Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary Heroine

When it comes to Revolutionary War history, we all know the name Paul Revere and can give a quick response as to what he did on the night of April 18, 1775. Some of us may still be able to recite some of the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem: Paul Revere’s Ride. But it is likely that most do not remember that he was not the only rider that night. There were three others: Samuel Prescott, Israel Bissell, and William Dawes.

This story, though, is about another rider who emulated what Revere and the others did that night a couple of years later in another part of the colonies. On April 26, 1777, another rainy midnight ride was undertaken to raise the alarm of an impending attack by British troops. On that night, British troops had landed on the southern coast of Connecticut, near Fairfield, and were marching toward Danbury, Connecticut, with the intent of destroying a colonial supply depot there.

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A few miles to the north and west, in Putnam Co., NY, the local militia leader, Col. William Ludington, a veteran of the French and Indian War, had to get the word out to his militiamen scattered over the local area from Putnam Co. to Danbury, CT. He chose his daughter, Sybil Ludington, then 16 years old, to make the dangerous ride.

Though young, Sybil was no stranger to the dangers that surrounded all of the colonies at that time. In fact, she had saved her father once before when a local Loyalist planned to kill him or take him prisoner.

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On the night of the planned attack, Sybil, one of the Colonel’s 12 children, already had a head for leadership. She organized her siblings. They lit candles throughout the house, and she had them moving back and forth before the shaded windows, their shadows giving the appearance of many men guarding Col. Ludington’s house. Instead of carrying out their attack, the Loyalist fled into the night.

On the night of April 26, 1777, Sybil mounted a horse and rode off into the rainy night to gather her father’s militiamen and to warn the countryside of the British march on Danbury. She carried a long stick with her, which she used to encourage her horse on and to knock on doors over the course of her ride through the villages and countryside. One account even alludes to her driving off some hapless highwaymen during her ride, applying that stick to their heads with vigor and intent.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Anthony22

By dawn, Sybil was exhausted and soaked, but she had managed to gather 400 of her father’s militiamen. The militia then headed to Danbury to meet the British. The British had already gotten to Danbury and were burning the colonial supplies, but Col. Ludington’s militia drove the British troops under General William Tyron back to their boats and back to their base on Long Island.

Sybil Ludington’s ride was acclaimed by her neighbors at the time, but she would also be recognized and commended for her heroism by the commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington himself.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Anthony22

Each April since 1979, a 50km run has been held in her honor in Carmel, NY. It ends at a statue sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington that honors Sybil Ludington and her ride to raise the troops that rainy night in 1777.

As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the rest of the story.” Sybil Ludington’s name is not known to most like that of Paul Revere, but what she did was just as important to the cause of liberty as that other famous midnight ride two years earlier.

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