Though certainly not as familiar to most as the famed Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, the late night ride of young John “Jack” Jouett, Jr. served a similar purpose but more importantly, preserved the safety of quite a few Virginians on this day in 1781.
26 year-old Jack was living in the rural hamlet of Charlottesville, Virginia, not far from Thomas Jefferson’s beloved estate, Monticello. On this day, June 3rd, 1781, somewhere in the vicinity of Louisa Court House, Jouett noticed British Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his men resting from what appeared to be a harried journey.
He shrewdly deduced that they appeared to be destined for Charlottesville wherein the Virginia Legislature was meeting. He swiftly used his vast knowledge of local passages as well as potential hazards of travel to bypass the British encampment unnoticed by the enemy. He then rode 40 treacherous miles through the night and arrived at Monticello just prior to daybreak on June 4th.
The then state governor, Thomas Jefferson greeted his warning with a glass of Madeira and sent him on his way so that he could notify the members of the Virginia Assembly of Tarleton’s approach.
Tarleton was only able to capture seven lawmakers as most were able to race quickly across the Blue Ridge Mountains toward the town of Staunton where the assembly swiftly reconvened. While there, the legislators voted at once to award John “Jack” Jouett, Jr. “a pair of pistols and a sword” in appreciation of his quick thinking and bravery that spared the very lives of those who again sat in the Virginia Assembly.