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Charlottesville Raid, Virginia

Charlottesville Raid, Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE RAID, VIRGINIA. 4 June 1781. Learning from a dispatch captured on 1 June that Governor Thomas Jefferson and the legislature were meeting at this place, 60 miles west of his camp on the North Anna, Charles Lord Cornwallis sent Banastre Tarleton with a picked raiding force to scatter the legislators and capture the author of the Declaration of Independence, while John Simcoe led a second raid against the supply depot at Point of Fork. Cornwallis hoped that the two blows would land simultaneously. Departing before dawn on 3 June, Tarleton took with him 180 troopers of his Legion and the Seventeenth Light Dragoons plus a reinforcement of 70 mounted infantrymen from the Twenty-third (Royal Welch Fusiliers) under Captain Forbes Champaigne. His raiding party had a greater distance to traverse, so it was entirely mounted on horseback. However, Captain John Jouett of the Virginia militia spotted Tarleton's column the afternoon of the 3rd and got ahead of the raiders that night to spread the alarm. Having reached Louisa Court House at 11 p.m., Tarleton resumed his march at 2 a.m. on the 4th. Before dawn he captured and destroyed 12 wagons loaded with weapons and clothing for Greene's army. Six miles from his objective he split his force in two. One column rode to Belvoir, the home of John Walker, where Captain David Kinlock captured his cousin, Francis Kinlock, a member of Congress. Tarleton led the other column to Castle Hill, the home of Dr. Thomas Walker, where he captured a number of prominent Patriots.

While Tarleton was at Castle Hill, where he let his men rest an hour and have breakfast, Jouett reached Monticello. Jefferson's guests that morning included the speaker and other members of the assembly, who promptly departed for Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley on the other side of the mountains. A detachment of dragoons under Captain Kenneth McLeod entered the house less than ten minutes after Jefferson left it. Monticello was not damaged. Meanwhile, the other raiders had routed a militia guard at the ford of the Rivanna and charged into Charlottesville. It would appear that the three or four members of the legislature captured on this raid were those taken at Belvoir and Castle Hill, and that none were bagged in town. Tarleton destroyed one thousand new muskets, four hundred barrels of powder, some military clothing, and several hogsheads of tobacco before moving with his prisoners to join Cornwallis about 9 June at Elk Hill, some thirty miles southeast of Charlottesville.

SEE ALSO Cornwallis, Charles; Greene, Nathanael; Jefferson, Thomas; Point of Fork, Virginia; Simcoe, John Graves; Tarleton, Banastre; Virginia, Military Operations in.

                        revised by Robert K. Wright Jr.

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