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This Day in History: Sybil Ludington, the female Paul Revere

On this day in 1777, Sybil Ludington Ogden, the so-called female Paul Revere, makes a daring midnight ride!

You know about Revere’s ride, but you may not have heard of Sybil’s. She made it when she was only 16 years old. She rode more than twice as far as Revere did—and through rockier roads and more sparsely settled country. Her goal? Tell the men in her father’s regiment that the British had raided the town of Danbury, Connecticut. The regiment, then on leave, was needed to “Muster at Ludington’s!”


What a girl—and what a Patriot!


What happened to start her ride? On April 25, a force of 2,000 British troops landed at Compo, near Fairfield, Connecticut. They were led by Governor William Tryon, the former British Governor of New York. By the next day, the British troops had reached Danbury. Once there, they destroyed American army supplies and set private homes on fire. They got drunk and seemed generally intent on destroying as much American property as they could.


Messengers were immediately dispatched. Two were sent to warn American generals in the area. One was sent to Colonel Henry Ludington, because he would be the one who would need to raise militia troops to help the generals. The messenger made it to Ludington several hours after the raid on Danbury had begun.

At the time, Ludington’s regiment was temporarily disbanded because (on a practical note) it was planting season. The soldiers had been allowed to go home to tend to their fields. How could these men be alerted and how could they regroup so quickly? Ludington could not do it himself. He would be needed at home, to organize the troops as they came in.


Sybil was chosen to make the ride. She knew the area, and she could do it—and she did!


A biographer of Colonel Henry Ludington, Willis Fletcher Johnson, recounts the ride:


Ludington told his daughter “to take a horse, ride for the men, and tell them to be at his house by daybreak. One who even now rides from Carmel to Cold Spring will find rugged and dangerous roads, with lonely stretches. Imagination only can picture what it was a century and a quarter ago, on a dark night . . . . But the child performed her task, clinging to a man’s saddle, and guiding her steed with only a hempen halter, as she rode through the night, bearing the news of the sack of Danbury. There is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere and its midnight message. Nor was her errand less efficient than his. By daybreak, thanks to her daring, nearly the whole regiment was mustered before her father’s house . . . .”


Okay, to be fair, Johnson’s use of the word “child” was not exactly accurate, given the fact that a 16-year-old was considered more or less an adult back in 1777. But still! What a girl! And . . . what a father! Can you imagine letting your daughter go on such a ride, no matter what her age?! Wow. There were TWO great Patriots that night.


The result of these great acts of patriotism? Ludington’s troops did not exactly defeat the British, but they forced a retreat that saved Danbury from total destruction.

Logistical note for those who care, taken from the Notes & Sources

in She Fought Too: Stories of Revolutionary War Heroines:

Sybil’s story was not documented until 1880 in Martha J. Lamb’s History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise and Progress. The late appearance of the story has led a handful of modern scholars to question whether the ride really occurred. However, Lamb was in contact with Sybil’s family as she wrote her 1880 book, which even doubters concede. The story later appeared in Willis Fletcher Johnson’s memoir of Colonel Ludington’s life, a book that was published privately by his grandchildren. In recent years, local historian Vincent T. Dacquino has dug up still more correspondence, pension applications, and other materials indicating that Sybil likely did make a ride. In short: It’s reasonable to conclude that the family had long known the story through oral tradition, but Lamb was the first to officially put the story into print. Further, the British raid that prompted Sybil’s ride is well-documented—someone had to make a ride that night.

Primary Sources:



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