There is a point in Fluvanna County where the Rivanna River flows into the James. It is appropriately named Point of Fork. During the Revolutionary War, an arsenal was located there. It was comprised of an armory, a magazine, barracks, shops, and storehouses. Many supplies poured in there. From southwest Virginia came lead for shot, from Bedford came iron for arms and ammunition, and from Chesterfield and Goochlann came coal for the forges.
The armory was under the command of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben. The British General Lord Cornwallis dispatched two detachments: one under the command of Colonel Banastre and the other under the command of Colonel John Graves Simcoe. These were known as the Queen’s Rangers and were comprised of American Tories. Tarleton’s detachment was to march to Charlottesville and capture Thomas Jefferson and other members of the Virginia Legislature. Simcoe’s detachment was to capture the arsenal at Point of Fork and confiscate its contents. When von Steuben learned that Simcoe was approaching, he had his troops transport the stores across the James River. Pieces of heavy artillary were dropped into the river and would later be recovered.
Simcoe arrived at Point of Fork on June 5, 1781and seized the arsenal. In his account of the raid, he claimed that he destroyed and seized a vast quantity of arms and stores. However, von Steuben and Lafayette reported that the losses were negligible.
Today, the seizure of Point of Fork is dramatized in a reenactment held in conjunction with Columbia days. The town of Columbia is situated at Point of Fork. This reenactment usually occurs in the month of June and provides a glimpse into the Revolutionary War.
In an aside, when advancing toward Charlottesville, Colonel Tarleton and his men stopped to spend the night in Louisa. As they drank in the Cuckoo Tavern, they boasted of their plans to capture the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. (Jefferson and the Virginia legislature had fled from Williamsburg to Charlottesville.) Jack Jouett, Jr. overheard their boasts on his visit to the tavern to show off the uniform of a British Dragoon he had captured. Young Jack saddled his horse and took off on a night ride to warn Jefferson and the legislature of the approaching redcoats.
Jouett’s ride was no less spectacular or less important than the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Lasting 45 minutes through rough terrain, Jouett’s face would forever bear the scars of the limbs and bushes that scraped him during his ride. (Revere’s ride was only 15 miles.) Although Henry Wadsworth Longfellow didn’t immortalize Jouett in poetry, his ride saved Jefferson from capture and undoubtedly saved the cause of the Revolution. Longfellow attributed to Paul Revere that the fate of a nation was riding on him. The fate of a nation was also riding on Jack Jouett and he certainly deserves his place in history.
(Most of the material in this article came from a publication entitled Historic Fluvanna edited by David W.C. Bearr and published by The Fluvanna County Historical Society, pp 14-16. The material for Jack Jouett’s ride was found on the internet and was from an article that appeared in the Richmond Times 2 December 1934.)
Bill Jones – Fluvanna County Historical Society