Crash Course: Little Known History – The Girl Paul Revere

16-year-old Sybil Ludington became a hero of the American Revolutionary War. At approximately 9 pm on April 26th, 1777, Sybil, the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, climbed onto her horse and proceeded to ride 40 miles in order to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury, Connecticut — covering twice the distance that Paul Revere rode during his famous midnight ride.

16-year-old Sybil Ludington became a hero of the American Revolutionary War. At approximately 9 pm on April 26th, 1777, Sybil, the eldest daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, climbed onto her horse and proceeded to ride 40 miles in order to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury, Connecticut — covering twice the distance that Paul Revere rode during his famous midnight ride.

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.

On the Web:

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.

Sybil Ludington was also the focus of an episode of Liberty’s Kids, the animated educational historical fiction television series, which you can view on YouTube

Crash

#WarriorWednesday: 23 Sep 1779 – John Paul Jones, Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis

Captain John Paul Jones hailing HMS Serapis during the action from the deck of the frigate Bonhomme Richard, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Paul Moran. During the action, all firing ceased and for several moments Captain Pearson of the Serapis called out, "Have you struck your colors?" "I have not yet begun to fight," replied Captain Jones, were upon the firing resumed. Serapis later struck her colors.

Captain John Paul Jones hailing HMS Serapis during the action from the deck of the frigate Bonhomme Richard, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Paul Moran. During the action, all firing ceased and for several moments Captain Pearson of the Serapis called out, “Have you struck your colors?” “I have not yet begun to fight,” replied Captain Jones, were upon the firing resumed. Serapis later struck her colors.

“I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight,” John Paul Jones, making his legendary battle cry from the deck of Bonhomme Richard, during her action with HMS Serapis, Sept., 23 1779.

On Sept. 23, 1779, the frigate, Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, engages HMS Serapis, commanded by Capt. Richard Pearson off Flamborough Head, England. With Bonhomme Richard being nearly destroyed by enemy fire, Pearson calls for surrender, which Jones replies, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Emerging victorious, Jones captures and takes over Serapis, while Bonhomme Richard sinks into the sea.

Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Artwork of Anton O. Fischer.

Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Artwork of Anton O. Fischer.

USS Bonhomme Richard engages HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head, England, 23 September 1779. Bookplate from a painting by Charles R. Patterson, 1929.

USS Bonhomme Richard engages HMS Serapis off Flamborough Head, England, 23 September 1779. Bookplate from a painting by Charles R. Patterson, 1929.

“I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight.” Detail of a shadow box exhibit at the U.S. Naval Academy showing John Paul Jones making his legendary battle cry from the deck of Bonhomme Richard, during her action with HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. The diorama was photographed in December 1953 by Taggart.

“I Have Not Yet Begun to Fight.” Detail of a shadow box exhibit at the U.S. Naval Academy showing John Paul Jones making his legendary battle cry from the deck of Bonhomme Richard, during her action with HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. The diorama was photographed in December 1953 by Taggart.

Captain John Paul Jones after an A.L. Stephens engraving of his boarding HMS Serapis.

Captain John Paul Jones after an A.L. Stephens engraving of his boarding HMS Serapis.

Captain Richard Pearson, Royal Navy. Captain Pearson commanded HMS Serapis when she was captured by John Paul Jones in 1779. Engraving by W. R. Cook, published in the “Naval Chronicle,” Vol. 24, London, November 1810. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 68672. For his spirited battle against John Paul Jones, Pearson was considered a hero. He was knighted, received presents from the merchants and the freedoms of several towns.

Captain Richard Pearson, Royal Navy. Captain Pearson commanded HMS Serapis when she was captured by John Paul Jones in 1779. Engraving by W. R. Cook, published in the “Naval Chronicle,” Vol. 24, London, November 1810. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 68672.
For his spirited battle against John Paul Jones, Pearson was considered a hero. He was knighted, received presents from the merchants and the freedoms of several towns.

Bonhomme Richard vs Serapis, 23 September 1779. Engraved view of the action probably from the 19th century. US Marine Corps photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives:

Bonhomme Richard vs Serapis, 23 September 1779. Engraved view of the action probably from the 19th century. US Marine Corps photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives:

Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Watercolor by Edward Tufnall. Courtesy of Mrs. Leslie R. Groves.

Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Watercolor by Edward Tufnall. Courtesy of Mrs. Leslie R. Groves.

Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Warren. Courtesy of the Mariner’s Museum. Bailey Collection #232.

Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Warren. Courtesy of the Mariner’s Museum. Bailey Collection #232.

Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, engraving of the action off Flamborough Head, published by John Harris, London, 1 December 1871. It is after the painting by Robert Dodd, and is dedicated by the pubisher to the "Merchants Trading to Russia." Courtesy of the Beverly R. Robinson Collection at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, engraving of the action off Flamborough Head, published by John Harris, London, 1 December 1871. It is after the painting by Robert Dodd, and is dedicated by the pubisher to the “Merchants Trading to Russia.” Courtesy of the Beverly R. Robinson Collection at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Captain John Paul Jones capturing HMS Serapis. This battle occurred off Flamborough Head, England. An original line engraving after a painting by Chappel, published in “Battles of the U.S. by Sea and Land,” by Henry B. Watson, 1859. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 56483.

