American Revolution: Sybil Ludington

Everyone has heard of Paul Revere's ride through the night to alert a sleeping countryside of the coming of the British troops. Less well known is an equally heroic ride, undertaken in 1777 by a 16-year-old farm girl.


Sybil Ludington was the eldest of Col. Henry and Abigail Ludington's 12 children. They lived in Fredericksburg, New York (now called Ludingtonville), where her father, a veteran of the French and Indian war, was a gristmill owner and commander of the area militia.

On the night of April 26, 1777, the Ludington family was getting ready for bed when they were startled by a hard knock on the door. It was a messenger from Danbury, Connecticut, who had come to request the aid of the Fredericksburg militia. Two thousand British troops had attacked that Connecticut town; the Continental Army's depot of munitions and food there was destroyed and much of the town was left in flames.

Obviously, Colonel Ludington could not personally both supervise the muster of his troops and ride to alert them. Sybil volunteered to make the ride in his place.


Authorities vary on the length of her ride; some say it was 20, some say 40, miles. In any case, it was raining hard. But as Sybil urged her bay horse, Star, onward, she could see the sky light up from the glow of the flaming town. "The British are burning Danbury--muster at Ludington's!" she shouted at the farmhouses of the militiamen. When, soaked from the rain and exhausted, she returned home, most of the 400 soldiers were ready to march.


After the Battle of Ridgefield, as the resulting skirmish was later known, Sybil was congratulated for her heroism by friends and neighbors--and by General George Washington.