Thomas Jefferson was elected President of the United States on February 17th, 1801, making today the 221st anniversary of his election. He was the third U.S. president and one of the greatest political thinkers of any generation. But was Thomas Jefferson in the military?
Fun Fact: Thomas Jefferson WAS in the Military!
Most people probably don’t think about him as a seasoned combat Veteran. Instead, many probably think of Jefferson as an Enlightenment thinker and the writer of the Declaration of Independence. But to Jefferson, military service was actually a large part of his early years.
When Jefferson was just 27 years old, he was appointed to the Albemarle County Militia by the Governor of Virginia. It’s only natural to wonder what rank was Thomas Jefferson when he was given this appointment. As it happens, he started right out of the gate with the rank of colonel.
In 1770, 31 years before he was elected to the presidency, Jefferson began his military career by preparing the Virginia militia for battle. He kept the muster rolls, led regular drills, and made sure that any money owed to the sheriff for the militia was paid up. Given his legal background, it’s probably no surprise that he was also responsible for such militia dealings as conducting a court-martial where necessary.
Jefferson reported only to the Governor of Virginia himself during this time. And yet, even with all his military service and responsibilities, he still found time to kickstart his political career.
He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and drafted the first version of the Declaration of Independence in June 1776.
How Long Did Thomas Jefferson Serve?
Jefferson served in the Virginia militia from his original appointment in 1770 until the time he was elected governor of the state in 1779. At that point, as commander in chief of the Virginia militia, he was able to participate in our nation’s most defining moment.
All in all, he served those nine years as a colonel and then commander in chief of the Virginia militia. After that, however, his military role would only become more important.
Thomas Jefferson During the Revolutionary War
The next natural question many people ask is, “Did Thomas Jefferson fight in a war?” His role in the early American military was an important one.
During the Revolutionary War, Jefferson was able to mobilize his troops and contribute to victory at Yorktown in 1781. There, he sent men to reinforce the Continental Army and force the surrender of British General Lord Cornwallis and his 8,000 soldiers and seamen.
The Battle of Yorktown was the last major land battle of the Revolutionary War. General George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, Comte de Rochambeau, and Jefferson all played a major role in the outcome.
Following that time, his political career took off, and Jefferson went on to serve in various roles in public service, including America’s very first Secretary of State from 1790-1793. As president, he would oversee the Louisiana Purchase and the expedition of Lewis and Clark. His vice president during his first term, Aaron Burr, would famously go on to kill Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804.
Jefferson isn’t the only president with an impressive military record. Discover more presidential military stories here: 3 Stories of Presidents Who Served in the Military
President Thomas Jefferson After the Revolutionary War
Jefferson served as President of the United States from March 4th, 1801 – March 4th, 1809. His second term was overshadowed by Burr’s actions, including his duel with Hamilton, and ultimately led to the former vice president taking a militia flotilla and 60 men on a failed mission that led to his standing trial for conspiracy.
Jefferson’s policy toward Native Americans was to “civilize” tribes as America’s borders would “advance compactly as we multiply.” Unlike other political players at the time, Jefferson didn’t view Native Americans as inferior people, and he likely believed that assimilation was truly the best path for everyone.
Monticello, his primary residence, was finished and inhabited in 1770. Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton in 1772. They would remain married for ten years until Martha’s death in 1782. They had six children, only two of which survived into adulthood.
The life of America’s third president is complex and the subject of regular historical study. Jefferson had seemingly conflicting views, such as his views on owning slaves, which he held at the very same time he penned the words “all men are created equal.”
But the next time someone asks, “Was Thomas Jefferson in the military?” you can confidently say that, among his many other accomplishments, he was in the military. And his efforts led to possibly the most decisive victory of the American Revolution.
There’s no better day than today – the anniversary of his election – to celebrate his contributions to our country.
Now that you know all about Jefferson’s military service, it’s time to find out which presidents DIDN’T serve in the military!