Although she is one of the least-recognized women of the American Revolution, Sybil Ludington made a name for herself at barely 16 years old. At her young age, she became well known as the female counterpart to Paul Revere.
As the eldest daughter of New York Col. Henry Ludington—who served in the military for more than 60 years, loyal to the British crown until 1773 when he joined the rebel cause—she was well-versed in the route between Long Island Sound and Connecticut. She was also a skilled horse rider for a young woman and one of two Ludington children her father trusted with spy codes and secret signals.
However, as a young woman of her time, Sybil was responsible for the other 11 children in her family. Her duties to her father exceeded that when he was absent and during military meetings at the family home. At those times, Sybil and her sister Rebecca were put on guard to protect the family, their colleagues (including notorious spy Enoch Crosby), and the town, by using codes and going undetected by the British.
Sybil Ludington’s Famous Ride
While her life was fairly normal for a teenager of the time, that all changed one fateful night in 1777 when a rider came to her family’s house to ask for help. British troops had attacked the nearby town of Danbury, Connecticut, and the colonel’s regiment was needed as backup. However, at that time the locals were disbanded for planting season, meaning they were miles apart from one another without communication. Unfortunately for the rider, who was too exhausted to add miles to his trek and unfamiliar with the Hudson Valley, no one was there to proclaim the danger and call the colonists to battle.
Sybil did something unprecedented for a woman of her gender or age. She agreed to ride more than 40 miles—more than twice as far as Paul Revere—through the woods in the middle of night to notify the military members all along the path.
The impressiveness of Sybil’s efforts are not only reflected by her ability to make the necessary journey, but also by the fact that she did so while avoiding the British troops advancing along the path. She gathered almost the entire regiment of 400 men by daybreak to fight the British. This was doable only because of her knowledge and instincts about who were the revolutionary allies in the region and who were the loyalists to the crown that might betray the regiment. She chose her stops wisely, and at daybreak hundreds of men departed from the Ludington home for Danbury.
Her contribution was so pivotal to the American Revolution that Gen. George Washington traveled after the battle to personally thank Sybil for her heroics.
A Life of Many Responsibilities
She continued to help throughout the rest of the Revolutionary War as a messenger, until she was later married to Edward Ogden, an attorney from a nearby town. The couple had one son, named Henry. She was also the proud aunt of Harrison Ludington, a governor of Wisconsin.
After running an inn for many years past her husband’s death, Sybil was laid to rest in 1839. As a tribute to her efforts in founding this country, the U.S. Postal Service honored her with a stamp in 1975. There is also a monument dedicated to Sybil in Carmel, New York, as well as historical markers through Putnam County that trace her route, where a yearly 50 kilometer footrace is held.
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, as a tribute her legacy.