A Ride to Rival Paul Revere’s–Jack Jouett! Beth Trissel

The following information on Jack Jouett’s Ride is from the Monticello website:

“In 1781, Virginia felt the full force of the Revolutionary War….troops led by Benedict Arnold conducted raids along the James River. By May, Arnold’s men and troops led by Maj. Gen. William Phillips had joined a larger British force under Lord Cornwallis that had moved into Virginia from the south. This invading army would scatter the Virginia government and create turmoil through a swath of the state before ultimately surrendering to the combined French and American forces at Yorktown on October 19. Within the turmoil of invasion, a heroic action by a young Virginian thwarted the British capture of Virginia’s governor, Thomas Jefferson, and members of the Virginia Assembly. The hero in this instance was John “Jack” Jouett, Jr., a 26-year-old resident of the small town of Charlottesville near Jefferson’s Monticello.

Upon learning that Virginia’s legislature was reconvening in Charlottesville after evacuating the capital at Richmond, Cornwallis dispatched Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton to capture the governor and assemblymen. Tarleton traveled swiftly, mostly at night, and counted on catching the Virginians by surprise. He pushed hard before stopping to rest men and horses somewhere in the vicinity of the Louisa Court House on the evening of June 3. This is where Jouett observed the British and guessed their destination.

Jack Jouett was a captain in the 16th regiment of the Virginia militia. His older brother, Matthew, had been killed at the Battle of Brandywine, and his two younger brothers also were militiamen. His father John Jouett, Sr., served as a “commissary” supplying the Continental Army with beef from his farm in Louisa County. As the Jouett family lived in Charlottesville, ownership of this farm could explain why Jack Jouett happened to be in Louisa on the evening of June the 3rd.

According to Jefferson’s account, Jouett knew the “byways of the neighborhood, passed the enemy’s encampment, rode all night, and before sunrise of the next day [June 4] called at Monticello.” This would have been a hazardous ride of approximately 40 miles. Legend has Jefferson offering Jouett a glass of good Madeira before he continued on to Charlottesville to rouse the assemblymen there.

After Jouett’s departure, Jefferson ordered a carriage made ready for his family and offered breakfast to the members of the legislature who were staying at Monticello. Jefferson sent his family to safety at a neighboring farm but remained behind, perhaps to gather needed papers, when he received a second warning from a neighbor, Christopher Hudson, that the British troops were ascending Monticello mountain. Hudson related that he found Jefferson “perfectly tranquil, and undisturbed” but urged him to leave immediately. According to Hudson, Monticello was surrounded “in ten minutes at farthest by a troop of light-horse.” Jefferson described how he avoided the main road and traveled through the woods to join his family.”

For more on Jack Jouett visit the above link and here are several more:  http://americanrevolution.org/jouett.html


4 responses to “A Ride to Rival Paul Revere’s–Jack Jouett! Beth Trissel

  1. Beth, I had never heard of this man. Thank you. His ride reminds me of some of Suzanne Adair’s books. You’d like her blog if you haven’t already found it. She calls it “The British Are Comin, Y’all.”


  2. I’d never heard of Jack Jouett, either. Now I’m intrigued enough to do a little research. I’ll check out Suzanne Adair’s blog, too. Thanks!


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