SYBIL LUDINGTON

Sybil Ludington (April 5, 1761 – February 26, 1839), daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, was a heroine of the American Revolutionary War who mounted on her horse, Star, became famous for her night ride on April 26, 1777 to alert American colonial forces to the approach of the British. Her action was similar to that performed by Paul Revere, though she rode more than twice the distance of Revere and was only 16 years old at the time of her action. She was an aunt of Harrison Ludington, the Governor of Wisconsin.

Sybil was the oldest of twelve children. Her father Henry was a colonel in the French & Indian War in 1756. Her mother’s name was Abigail Ludington. She loved riding horses.

Sybil Ludington has been celebrated as the female Paul Revere because of her ride through Putnam and Dutchess Counties to warn the militia that British troops were burning Danbury, Connecticut.

Sybil was born in what was then known as Fredericksburg, and is now known as the Ludingtonville section of the town of Kent, New York. Her father was Colonel Henry Ludington, a respected militia officer who commanded the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia, a volunteer regiment of local men during the Revolutionary War. He later became an aide to General George Washington. She was the oldest of Col. Ludington's 12 children.

Her name is spelt in various ways, her tombstone displays her name as "Sibbell". However, she signed her Revolutionary War pension application as "Sebal", which is apparently the spelling she preferred. Her sister Mary spelled her name "Sebil." In the 1810 census, she is listed as "Sibel.", and appears on other records as "Cybil." 

 

On April 25, 1777, a 2000 man British force commanded by General Tryon landed at Fairfield, Connecticut, near the mouth of the Saugatuck River, arriving with twenty transports and six warships. They moved eight miles inland and camped at Weston. The next day the force moved north into Danbury, doing no damage to private property along the way. In Danbury, however, they began a search for stores of Continental Army supplies, also leaving chalk marks on the properties of British loyalists and informers. Properties without chalk marks were set to be destroyed. By 4 PM, several Continental Army storehouses and three private homes were in flames. For security reasons, the Continental Army had recently transferred its supplies from Peekskill to Danbury, where they were thought to be safe, and were consequently poorly guarded. The stores included foodstuffs such as flour, beef, pork, sugar, molasses, coffee, rice, wheat, corn, and several hundred cases of wine and rum. Hospital cots and tents were also stored there, along with clothing and shoes and cooking utensils. Medicines and other medical supplies were stored in New Milford, Connecticut, and were not affected by the British raid. The British soldiers found the rum and decided to consume it rather than destroy it. More fires were started by drunken soldiers, as military discipline broke down. Messengers were dispatched in all directions to announce the British arrival and news of the fires.

Col. Henry Ludington was in charge of the local militia in the Kent/Patterson area. Ludington and his wife Abigail lived in Kent, New York, and operated a mill, which was located just north of the current intersection of NYS Route 52 and Ludingtonville Road in the town of Kent, New York. He fought in the French and Indian War with General Tryon, and served as an aide to General George Washington during the Battle of White Plains during the American War of Independence. He later formed the 7th Dutchess County Militia. At the time of the Danbury attack, the militia numbered 400 men.

A messenger was dispatched from Danbury to Col. Ludington with the news of the attack, and he reached the Ludington home at approximately 9 PM. Col. Ludington began to organize the militia, but the men were scattered throughout the area in their homes, and it was well into the night. The messenger was exhausted and not familiar with the area, and would not be able to find all of the militia volunteers. Sybil Ludington, who had just turned 16, was very familiar with the area, and left to sound the alert. It is unclear whether she volunteered for the task, or whether she was asked to do it by her father. Some accounts indicate that Col. Ludington had planned the route Sybil would take.

Sybil left for her now-famous ride at approximately 9 PM into the rainy night, traveling 40 miles from her home in what is now the town of Kent, south to Mahopac, and north to Stormville, before returning home near dawn the next day. Sybil not only had to avoid British soldiers in the area, but also British loyalists, and "Skinners", who were outlaws with no allegiance to either side in the War. 

Col. Ludington's troops arrived too late to save Danbury, but fought with the British troops as they left the area.

Sybil was a member of the Patterson Baptist Church. In 1784, after the War, Sybil married a Catskill lawyer named Edmond Ogden, in the Church. They had one son, Henry. She later lived in Unadilla, New York, until her death in February, 1839. Sybil was buried near her father in the Maple Avenue Cemetery at The Patterson Presbyterian church (now the Patterson Community Church).

Historical markers tracing her route can be seen throughout eastern Putnam County. Artist Anna Huntington's famous sculpture commemorating Sybil Ludington's ride rests on the shore of Lake Gleneida on Route 52 in Carmel.

Ludington's ride started at 9:00 P.M. and ended around dawn. She rode 40 miles, more than twice the distance of Paul Revere, into the damp hours of darkness. She rode through Carmel on to Mahopac, thence to Kent Cliffs, from there to Farmers Mills and back home. She used a stick to prod her horse and knock on doors. She managed to defend herself against a highwayman with a long stick. When, soaked with rain and exhausted, she returned home, most of the 400 soldiers were ready to march.

The memoir for Colonel Henry Ludington states,

“    Sybil, who, a few days before, had passed her sixteenth birthday, and bade her to take a horse, ride for the men, and tell them to be at his house by daybreak. One who even now rides from Carmel to Cold Spring will find rugged and dangerous roads, with lonely stretches. Imagination only can picture what it was a century and a quarter ago, on a dark night, with reckless bands of "Cowboys" and "Skinners" abroad in the land. But the child performed her task, clinging to a man's saddle, and guiding her steed with only a hempen halter, as she rode through the night, bearing the news of the sack of Danbury. There is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere and its midnight message. Nor was her errand less efficient than his. By daybreak, thanks to her daring, nearly the whole regiment was mustered before her father's house at Fredericksburgh, and an hour or two later was on the march for vengeance on the raiders.

The men arrived too late to save Danbury, Connecticut. At the start of the Battle of Ridgefield, however, they were able to drive General William Tryon, then governor of the colony of New York, and his men to Long Island Sound.

Sybil was congratulated for her heroism by friends and neighbors and also by General George Washington.

 

After the war, in 1784, "when she was twenty-three years old, Sybil Ludington married Edward Ogden, with whom she had one child and named him Henry. Edward was a farmer and innkeeper, according to various reports. In 1792 Sybil settled with her husband and Henry (their son) in Catskill, where they lived until her death on February 26, 1839, at the age of 77. She was buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery (now the Patterson Community Church) in Patterson, New York.  Her tombstone, shows a different spelling of her first name.

In 1935 New York State erected a number of markers along her route. A statue of Sybil, sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington, was erected near Carmel, New York, in 1961 to commemorate her ride. Smaller versions of the statue exist on the grounds of the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington, DC; on the grounds of the public library, Danbury, Connecticut; and in the Elliot and Rosemary Offner museum at Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.

 

In 1975 Sybil Ludington was honored with a postage stamp in the "Contributors to the Cause" United States Bicentennial series.

Each April since 1979, the Sybil Ludington 50-kilometer footrace has been held in Carmel, New York. The course of this hilly road race approximates Sybil's historic ride, and finishes near her statue on the shore of Lake Gleneida, Carmel, New York.