Place of Death: Ravensworth plantation, Alexandria, Virginia
Date of Death: October 15, 1891
W.H.F. Lee was named for his mother’s uncle, William Henry Fitzhugh, but at an early age his family members began calling him “Rooney” (sometimes spelled “Roony”), possibly to differentiate him from his first-cousin Fitzhugh Lee.
After resigning his army commission, W.H.F. Lee took up residence at White House, a 4,000-acre plantation on the Pamunkey River that Lee had inherited from his maternal grandfather, George Washington Parke Custis, in 1857.
After Virginia seceded from the Union, W.H.F. Lee organized a company of volunteers known as the Virginia Rangers or Lee’s Rangers and joined the ranks of the Confederate forces as a captain on May 6, 1861.
During the second half of 1861, Lee’s Rangers served under Brigadier General William H. Loring, sparring with Union troops commanded by George B. McClellan for control of passes through the Appalachian Mountains in western Virginia.
Throughout the Peninsula Campaign (March 17 – August 14, 1862), W.H.F. Lee commanded the 9th Virginia Cavalry, assigned to Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry brigade.
W.H.F. Lee rode with his cousin, Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, during Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart’s daring “Ride around McClellan” (June 12 – 15, 1862).
Commanding the 9th Virginia as a part of Fitzhugh Lee’s Brigade of Stuart’s Cavalry Division, W.H.F. Lee participated in the Northern Virginia Campaign (July 19 – September 1, 1862) and the Maryland Campaign (September 4 – September 20, 1862).
On September 15, 1862, during the Confederate withdrawal from the Battle of South Mountain, W.H.F. Lee was injured when his horse was killed and fell on him. Two days later he was well enough to participate in the Battle of Antietam, but saw little action because Stuart used his unit as a diversion.
On October 9, 1862, W.H.F. Lee’s wife, Charlotte, gave birth to a sickly daughter who died on December 6.
On November 10, 1862, Confederate officials reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia’s cavalry and they placed W.H.F. Lee in command of his own brigade consisting of the 5th, 9th, 10th, and 15th Virginia regiments, as well as the 2nd North Carolina Regiment (Special Orders, No. 238, Headquarters, ANV).
On June 9, 1863, during the Battle of Brandy Station, which was the largest cavalry engagement of the Civil War, W.H.F. Lee received a sabre cut and a more severe rifle wound to the thigh.
On June 26, 1863, Union cavalry troopers captured W.H.F. Lee at Hickory Hill plantation in Hanover County, Virginia, where he was recuperating from wounds he received during the Battle of Brandy Station.
Union officials confined W.H.F. Lee at Fort Lafayette, New York, until February 25, 1864, when he was exchanged for Neal Dow, a Union brigadier general from Maine who was a prominent prohibitionist before and after the Civil War.
On April 23, 1864, Confederate officials promoted W.H.F. Lee to major general on April 23, 1864, and placed him in command of the 3rd Division of General J.E.B. Stuart’s Cavalry Corps.
Following J.E.B. Stuart’s death on May 12, 1864, W.H.F. Lee commanded one of three independent cavalry divisions of the Army of Northern Virginia that reported directly to Robert E. Lee.
From August 11, 1864, until February 11, 1865, W.H.F. Lee commanded a division of General Wade Hampton’s Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia.
W.H.F. Lee participated in the “beefsteak raid” (September 14 – 17, 1864), which rustled nearly 2,500 head of cattle to feed his father’s starving Confederate army.
W.H.F Lee’s leadership was exceptionally conspicuous at the Battle of Five Forks (April 1, 1865) where his outnumbered men held off a Union assault for several hours in what turned out to be a losing effort.
In 1874, W.H.F. Lee and his family moved to Ravensworth manor, in Fairfax County, Virginia, which he inherited following the death of his great-aunt Anna Maria Fitzhugh.