The Midnight Ride Of ... Sybil Ludington

Paul Revere was hardly the only revolutionary who sounded the midnight alarm. You haven't heard of most yet because no one has written a poem about them, even though some of them are far more interesting. One of them was, in fact, just a teenage girl.

Sybil Ludington

Sybil Ludington, born in 1761, was the eldest of 12 children born to Colonel Henry Luddington, the leader of a local band of civilian soldiers near Long Island Sound in what is now Putnam County, New York, and his wife Abigail. She grew up in the small village of Fredericksburg in Duchess County, New York, which was renamed Luddingtonville.

Statue of Sybil Luddington on Glenida Avenue in Carmel, New York, by Anna Hyatt Huntington.

An Urgent Matter

In the early hours of April 26, 1777, an exhausted rider showed up at Luddington's home with the startling news that Danbury, Connecticut was under attack by the British and that Luddington's regiment was urgently needed. Unfortunately, spring meant planting season, and Luddington's unit was temporarily disbanded so they could get their crops into the ground. The colonel, who needed to be behind to make the necessary preparations to lead the regiment into battle, could not simply send him a group text, and the news rider was on the verge of collapse, so he turned to his 16. Year old daughter Sybil.

In some versions of the story, Sybil willingly rode heroically. In others, his father ordered him to leave. Somehow, the teens went in the dark of night and were running rain to rally the soldiers. It was a dangerous ride: the roads and woods were dark, and neither the horse nor the rider could see where they were going. Even under the best of circumstances, the frail, uninhibited girl risked encountering enemy soldiers or drunk ne'er-do-wells, but despite the dangers, Sybil Luddington rode.

Sybil Luddington's grave.

Sybil Luddington's Midnight Ride

From farm to farm, Sybil Luddington knocked on doors to wake the occupants. He traveled some 40 miles in and around Putnam County, spreading the news of the Danbury attack. According to legend, she went as far north as Mohopack and as far south as Stormville. By the time she returned home at dawn, exhausted, cold and rain-drenched, about 400 soldiers were preparing to march to Danbury thanks to her efforts.

Sadly, by the time Colonel Luddington's troops arrived, the town had fallen, although they successfully drove the British away from Danbury and Long Island Sound. Both the Colonel and Sybil Luddington received a heartfelt thanks to General George Washington for his valiant efforts against the British.

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