The following biographical sketch is taken from The Biographical encyclopædia of Kentucky of the Dead and Living Men of the Nineteenth Century (Cincinnati, J.M. Armstrong, 1878, pages 266-7).
LEE, COL. PHILIP, Lawyer and Soldier, was born October 22, 1832, in Bullitt County, Kentucky, and was the third son of Wilford and Margaret Lee. His father emigrated, at an early day, from Virginia, and was a member of the distinguished family of that name in the "Old Dominion."
Col. Lee was educated at St. Joseph's College, Bardstown, where he graduated at the age of eighteen. He graduated in law at the University of Louisville, in 1852; entered upon the practice of his profession; in the following year, was elected to represent Bullitt County in the Legislature; was re-elected in 1855; in 1856, was candidate for Presidential Elector on the Fillmore ticket; was Elector on the Union or Bell and Everett ticket, in 1860; won a high reputation as a public speaker in these canvasses.
In 1861, he espoused the cause of the South; opposed "neutrality;" recruited a company of young men, and assisted in organizing Camp Boone, on the Tennessee border; his company was organized as a part of the Second Kentucky Confederate Infantry; at the head of a hundred men, made the first raid of the war into Kentucky, on the line of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad; was engaged at Fort Donelson; was captured there; was a prisoner for six months; was in every engagement in which his regiment took part, but one, during the war; was promoted lieutenant-colonel after the battle of Chickamauga; was several times wounded; was made colonel of his regiment, on the fall of Col. Moss at Jonesboro, and held that position until the close of the war.
At the close of the war, he resumed the practice of his profession at Bardstown. He removed to Louisville in 1876, and at once took a prominent place at the bar of that city. In 1868, he became the candidate of the Democracy of the Ninth Judicial District for Commonwealth's Attorney, and, after a heated contest, was elected; was re-elected, without opposition, in 1874; and distinguished himself as one of the most able men who had filled that position in his district.
He died at Louisville, in 1875. He was a man of heavy muscular frame, fine eye, and an open, manly, beaming countenance; was a daring and able officer; and not only stood high as a soldier among soldiers, but was universally admired and esteemed in his profession, and as a citizen.
Col. Lee was married, June 23, 1866, to Belle B. Bridgeford, the accomplished daughter of James Bridgeford, of Louisville, and one of the leading stove-founders of the country.
Colonel Philip Lee's name shows up in several other places on this web site.
A detailed description is included in Edwin Porter Thompson's 1868 book titled, History of the First Kentucky Brigade.
He also figures prominently in John W. Ratliff's description of a Civil War episode.
In 1916, E. Polk Johnson wrote the follow anecdote about Colonel Philip L. Lee in an article titled "The Louisville Bar Forty-Seven Years Ago" which was published in Kentucky Law Journal, Volume IV, March 1916.
"General William L. Jackson, who sought the appointment of Circuit Judge from the Governor, requested Colonel Phil. Lee, then Prosecuting Attorney of the Circuit Court, and myself to go to Frankfort and see Governor Leslie in his behalf, with which request we complied. In the conference with Governor Leslie, that fine old gentleman surprised us both by tendering the appointment to Colonel Lee. That gentleman, after recovering from his surprise, positively declined to be considered for the position saying: "Why Governor, if I were a Circuit Judge the State would have to enlarge that grim old prison down there by the Mansion where you live. I have been a prosecuting Attorney so long that I have come to believe that every man who is indicted is guilty and if I were a judge I would fill that old prison so full that half the inmates would be sleeping in the open air for lack of cell room."
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