Jack Jouett’s Ride: Forty Miles to Save American Independence
Through the course of history the fate of a nation can hinge on the courageous act of one. Captain Jack Jouett was one such man and is among our nation’s greatest Revolutionary War heroes.
Early June 1781, the Revolution was going badly for the American Patriots. British General Cornwallis decided to send trusted British officer ColonelBanastre Tarleton, “Bloody Tarleton,” to surprise and capture the VirginiaGovernor, Thomas Jefferson at Monticello, and the Virginia legislators who had withdrawn to Charlottesville, Virginia in the wake of Benedict Arnold’s raids on Richmond.
Noted patriots among them were Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Harrison, and Thomas Nelson. Daniel Boone, representing the Western territory of Virginia, later to become Kentucky, was also in attendance.
On June 3, 1781, at the Cuckoo Tavern in Louisa, Jack Jouett, a 26 year old Militia Captain, spotted 180 British Dragoons and 70 mounted infantrymen. Quickly he realized that the British were headed to Charlottesville to capture the Virginia legislators assembled there and Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
Realizing the dire results of such a capture and that he was the only one toprevent it, he quickly saddled and mounted his trusted horse and with a grim determination began a journey that would become legendary.
Riding all night through briars, bruised and tattered, Jouett covered the forty mile distance to arrive at dawn on June 4 at Monticello to warn Thomas Jefferson.
He then rode on to Swan Tavern, owned by his father in Charlottesville, where most of the legislators were staying. The young Captain arrived in advance of the British enabling the legislators to escape.
Jouett’s all-night ride has been termed one of the most important and colorful exploits of the Revolution. Of such importance was Jouett’s feat that some historians believe that had Jefferson and the other distinguished leaders been captured, it might well have spelled the end of the Revolution.
A grateful Virginia Assembly and Governor later presented to the daring young hero an elegant brace of pistols and a fine jeweled sword.
It’s no wonder, then, that Jack Jouett has been called the “Paul Revere of the South.” Yet, amazingly, few people have ever heard of him.
Red indicates Lieut. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s route from the North Anna River to Charlottesville. Blue shows the path taken by Capt. Jack Jouett from Cuckoo Tavern to Monticello and Charlottesville.