Tea Party Winners: Debra E. Marvin's winner is: Kathleen, Jennifer Hudson Taylor's winner of her MacGregor Legacy series is Chris Granville and second winner is Britney Adams for the plaque and For Love or Country novel:, Angela K. Couch's winner is: , Carrie Fancett Pagels's winner per random.org is Beverly Duell-Moore for a copy of BCB and second winner for colonial goodies is: Carrie Moore Gould, Denise Weimer's winner: Janet Marie Dowell, Shannon McNear's winner is: Adriann Harris, Pegg Thomas's winner is: Susan C

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Female Paul Revere

Listen, my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of . . .Sybil Ludington?

Yup. That’s right. Sybil Ludington, the daughter of Col. Henry Ludington, a New York militia officer and later an aide to General George Washington, became a heroine of the American Revolution in her own right—and a model for the heroine of my American Patriot Series, Elizabeth Howard. On April 26, 1777, exactly 2 years and 8 days after Paul Revere rode “to spread the alarm through every Middlesex village and farm” about British troops on the march to Concord, Sybil did essentially the same thing. Except that she was 16, a girl, and she rode more than twice the distance Revere did. Not to mention that her route was a whole lot more daunting. And much of the way it rained. Hard.

Anyone care to join me in a rousing chorus of “Anything you can do, I can do better”?

On the night of April 26, a messenger reached the Ludington home at Fredericksburgh, NY, to report that Governor William Tryon’s troops were attacking Danbury, Connecticut, 15 miles to the southeast, to carry off the munitions and stores of the region’s militia. Sound familiar? Shades of Lexington and Concord.

Naturally Colonel Ludington immediately began to mobilize the local militia. The messenger and his horse were too worn out to go any farther, though, so our intrepid Sybil volunteered to rouse the countryside.

Sybil hit the saddle at 9:00 p.m. and dismounted back at home around dawn. All told, she galloped flat out 40 miles along unfamiliar, rugged, lonely roads at night in the rain, knocking on doors with the same stick she used to prod her horse so she wouldn’t have to dismount, and guiding the steed with nothing more than a hemp halter. Along the way, she had to use her father’s musket for defense against one of the roving ruffians often abroad at night in the region. Her feat is especially remarkable considering that modern-day riders using lightweight saddles have a hard time riding the same distance in daylight with good weather over a well-marked course free of highwaymen.

Now I know the statue shows her as riding side saddle, but I ask you, would that really have been possible, considering the speed at which she must have traveled over rough terrain in the dark? It was not rare for women and girls of the time to travel in men’s dress for comfort and modesty, and I tend to believe that, just like my most practical heroine, Elizabeth, she doffed her petticoats, pulled on a pair of her father’s breeches and boots, and sprang into the saddle to ride astride. In fact, an account of the event describes her as “clinging to a man’s saddle.” Case closed.
By the time she returned to her home, thoroughly soaked and exhausted, nearly the whole regiment of 400 soldiers had mustered because of her, and within a couple of hours they were on the march. Although the detachment arrived too late to stop the sack of Danbury, at the Battle of Ridgefield they drove the forces of General William Tryon, then governor of New York, back to Long Island Sound.

Following the war, in 1784, then twenty-three year-old Sybil married Edmund Ogden, a farmer and innkeeper. They had six children—an admirable feat in itself—and in 1792 the family settled in Catskill, NY, where they lived until Sybil’s death on February 26, 1839, at the age of 77. She is buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson, NY.

In 1935 New York State erected markers along the route she followed that night. The statue shown here was sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1961 and resides near Carmel, NY. Smaller originals can be found on the grounds of the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington, DC; on the grounds of Danbury, Connecticut’s public library, and in the Elliot and Rosemary Offner Museum at Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. In 1975 Sybil Ludington was honored with a postage stamp in the Contributors to the Cause United States Bicentennial series. Worthy honors for an amazing woman!

I hope you'll share a favorite story about a lady from colonial days you particularly admire, or perhaps one that was the source for a character in one of your own stories!


  1. A wonderful story - and one that should be featured in today's history books, to be sure! Oh, our young people suffer in their schools to NOT hear of these stories of past generations, and consider the character of these individuals that enabled them to accomplish what they did in their youth. A selfless patriot at 16 years - a role model for our young ladies today, to be sure!
    Miss Kathy

  2. What a wonderful post, Joan! Interesting that most of us have never heard of this young heroine. I remember learning about Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, Joan of Arc, Dr. Elizabeth Cadell, Madame Curie, and Sacajawea. Wonder if they are in our children's history books of today?

  3. Fascinating. Never heard of Sybil Ludington. So much we don't know after being educated in our schools.

  4. Wow! You always hear stories of famous patriot men, but not so much of women. Fascinating story!

  5. Ladies, I completely agree with you on every point. The same is true of African Americans and other minorities, but things are gradually changing, thank goodness. What we've been taught in history classes is only the tip of the iceberg. There is soooo much fascinating material out there that has hardly been plumbed, not only for the American colonial and Revolutionary periods, that those of us who enjoy reading and/or writing about history have treasures still to discover!

  6. Joan, she reminds me of the heroine in your series! What a gutsy gal she is. Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Joan, either I never knew this about Sybil (and that she inspired the character of Elizabeth in your series), or it's gotten buried under the mountain of research I've absorbed since you told me. How very fascinating, I'm so glad you shared this. I wish I knew of more such women, but I haven't run across any that are standing out now. Let's see, how about Nancy Ward (Nan-ye-hi), a Cherokee woman who both fought with the warriors of her tribe after her husband was killed, then, after she later married a white man, helped get word to settlers who were about to be killed by warring members of the tribe so they would have a chance to get to safety inside the forts. She was Ghighau, or a "Beloved Woman" among the Cherokee, and worked for peace in a time of terrible conflict in the Tennessee Valley.

  8. This is just remarkable! I enjoyed reading this true story about this real life heroine. Imagine the spunk and bravery she had and just how her courage impacted our very future.

  9. Susan Craft said...I love stories like these! When researching for my newest novel, I came across a slew of accounts about women of the Revolution. I'm working with a very talented woman and history lover who portrays backcountry South Carolina women, and we're coming up with programs that we plan to present all over South Carolina. We'll feature about 15 women. As part of the program, another friend will do a dramatization about Elizabeth, Andrew Jackson's mother. Now, there is a story. We already have our first "gig" scheduled next March at the Museum of the Waxhaws near Rock Hill, SC, and near where Andrew Jackson was born.

  10. Damn that Sybil. We may have won the war except for her! :)

    Seriously I was interested to hear it was common for women to cross dress for comfort because I've been pondering the mechanics and practicality of a woman enduring a long canoe journey. Would feminine dress have been practical to just get on with it, or would she have worn breeches?

  11. Joan, Can I borrow you brain;) You have such interesting info and work it into your novels so beautifully. Makes me want to go back and reread your series all over again. I just finished a book on the female spy (American side) that was executed during the Revolutionary War and is known today only by her code name. She was a Quaker and knew John Andre and became involved in a very dangerous game. My heart hurt when I finished that book. Hope you can post more of these in future!


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