Thomas Jefferson Papers

V. Deposition of Christopher Hudson respecting Tarleton’s Raid in June 1781, 26 July 1805

V. Deposition of Christopher Hudson respecting Tarleton’s Raid in June 1781

July 26 1805.

In the Month of June 1781, near Milton on my way to Join the Marquis La Fayette’s Army I met with a Mr. Long, who informed Me that Duvit [Jouett] had arrived the preceeding evening at Charlottesville, and brought information of the approach of the English to that place under Tarleton. Upon inquiring from Long whether Mr. Jefferson had receiv’d information he was ignorant; I immediately proceeded to Monticello, where I found Mr. Jefferson, perfectly tranquil, and undisturbed. At my earnest request he left his house; which was Surrounded in Ten Minutes at farthest by a troop of Light-horse. I was convinced his Situation was truly critical since there was only one Man (his gardener) upon the Spot. I well remember he was not governor at that time his term of Service having expired and General Nelson appointed his Successor.

I was also attach’d to Captn. Call’s Troop of horse, when Philips and Arnold, in their Second invasion of Virginia, reach’d Manchester; I was constantly on duty, where, Mr. Jefferson (then Governor) always appear’d, and by his presence, activity and perfect composure, inspired the Troops with the utmost confidence; he remain’d in Richmond until the retreat of the English to Warwick and down James River.

Christopher Hudson

MS (DLC); endorsed: “Sign’d by Captn Hudson in presence of Isaac Coles & myself Wm A. Burwell Augst 4th 1805. [In another hand:] Statement of Captn Hudson.”

This Deposition, like Tatham’s letter (Document iv), was obtained by W. A. Burwell, undoubtedly at TJ’s request, in order to refute the charge of cowardice on TJ’s part circulated by Thomas Turner in 1805; see note on Document I. The relative rank of John Jouett and Christopher Hudson, both of whom brought warnings to Monticello of the approach of Tarleton’s horsemen, in the annals of Virginia heroism has been much debated by antiquarians; see Tyler’s Quart., xxii–xxiv (1940–1948). TJ’s Account Book has a characteristically laconic entry for that momentous day: “June 4. British horse came to Monticello.” In Randall’s Life (i, 335–9), however, is a very circumstantial narrative of TJ’s movements on 4 June, based largely on “the statements, oral and written, of several members of Mr. Jefferson’s family, who repeatedly heard all the particulars from his lips, and from those of other actors in the scene.” Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton’s narrative of his foray on Charlottesville has this sarcastic sentence, which no doubt influenced later, unfriendly American historians: “The attempt to secure Mr. Jefferson was ineffectual; he discovered the British dragoons from his house, which stands on the point of a mountain, before they could approach him, and he provided for his personal liberty by a precipitate retreat” (History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America, London, 1787, p. 297). Isaac Coles was TJ’s secretary in 1805.

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