The legend goes like this: The innkeeper's son is sitting in the Cuckoo Tavern when the Redcoats arrive. Dousing himself with ale to feign drunkenness, he slips away and rides 40 miles over the darkened countryside in time to warn the Founding Fathers that the British Are Coming.
Score another one for the American Revolution.
But if your ears are ringing with the sound of Paul Revere, listen to Rep. J. Kenneth Robinson (R-Va.) and you will hear of another midnight ride, this one by Jack Jouett, or Paul Revere-south.
"Jack Jouett's ride is worthy of wider note than it has had," says Robinson, who is trying to make room in America's pantheon of war heroes for the colonial lad whose warning saved Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and three signers of the Declaration of Independence from British hands.
Robinson this week introduced a resolution in Congress, seeking a presidential proclamation to commemorate June 4, 1981, as "Jack Jouett Day."
It was on that day in 1781 that Jouett, a Virginia militia captain, galloped from Cuckoo, a small town in Louisa County, Va., to Charlottesville, then the temporary capital of Virginia. It was, say Jouett fans, a truly heroic ride, and one that makes Revere's ride seem little more than a trot.
"Unfortunately he (Jouett) didn't have the benefit of Longfellow to commemorate his activity," says Virginia state Sen. J. Harry Michael (D-Charlottesville). "But in term of distance and importance, I think it . . . exceeded Paul Revere's."
Michael noted that Revere's ride was just 15 miles long, most of it over good road, but Jouett had to travel 40 miles across some of Virginia's roughest wilderness.
Speaker of the House Thomas (Tip) O'neill, who represents a portion of Massachusetts immortaized by Revere and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, could not be prodded yesterday into downplaying the Virginian's ride.
"It's a shame that this guy's ride has been neglected," said O'Neill.
Rep. J. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) was equally conciliatory "Paul Revere shouldn't have a corner on the market," said Markey. He added, however, that he would support Robinson's resolution only if an amendment were added to likewise honor William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, two Massachusetts men who shared the ride with Revere, but have received little of the glory.
While Robinson works to buttonhole the 218 members of Congress (one more than half the 435 members of the House) needed to call any commemorative resolution up for action, Jouett supporters in Virginia are organizing for next year's bicentennial celebration of the ride.
"As of right now, we have what you might call a concept," says Charlottesville attorney Edward O. McCue, who heads a committee of amateur historians dedicated to resurrecting Jouett's legend.
McCue's grandmother was the founding regent of the Jack Jouett chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Charlottesville. McCue himself is compiling a book on his hero, who later served in both the Virginia and Kentucky legislatures.
"I just feel he hasn't gotten his just due," says McCue.
Jouett has already won a certain legislative respect in Virginia. Since 1976, when a resolution introduced by Sen. Michael passed the General Assembly, the first Saturday of each June has been proclaimed "Jack Jouett Day."
But his loyal supporters say they will not rest until Paul Revere makes room for his southern cousin.
"They both gave pretty good rides," conceded Chris Mathisen, an aide to Rep. Robinson. "Unfortunately I guess it's too late to have a match race between them."