The United States of America is a proud 233 years old today. In many respects, its hard to believe that we are so old. 233 years is a long time. We have had 44 different presidents. We have fought a Revolution, a Civil War, 2 World Wars, and a bunch of other wars, some large, some small. We are the oldest democracy in the world (although some would debate this ‘fact.’)

Yet we are young–very young as a nation. Antiquity to us is Williamsburg. Antiquity in other parts of the world goes back thousands of years. We only got to the west coast crossing the continent a little more than 200 years ago.

It might not all have happened however, if it weren’t for Jack Jouett of Albemarle County, Virginia. Well now who the hell was Jack Jouett? He was the Virginia Paul Revere. General Tarleton was riding towards Charlottesville to capture Thomas Jefferson and the rest of the Virginia Legislature who were hiding out at Jefferson’s home, Monticello.

Jack Jouett was sleeping (on the lawn no less) at Cuckoo Tavern in Louisa when he spotted Tarleton and his calvalry. Jouett knew where the legislature was and rode off toward Monticello to warn Virginia’s leaders of the approaching British. Had they been captured, they probably all would have been hanged as traitors.

Jouett made the 40 mile ride and all but a few of the legislators escaped. He rode the back trails and through the woods, guided by the light of the full moon. Tarleton took the road. Much myth has grown up around this hometown boy.





Had Jack Jouett not warned Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia legislature, who knows what would have happened.  Of course, the entire Revolutionary War is sort of a miracle.  This country has so many ‘what if’s ‘in its history.

As we eat our burgers and hot dogs, enjoy the company of friends and family, and check out the fireworks, remember that Virginia is really where it all started.   Hopefully some of our regular historians will drop by today to comment on our state, and to list some of our ‘firsts.’  Let’s stick the politics elsewhere and save this thread for good things about our state and nation on our country’s birthday!

[ED NOTE:  Albemarle County might be a stretch.  I think Lousia County also claims Captain  Jouett.  He ended up in Kentucky I believe]

Additional reading at Wikipedia. (Make sure to see Jouett’s encounter with an abused wife and a skillet)
Heavy duty stuff from Albemarle Archives (Famous, Infamous and Unforgettable People and Events that Shaped Central Virginia, Volume 1) (Paperback)

51 Thoughts to “Happy July 4th–American, Happy Birthday!”

  1. Gainesville Resident

    Good thread – I have nothing to add though but just glad to see you put it up. Happy 4th of July everyone!

  2. kelly3406

    That is a very interesting sidenote … er, well … not really a sidenote if Jouett saved TJ and the Virginia legislature. Thanks for posting about it and happy 4th of July to everyone.

  3. Awesome! A new story for me that I will have to explore more. How fun!

    Happy 4th to everyone and our young country.

    May we not always have to measure our age in wars.

  4. Emma

    Some of the bravest words in American history:

    And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

    Happy Independence Day!

  5. An Ordinary Joe

    For those that do not know — here is another random and useless tidbit. In the movie, The Patriot, the evil British officer was Colonel William Tavington. The people who produced the movie said that it was based on Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who was known to be brutal, and is the Tarleton of this story.

    Happy 4th to all.

  6. Lafayette

    I hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July.
    Happy Birthday, America!!

  7. Moon-howler

    Thanks for adding that, Joe. I didn’t make the connection between Tavington and the brutal General Tarlton. There is a Tarlton’s oak in Charlottesville, near High Street. Not sure what was suppose to happen there. Anyone know?

  8. Poor Richard

    Captain Jack Jouett is known as the “Paul Revere of the South”.
    (Note that Revere’s ride was 15 miles over good roads – Jouett’s
    40 miles over bad ones).

  9. Poor Richard

    “Every Passover Jews the world over sit down to the Seder table to
    retell the story of Exodus from Egypt in order to pass on to their
    children and renew in themselves their sense of who, what,and
    why they are. There was a time when the Fourth of July was an
    occasion for recreating the days of the American Revolution, in
    order to serve the same purpose for Americans.”
    Bernard Weisberger

  10. An Ordinary Joe

    Moon-Howler, here is part of an article about Virginia Historical Markers–

    “First was the bogus Tarleton’s Oak story. For much of the 20th century, a state historical marker proclaimed that the British colonel spent the night under a giant tree that used to shade Tarleton’s Oak Service Station on High Street.

