Henry Ludington

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Henry Ludington
Henry Ludington sketch ca 1800.jpg
Henry Ludington sketch, circa 1776
Born(1739-05-25)May 25, 1739
DiedJanuary 24, 1817(1817-01-24) (aged 77)
OccupationBusinessman, patriot, Colonel
Known forRole in American Revolution
Henry Ludington signature.jpg

Henry Ludington (May 25, 1739 – January 24, 1817) was an American businessman who ran a grist mill and owned a substantial parcel of land in New York state. He founded Ludingtonville, which later became the town of Kent, New York. He was a citizen of Patterson, New York, and was involved with its growth.

Ludington fought in the Seven Years' War and, as captain, commanded a volunteer regiment at the Battle of Ridgefield during the American Revolutionary War. Ludington was promoted to Colonel and became an aide-de-camp to General George Washington in providing spies for espionage. He was associated with John Jay in a ring of spies. His daughter Sybil Ludington is well known to historians for her role in the American Revolution in helping the cause for independence by undertaking a nighttime horseback ride similar to that done by the patriot Paul Revere to alert the colonial militia to the approach of British forces.

Ludington's descendants have continued his legacy in several states besides New York, including Wisconsin and Michigan. Some became leaders in their own right and others were involved in developing towns.


Ludington's great-great-grandfather William Ludington (b. 1608) and his wife Ellen (b. 1617) were of English origin. Their places of birth in England are unknown. They were married in England in 1636. A few years later they immigrated to America. William and Ellen moved permanently to Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1640 and raised seven children (one had been born in England).[1] William and his wife are the founders of the Ludington family in America and many of their descendants are in the Eastern United States.[2] William and Ellen moved to New Haven, Connecticut, about 1660.[3] It is recorded by 20th-century historian Louis S. Patrick that William died in 1663 at East Haven.[4] By other historians his death is recorded as occurring in 1662.[5] The difference in dating is due to the use the Julian Calendar in the mid-18th century in the Thirteen Colonies in America.[6]

The sixth child of William, founder of the American Ludingtons, was another William Ludington (second in family) who was born about 1655 (died 1737). His first wife was Martha Rose and they had two sons and a daughter. Their first child was a Henry Ludington, who was born in 1679. The second child of this Henry Ludington was still another William Ludington, born in Branford, Connecticut, on September 6, 1702. He married Mary Knowles November 5, 1730, and they had eight children. Their third child was named Henry Ludington; his uncles were patriots and fought in one way or another for American independence.[7]

Family tree showing Henry Ludington's family member relationships and various significant historical events
William Ludington
b 1617
founder of the Ludington
family in America
(five other siblings)
(6th child)
Martha Rose
(two other siblings)
(1st child)
b 1679
(one older
b 1702
Mary KnowlesElishawife
(seven other siblings)(3rd child)(other siblings?)
b May 25, 1739
b May 8, 1745
b April 5, 1761
Revolutionary War hero
b January 24, 1763
b July 31, 1765
b July 5, 1767
b March 28, 1769
b February 17, 1771
b April 19, 1773
b February 26, 1776
b March 14, 1778
b June 10, 1782
b May 16, 1784
b June 25, 1786
Gov of Wisconsin
founder of Ludington, Michigan


Henry Ludington was born May 25, 1739, in Branford, Connecticut.[4][8] He had two older sisters, Submit and Mary, and five younger siblings, Lydia, Samuel, Rebecca, Anne, and Stephen. Not all survived to adulthood.[9]

Ludington was schooled as a child in Branford typical to that of schooling in colonial towns of the 18th century.[8] The school was controlled by the local Christian church and provided minimal basic education. Ludington was not interested in scholarly studies, but thought in terms of action instead. Ludington decided to discover the world and never completed his schooling.[10]

Ludington enlisted in the local military in September 1755, at the age of sixteen. He was with Captain Foote's company of the Second Connecticut Regiment.[11] Historian Louis S. Patrick says that Ludington re-enlisted on April 19, 1756, served under Colonel Andrew Ward at Crown Point, and was discharged on November 13, 1756. He was called back again for fifteen days of service at a "general alarm" for the relief of Fort William Henry in August 1757. He re-enlisted on April 14, 1759, for the campaign of the Second Connecticut Regiment under Colonel Nathan Whiting and was a member of David Baldwin's Third Company.[12]

Ludington marched with the British and American troops to Canada and participated in the victory at Quebec on September 13, 1759. He was entrusted at the age of twenty with being in charge of a company of sixty wounded soldiers who returned to New England. The arduous journey was made from Quebec to Boston in the infamous winter of 1759–60. Even though there were many hardships Ludington got his disabled comrades home safely. He then proceeded from Boston to Branford, Connecticut, in the spring of 1760 and retired from his military career. He returned to civilian life and married his cousin Abigail on May 1, 1760. She was born on May 8, 1745, so was just turning fifteen. They had twelve children, all born in Kent, New York (then known as Fredericksburgh).[13]

