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The Midnight Ride Of ... Sybil Ludington

Military History | August 21, 2021

A reenactment of the British Army during the American Revolution. (Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Paul Revere was hardly the only revolutionary to ride out in the middle of the night to sound an alarm. You just haven't heard of most of the others because no one wrote any poems about them, even though some of them are far more interesting. One of them, in fact, was just a teenage girl.

Sybil Ludington

Sybil Ludington, born in 1761, was the oldest of the 12 children born to Colonel Henry Ludington, the leader of a local band of citizen soldiers near Long Island Sound in what is now New York's Putnam County, and his wife, Abigail. She grew up in the small hamlet of Fredericksburg in Dutchess County, New York, which has since been renamed Ludingtonville.

Statue of Sybil Ludington on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel, New York by Anna Hyatt Huntington. (Anthony22/Wikimedia Commons)

An Urgent Matter

In the wee hours of April 26, 1777, an exhausted rider showed up at the Ludington home with the startling news that Danbury, Connecticut was under attack by the British and Ludington’s regiment was needed immediately. Unfortunately, spring meant planting season, and Ludington’s unit had temporarily disbanded so they could get their crops in the ground. The Colonel, who needed to remain behind to make the necessary preparations to lead the regiment into battle, couldn't just send them a group text, and the rider who'd delivered the news was on the verge of collapse, so he turned to his 16-year-old daughter, Sybil.

In some versions of the story, Sybil volunteered to make the heroic ride. In others, her father ordered her to go. Either way, the teen left in the dark of the night and driving rain to rally the troops. It was a dangerous ride: The roadways and forests were pitch black, and neither horse nor rider could see where they were going. Even under the best conditions, the vulnerable, unchaperoned girl risked encountering enemy soldiers or drunken ne'er-do-wells, but despite the dangers, Sybil Ludington rode on.

Grave of Sybil Ludington. (Anthony22/Wikimedia Commons)

The Midnight Ride Of Sybil Ludington

From farm to farm, Sybil Ludington pounded on doors to rouse the occupants. She traversed some 40 miles in and around Putnam County, spreading the news of the Danbury attack. According to legend, she went as far north as Mohopac and as far south as Stormville. By the time she returned home at dawn, tired, cold, and rain soaked, nearly 400 soldiers were preparing to march to Danbury, thanks to her efforts.

Sadly, by the time Colonel Ludington's troops arrived, the town had fallen, though they successfully drove the British away from Danbury and to Long Island Sound. Both Colonel and Sybil Ludington received the hearty thanks of General George Washington for their valiant efforts against the British. 

Tags: American Revolution | military | Revolutionary War

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.