June 3: Midnight Ride of Jack Jouett

On this date in 1781, Jack Jouett learned that the British were moving to Charlottesville to capture Thomas Jefferson and Virginia’s legislature. He rode through the night to warn them.

Jack Jouett Banner

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Jack Jouett Portrait

Photomontage by FCIT combining a silhouette of Jouett by his son with a drawing of Monticello.

Thomas Jefferson Portrait

One of many several portraits of Thomas Jefferson from the ClipArt ETC website.

Charles Cornwallis

Portrait of the British general who sent Tarleton to Charlottesville to capture Jefferson and the Virginia legislature. Illustration from the ClipArt ETC website.

Jefferson's Home: Monticello

Cornwallis' Advance on Charlottesville

A map of parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia showing the seat of war in the southern states during the American Revolution. The map shows the route of Cornwallis from Savannah to Augusta, Charleston, Guilford Court House, Wilmington, Richmond, Charlottesville to Yorktown from the Maps ETC website.

Northern Virginia in 1862

This map shows the relationship of Staunton where the Virginia legislature reconvened three days after Jouett’s warning. Of course in 1781 the railroad shown on the map had not yet been built and the legislators would have traveled on horseback or by foot. From the Maps ETC website.

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton

Portrait of Tarleton who was sent by Cornwallis to capture Jefferson and the Virginia legislature. Illustration from the ClipArt ETC website.

Although not quite as famous as Longfellow’s Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, in 1909 the Charlottesville Daily Press published the following poem about Jouett’s ride.

Hearken good people: awhile abide
And hear of stout Jack Jouett’s ride;
How he rushed his steed, nor stopped nor stayed
Till he warned the people of Tarleton’s raid.

The moment his warning note was rehearsed
The State Assembly was quickly dispersed.
In their haste to escape, they did not stop
Until they had crossed the mountain top.
And upon the other side come down.
To resume their sessions in Staunton Town.

His parting steed he spurred,
In haste to carry the warning
To that greatest statesman of any age,
The Immortal Monticello Sage.

Here goes to thee, Jack Jouett!
Lord keep thy memory green;
You made the greatest ride, sir,
That ever yet was seen.