Matthew Harris Jouett matthewharrisjouett

The greatest painter that Kentucky has produced, and one whose name has shed no little lustre upon the art annals of America, was Matthew Harris Jouett. 

Born in Mercer County, Kentucky, April 22, 1788, the second son of Captain John "Jack" Jouett, Jr. and his wife Sarah "Sally" Robards. 

He was educated at Transylvania College in Lexington. Following his graduation from Transylvania, Jouett studied law under George M. Bibb, Chief Justice of the Appellate Court of Kentucky. Tradition says that his father encouraged him to enter upon a legal career, feeling that this was a respectable and lucrative profession. However, the young artist was always more fascinated with painting than the law, and while he was studying under Judge Bibb in Frankfort, he often spent his leisure hours at the easel painting ivory miniature portraits which were widely admired by the local citizens. Some of these miniatures made their way to Virginia and Philadelphia where trained artists there could not believe that they had been painted by a frontier painter — one who was still largely self-taught up to this point. 

After little more than a year under the guidance of Judge Bibb, Jouett returned to Lexington and began to practice law. Not long after he came to Fayette County, he married Margaret "Peggy" Henderson Allen on May 25, 1812.

In the year of his marriage, war with England was declared, and Jouett entered the Third Mounted Regiment of Kentucky Volunteers. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted as a 1st Lieutenant in the 28th United States Infantry Regiment, ultimately attaining the rank of Captain.  He held this rank until his resignation from the army on January 20, 1815.

Immediately after resigning from the army in January, 1815, Jouett returned to Lexington and opened a studio for painting miniatures and portraits. His reputation as an artist was already established, and being a rapid painter, he was often able to complete three portraits a week at the sum of twenty-five dollars each. However, Jouett felt that if he were to be a professional portraitist then he would benefit from some instruction in that subject. This led Jouett in 1816 to Boston where he began studying portrait painting under the noted portraitist Gilbert Stuart. In one account, Stuart is reported to have told a visitor to his studio in later years that “Kentucky” (Stuart’s nickname for Jouett) was the only student that he ever had who was worthy of his instruction. 

Shortly after studying under Stuart, Matthew Harris Jouett was recognized as the best portrait painter west of the Alleghany mountains. Jouett maintained several studios during his short career as an artist. His studio in Lexington, was first in a two-story brick building, which formerly stood on Short Street, between the Northern Bank and the residence of the late D.A. Sayre. However, in 1825, Jouett relocated his Short Street studio to North Upper Street. It was in this North Upper Street studio where the Marquis de Lafayette sat for Jouett when he made his grand tour through the United States. Jouett is also known to have maintained a studio at his house that was on the Georgetown Pike just outside of Lexington as well as a studio in Louisville and one in New Orleans. 

Some notable portraits painted by Jouett are those of Henry Clay, Alexander John Mitchell, Jr. and Martha Bell Mitchell (children), Dr. Horace Holley, Major Morrison, Governor Letcher, John J. Crittenden, Isaac Shelby, and a full length portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, now owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and on display in the Old State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Jouett also painted portraits of many of his family members, including his wife, two brothers, a sister and his mother.  Unfortunately, the portrait that he painted of his mother burned in a fire sometime in the 1920s.  Interestingly, there is no known portrait by Matthew Harris Jouett of his father Captain John "Jack" Jouett, Jr.

Matthew Harris Jouett died at his home on August 10, 1827, and he was buried the following day in his mother-in-law’s family cemetery in Lexington. However, in 1893, both Jouett’s and his wife’s bodies were disinterred and reburied in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky.


Jack Jouett's Ride (Night Adventures): 
2012 Summer Reading Program Resources

Here are some resources for this year's summer reading program theme "Dream Big” (early literacy and children).

2012 Summer Reading Program Handout

Jack Jouett's Ride Program Suggestions Handout

Jack Jouett's Ride Board Game & Instructions

Jack Jouett's Ride Board Game

Jack Jouett's Ride Board Game Instructions

Cipher Wheel Alphabet Template (8 spaces)

Alphabet Template



 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.

Britton TheVACamp Mvmnts WEB

Used with permission.  Rick Britton, cartographer, Monticello (Va.).

James Edward Jouett  jamesedwardjouett

Rear Admiral James Edward Jouett (February 7, 1826 - September 30, 1902) was an officer in the United States Navy during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the American Civil War (1861-1865). His father was Matthew Harris Jouett, a notable painter, and his grandfather was Revolutionary War hero Jack Jouett.


Born near Lexington, Kentucky, Jouett was appointed Midshipman on Sept 10, 1841. He served on the African coast in Decatur with Matthew C. Perry and in the John Adams during the Mexican War.


At the beginning of the Civil War, Jouett was captured by Confederates at Pensacola, Florida but was soon paroled. He then joined the blockading forces off Galveston, Texas, distinguishing himself during the night of November 7 and 8, 1861 in the capture and destruction of Confederate schooner Royal Yacht. Jouett later commanded Montgomery and R.R. Cuyler on blockading duty, and in September 1863 took command of Metacomet.


In the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864, his ship was lashed to Admiral David Farragut's flagship Hartford as the gallant ships entered the bay. Monitor Tecumseh was sunk by an underwater "torpedo," but the ships steamed boldly on, inspired by Farragut's command: "Damn the torpedoes! Four Bells! Captain Drayton go ahead! Jouett full speed!" Metacomet was sent after two Confederate gunboats, and in a short chase Jouett riddled Gaines and captured Selma.


Jouett had various commands ashore and afloat after the Civil War, taking command of the North Atlantic Squadron in 1884. In 1889, he commanded a naval force which forced the opening of the Isthmus of Panama, threatened by insurrection. Rear Admiral Jouett retired in 1890 and lived for most of his remaining years at "The Anchorage," near Sandy Springs, Maryland. The Rear Admiral was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Three ships in the United States Navy have been named USS Jouett for him.