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Jack Jouett's Ride

Dublin Core


Jack Jouett's Ride


Revolutionary War


On an unusually warm June afternoon in 1781, John “Jack” Jouett was at Cuckoo Tavern, a short distance from his father’s plantation at Walnut Hill. The Jouetts had moved to Albemarle County, but it is likely Jack was at the Walnut Hill property serving as its overseer. Coincidentally, at about 4:30 that same afternoon, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and 250 of his cavalrymen of the 1st Dragoon Guards rode up the Mountain Road from the east and temporarily halted on the grounds of the Cuckoo Tavern. The intersection that day in Louisa County of the lives of these two men resulted in their names being forever linked in Virginia history.

Tarleton was born in Liverpool into a wealthy merchant family. After the Battles of Concord and Lexington, Tarleton’s father purchased on his behalf an officer’s commission in the King’s Army which the young Tarleton used to volunteer for colonial service. After the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse in 1778, Captain Tarleton was transferred to the British Southern Campaign and served under Henry Clinton and later Lord Cornwallis. He participated in the Seige of Charleston and the following two years of guerilla warfare with American rebel forces in the Carolinas. His cavalry unit played a prominent and bloody role in the British victories at Moncks Corner, Waxhaws, and Camden, but was dealt a major defeat at Cowpens by Continental Regulars led by Virginian, Daniel Morgan. In early 1781, now a five year veteran officer, Tarleton accompanied Cornwallis on the British withdrawal from the Carolinas to Virginia. There, Cornwallis and Tarleton linked up with a newly organized British unit led by American traitor, Benedict Arnold. After obtaining intelligence of rebel movements, in the morning of June, 3 1781, Cornwallis ordered Tarleton to deploy his cavalry quickly into western Virginia, destroy the colonial rebels’ supply depot at Point of Fork, disrupt the meeting of the Virginia Assembly to be convened the next day in Charlottesville, and capture as many of the leading rebels as possible including Governor Thomas Jefferson and former Governor Patrick Henry who once lived at Roundabout in Louisa County.

Jack Jouett was descended from a refugee Huguenot family that arrived in the Rhode Island in 1686. The Jouett family migrated to Virginia in the early 18th Century and became successful farmers in Louisa and Albemarle Counties. In 1779, Jack Jouett and his father, John Sr., had signed, along with 200 other Albemarle citizens, the Albemarle Declaration of Independence, a document which formally renounced their allegiance to King George III. Jack Jouett had been appointed an officer in the 16th Regiment of the Virginia militia, and was operating loosely under the commands of the Marquis de Lafayette and General Anthony Wayne. During the course of the Revolution, the Jouett family regularly supplied meats and other rations to the Continental Army.

At the Cuckoo Tavern, Jack Jouett surmised the immediate peril and importance of Tarleton’s westward maneuver. He saddled up and slipped away heading west to Charlottesville on his mare, Sally. About an hour later Tarleton and his column left Cuckoo en route to Louisa Courthouse, then to Boswell’s Tavern and finally on to Monticello where he expected to surprise Jefferson and to take him into custody. Travelling lighter but forced to take rougher secondary roads and paths, Jouett arrived at Monticello a few hours ahead of Tarleton. After warning Governor Jefferson of the approaching from the East, Jouett continued into the town of Charlottesville to spread the alarm to the remainder of the colonial government convening there. Most escaped but several prominent colonial delegates were captured by Tarleton’s men including Dr. Thomas Walker, Colonel John Syme, Judge Peter Lyons, and former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia Dudley Diggs. Also captured, locked up overnight in a local coal shed and later paroled was a Western Virginia delegate named Daniel Boone.

After being warned by Captain Jouett, Governor Jefferson monitored with his telescope the arrival Tarleton’s column into Charlottesville and its subsequent turn up the Mountain Road towards Monticello. He was able to finish his breakfast, ensure that his wife and family members were safely placed at a neighboring plantation, and escape just minutes ahead of Tarleton’s advance cavalry.


Louisa County Historical Society


Old Home Places of Louisa County Revisited


Louisa County Historical Society




Louisa County Historical Society


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