During Women’s History Month, DiversityInc is honoring a series of woman innovators and history makers like Sybil Ludington, who are often overlooked in mainstream media coverage and history books. Check back throughout March to learn about more important figures.
Born: April 5, 1761, Fredericksburg, New York
Died: Feb. 26, 1839, Unadilla, New York
Best known for: Riding on horseback through the night to alert troops of an impending British attack during the Revolutionary War.
Most Americans are familiar with the story of Paul Revere, whose heroic 1775 “Midnight Ride” from Boston to Lexington, Massachusetts, warned residents that the British were approaching. But two years later, another patriot did the same — and unlike Revere, she avoided capture. Her name was Sybil Ludington and she was remarkably just 16 years old at the time when she made the ride.
Ludington was born in Fredericksburg, New York in 1761 and was the oldest of 12 children. Her father, Henry was a gristmill owner and a Colonel in the militia. The area he patrolled was located between Connecticut and the coast of the Long Island Sound.
On April 26, 1777, a rider appeared at the Ludington’s home in Patterson, New York (now known as Ludingtonville for her father’s service) to alert the Colonel that the nearby town of Danbury was under British attack. At the time, Colonel Ludington’s regiment had disbanded for planting season; since the rider was too tired to continue and because Colonel Ludington had to prepare for battle, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington mounted her horse, riding through a rainy night to alert her father’s men, who were miles apart at their farms. Estimates say she rode between 20 and 40 miles that night and by the time she returned home, hundreds of soldiers had gathered to fight.
Although the British successfully raided Danbury, Ludington’s ride helped the American troops drive the redcoats back from Ridgefield, Connecticut to the Long Island Sound.
In 1784, 23-year-old Ludington married Edward Ogden. The couple eventually had one son, named Henry after her father. Ogden died in 1799, and the now widowed Ludington was forced to become a business owner in order to make ends meet. She bought, ran and eventually sold a tavern for hefty profit, ultimately helping her son to attend college and become a lawyer. Once he was out of school, Ludington used some of those profits to purchase a home where she, her son and his family resided for many years.
Sadly, Ludington also outlived her son who died in 1838. After his death, she applied for a Revolutionary War pension because her husband had also served in the military. She was denied, with the government claiming insufficient proof of marriage. Ludington died a year later in poverty, despite her and her husband’s numerous contributions in the war.
She faded into obscurity for much of history until 1961, when the Daughters of the American Revolution commissioned artist Anna Hyatt Huntington to sculpt a depiction of Ludington’s midnight ride in bronze. The statue still stands in Carmel, New York. Along with other figures from the American Revolution, Ludington was also honored with a postage stamp for the USPS’ Bicentennial Series, “Contributors to the Cause.”