Jack Jouett

Jack Jouett

(1754-1822)

DJ Name: Just Do It Jouett

“The British are coming! The British are coming!” said that one guy who gets all the credit for it. But another guy basically said those words, too, and in doing so he saved Thomas Jefferson’s life, along with some other key politicians of the era. And this guy, AKA Jack Jouett, is actually way more important because he’s from Virginia, AKA the best commonwealth out of allllll the commonwealths. When Jack Jouett overheard some intel in a tavern one evening that would set him off on his 40-mile quest, he had just grabbed the aux cord and hit “shuffle” on his favorite playlist that was sure to get the other dudes in the tavern dancing. 

Now you have access to that playlist, too, which you can shuffle up for your Fourth of July BBQ this weekend:

Jack Jouett was born on December 7, 1754, to John Jouett and Mourning Harris in Albemarle County, Va. (we stan a Virginia Historic Shuffle hero). Papa Jouett owned and operated the Swan Tavern in Charlottesville, and Mama Mourning was a descendant of Sir William Harris, who signed the third Virginia charter and was knighted in 1611. Being the patriotic dude he was, Jackie J and his brothers all served in the 16th Regiment of the Virginia militia during the American Revolutionary War. Jack, who stood six-feet-four-inches tall and clocked in at 220 pounds, was an imposing figure and he rose up the ranks to become a captain in the Charlottesville-based militia. Papa John Jouett was also a patriotic player. Both John and Jack, being the two revolutionary rebels they were, also signed the Albemarle Declaration, which rejected King George III and asked that he abdicate his throne. It read: “Boy bye.” 

So, King George III sent a fully armed battalion to remind the revolutionaries of his love and thus commenced the Revolutionary War. By 1781, Virginia was feeling the force of war as troops led by Benedict Cumberbatch Arnold raided camps and militias along the James River. Arnold eventually joined forces with fellow British General Charles Cornwallis and put together a plan of attack. Cornwallis learned a few things of note that would have the revolutionary rebels in a tizzy. Rumor had it that rebels stockpiled military supplies at the Old Albemarle Courthouse ~and~ that leaders from Virginia’s government (Think: Governor Tommy Jefferson and Patrick ‘Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death’ Henry) fled Richmond after British invasion to seek safety in the Blue Ridge at Jefferson’s Monticello. Those #views there just can’t be beat. With these pivotal pieces of information, the redcoats were comin’ in hot. 

Cornwallis ordered Colonel Tarleton to ride to Charlottesville and capture Governor Jefferson and other members of the Virginia Assembly while he also instructed Colonel Simcoe to destroy the military supplies at the Courthouse. A big yikes was in order for the revolutionary rebels. Luckily, Tarleton took a tumble when he and his crew stopped to refuel with a brew at the ever popular Virginia tavern, Three Notch’d Brewery, to sip on some 40-mile IPAs while shooting the sh*t about how hype they were to capture Tommy Jefferson. Alright. Maybe not. Would be cool, if true. But, Tarleton and his men did stop to give their horses a break and to refuel near the Louisa Courthouse on the evening of June 3 which was near the area that Jack Jouett just so happened to be hangin’ out too (and also may or may not have been drinking a 40-mile IPA). 

Twenty-seven-year old Jack Jouett was sleeping on the lawn of the Cuckoo Tavern (as one does after drinking a few 40-mile IPAs, not that we’re speaking from experience or anything…) when he awoke from his slumber to the sound of cavalry. His eyes shot open and he spotted Colonel Tarleton and troops riding in from Richmond. Jackie J suspected that they were on a mission to head to Charlottesville and capture the leaders of Virginia’s government, who were undefended. It would have been an easy attack on Monticello for the British because most of Virginia’s forces were elsewhere. A lot of Revolutionary battles didn’t happen in the Commonwealth until recently (as in 1781, not 2021). 

Jack Jouett said “let’s do it” and mounted his mighty steed and began his midnight race from Louisa to Charlottesville to warn Tommy Jefferson and his state legislators that the British were coming. Forty miles through the backwoods and roads of Virginia from dusk until dawn, avoiding branches and vines, Jack Jouett heroically made it to Monticello by the morning light. Jefferson recounted that Jack knew the “by-ways of the neighborhood, passed the enemy’s encampment, rode all night, and before sun-rise of [June 4] called at Monticello.” Rumor has it that before packing up his belongings, Jefferson offered Jack a cold glass of Madeira wine 40-mile IPA to thank him for his 40-mile journey which allowed Jefferson and fellow legislators to skrrt-skrrrt to safety before the British ascended Monticello mountain. Jack continued on from Monticello into Charlottesville to warn the rest of the town of the incoming British invasion. For his bravery, Jack was awarded a sword, pair of pistols and the title of “Paul Revere of the South.” 

While TJ escaped to safety, thus swerving on them haters, aka the enemy British troops, a handful of other legislators were captured. Some of TJ’s political opponents cast some shade toward Tommy Jeff, saying he abandoned his people and his governorship, but his term was over anyway and he was due to pass the baton on to his successor anyway. TJ avoided being canceled, and the General Assembly absolved him of his misdeeds. It also helped that the “Southern Motherf*cking Democratic-Republicans” got #Tommy4Prez and #TJAllDay trending on Twitter. So TJ’s character wasn’t tarnished, although he was a tad embarrassed by the whole ordeal, but he went on to become the third president of the U.S. of A anyway. 

As for Jack Jouett, he retired from his horseback riding messenger duties and moved across the Appalachian Mountains to modern-day Kentucky. He was one of the 10 founding men of their new Kentucky homeland, which was the very first settlement in the Bluegrass State. He married Sally Robards, a former GF from VA, and together they had 12 children. Their new town grew and grew into multiple counties, and the voters elected Jackie J to the Virginia House of Delegates. He advocated for these new counties to become their very own state and — voila! — Kentucky was born. After winning statehood, Jack served in the Kentucky House of Representatives. He also imported horses and cattle from England, thus kickstarting Kentucky’s livestock industry.

However, despite Jack Jouett’s heroic ride and Kentucky statehood advocacy, his image was not spotless. Jack owned a big chunk of land, and he used slave labor to farm it. In 1820, he owned 23 enslaved people. His dad, the tavern proprietor, also owned enslaved people. 

Jack Jouett passed away on March 1, 1822, at his daughter’s home in Bath County, Kentucky. He was buried in the local graveyard in an unmarked grave. In 1940, Virginia’s General Assembly voted to commemorate June 4 as Jack Jouett Day. And then, because Jackie J is always forgotten in the shadows of Paul Revere, in 2001, the Virginia General Assembly forgot about its 1940 declaration and named June 3 as Jack Jouett Day. But perhaps it pays to be forgotten because now he has two whole days named in his honor. That’s twice the amount of days his ghost can linger on his Kentucky porch, crank up his favorite tunes and crack open a 40-mile IPA from Three Notch’d. Life is good. 

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