Revolutionary War heroine
Born April 5, 1761, died Feb. 26, 1839
by Jeanne Robinson
Sixteen year old Sybil Ludington lay awake in her bed thinking about the War. It was 1777 and America was fighting for its independence from England.
Sybil wished that she could do something to help the cause. She already spun wool instead of buying fabric from England. And, she refused to drink English tea. But, that was what all the women were doing. Sybil wished that she could do something special for America.
Suddenly, Sybil heard a noise outside. It sounded like a horse galloping into the yard. It was past midnight - Sybil wondered who it could be.
“Colonel Ludington! Colonel Ludington!” a man on horseback shouted. “The British are burning Danbury, Sir! You must gather your men and march against the British!”
“All our supplies are at Danbury!” Colonel Ludington exclaimed. “All our guns and ammunition will be destroyed!”
“Yes, Sir,” the messenger replied. “You have to stop the British!” Then the soldier collapsed to the ground, exhausted from his long ride.
“We have to muster the men,” Sybil heard her father say. Sybil knew that the men in her father’s militia unit lived in farms scattered all over the countryside. They had been released from military duty to tend to their spring planting. Now they would have to be called out to form their fighting unit.
Suddenly Sybil knew what she could do to help America. She walked down the stairs and said to her parents, “I’ll go.”
Both parents turned to Sybil. “What?” said her mother.
“I said I’ll go muster the men,” Sybil repeated.
“No,” replied Colonel Ludington. “You are too young, Sybil.”
“But, I know the roads and the farms, Father. I know where all the men live,” Sybil pleaded.
“It’s too dangerous for you,” Colonel Ludington said. “You could be attacked by bandits, or captured by Tories and turned over to the British army.”
“There is nobody else who can go, Father,” Sybil replied. “Samuel and George are too little. It has to be me. Please, Father, send me. I want to help.”
Her father studied her for a moment. He saw the determination and strength in her face. He knew his daughter. She was strong and resourceful. And, she was courageous. “All right,” he said.
Sybil raced out the front door. Her parents followed her and gave a quick gasp. The sky to the east glowed bright red! The British were burning Danbury!
Colonel Ludington hurried after Sybil and found her in the barn saddling Star, her father’s favorite horse.
The sky still burned red when Colonel Ludington led Star around to the front yard. He handed Sybil a big stick. “Use this to knock on the farmhouse doors,” he told her. “Tell my men to muster here at the mill. Go as far south as Mahopac Falls and then north to Stormyville. You are sure you know the way?” he asked.
“Yes, Father,” Sybil answered.
He looked hard into her eyes. “Godspeed, my daughter.”
Sybil rode off! She tore down the lane and onto the highway. Her heart was pounding furiously. Sybil’s first stop was the Alder place. She charged right up to the farmhouse and banged her big stick on the door. Sybil yelled, “The British are burning Danbury! Muster at Ludington’s Mill!” Then Sybil turned around and raced off to the next place.
Star galloped like the wind, carrying Sybil from farmhouse to farmhouse. “The British are burning Danbury! Muster at Ludington’s Mill!” Sybil repeated each time. She felt happy and scared all at once. But, most of all she felt proud to be helping the American colonies.
Sybil rallied all the men in Mahopac Falls and then headed north. Her voice was hoarse from yelling her message. Her arm throbbed from holding the wooden stick. And, her whole body ached from riding so long.
She reached the hill above Stormyville and paused for a moment. Sybil was weary, but ready to do her duty. Gathering her strength, she pointed Star down the path to the village. After waking Stormyville, Sybil turned south and headed home.
By the time she got back to the mill yard, it was swarming with men. “You did it, Sybil!” her father exclaimed proudly.
Sybil had ridden 40 miles that night. She had gathered all 400 of her father’s men. She was only 16 years old, but she had done something special to help America win the war for independence.