georgia in 1818.


June Carter Cash (1929–2003)

June Carter Cash was a country and folk singer and the wife of Johnny Cash. Born in southwestern Virginia, she was the daughter of Maybelle Carter, who with her first cousin Sara Carter and Carter’s husband, A. P. Carter, performed with the pioneering country group the Carter Family. June Carter and her two sisters began singing with the group on the radio in 1939 and later as part of Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. Carter often supplemented her music with large doses of humor, drawing on broad caricatures of her rural upbringing. Her satirical version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” recorded in 1949 with the duo Homer and Jethro, reached No. 9 on the country chart. The next year Carter joined the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, and late in 1961, along with her family, accompanied the country star Johnny Cash on tour. Although both were married, Cash and Carter soon became romantically linked and were married in 1968. They won two Grammy Awards for their performances together: for “Jackson” in 1968 and “If I Were a Carpenter” in 1970. Both suffered from drug addiction, and while their marriage and careers suffered at times, they remained together. In 2000, Carter Cash won a Grammy Award for her second solo album, Press On. She died in May 2003 and her husband followed in September of that year.