Sybil Ludington: A Female Paul Revere?

Connecticut Rider Warned of British Attack

Close up of a Sybil Ludington statue at the Offner museum at Brookgreen Gardens; Myrtle Beach, SC.
Close up of a Sybil Ludington statue at the Offner museum at Brookgreen Gardens; Myrtle Beach, SC. Wikimedia Commons

If the stories we have of her ride are accurate, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington's Connecticut ride to warn of an imminent attack on Danbury was about twice as long as Paul Revere's ride. Her achievement and later service as a messenger remind us that women had roles to play in the Revolutionary War. For this, she's known as the "female Paul Revere" (she rode about twice as far as he did on his famous ride).

She lived from April 5, 1761 to February 26, 1839.  Her married name was Sybil Ogden.

Background

Sybil Ludington was the eldest of twelve children. Her father, Col. Henry Ludington, had served in the French and Indian war. Her mother was Abigail Ludington. As a mill owner in Patterson, New York, Col. Ludington was a community leader, and he volunteered to serve as the local militia commander as war with the British loomed.

Warning of British Attack

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 district and to warn the people of the countryside of the 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 on her horse, Star, 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.

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 nephew, Harrison Ludington, later served as a governor of Wisconsin.

Legacy

The story of Sybil Luddington was known through oral history, primarily, until 1880, when historian Martha Lamb researched primary documents to publish Sybil's story.  She was featured on a 1975 series of United States postage stamps honoring the United States Bicentenniel.

Some historians question the story, especially those who find it "convenient" as a feminist tale, The Daughters of the American Revolution in 1996 removed a book about her story from their bookstore.

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 50k run was held in Carmel, New York, beginning in 1979, approximating the route of her ride and ending hear her statue in Carmel.