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Louisa County's Revolutionary Hero

The Setting. In the summer of 1781 the Revolutionary War was in full swing, and British Col. Banastre Tarleton and his band of 180 dragoons and 70 mounted infantrymen were en route to Charlottesville. Thomas Jefferson and other members of the legislature had regrouped there, having been forced to flee Richmond.

The Ride. Young Jack Jouett, a 27-year old 6-foot-4-inch captain in the Virginia militia, was in Cuckoo Tavern in the eastern part of the County. His father provided supplies to the Continental Army from his Louisa County farm, and Jack was in the area lending a hand.

Seeing Col. Tarleton's troops ride by on the main Charlottesville road, he at once suspected the objective. The late Virginia historian Virginius Dabney wrote that "Captain Jouett leapt upon his thoroughbred, resolved to dash for Monticello and Charlottesville and to warn the Assembly." He covered the almost 40 miles without stopping, arriving at about 4:30 a.m. several hours ahead of Tarleton and his troops. Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Edmund Randolph and many others were able to escape.

Dabney eloquently concluded that "Jack Jouett's ride from Cuckoo Tavern to Monticello cries out for a ballad that will seize the fancy of the American people. The hoof beats of his steed, toiling and sweating through the warm June night across forty miles of Virginia countryside, come echoing down the years. Jack Jouett gave some of America's greatest patriots a timely warning in one of the Revolution's dark(est) hours, but his valorous deed has been well-nigh forgotten. He deserves a kinder fate."

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