Ludington received from King George II the promotion of lieutenant in the British Colonial Army as an accolade in recognition of his services. He held that position until he heard of the Duties in American Colonies Stamp Act, when he resigned in protest.[14] Ludington then accepted on February 13, 1773, a captain's commission from William Tryon, the last British governor of New York. He held that position until the beginning of the American Revolution. Ludington then was the commander of the 7th regiment (infantry) of "Dutchess County" in New York in the Battle of Ridgefield in April 1777, of the American Revolutionary War.[15] The volunteers were mostly from the towns of Kent and Carmel of that county (later Putman County).[16][17][18]

Sketch of gun used by Ludington in the French and Indian War drawn by his great-great-granddaughter

Ludington was affiliated with George Washington as an aide-de-camp.[19][20] He worked with Washington and helped establish the initial "secret service" in America.[4] [8][19][21] Washington, in his campaign for American independence, conceived the idea of gathering patriots in a secret service of espionage to gather information on British troops and their activities so he could gain an advantage in his military movements.[4][22] He sent a letter on February 4, 1777, to the military commander Nathaniel Sackett for assistance on this.[23] Sackett in turn then delivered a letter ten days later to Ludington asking for help to furnish spies in Dutchess County and Westchester County in the New York province to gather information on British activities.[4][24]

February 14, 1777 letter from Nathaniel Sackett to Ludington

To Colonel Henry Ludington Esqr.


you will proceed on inquiring for a proper person to Remove into the City of New York. in your inquiry you are not to make any use of my name to any Person, but let it appear to be an act of your own unless you find one that in your opinion and skill is possessed of abilitys [sic] to carry a secret matter into Execution. upon your finding such a Person and his consenting to Remove into the city you will then desire him to come with you immediately to me, and you will enjoin secrecy upon and direct him not to mention either his business or my name to any Person. any Person that you may converse with in a confidential manner, you will Lay them under the strongest Bonds of secrecy in your Power. and lastly you will conduct the whole Business with the utmost secrecy in your Power and disclose only such parts as you may find absolutely necessary for procuring a proper Person to be employed for Secret Purposes and will actually Remove to the City of New York.

I am Sir your humble Servt,

Nathl. Sackett

Frederick Burgh Precinct,

Feby 14th, 1777

Among the first spies Ludington collaborated with was Enoch Crosby.[25] Crosby was an American Revolutionary War soldier and worked in the territory where Ludington commanded troops. Crosby was a shoemaker by trade and while traveling for his trade, he obtained critical espionage information that was important to Washington for his troops.[26] Ludington knew that Crosby had this vital information and his objective to get it in the correct hands. He aided Crosby in providing shelter and necessary provisions. Ludington helped other spies also, among them Benajah Tubbs.[25] Ludington gathered information vital to Washington and passed it on to the Continental Army.[26] He worked with John Jay in a spy ring that gathered information about British activities.[27]

Ludington tombstone

Ludington was much involved in the community of Patterson, New York. He built the "Ludington Mill" and gave the lumber required for building the first local academy, an important school for the town.[19] He was one of its trustees of the Presbyterian church and helped purchase in 1793 the land for its cemetery.[28]

Ludington was sociable and often in his retirement would meet with John Jay and John Crane at Elijah Townsend's house to reminisce about their days as spies of the American Revolution. He died of cancer at the age of 78 on January 24, 1817. His remains were buried in the churchyard of the town's Presbyterian church. His Patterson grave is marked with a tombstone that has a short inscription:

H. L.

In Memory of
Henry Ludington
Jan. 24, 1817
Aged 78 years

Historian William J. Blake of Putnam County said the epitaph was so simple that it didn't do justice for the patriot that helped develop the American government. Ludington's wife, Abigail, died eight years later at the age of 80 on August 3, 1825, and is buried beside him.[28]

Ludington's grist mill

The Will of Ludington is now on file in the surrogate's office of Putnam County. Ludington instructed the executors of his estate to sell off a part of his farm to pay for debts he owed. The remaining part of his farm was to go to his wife, daughter, son and granddaughter. The Will said that if any of them married, they would relinquish their portion of the estate and it would go to the benefit of those still unmarried.[29] The grist mill that Ludington built around 1775 and the immediate area was known as the hamlet of Ludingtonville.[30][8] The grist mill contained the local post office.[31] The mill was part of Ludington's Will.[29] This area is now in the town of Kent which is near Carmel, New York.[31]