Captain John Paul Jones capturing HMS Serapis. This battle occurred off Flamborough Head, England. An original line engraving after a painting by Chappel, published in “Battles of the U.S. by Sea and Land,” by Henry B. Watson, 1859. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 56483.

Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, action off Flamborough Head, England, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Carlton T. Champan. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, action off Flamborough Head, England, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Carlton T. Champan. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

Continental Frigate Bonhomme Richard engaging HMS Serapis, off Flamborough Head, on 23 September 1779. Engraving by R. Collier after Hamilton. Published circa 1780. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 58940. Note: Just what does “Bonhomme Richard” mean?  Bonhomme Richard -- A French translation of Benjamin Franklin's nom de plume, "Poor Richard." When John Paul Jones received the Duc de Duras from the King of France, Louis XVI, he renamed the former French East Indiaman Bonhomme Richard to honor Franklin, the American Commissioner at Paris whose famous almanacs had been published in France under the title Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.

Continental Frigate Bonhomme Richard engaging HMS Serapis, off Flamborough Head, on 23 September 1779. Engraving by R. Collier after Hamilton. Published circa 1780. NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 58940.
Note: Just what does “Bonhomme Richard” mean?
Bonhomme Richard — A French translation of Benjamin Franklin’s nom de plume, “Poor Richard.” When John Paul Jones received the Duc de Duras from the King of France, Louis XVI, he renamed the former French East Indiaman Bonhomme Richard to honor Franklin, the American Commissioner at Paris whose famous almanacs had been published in France under the title Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.

The memorable engagement of Captain Pearson of the Serapis with Paul Jones of the Bonhomme Richard and his squadron, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Thomas Buttersworth. Painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

The memorable engagement of Captain Pearson of the Serapis with Paul Jones of the Bonhomme Richard and his squadron, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Thomas Buttersworth. Painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

The Action between HMS Serapis, Captain Pearson, the Countess of Scarborough, and John Paul Jones’ squaderon, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Richard Paton. Painting is in the collection of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

The Action between HMS Serapis, Captain Pearson, the Countess of Scarborough, and John Paul Jones’ squaderon, 23 September 1779. Artwork by Richard Paton. Painting is in the collection of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

The action between HMS Serapis, commanded by Captain Pearson and the Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones. Artwork by Lieutenant William Elliott, Royal Navy, signed and dated by artist, 1789. Painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

The action between HMS Serapis, commanded by Captain Pearson and the Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard, commanded by Captain John Paul Jones. Artwork by Lieutenant William Elliott, Royal Navy, signed and dated by artist, 1789. Painting is in the U.S. Naval Academy Museum. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

USS Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. This action occurred off Flamborough Head, England. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

USS Bonhomme Richard vs. HMS Serapis, 23 September 1779. This action occurred off Flamborough Head, England. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

John Paul Jones bidding goodbye to his victorious ship. Artwork by Percy Moran. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

John Paul Jones bidding goodbye to his victorious ship. Artwork by Percy Moran. Courtesy of the Navy Art Collection

USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). Slides down the building ways, as she is launched at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, on 29 April 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-3888(Color). Notes: USS Yorktown (CV-10) was originally intended to be named Bonhomme Richard, but after USS Yorktown (CV-5) was sunk during the Battle of Midway, the new carrier gained Yorktown’s name. Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) is considered the second ship of the name despite the difference in spelling, an error which may have crept in as early as the 1860s when the name was assigned to the steam frigate that was never built and which later was compounded, no doubt, by the haste with which an enormous number of ships had to be named during World War II.

USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31). Slides down the building ways, as she is launched at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, New York, on 29 April 1944. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives, 80-G-K-3888(Color).
Notes: USS Yorktown (CV-10) was originally intended to be named Bonhomme Richard, but after USS Yorktown (CV-5) was sunk during the Battle of Midway, the new carrier gained Yorktown’s name.
Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) is considered the second ship of the name despite the difference in spelling, an error which may have crept in as early as the 1860s when the name was assigned to the steam frigate that was never built and which later was compounded, no doubt, by the haste with which an enormous number of ships had to be named during World War II.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, after participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises July 31, 2010. RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise to strengthen regional partnerships and improve multinational interoperability.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, after participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises July 31, 2010. RIMPAC is a biennial, multinational exercise to strengthen regional partnerships and improve multinational interoperability.

On the Web: 

Read more about John Paul Jones

Read and see more about USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)

The Naval History and Heritage Command Underwater Archeology Team has just returned for the search of Bonhomme Richard, please click here for their blog on the expedition.

Read more about the Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard

Read John Paul Jones chronology of service

Read more about Captain Richard Pearson via the British National Maritime Museum

National Park Service website about John Paul Jones

Crash