Lee, Charles (1731–1782), an American Revolutionary War army officer. He was a military adventurer whose conduct during the Battle of Monmouth led to charges of treason. Lee was born in Cheshire, England. He entered the British army and served in Braddock's Expedition (1755) and other campaigns of the French and Indian War. Lee left the army in 1763 and for a time was a soldier of fortune in Poland and elsewhere. In 1773 he came to America and bought land in Berkeley County, Virginia.
In 1775 Lee became a major general in the patriot army. The next year he was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, where he was placed in overall command, arriving shortly before a British attack in June, 1776. The Americans withstood the British attack due to the preparations made by Colonel William Moultrie, whose battle plans Lee had ridiculed upon his arrival. After the Battle of White Plains (October 28, 1776) Lee placed the American cause in danger by his disregard of Washington's order to cross the Hudson. He was then captured by the British and held prisoner until exchanged in 1778. During this time he apparently gave valuable information to the British.
In 1778 Lee led the attack at Monmouth but then ordered a retreat. Washington denounced Lee in strong language and led a new attack that saved the day. Lee was court-martialed, found guilty of disobedience, and suspended from the army for 12 months. Later that year both Anthony Wayne and John Laurens challenged Lee to duels because of insulting letters Lee had written to Congress about Washington. Laurens wounded Lee, who was then unable to meet Wayne's challenge. Lee continued his abusive letters to Congress and in 1780 was dismissed from the army.