Ludington was the grandfather of Harrison Ludington, who was the mayor of Milwaukee in 1871, 1873, and 1875 – also the 12th governor of Wisconsin.[32] His daughter, Sybil Ludington, is known as the female Paul Revere for her role in alerting her father's Minute Men troops to meet the advancing British army.[20][33][34] Ludington's grandson James founded Ludington, Michigan. The Ludington legacy has been handed down to several other states in the founding of other towns from his descendants.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 18.
  2. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 19.
  3. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 9.
  4. ^ a b c d e Patrick 1907, p. 265.
  5. ^ Pelletreau 1886, p. 691.
  6. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 10.
  7. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 20–21.
  8. ^ a b c d Miller 1907, pp. 504–508.
  9. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 22–23.
  10. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 24–25.
  11. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 26–27.
  12. ^ Johnson 1907, p. 29-30.
  13. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 35–45.
  14. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 30–31.
  15. ^ NYGBS 1989, p. 226.
  16. ^ Cole 2007, p. 48.
  17. ^ Maxson 2010, p. 23.
  18. ^ Pierce 1901, p. 270.
  19. ^ a b c "Secret Service of the American Revolution". Connecticut (CT) Sons of the American Revolution. 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2017. This is a true story of what might be termed the "secret service." It relates the life of a man of whom little is recorded but whose services to his country were such that justice should be done his character. Colonel Henry Ludington
  20. ^ a b National Magazine 1893, p. 479.
  21. ^ Stevens, Maryanne (April 23, 1975). "Ludington History Live in Oak Park". News Journal-page 13. Chicago, Illinois – via newspapers.com open access. Ludington was also in charge of the American secret service in New York, choosing the men, directing them and often hiding them in his house.
  22. ^ Rose, P.K. (2007). "The Founding Fathers of American Intelligence". Library. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  23. ^ "George Washington orders to Nathaniel Sackett, 4 February 1777". Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  24. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 114–116.
  25. ^ a b Johnson 1907, pp. 115.
  26. ^ a b Patrick 1907, p. 270.
  27. ^ Welty, Charles R. (2017). "Sybil's Story". Reproduced from Sybil Ludington: The Call to Arms by V. T. Dacquin. Retrieved April 24, 2017. Henry Ludington even became involved with spies. John Jay was the acting judge for this section of Dutchess. Jay and Ludington employed several secret agents to ferret out Tory activities and many prisoners were taken to judge Jay. Enoch Crosby, who was made famous by James Fenimore Cooper as Harvey Birch in The Spy, spent much time at the Ludington home and had a code of secret signals known to Sybil and her sister Rebecca, who were always on guard in their father's absence.
  28. ^ a b Johnson 1907, pp. 208–209.
  29. ^ a b Johnson 1907, pp. 210–211.
  30. ^ US Congress 1963, p. 3168.
  31. ^ a b Johnson 1907, p. v.
  32. ^ White 1904, p. 78.
  33. ^ Frank 2013, p. 365.
  34. ^ Hotchkiss 1898, p. 306.
  35. ^ Johnson 1907, pp. 228–229.


  • Cole, David Charles (6 July 2007). Cole Family in America. Xlibris Corporation. ISBN 978-1-4653-2002-5.[self-published source?]
  • Frank, Lisa Tendrich (2013). American Women at War. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-59884-443-6.
  • Hotchkiss, George Woodward (1898). Forest Industry of the Northwest. G.W. Hotchkiss & Company.
  • Johnson, Willis Fletcher (1907). Colonel Henry Ludington. L.E. and C.H. Ludington (original from Harvard University). Another part of Henry Ludington's services to his country during the Revolution was intimately connected with that little known underworld of the Secret Service –
  • Maxson, Thomas F. (February 2010). Mount Nimham. Lulu.com. ISBN 978-0-578-02581-0.[self-published source?]
  • Miller, Francis Trevelyan (1907). Journal of American History. American Records. ... first secret service.
  • National Magazine (1893). The National Magazine. Magazine of Western History Publishing Company. In Lamb's History of New York it is stated that he thwarted the designs of the British General, in consequence of which a price was set on his head, and on one occasion when the Tories had surrounded his home, his capture was only prevented by the bravery and presence of mind of his daughters Sibyl and Rebecca Ludington, "who were standing guard with guns..." and discovered the enemy in time to ward off the danger by a clever ruse. It was the first named of these daughters whose all-night ride on horseback to arouse Col. Ludington's regiment of "minute men " just after the British forces had raided Danbury, Connecticut, is hardly less famous than the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
  • NYGBS (1989). New York Genealogical. New York Genealogical Society.
  • Patrick, Louis S. (1907). The Connecticut Magazine. Connecticut Magazine Company. Colonel Ludington was closely identified with the first secret service. The home and the labors of the famous Revolutionary spy, Enoch Crosby, the original of Cooper's "Harvey Birch," were in the territory commanded by Colonel Ludington. This humble individual, a shoemaker by occupation, while traveling about the country pursuing his occupation among the people, obtained information of the utmost importance to Washington. Colonel Ludington knew his secret and his object and aided him and sheltered him in the performance of his delicate and hazardous mission. To further prosecute this service, Colonel Ludington furnished numerous successful spies from his own regiment, and with Washington planned many enterprises to obtain definite and trustworthy information concerning the movements, numbers and intentions of the British forces.
  • Pelletreau, William Smith (1886). Putnam County, New York. W.W. Preston.
  • Pierce, Frederick Clifton (1901). Field Genealogy. W.B. Conkey Company.
  • US Congress (1963). Congressional Record. U.S. Government Printing Office.
  • White, J.T. (1904). National Cyclopaedia of Biography.

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