Sydney Smith Lee

Sydney Smith Lee (September 2, 1802 – July 22, 1869), called Smith Lee in his lifetime, was an American naval officer who served as a captain in the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War. He was the third child of Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee and Anne Hill Carter Lee, and the older brother of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Sydney Smith Lee
Born(1802-09-02)September 2, 1802
Camden, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedJuly 22, 1869(1869-07-22) (aged 66)
Richlands, Virginia, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
 Confederate States
Service/branch United States Navy
 Confederate navy
Years of service1820–1861 (USN)
1861–1865 (CSN)
Rank Commander (USN)
Captain (CSN)
Commands heldUSS Mississippi
Gosport Navy Yard
CSN Bureau of Orders and Detail
Battles/warsMexican War American Civil War
Spouse(s)Anne Marie Mason
RelationsFitzhugh Lee (son)
Henry Lee III (father)
Anne Hill Carter (mother)

Early life and education

Lee was born in Camden, New Jersey,[1] on September 2, 1802. At the age of 18 on December 30, 1820, he was appointed midshipman in the United States Navy and 8 years later promoted to lieutenant on May 17, 1828. During the Mexican–American War Lee fought in the Battle of Veracruz with his brother Robert E.; and afterwards was stationed there. He was promoted to commander on June 4. 1850 and accompanied Commodore Perry to Japan in 1853, commanding his flagship USS Mississippi.


Commander Lee served as commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy and Philadelphia Navy Yard. He resigned from the service on April 17, 1861, the day Virginia declared it had seceded, though the resignation was not accepted. After dismissal on April 22, 1861, he accepted a commission as commander in the Confederate States Navy.

When the U.S. Navy abandoned the Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia, Commander Lee became the commanding officer there. When Union forces regained it, he was put in charge of batteries at Drewry's Bluffs, Virginia. On May 6, 1864, he became chief of the Confederate Navy's Bureau of Orders and Detail, replacing Captain John K. Mitchell. Lee was promoted to captain, and remained at this post until the end of the war.

Lee fought for the Confederacy reluctantly. As late as 1863 he denounced South Carolina for "getting us into this snarl" of secession, complaining that Robert and his family had persuaded him to act against his love of the U.S. Navy.[2]

Family and death

Lee's wife was Anne Marie Mason of Virginia. One of their sons was Confederate Major General Fitzhugh Lee who later became Governor of Virginia, diplomat and writer; and served as Major General of U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish–American War. At least four more of his sons served in the Confederate States Army or Navy. After the war Lee became a farmer and died at Richlands, Virginia, on July 22, 1869.


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