Sybil Ludington

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Sybil Ludington
Ludington statue 800.jpg
Statue of Sybil Ludington in Carmel, New York by Anna Hyatt Huntington
Born(1761-04-05)April 5, 1761
DiedFebruary 26, 1839(1839-02-26) (aged 77)
Spouse(s)Edmond Ogden (married in 1784)
Sybil Ludington commemorative stamp

Sybil Ludington (April 5, 1761 – February 26, 1839), of Putnam County, New York, is celebrated as a heroine of the American Revolutionary War. On the night of April 26, 1777, at the age of 16, she reportedly rode to alert militia forces in villages of Putnam County, New York and Danbury, Connecticut, to the approach of the British regular forces. The ride was similar to those performed by William Dawes and Paul Revere (Massachusetts, April 1775), and Jack Jouett (Virginia, 1781). Ludington reportedly rode more than twice the distance attributed to Revere and was much younger than the men.

Her story was first published in 1880 by local historian Martha Lamb, to whom it was probably told by Ludington's descendants.[1][2][3] Her book has the earliest known reference in print to Ludington's ride. Since about 1900, Ludington has been more widely celebrated. Memorial statues honor her, and books have been written about her.

Contemporary sources suggest that the patriot army and the town of Danbury, Connecticut were already aware of the approaching British troops, as noted in The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, May 19, 1777,[4] which stated, "On Saturday, the 26th of April, express came to Danbury from Brigadier General Silliman, advising that a large body of enemy had landed the day before at sun set, at Campo, a point of land between Fairfield, and Norwalk, and were marching toward Danbury. Measures were immediately taken..." But Ludington was the daughter of a militia Colonel who needed to rally the hundreds of local troops under his command and needed time to plan the battle yet to come.

Her ride would be celebrated as an act of courage in a time of crisis and an impressive example a young woman in particular contributing to the revolutionary war effort, made only more significant by its relative anonymity in comparison to the celebrated heroics of war's young men.


Sybil was born in Fredericksburg (now Ludingtonville), New York. She was the eldest of twelve children.[5] Lewis Ludington was the youngest, born June 25, 1786. Her parents were Abigail Knowles and Henry Ludington, who were first cousins. They met during the French and Indian War. Sybil was conceived a year after the couple married. The small family moved to Dutchess County, New York, and the couple had more children. They lived on and farmed a very large piece of land.

Ludington's ride[edit]

On April 26, 1777, Sybil Ludington rode her horse, Star, 40 miles (64 km) through the night in Putnam County, New York, to warn approximately 400 militiamen under the control of her father that British troops were planning to attack Danbury, Connecticut, where the Continental Army had a supply depot. On her way to gather her father's troops, she warned the people of Danbury.

Sybil's father, Colonel Henry Ludington, had fought in the French and Indian War. He volunteered to head the local militia during the American Revolution. Due to her father's position, Sybil had to move from town to town following her father, and unknowingly played an important role in the success of the colonies. The afternoon after Sybil warned residents of Danbury, the British troops burned down three buildings and destroyed multiple houses, but did not kill many people. Unlike accounts about the rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes before the outbreak of the Revolution, little was told of Sybil Ludington's ride for personal reasons; the only record of this event was written by her great grandson. Ludington's ride started at 9 p.m. and ended around dawn.[5]

Prior to her famous ride, Sybil saved her father from capture. When a royalist named Ichobod Prosser tried, with 50 other royalists, to capture her father, Sybil lit candles around the house and organized her siblings to march in front of the windows in military fashion, creating the impression of many troops guarding the house. The royalist and his men fled.[6]

She allegedly rode a total of 40 miles (64 km) in the hours of darkness, 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 had to defend herself against a highwayman with the stick. By the time she returned home, soaked with rain and exhausted, most of the 400 soldiers were ready to march.[7]

The American militia arrived too late to save Danbury. But, at the start of the Battle of Ridgefield, they were able to drive General William Tryon, then British governor of the colony of New York, and his men to Long Island Sound.[7] Ludington was congratulated for her heroism by friends and neighbors and also by General George Washington.[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

Close-up of smaller version of statue by Anna Hyatt Huntington. Offner Museum, Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina
Grave of Sybil Ludington, bearing a spelling variation of her first name. There are several variations in the spelling of the name "Sybil"; all of which are correct.[according to whom?]

After the war, in 1784, the 23-year-old Sybil Ludington married Edmond Ogden. They had one child together, named Henry. Edmond was a farmer and innkeeper, according to various reports. In 1792, the family settled 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 in Patterson, New York.[5] Her tombstone, at right, shows a different spelling of her first name. (Generations of the Ludington family became prominent in the Midwest. Her nephew Harrison Ludington was elected as governor of Wisconsin.)

Sybil Ludington was first written about in an 1880 book about the New York City area by a local historian, Martha Lamb. She had said that she relied on numerous primary sources, including letters, sermons, genealogical compilations, wills, and court records to document Ludington's life.[16] She did not, however, provide documentation, and there are no known written references to Ludington's ride prior to her book.