    In 1997, however, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources yanked up the marker when it discovered that Tarleton did not camp there. It seems the myth began after Edison Moving Pictures came to town in 1912 to film Colonel Banastre Tarleton’s raid and the failed capture of Jefferson, and made the oak a way station for the British troops. The movie set made its way into local lore.

    A new and improved marker, “The Farm,” was erected on Jefferson Street where Tarleton actually stayed to clear up the legend. And the ancient, diseased oak became mulch.”

  11. Elena

    Great thread Moon-Howler. I love learning historical facts about our beginning as a nation.

    Poor Richard, I love this quote. Often times our American holidays lose their meaning, at least from my perspective. Passover is a great example of how to give meaning to the celebration. Certainly the 4th of July should not be reduced to just fireworks and a BBQ. I think I will start a new tradition at my house and talk about the bold and daring belief that men (and women)should be free. Although America is still on its journey to “form a more perfect union”, our endeavor remains noble at its heart.

  12. Moon-howler

    Thanks Joe! I bet that spot will be known until the last Charlottesvillian drops dead of old age as Tarleton’s Oak, marker or not. Come to think of it, I do remember hearing my mother talk about some big stink about Tarlton’s Oak. Outrage over turning it to mulch perhaps?

    So why did the tree come down? Was it diseased? I would have voted for it to stay.

    Great addition, Poor Richard. As an aside, Jouett is pronounced by area people as (JEW-it) You all are coming up with some great VA facts.

    Which 3 presidents died on July 4? I can only think of 2.

  13. Gainesville Resident

    @Poor Richard
    Good post as usual Poor Richard.

  14. An Ordinary Joe

    Monroe, Jefferson and Adams. Adams and Jefferson on the same day. Monroe 5 years later.

  15. An Ordinary Joe

    Coolidge was born on July 4.

  16. Moon-howler

    Ding ding ding we have a winner! An Ordinary Joe! Good job. I knew about Adams and Jefferson on the same day but had forgotten about Monroe.

  17. Moon-howler

    Next question: which admin’s (on anti-blog) father-in-law was an usher at Calvin Coolidge’s funeral?

    Hint: Congregationalist Church

  18. An Ordinary Joe

    Too new for that question

  19. An Ordinary Joe

    But can I guess yours?

  20. Poor Richard

    Just drove by Old Town Manassas and there is already a large
    crowd gathered to watch the fireworks display that is slated
    to start at a 9. Come on down – its fun and free although,
    at this point you may have to walk a few extra blocks to the
    museum lawn area. FYI – understand from friends in Wellingtion that
    the lawn of Grace Methodist is a good alternative viewing area –
    and last year the Metz parking lot had a number of watchers. The
    launchs are from the OHS football field (off limits to the public
    for safety reasons).
    Happy Fourth!

  21. Moon-howler

    Joe, you are right. But no one here knows that either. It obviously happened long before he was my father in law. My FIL and CC were both members of the church. Edwards Congregational Church on Main Street, Northampton, MA. I think it was just Mac’s turn on usher duty.

    Poor Rich, thanks for the invite, my son just headed over that way. We took the chicken way out and are doing fireworks in HD.

  22. Poor Richard

    Great fireworks and a huge happy rainbow crowd!

  23. Elena

    There is just nothing like watching fireworks with young children…”ohhh, oooooh, ahhhhh, WOW, did you see that one, my favorite color Pink, whoa that one looked 3D, etc etc etc” 🙂

  24. Moon-howler

    High Def fireworks here. Boston had the best, IMHO.

  25. Emma

    I’ll second that, Moon-howler–I’m in Boston. What a blast!

