On April 26th in 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode almost 40 miles by horseback in the middle of the night to gather American militia and warn the countryside about the British approaching.
A young American patriot, Sybil Ludington is the female counterpart to the more famous Paul Revere. Born in 1761 in Connecticut, Ludington was the eldest of twelve children. Soon after her birth, her family settled in Dutchess County, New York.
In addition to being a farmer, Ludington’s father held various positions within the small town and served in the military for over sixty years. He was loyal to the British crown until 1773, when he joined the rebel cause. He was quickly promoted to Colonel and led his local regiment. Colonel Ludington’s area of command was along a vulnerable route that the British could take between Connecticut and the coast of Long Island Sound.
When British troops and British loyalists attacked a nearby town, Danbury, Connecticut, in 1777, a rider came to the Ludington household to warn them and ask for the local regiment’s help. At the time, the Colonel’s regiment was disbanded for planting season, and all of the men were miles apart at their respective farms.
The rider was too tired to continue and Colonel Ludington had to prepare for battle, so he asked his barely sixteen-year-old daughter Sybil to ride through the night, alerting his men of the danger and urging them to come together to fight back. Ludington rode all night through the dark woods, covering forty miles (a significantly longer distance than Revere rode), and because of her bravery, almost the whole regiment was gathered by daybreak to fight the British.
After the battle at Danbury, George Washington went to the Ludington home to personally thank Sybil for her help. After the war, Ludington married a Catskill lawyer named Edward Ogden; they had one son. She died in 1839.
Although Ludington never gained the widespread fame that Paul Revere did in America’s history, she was honored with a stamp by the Postal Service in 1975. There is a statue of her by Lake Gleneida in Carmel, New York, and there are historical markers tracing the route of her ride through Putnam County.
Fun fact: Ludington’s journey was over 30 miles longer than Paul Revere’s famous ride.
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To introduce your children to this inspiring and under-recognized hero of the Revolutionary War, see “Sybil’s Night Ride,” a picture book for children 4 to 8 and “Sybil Ludington’s Midnight Ride,” an early chapter book for readers 6 to 9.