Apr 14, 2010

Sybil Ludington, the "Female Paul Revere"

Everyone knows about Paul Revere and his ride, but fewer people know about a female Paul Revere. The "female Paul Revere" was Sybil Ludington. Her trip was twice as long!
Sybil was born in Paterson, New York in 1761. Her father was a colonel in the local militia. Sybil helped at home by spinning, knitting, weaving, and sewing. She also made butter, soap, candles baking bread, mending clothes, and washing dishes. Sybil assisted her mother in gardening. She had twelve brothers and sisters. The female heroine also had a horse named Star. Star also helped Sybil ride the night ride.
http://theflowershopproject.com/wp/wp-content/gallery/history-of-ladies-aid/Sybil%20Ludington.jpgWhen she was 16, her mother expected her to be responsible and to act lady-like. She wanted to be in the militia because she was tired of being ruled by Great Britain. Just like everyone else, she wanted to be free and independent.
She was just tucking in her brothers and sisters when an exhausted messenger came to her house to warn her family about something. The messenger said that British soldiers were burning down the town of Danbury, Connecticut. Danbury was the supply center for the militia. Only 150 militia men where there to protect the town. Someone had to warn the farmers about the attack. The messenger was too tired to go any further. Sybil's father was in charge of the militia so he could not leave. Sybil wanted to take the job and her father agreed to let her go. So, she got ready for the 40-mile trip that awaited her.
She started off at her house. Then she and her horse Star rode to the first farmhouse. She just knocked their door and shouted the message. Then she hurried off to the farmhouses along Horse Pound Road. When she reached the farmhouses there, she did what she did before- knock on the door, and shout out her message. It was about ten o' clock when Sybil reached Shaw's Pond. Then she remembered that so many people were sleeping. So she did not beat on every door or shout at every house. Instead neighbors called to each other and the first ones awake would rush to ring the town bell. Still her job was not finished. She still had to warn the men in the regiment. As she rode in the darkness, British soldiers were going the other way. So she and her horse Star hid behind a tree.
When she reached the next town, Stormville the alarm already had begun to sound. Someone from another town had already come with the news. Sybil was glad and she and Star headed home. When she got home, more than 400 men were ready to march. The eastern sky was red, Sybil realized that she had ridden all night. Her family was really proud of her, but she did not feel like a real soldier. All she wanted to do was to sleep.
People spread the word about Sybil. Soon General Washington went to her house to thank her for her courage. Even Statesman Alexander Hamilton wrote to her, praising her deed. Even though she didn't get to Stormville in time, she was still brave enough to ride for independence. 
At the age of twenty-three, Sybil was married to Edmond Ogden. She had six children and she took well care of her family. Sometimes she would stop and think back to the wet and cold night in the year of 1777.
Sybil Ludington lived to be seventy-eight years old. Her children and their children's children loved to hear the story of a young girl and her ride for independence.
We will never forget Sybil Ludington.
image courtesy of 
by Wendy & Rachel, fourth grade, 2003
for more information:

