Little Bits of History

Midnight Ride of Not Paul Revere

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 3, 2014
Jack Jouett, Jr.

Jack Jouett, Jr.

June 3, 1781: The Paul Revere of the South rides. Jack Jouett, Jr. was one of the heroes of the American Revolution. The family descended from Matthieu de Jouhet, Master of the Horse to Louis XIII of France as well as a Lord. The family came to the US in 1686 and first settled in Rhode Island. Jack’s grandfather settled in Virginia. Jack was an imposing man in his own right. At 6’4” tall, 220 pounds of muscles and considered handsome by contemporaries, he and his father both signed documents denouncing King George III and were both active in the Revolution. Jack’s father supplied the military with meat for its rations and Jack and his three brothers all served with the American forces.

On June 1, 1781, British General Cornwallis learned of the Virginia legislature’s move to Charlottesville, Virginia. Governor Thomas Jefferson fled with his state government after Benedict Arnold attacked Richmond, the capital of the region. Cornwallis ordered Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to ride to Charlottesville and capture Jefferson and the legislature which included many of the Revolution’s famous leaders: Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson, Jr., and Benjamin Harrison V. On this day, Tarleton left Cornwallis’s camp with 180 cavalrymen and 70 mounted infantry from the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He marched under cover and reached Charlottesville in 24 hours which was quite fast for the times.

Jouett was 27 years old at the time and was asleep on the lawn at the Cuckoo Tavern (unless he was asleep at his father’s house as a different account states) in Louisa County. He heard the sound of the approaching cavalry and spotted the “White Coats” led by Tarleton. Jouett surmised they were on their way to capture Jefferson and the Virginia government. He also knew they were completely undefended since very little fighting had taken place in Virginia and the fighting men were elsewhere, serving the Revolution. At 10 PM, Jouett took to his horse and rode the 40 miles to Charlottesville, taking rough back roads to avoid detection. Even with these disadvantages, he beat the British.

Tarlton had stopped for three hours at Louisa Courthouse and resumed his march at 2 AM. Around dawn, he reached the plantations where they were able to capture several prominent members of the Revolution. While at Castle Hill, the owner prepared an elaborate breakfast for Tarlton, eating more time than food and allowing Jefferson leeway for escape. The men of the legislature had holed up at Jefferson’s home, Monticello. Jouett arrived around 4:30 AM, met with Jefferson, and then headed into Charlottesville to give warning. The British arrived too late, and the rest is history.

History is a vast early warning system. – Norman Cousins

I’m not in the business of warning people. – John Bercow

A man who says that no patriot should attack the war until it is over… is saying no good son should warn his mother of a cliff until she has fallen. – Gilbert K. Chesterton

Support the strong, give courage to the timid, remind the indifferent, and warn the opposed. – Whitney M. Young

Also on this day: No Joy in Mudville – In 1888, Thayer’s poem is first published.
Whoops – In 1969, two ships collide during a sea exercise.
Ode to Billie Joe – In 1953, Billie Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.
ROTC – In 1916, the National Defense Act of 1916 was passed.

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