On the night of June 3–4, 1781, Jack Jouett rode about forty miles from Louisa County to Charlottesville to warn state officials of the approaching British Army. The British had been threatening Richmond and central Virginia since the spring, and the General Assembly had fled to Charlottesville. On June 3, British cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton assembled in Louisa County to attack Charlottesville. Jouett noticed them, guessed their intentions, and raced ahead to warn Governor Thomas Jefferson, whose term had just ended, and other members of the state government.
The assembly escaped to Staunton while Jefferson retreated to first to Monticello and then, eventually, to his second home at Poplar Forest, leaving Virginia without an elected governor for a few days.
The General Assembly honored Jouett's actions and he later moved to Kentucky, where he served in that state's government. His ride, meanwhile, achieved legendary status over the years, at least in Virginia. Over the next two centuries, various histories treated it as an important episode of the American Revolution (1775–1783), although some writers confused Jouett with his father of the same name. (John Jouett, the elder, owned the Swan Tavern in Charlottesville.)
Historical highway markers commemorating the event were erected both in Virginia and in Kentucky. And in 1940, the General Assembly of Virginia declared June 4 as Jack Jouett Day. In 2001, perhaps forgetting its early action, the assembly declared Jack Jouett Day to be June 3.
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