Historian Paula Hunt has provided a detailed history of the Ludington story and how it has been presented in the media. She does not pronounce on whether the story is accurate, perhaps since her interest was more in the story's presentation than in its veracity. She does state that many popular details such as the horse named Star, the stick in her hand and the 40 mile distance were "fictions".[17] Hunt has written:

Sybil's ride embraces the mythical meanings and values expressed in the country's founding. As an individual, she represents Americans' persistent need to find and create heroes who embody prevalent attitudes and beliefs.[18]

In 1996 the national Daughters of the American Revolution said the evidence was not strong enough to support their criteria for a war "heroine"; they removed a book about her from their headquarters bookstore. The DAR chapter near her historic home says her exploit was documented, and it continues to honor her. Paula Hunt concludes, "The story of the lone, teenage girl riding for freedom, it seems, is simply too good not to be believed."[19]

Legacy and honors[edit]

In 1935 New York State erected a number of historic markers along Ludington's route. A commemorative statue of Sybil, sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington, was erected near Carmel, New York, in 1961. Smaller versions [20] of the statue were erected on the grounds of the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington, D.C.; on the grounds of the public library, Danbury, Connecticut; and in the Elliot and Rosemary Offner museum at Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.[21]

In 1975, Sybil Ludington was honored with a postage stamp in the "Contributors to the Cause" United States Bicentennial series.[5] Each April since 1979, the Sybil Ludington 50k Run, a 50-kilometre (31 mi) ultramarathon 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.[22] Poet Berton Braley wrote a poem about the event.

Representation in other media[edit]

In 1993, composer Ludmila Ulehla wrote a chamber opera, "Sybil of the American Revolution," which was based upon the story of Sybil Ludington's ride. Episode 21 of the Revolutionary War cartoon Liberty's Kids (September 2002) tells the story of Sybil Ludington's ride, whose voice is portrayed by actress Kayla Hinkle. A 2014 episode of Comedy Central's Drunk History featured the story of Sybil Ludington's ride, with Sybil being portrayed by Juno Temple.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Paula D. Hunt, "Sybil Ludington, the Female Paul Revere", New England Quarterly, vol. 88, #2, p. 190
  2. ^ Martha Joanna Lamb; Mrs. Burton Harrison (1880). History of the City of New York: The century of national independence, closing in 1880, vol. 2. A. S. Barnes. pp. 159–60, vi.
  3. ^ Magazine of Western History. 1893. p. 479.
  4. ^ The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, May 19, 1777
  5. ^ a b c d Profile, Historic Patterson website; accessed February 23, 2015.
  6. ^ Porath, Jason (2016). Rejected Princesses. Dey St. p. 19. ISBN 9780062405371.
  7. ^ a b Sybil Ludington: a Revolutionary Hero,; accessed February 23, 2015.
  8. ^ Sybil Ludington article by Jone Johnson Lewis, Women's History
  9. ^ Sybil Ludington – Her Midnight Ride,; accessed February 23, 2015.
  10. ^ Miller, p. 18, "Later, America's general George Washington came to Sybil's house to thank her."
  11. ^ Moore, p. 300, "Afterward, General George Washington made a personal visit to Ludington's Mills to thank Sybil for her courageous deed."
  12. ^ Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, "Biography – Sybil Ludington 1761–1839", Unit 3, Chapter 5, The American Revolution "Later, Sybil was thanked personally by General George Washington".
  13. ^ Binkley, p. 18, "Afterward, General George Washington made a personal visit to Ludington's Mill to thank Sybil for her courageous deed."
  14. ^ Smithsonian Source – Confirmation Readings (Sybil Ludington)
  15. ^ Weatherford, p. 31, "... After the battle at Danbury, George Washington and French General Rochambeau came to the Ludington home personally, to thank Sybil."
  16. ^ Lamb. History of the City of New York:. pp. v–vi.
  17. ^ Paula D. Hunt, "Sybil Ludington, the Female Paul Revere", The New England Quarterly, vol. 88, #2, p. 207.
  18. ^ Paula D. Hunt, "Sybil Ludington, the Female Paul Revere: The Making of a Revolutionary War Heroine." New England Quarterly (2015) 88#2 pp. 187–222, quote p. 187 online
  19. ^ Hunt, pp. 213, 217–18, quote on p. 222.
  20. ^ "Original" defined as a sculpture cast under the supervision of original artist during his/her lifetime.
  21. ^ Willicox, Kathleen (2014). "SYBIL LUDINGTON: NY'S LESSER-KNOWN (TEENAGE, FEMALE) PAUL REVERE". New York Makers Magazine. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
  22. ^ Sweeney, Bob; McCurtin, Ellen. "Sybil Ludington 50k". Sybil Ludington 50k Run. Bob Sweeney, & Ellen McCurtin. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  23. ^ "Sybil Ludington". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Gale. July 8, 2016. Retrieved June 15, 2017.


  • Binkley, Marilyn R., Reading Literacy in the U.S.: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study, DIANE Publishing, 1996, ISBN 0-7881-4512-6
  • Black, Virginia Morrow, Gallop To Glory, Brockagh Books, 2017 ISBN 9781530913244
  • Bohrer, Melissa Lukeman, Glory, Passion, and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution, Simon and Schuster, 2003, ISBN 0-7434-5330-1
  • Hunt, Paula D., "Sybil Ludington, the Female Paul Revere: The Making of a Revolutionary War Heroine," New England Quarterly 88 (June 2015), 187–222.
  • Johnson, Willis (1907). Colonel Henry Ludington. L.E. and C.H. Ludington (original from Harvard University).
  • Miller, Brandon Marie, Growing Up in Revolution and the New Nation, 1775 to 1800, Lerner Publications, 2003, ISBN 0-8225-0078-7
  • Moore, David W., Developing Readers and Writers in the Content Areas K-12, Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2006,ISBN 0-205-49474-9
  • Weatherford, D., Milestones : A Chronology of American Women's History. New York: Facts on File, 1997, ISBN 0-8160-3200-9

External links[edit]