Sybil Ludington

Her Midnight Ride

Listen my children, and you shall hear, about the midnight ride of Sybil Ludington!
Sybil Ludington?
Poor Sybil. It is difficult to rhyme Ludington except, perhaps, in Limericks. Consequently Paul Revere was singled out by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for enduring praise.
Of all the midnight riders galloping about the countryside during the American Revolution -- warning, "The British are coming!" - equally deserving is 16-year-old Sybil.
She was the oldest of 12 children of Col. Henry Ludington, who in 1777 commanded the militia of Dutchess County, N.Y. - just across the state line from Danbury, Conn.
Col. Ludington was so active in the revolutionary cause, the British put a price on his head. General Howe, the British commander in New York, offered a reward of 300 English guineas for his capture dead or alive.
To collect this bounty, General William Tryon, former governor of New York, had himself and 2,000 of the king's troops set ashore at Westport, Conn. He then marched off on a search and destroy mission.
The British expeditionary force reached Danbury the next day where it burned most of the houses and destroyed some American military stores.
Then, drunk on stolen whiskey, the British troops raged through the town -- looting, raping and abusing the townspeople.
A contemporary account described the attack on Danbury: "One of the most brutal and disgraceful performances of British arms in all the war." News of the atrocity was carried by messengers throughout New England.
One of the messengers raced to Col. Ludington at his home. "Muster your regiment and drive off the British," pleaded the weary rider.
Col. Ludington saw the danger immediately. Tryon might turn west and attack General Washington's flank at Peekskill, N.Y. Unfortunately the militia -- the only one between Danbury and Peekskill -- was on furlough after service in the Hudson Highlands.
Nevertheless, Ludington determined to summon his 421 men to oppose the British advance.
Sybil had listened to the messenger's report and her father's decision. As the eldest child, she had grown up doing jobs usually assigned to sons.
Quickly she volunteered, "I'll go and get the men. They know me and I know the road."
She dressed in riding breeches while Col. Ludington saddled a horse. At 9 p.m. on that night -- April 26, 224 years ago -- Sybil set off on her mission.
"There's trouble!" she yelled as she pulled into darkened farmyards. "The British are burning Danbury. The Colonel wants you right away. Bring your guns."
Sybil got home at daybreak, having covered 40 miles during the night. By then, nearly the whole regiment had mustered. In haste, Col. Ludington led his little troop of Minute Men into Connecticut where he joined other farmer-fighters who had responded to the alarm.
The Americans caught up with the retreating British and harassed them all the way back to their ships. Many Red Coats paid for the raid with their lives.
Alexander Hamilton wrote Col. Ludington: "I congratulate you on the Danbury expedition. The stores destroyed have been purchased at a pretty high price to the enemy."
Gen. George Washington personally thanked Sybil, as did Gen. Rochambeau, the French commander fighting with the Americans.
At age 23, Sybil married Edward Ogden, and they had six children. She died Feb. 26, 1839, just a few days short of her 78th birthday. She is buried near her father in the old Presbyterian burying ground at Patterson, N.Y.
The Daughters of the American Revolution has placed historic markers at several points along the route of his midnight ride.
Imagine for a moment a dark, chilly night. It is April. The narrow dirt roads through the fields and woods are muddy from the spring thaws. They are full of ruts and holes made by horses hooves and wagon wheels. It is a very long distance between houses, and all the houses are dark because everyone is sleeping. The woods are quiet except for the hooting of owls and the rustling of animals, or is that rustling a group of cattle thieves somewhere in the dark?
It was on just such a night that a young girl galloped through the countryside to call the troops to report to their regiment. The British were attacking Danbury, Connecticut. Her name was Sybil Ludington. Sybil was the oldest daughter of Colonel Ludington who was in charge of the militia in this area. She was 16 years old at the time.
Danbury was being used as a storage place by the Continental Army. Supplies such as clothing, medicine, and ammunition, as well as pork, flour, and molasses, were kept there. On the night of April 26, 1777, two thousand redcoats, under the command of General Tryon, started to attack. Only one hundred fifty colonial soldiers were there to defend the town. Reinforcements were needed.
Colonel Ludington's men had just gone home after a long period of duty. It was planting time and they had been allowed to go to their farms to start their crops. Someone had to ride and tell them that they must hurry back immediately. The Colonel could not go for he had to stay and get the regiment ready to march. The rider who had brought the news from Danbury was too tired to go any further. Besides, he did not know where the men lived. So the Colonel asked Sybil to go and call in his troops.
From Ludingtonville to Carmel village, into Mahopac and Mahopac Falls, through Kent Cliffs, Farmers Mills, and back home through Stormville she galloped through the night. She shouted the news and warned the families to be ready to flee if the British should come this way.
When Sybil arrived home at daybreak, the troops were already preparing to leave. More than 400 men started on their twenty-five mile march.
In the meantime, General Tryon's men had overrun the town and burned almost every house. They had discovered a supply of rum to which they helped themselves. When the General heard that the Continental troops were coming, he decided to retreat. His army was in no condition to fight. Many of his men were drunk.
Colonel Ludington's regiment joined with another group led by General Wooster. They drove the Redcoats back to Long Island Sound.
Unfortunately, no record was kept of the roads which Sybil took on her famous ride. Historians know which towns she reached, but they cannot agree how sho got from Mahopac Falls (where Captain Hill lived and where the troops at the mill were) to Kent Cliffs. The map shows the possible roads she could have taken. The one that goes near Lake Secor cannot be followed easily because of the Taconic Parkway, but early maps show how this road went to Tompkins Corners in Peekskill Hollow.
If you take a trip to Carmel, you can see a statue showing Sybil and her horse, Star. It stands near the shores of Lake Gleneida.

