Today, April 26, we celebrate the midnight ride of Sybil Ludington, a heroine of the American Revolutionary War. On April 26, 1777, sixteen year old Sybil mounted her horse, Star, and rode into the night to alert American colonial forces that the British were approaching and burning the city of Danbury.
Sybil was the eldest daughter of Col. Henry Ludington a respected militia officer during the American Revolution. The family lived in Dutchess County, New York. On April 26, when British troops and loyalists attacked and burned Continental Army supplies stored in nearby Danbury, a rider came to the Ludington’s home to warn them and ask Col Ludington for help from his militia. However, at that time, his regiment had disbursed for planting season and were spread out across the country side. The courier was tired and did not know the area so Col. Ludington dispatched his daughter to ride through the night and urge the men to gather and fight.
At 9pm, Sybil took off to cover 40 miles of rough countryside through the rain and mud. Courageously she avoided the British forces, the loyalists and groups of skinners. Skinners were outlaws not loyal to either side who stole and killed at random. Legend says that she dispatched men along her route in different directions to spread the warning rather than take over her ride or ride with her. Sybil continued riding through the night arriving back home just before dawn.
When Sybil arrived home, most of the 400 soldiers were ready to march. The militia did not arrive in time to save Danbury but fought the British troops as they left the area. After the Battle of Danbury, George Washington went to the Ludington home to personally thank Sybil for her help.
Her action was similar to those of Paul Revere, although she rode 40 miles, more than twice the distance of Revere, was only 16 years old at the time and she was a girl. Teenage girls during the colonial times were normally relegated to learning to run a household and raise children- not to ride the countryside alone as a military rider calling men to arms. With a few exceptions, they helped with the war by quartering soliders, nursing and boycotting British household imports.
After the war, Sybil’s life returned to normal for a colonial woman. She married a Catskill lawyer named Edward Ogden and had only one son, Henry.
Sybil’s story is not as well known in history lessons as Paul Revere’s but it isn’t unrecognized. New York State erected a series of markers along her route through Putnam County, NY in 1935. In 1961 a statue of Sybil on her horse Star, was placed in Carmel, New York. Smaller versions of the statue by AH Huntington are found in several locations including the the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington DC and the public library in Danbury. In 1975 she was honored with a postage stamp in the “Contributors with the Cause” stamp series.
For our younger readers, the website Good Reads suggests a grade 2-4 readable account of our heroine “Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride” written by Marsha Amstel and illustrated by Ellen Beier.
Thank you to Sybil Ludington for your courage. Everyone has a story.
We hope you enjoyed this story. Information and facts were collected from the websites: Wikipedia, Josephcoats.com, Historic Patterson, National Women in History Museum, Good Reads and Teaching History.