  26. Gainesville Resident

    We went to the Manassas fireworks – we went 2 years ago also. They really put on a pretty good show – 20 minutes of continuous fireworks several at a time. I figure as I’m still a property owner there I might as well get something out of the property taxes I pay. I recorded both Washington and Boston in hi def but haven’t gotten around to watching them yet.

  27. Gainesville Resident

    Poor Richard – we got there at 7 PM and since we came from Gainesville, parked down by the Judiciary Center in some parking lot near there – which was starting to fill up a little at that time. We didn’t mind walking from there up to the Manassas Museum lawn where we found a really great spot and enjoyed the fireworks from there. We were back home at about 10:05 PM. The show started at 9:15 and went for 20 minutes – it was really great. I thought it was better than 2 years ago. The people sitting next to me went last year and told me they were a little disappointed last year, but they thought this year’s show was great, as I did. Last year we were going to go but as it was raining at 6 PM or so we just decided to stay dry and watch the Washington show live on TV. Anyway, I recommend the Manassas show in the future as they really shot off a huge pile of them last night for 15 or 20 minutes straight. I forget now whether it ended at 9:30 or 9:35 PM, I didn’t really look at my watch to note the exact time. We could also in the distance see Manassas Park’s fireworks – theirs started 5 or 10 minutes earlier so that was like a long distance preview of what was to come.

  28. Moon-howler

    Emma, did you go down to the fireworks or watch from afar? I thought that was definitely the best show. (from a TV point of view) Enjoy the rest of your NYC ones were very good too!!

    I was disappointed in a Capital 4th Show. It just doesn’t compete well with NYC and Boston. I guess I just like Neil Diamond better than Barry Manilow. Always have, always will.

  29. Lafayette

    Gainesville great review!!! My husband I watched the awesome fireworks(kid free) in Old Town Manassas from the old courthouse lawn where we got married. We parked at the Health Dept. and walked through town and settled in for another fabulous fireworks display compliments of the City of Manassas. A big huge thank you to the City of Manassas. I even got a few pictures.

  30. Emma

    We were right on the Charles River to watch. What a show! But I admit I
    did miss my band of regulars who gather in front of the commuter lot for the Manassas fireworks. First time we weren’t there in years.

  31. Lafayette

    Emma, that sounds great. I would love to see fireworks on the 4th of July in Boston. I can certainly understand missing friends and the Manassas fireworks. I missed hearing the music this year in Manassas, due to where we watched from this year.

  32. NoVA Scout

    Wonderful post bringing to the surface a great, undertold story of the Revolution.

    In April 2008, I had to drive from Richmond to Charlottesville for a church meeting. I had the luxury of time, the meeting convening at noon, so I left very early and then tried, as best one can figure it out, to follow the Jouett route into Charlottesville. I’ve done this dozens of times with Civil War events, but my knowledge of the Revolution is not nearly as good as it should be. As I drove along and tried to maintain the route (I don’t think anyone knows exactly how Jouett did it), the whole event got very exciting. I was much relieved when I got to Charlottesville ahead of Tarleton. (Of course, I had some very fast, capable Swedish iron carrying me, Tarleton was stuck with his oat-burners) . The countryside is beautiful, especially in the Springtime. I highly recommend combining history with backroads Virginia whenever you have to go from one place to another in the Commonwealth.

    Forty miles is a very long way to go on horseback in a hurry.

    Lt. Col. (later General Sir) Banastre Tarleton (GCB) was one tough soldier. Most of his Legion were American loyalists. As someone noted in the thread above, the Mel Gibson movie, The Patriot, captured the American view of Tarleton in the character of Tavington, superbly overplayed by that splendid actor-villain, Jason Isaacs (who also plays Malfoy in the Harry Potter films). Tarleton was probably not as homicidally brutal as portrayed in popular American perceptions of the time and now, but he was something of a rotter in his personal life and certainly no day at the beach when dealing with upstart colonials.

  33. kelly3406

    Moon-howler :
    Which 3 presidents died on July 4? I can only think of 2.

    James Madison died on 28 June 1836. Friends/associates supposedly encouraged him to extend his life using drugs to the 4th of July, but he declined.