Dates: April 5, 1761 - February 26, 1839
Known for: midnight ride in American Revolutionary War
Also Known as: the "female Paul Revere" (she rode about twice as far as he did on his famous ride). Married name: Sybil Ogden.

About Sybil Ludington:

Sybil Ludington was the eldest of twelve children. Her father, Col. Ludington, had served in the French and Indian war. As a mill owner in Patterson, New York, he was a community leader, and he volunteered to serve as the local militia commander as war with the British loomed.
When he received word late on April 26, 1777, that the British were attacking Danbury, Connecticut, Colonel Ludington knew that they would move from there into further attacks in New York. As head of the local militia, he needed to muster his troops from their farmhouses around the distict, and to warn the people of the countryside of possible British attack.
Sybil Ludington, 16 years old, volunteered to warn the countryside of the attack and to alert the militia troops to muster at Ludington's. The glow of the flames would have been visible for miles.
She traveled some 40 miles through the towns of Carmel, Mahopac, and Stormville, in the middle of the night, in a rainstorm, on muddy roads, shouting that the British were burning Danbury and calling out the militia to assemble at Ludington's. When Sybil Ludington returned home, most of the militia troops were ready to march to confront the British.
The 400-some troops were not able to save the supplies and the town at Danbury -- the British seized or destroyed food and munitions and burned the town -- but they were able to stop the British advance and push them back to their boats, in the Battle of Ridgefield.
Map of Sybil Ludington's Ride

More About Sybil Ludington:

Sybil Ludington's contribution to the war was to help stop the advance of the British, and thus give the American militia more time to organize and resist. She was recognized for her midnight ride by those in the neighborhood, and was also recognized by General George Washington.
Sybil Ludington continued to help as she could with the Revolutionary War effort, in one of the typical roles that women were able to play in that war: as a messenger.
In October, 1784, Sybil Ludington married lawyer Edward Ogden and lived the rest of her life in Unadilla, New York.
Her hometown was renamed Ludingtonville in honor of her heroic ride. There is a statue of Sybil Ludington, by sculptor Anna Wyatt Huntington, outside the Danbury Library.
A statue of Sybil Ludington located in New York
(Not very flattering, but ok) .
A 1975 stamp with a picture of Sybil Ludington. 

There are far to many amazing women whose contributions and stories need to be heard. I'm going to start mentioning a few of them and their stories of true feminism!  There are so many. Think I'll follow this post and theme with a few  Daughters of the Rebublic, during the Revolutionary War (I hear history is back in style now, so I better hurry to fit them in..haha. Like anyone reads this blog!

Sybil Ludington

Sybil Ludington - The Call to Arms

The Call to Arms

Sybil Ludington earned a place in American History on a rainy night in 1777 when she rode 40 miles through enemy infested woods to summon her father's regiment to halt a British raid on Connecticut and New York. Though Paul Revere is the most celebrated revolutionary to sound the call to arms, Sybil Ludinton's ride was bolder and far more dangerous, and she was only sixteen years old. Widowed young, she became a successful businesswoman in a profession then dominated by men and raised her son to become a man of stature in his community. This is her first biography.

Published by Purple Mountain Press

Sybil Ludington: The Call to Arms (New Yorkers and the Revolution)

Sybil Ludington's Midnight RideSybil Ludington's Midnight RideSybil's Night Ride

I posted more on her on our About Page

More women's history biographies, by name:

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