The struggle to serve—Sybil Ludington rides to gather the troops

3.31 Sybil Ludington.pngJust barely 16 years old, Sybil Ludington, the eldest of 12 children, volunteered to ride through the night to alert her father’s men to gather at the family farm in Dutchess County, Conn., to fight against the British troops attacking the nearby town of Danbury.

Sybil’s father, a farmer, was once loyal to the British crown but joined the rebel cause in 1773. Henry Ludington was quickly promoted to colonel. His area of command rested along a route extremely vulnerable to the British between Connecticut and the coast of Long Island Sound.

Prior to that historic evening in 1777, Col. Ludington’s regiment had disbanded for the planting season. The men were miles apart at their individual farms when a rider raced to Ludington’s farm to warn them that British troops and loyalists were attacking Danbury and to ask the colonel for help.

A brave messenger

The rider was too tired to ride further, and the colonel had to make battle preparations, so his teenage daughter, Sybil, rode all night, through the woods in the pouring rain, covering 40 miles. She called out as she rode and knocked on farmhouse doors when needed, informing residents that the British were burning Danbury and asked them to come to the colonel’s farm for marching orders. Thanks to her bravery and patriotic spirit, almost all of the men in her father’s regiment — close to 400 — assembled at her father’s farm before she returned the next morning. They stood ready to stop the British Army.

Although Sybil did not receive the fame Paul Revere’s night ride provided for him, the soon-to-be first President of the United States, George Washington, traveled to her home to thank her personally for her assistance. Sybil continued to serve as a messenger for the rest of the Revolutionary War.

Ludington_statue_800.jpg
A statue of Sybil Ludington is located at the Danbury Public Library in Danbury, Conn.

Following the end of the war, Sybil married Edward Ogden at 23 years old, a Catskill, N.Y., lawyer, and they had a son named Harry. She lived the rest of her life in Unadilla, N.Y., dying in 1839.

Her hometown was later renamed Ludingtonville in honor of her heroic ride. Sybil was celebrated by sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington in her creation of a statue of the brave rider on her horse. In 1976, the U.S. Post Service issued a stamp commemorating Sybil’s ride.

This is the final post in a series celebrating National Women’s History Month. We wanted to celebrate the women in our lives (past and present) and we hope you enjoyed reading along! 

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