sybil ludington's heroic midnight ride -- 7/28/16

In today's encore selection -- from Lost to Time by Martin W. Sandler. We recently heard about Deborah Sampson a heroine of the Revolutionary War. Here is another story of American Revolutionary War heroine, Sybil Ludington. Sybil rode more than twice the distance of Paul Revere, over more treacherous terrain, and was only sixteen. 

"As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Virginius Dabney wrote, 'If you mean to be a historical figure, it is a good idea to get in touch with a leading literary figure -- a Longfellow, a Homer, or a Virgil.' As Dabney points out, Paul Revere, Odysseus, and Aeneas 'all took this precaution.'

"Dabney was right. As schoolchildren, we all learned of Paul Revere's ride through Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem 'Paul Revere's Ride,' first published in 1861 [to rally the loyalty of citizens in the American Revolutionary War]. What we didn't learn was that Revere was not the only Patriot to embark upon a midnight ride to raise the alarm of an imminent British attack. What our history books didn't tell us was that there was [another ride] more arduous and more dangerous than Revere's gallop. ...

"[This ride] took place in the Long Island Sound region, an area where, from the outbreak of the war, towns in both Connecticut and New York lived in constant fear of an attack by British troops. However, it was not until April 1777 that the long dreaded attack took place. The site was Danbury, Connecticut, a town that had become vital to the Patriot cause because of its use as a primary supply depot by the Continental Army. ...

Sybil Ludington and Star

"[After burning Danbury, the British were poised to ransack the vital region, and America's] militiamen were scattered on their separate farms in what may well have been more than a one-hundred-square-mile area. Who was available to ride out and tell them that they had to return immediately? Certainly not the rider who had brought the news from Danbury. He was too tired to go any farther. Besides, he had no idea where the various militiamen lived or how best to get there. [The American commander in the region,] Colonel Henry Ludington, could not go. He needed to begin making preparations for the march and had to be there as the members of his regiment returned.

"Ludington realized, however, that there was one person who had perhaps the best chance of carrying out the vital mission. It was Sybil, the oldest of his twelve children -- but still only just turned sixteen. But she was a marvel on horseback and knew the region extremely well. And she had taken on great responsibility by helping her mother care for her eleven brothers and sisters. ...

"Within minutes she was ready to go, fully aware of the difficulties, even the dangers, that lay ahead. It was a stormy night, and the heavy spring rain gave no indication of letting up. The narrow roads upon which she was about to ride were not really roads at all, but mere dirt tracks. They would be totally muddy, and washouts would be a constant danger. And even before her father reminded her, she was all too aware of the danger of being overtaken and captured by British 'cowboys' or 'skinners' who might well be operating along the route she was about to take. ...

"[The militia rallied and] discouraged the British from any further attacks in the area. As a result, the Americans in the vital region gained precious time to organize and resist, in large part due to the efforts of sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington, who was officially commended by General George Washington for her heroic ride. In 1961, American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington created a dramatic statue of Sybil riding her horse Star and spreading the alarm. Versions of the statue were erected in Danbury, along Sybil's route near Carmel, and at the Daughters of the American Revolution headquarters in Washington, D.C. In perhaps the ultimate tribute, the name of her hometown was to be changed from Fredericksburg to Ludingtonville. Paul Revere traveled about twenty miles during his historic ride. Sybil Ludington made a forty mile journey for the Patriot cause, and she did it over much more difficult terrain than did the Boston artisan and messenger.

"And, unlike Revere, Sybil Ludington completed her mission without being captured. Yet she remains largely unknown. As Virginius Dabney wrote, 'Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, God rest his bones, put Revere on the map. Unfortunately for Sybil, no one with the talent or reputation of a Longfellow did that for her.' "


Martin W. Sandler


Lost to Time: Unforgettable Stories that History Forgot


Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.


Copyright 2010 by Martin W. Sandler


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