  34. Moon-howler

    Thanks NOVA Scout! I love your oat-burner story. Tarleton probably had cloven hoofs also. Those same people HATE HATE HATED General Custer and laughed and cheered when he met his fate at Little Big Horn. He also had cloven hoofs. He is attributed with saving Monticello from bands of marauding yankees.

    I suppose that was a small concession to give him that credit.

  35. Poor Richard

    FYI – The cost of the fireworks show in Manassas is paid for
    by an anonymous donor. The city does cover the cost of extra security
    and clean-up.

  36. Lafayette

    Thanks, Poor Richard. I’d almost forgotten about that tid-bit of trivia. That’s well worth pointing out. What a great gift to people of the City of Manassas and it’s visitors. It truly was a beautiful display.

  37. Moon-howler

    How many years has that donor been covering the cost of the fireworks? That is truly a wonderful gift to the city.

  38. Elena

    What a wonderful philanthropic idea! Now THAT, is altruism!

  39. Poor Richard

    Until fairly recently (4 or 5 years ago?) the City of Manassas
    didn’t have a fireworks show on July 4th (cost is always an
    issue even in good times). The anonymous donor came forward with
    the offer and it seemed too good a deal to pass up and it
    was worth a try. (When my children were small we did DC in 1976
    and Wolf Trap once, but most often went to Costello Park in
    Manassas Park). Last night may well have been a record crowd
    for any event in Manassas , especially if you count all
    the viewing areas around the city. A grand evening for thousands.

  40. Poor Richard

    May I suggest a thread on the lead article in today’s
    WaPo Outlook segment – “She Was Never About Those Huddled Masses”
    by Roberto Suro? Worth a read and some reflection.
    As the piece notes “We need to honor those values, but that is just
    a start. It was easy to idealize immigration when the doors were
    shut, but we know better now. We know that it’s hard work
    for all involved, them and us.”

  41. Moon-howler

    Thanks for the suggestion, Poor Richard. I will look into it. Making my way over to the post now. This morning just seemed like a good day for a morning nap. A 3 dog nap as a matter of fact. We had an overnight pooch guest.

  42. City guy

    The city fireworks are set off from in front of Osbourn. Coach would never let them do it from the football field.

  43. Poor Richard

    City guy – you are correct.

  44. Moon-howler

    Coach rules from the City and Transportation rules from the County.

  45. Gainesville Resident

    Poor Richard – I didn’t even know that about the anonymous donor!! That’s great, although as a city taxpayer I would have been fine with them paying for the fireworks show. THat’s good it just costs them the security and cleanup though. I’m a bit envious of Emma at Boston though on the Charles River. Their fireworks are always really great.

  46. Gainesville Resident

    Indeed, it was a great display. We got a few pictures too I think – my wife took them and I haven’t looked at the digital camera to see how they came out. Definitely a fun time for all and I’m not surprised it might have been a record turnout. It seemed like quite a crowd down there. I knew the fireworks downtown were fairly new – again I never knew how it got started with the anonymous donor though! This is just the 2nd time I’ve seen them, but would have gone last year but chickened out with the sort of rainy weather we had then. This guy sitting next to me with his family told me last year he was there and didn’t think they were any good – but that’s just one person’s opinion. They were great last night, however, as they were two years ago.

  47. Gainesville Resident

    Laffayette – the music was very good – usual patriotic stuff and of course the 1812 overture to finish it off. By the way, I got married 3 1/2 years ago at the old courthouse too – by the former Clerk of the Courts David Mabie. I know he married thousands of people over the years, although I guess others performed ceremonies there too. Sounds like a good viewing place other than for not being able to hear the music. We parked just west of there in some parking lot between it and the new courthouse, but we walked down to the lawn of the Manassas Museum.

  48. Gainesville Resident

    I think we got some good pictures of the Manassas fireworks too – but I haven’t looked at my digital camera – my wife took the pictures last night. Will have to see how they came out.

  49. Moon-howler

    The great Lou Gehrig retired 70 years ago on July 4, 1939. He died less than 2 years later of ALS, known now as Lou Gehrig Disease.

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