Thursday, June 23, 2016

Meeting Jack Jouett at Monticello-British Invasion 1781

After the reenactment of the British Invasion of Monticello 1781, we got to personally meet with the hero, Jack Jouett. His face was scratched up from furiously galloping through the woods to get to Monticello in time to warn Thomas Jefferson to flee. He told us he was sure he'd carry those scars for life (and he did).


At this meeting we got to hear the full details of how his furious journey began.

The British had been roaming through and troubling Virginia throughout the year. As a result their presence caused the General Assembly to move from the capital of Richmond to Charlottesville.  Meanwhile Jefferson's term as governor of Virginia ended on June 2, 1781 (or so he thought). Because of all the scattering due to the British presence, a new governor had not been elected.

Meanwhile the dreaded Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton (whom I've blogged about extensively regarding his time in Williamsburg, here) was sent by British General Cornwallis to hunt down the governor and General Assembly.  They arrived in Louisa County near midnight, on June 3. Their plan was to proceed to Charlottesville the next day.

Unbeknownst to them a certain Jack Jouett figured out their plan. He quickly mounted his horse and furiously galloped through the night to Monticello (near Charlottesville), a 40 mile ride, to alert Jefferson. Jouett then proceeded to Charlottesville to warn the General Assembly which fled over the mountains to Staunton. Those that safely fled included the indomitable Patrick Henry, Benjamin Harrison, Archibald Cary, and Richard Henry Lee. (Harrison and Lee were signers of the Declaration of Independence.)

However not all the delegates escaped. Tarleton and his dragoons descended on Charlottesville, capturing a few of the legislators. Meanwhile Captain McLeod led a group of dragoons up to Monticello...except Jefferson had just escaped.

On June 12 the General Assembly elected General Thomas Nelson as governor. They also voted to award Jouett "an elegant sword and two pairs of pistols." Meanwhile the delegates questioned the absence of the governor, implying that Jefferson had abandoned his post. Jefferson insisted that his duties ended previous to the incident and the matter was dropped by the legislators. However his past haunted him in future elections due to political opponents using this as a point of contention. 


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