Marker Text: From the tavern that stood here, Jack Jouett rode to Charlottesville, by the Old Mountain Road, in time to warn the members of the Virginia government of the coming of Tarleton's British cavalry, June 3, 1781.
Location: On U.S. Route 33, near intersection with Route 522 in Cuckoo. Marker is grouped with marker W-223 (Cuckoo). Erected by the Virginia State Library in 1963.
Today's marker is the second in a series of eight markers about the ride of Jack Jouett from Cuckoo to Charlottesville, VA. Before Jack Jouett enters the story there is some back story leading up to this event.
On June 1, 1781, British General Cornwallis learned from a captured dispatch that Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and Virginia's Legislature had fled to Charlottesville, Virginia, where Jefferson's home, Monticello is located. The American traitor Benedict Arnold, by this time had become a British general and his troops had been raiding and pillaging along the James River from the river’s mouth to Richmond, VA the state capitol. Virginia's legislature voted to move the government temporarily to Charlottesville to escaped Benedict Arnold's efforts to capture them.
Photo taken looking north on Route 522 and east on Route 33. Click any photo to enlarge.
General Cornwallis ordered Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton to ride to Charlottesville, VA and capture Gov. Jefferson and the Virginia legislature. Tarleton hoped to capture Jefferson and many notable Revolutionary leaders who were Virginia legislators, including: Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson, Jr., and Benjamin Harrison V. Tarleton's ability to capture these Revolutionary leaders in Virginia would have been a major blow to the fight for independence and might have ended the Revolutionary War in favor of the British.
The Virginia legislature were not well protected and they hoped moving further west would provide some protection from the British. Most of Virginia's fighting men were up north with General George Washington and the local Militia was ill-equipped and too few in numbers to stop Tarleton. General Marquis de LaFayette, who had been successful in harassing the British army, particularly Tarleton, was too far away to be of any assistance.
On June 3, 1781 Lt. Col. Tarleton left Cornwallis's camp on the North Anna River with 180 cavalrymen and 70 mounted infantry. Tarleton marched his force covertly and planned to cover the last 70 miles to Charlottesville in 24 hours, an incredibly fast maneuver designed to catch the politicians completely unaware. Tarleton’s raid was as much of secret as he knew how to make it.
Photo taken of the Cuckoo and Jack Jouett’s Ride marker from across the road. There may be a related stone monument in the evergreen bushes to the right of the photo, but I only realized this after I looked at the photo later.
The hero of this little known story is Jack Jouett, who according to reports was a handsome man, 27 years old, who stood a towering 6 ft. 4 inches tall, weighing 220 pounds and looked the part of a hero. Jouett was a Captain of Virginia Militia and was stationed in the Charlottesville, VA area. Late on the evening of June 3, Captain Jouett was asleep on the lawn in front of the "Cuckoo Tavern". He was awakened by the sound of a large number of horsemen. Sitting up, he observed a large unit of the dreaded "White Coats", a nickname given to the British Dragoons in Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton's regiment. Though, in an account later written by Thomas Jefferson says Jouett was at his father's house in Louisa County, VA that night.
Tarleton himself was leading the cavalry column. Jouett was quick to realize the objective of these British forces and correctly suspected their intent was to march to Charlottesville to capture Virginia's government. Very little fighting had taken place on Virginia soil from 1776 to 1780, and the British had only recently begun significant campaigns in Virginia, so few forces were in the state except a small group led by the Marquis de Lafayette. With no possibility of defense, the only hope for Jefferson and the legislators was advanced warning and escape. Charlottesville was some forty miles west of the Cuckoo Tavern.
The task before Captain Jouett was not going to be easy. A forty-mile horseback ride in the middle of the night over rough terrain. Paul Revere, early in the American Revolution, rode only 15 miles over relativity good roads. Col. Tarleton certainly would have advance scouts on the roads leading to Charlottesville, so these roads would prove too dangerous for Jouett to travel. He had to go through the tangled Virginia backwoods.
As soon as Tarlton's British Dragoons rode off into the night. Captain Jouett saddled his horse, Sallie, and begin is overnight journey at about 10 p.m. Virginia Dabney in his version of Jack Jouett's story in the June, 1928 issue of Scribner's magazine, wrote, "The unfrequented pathway over which this horseman set out on his all-night journey can only be imagined. His progress was greatly impeded by matted undergrowth, tangled bush, overhanging vines and gullies . . . his face was cruelly lashed by tree limbs as he rode forward and scars said to have remained the rest of his life were the result of lacerations sustained from these lowhanging branches."
Tarlton's troops were unaware, they had been seen by Jack Jouett and that he was on his way to Charlottesville to give warning. Tarlton's troops stopped three times along the way, first, at the Lousia County Courthouse to rest their horses, next to burn an American wagon train near Boswell Tavern and the third time at Castle Hill, where we will pick up the story of Jack Jouett's ride tomorrow.