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Sybil Ludington: The 16-Year-Old Revolutionary Hero Who Rode Twice As Far As Paul Revere

The courageous teenager rode 40 miles on horseback to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury during the U.S. Revolutionary War.

On the night of April 26, 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington climbed onto her horse and set off on a mission: a 40-mile ride to muster local militia troops in response to a British attack on the town of Danbury, Connecticut. Riding all night through rain — and traveling twice the distance that Paul Revere rode during his famous midnight ride — Sybil returned home at dawn having given nearly the entire regiment of 400 Colonial troops the order to assemble. Following the battle, General George Washington personally thanked Sybil for her service and bravery. Although every American school child knows the story of Paul Revere — largely thanks to the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — unfortunately few are taught about Sybil Ludington's courageous feat.

Born in 1761 in Fredericksbug, New York, Sybil Ludington was the oldest of Colonel Ludington's twelve children. His militia troops had disbanded for the planting season when word came that British troops were marching towards Danbury, Connecticut, where the Continental Army had a supply depot. While her father planned their response, Sybil volunteered to rally the militia following her father's instruction to "ride to the men, and tell them to be at his house by daybreak."

It was 9 pm, already dark and raining heavily, when she mounted her horse, Star, and set off through Putnam County, New York. She rode from her family's farm in Kent, south to the village of Carmel, down to Mahopac, then west to Mahopac Falls, north to Kent Cliffs and Farmers Mills; from there, she rode further north to Stormville before returning south to the farm. As she rode 40 miles through the night mustering the militia, she used a stick to bang on the shutters of neighbors' homes, yelling "The British are burning Danbury!"  By the time she returned home, exhausted and soaked to the skin, most of the four hundred soldiers were on their way.

While Colonel Ludington's troops could not save Danbury from being burned, they joined forces with the Continental Army at the Battle of Ridgefield the following day. The American forces drove General William Tryon, the British governor of New York, back to the British fleet at Long Island Sound, halting their advance and protecting more American cities from attack. The British raid also led to a surge of support for the Patriot cause, and 3,000 local residents joined the Connecticut Army of Reserve soon after the British sailed away.

Following her daring nighttime ride, Sybil was thanked for her heroism and service by grateful neighbors and by General George Washington, then Commander of the Continental Army. Unlike Paul Revere, whose name became universally known thanks to Longfellow's poem, Sybil's ride had been mostly forgotten by her death in 1839 at the age of 77. In 1907, however, Ludington's great-nephew Louis S. Patrick wrote an account of her ride, which piqued interest in this unsung Revolutionary War figure.

In 1935, New York State erected a series of historic markers along her route, and a statue of her by renowned American sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington was erected in Carmel, New York in 1961. In 1975, she was honored on a U.S. Bicentennial stamp that depicted her on her horse. And, since April 1979, runners have also challenged themselves with the Sybil Ludington 50K Run, an ultramarathon that approximates the route she traveled on her ride. While her 'midnight ride' has never been given the same recognition as that of her famous contemporary, Sybil Ludington's place in history is now secure and her story is a powerful reminder of the many daring girls and women who served their country during the fight for independence.

Books About Heroic Women of the Revolutionary War

Sybil's Night Ride

Sybil's Night Ride

Written by: Karen B. Winnick
Illustrated by: Karen B. Winnick
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

When 16-year-old Sybil Ludington went riding through a stormy night on April 26, 1777 to alert her father's troops to a British attack on nearby Danbury, Connecticut, she had no idea that she would travel twice as far as Paul Revere — and yet be nearly forgotten by history. In this atmospheric telling, author/illustrator Karen B. Winnick depicts Ludington's life as the daughter of a Revolutionary colonel, and highlights her remarkable courage as she braved ferocious rain, risk of capture by Loyalists, and even highwaymen on her patriotic quest to protect her fellow Americans. This picture book captures how every person was critical in America's early days — allowing even a teenage girl to become a hero.

Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride

Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride

Written by: Marsha Amstel
Illustrated by: Ellen Beier
Recommended Age: 6 - 8

You've heard of Paul Revere, but did you know that, in 1777, a 16-year-old girl rode 40 miles in one night to alert American troops of an impending British attack — twice as far as Revere did. Sybil Ludington traveled dirt roads in the pouring rain, facing attacks by outlaws and imprisonment by the British, to ensure that her father's militiamen were ready to push the invaders back to their boats. This page-turning account of Ludington's ride is sure to thrill young readers, while the afterword about Ludington's further efforts during the Revolutionary war will help them see the many contributions women made to America's battle for independence.

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution

Written by: Laurie Halse Anderson
Illustrated by: Matt Faulkner
Recommended Age: 6 - 10

Budding historians eager for more stories of women in America will love this book, which introduces many fascinating figures of the Colonial period. Women of the Revolutionary War played many roles, from tending to wounded soldiers, to sewing for the troops, to disguising themselves as men in order to fight alongside their brothers and husbands. Acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson uses thorough research to pay tribute to these little-celebrated women and their determination and courage. With engaging and detailed illustrations by Matt Faulkner, this book will intrigue children and adults alike!

Rebel With A Cause: The Daring Adventure of Dicey Langston, Girl Spy of the American Revolution

Rebel With A Cause: The Daring Adventure of Dicey Langston, Girl Spy of the American Revolution

Written by: Kathleen V. Kudlinski
Illustrated by: Rudy Faber
Recommended Age: 7 - 10

It's the midst of the Revolutionary War, and Dicey Langston's brothers are at a secret Patriot camp in Little Eden, South Carolina. 14-year-old Dicey may not be allowed to be a soldier, but she knows she can contribute with information, and hides her Patriot leanings to report on her Loyalist neighbors. Then she hears that Bloody Bill and his fierce Loyalist troops are heading straight for Little Eden. To warn her brothers, she ran 5 miles, crossing the dangerously swollen Tyger River — and thanks to her warning, the settlement was evacuated just in time. This thrilling entry in the Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books series tells the pulse-pounding tale of one girl's courageous act on behalf of American independence.

Founding Mothers: Remembering The Ladies

Founding Mothers: Remembering The Ladies

Written by: Cokie Roberts
Illustrated by: Diane Goode
Recommended Age: 7 - 11

Turning America into a country required contributions from many people — including dedicated, patriotic women. Award-winning journalist Cokie Roberts provides an excellent introduction to women's contribution to the American Revolution in this engaging adaptation of her book for adult readers, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation. She features profiles of multiple women, including early First Ladies Martha Washington and Abigail Adams, who famously urged her husband to "remember the ladies" when codifying laws for the new country. Fans of this book will enjoy the follow-up Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation, which covers the period from 1776 to 1824.

Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider

Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider

Written by: E. F. Abbott
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Sybil Ludington and her family are Patriots living in 1777 New York, fighting against the British. The obvious enemies are not the only ones that surround them: any neighbor, acquaintance, or passing stranger could be loyal to the British crown. But when British troops attack Danbury, Sybil has to take that chance to get word to her father's militia unit. Through an entire night, facing dangers from the weather to highway robbers to British soldiers, she would ride far longer than Paul Revere — and become a hero of the Revolutionary War. This stirring telling from the Based on a True Story series is sure to thrill middle grade readers!

Susanna's Midnight Ride: The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War

Susanna's Midnight Ride: The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War

Written by: Libby Carty McNamee
Recommended Age: 9 - 12

16-year-old Susanna Bolling is frustrated with her life in the midst of the American Revolution; she chafes against the household chores expected of a girl, and wishes she could help the Patriots like her older brothers. But nowhere in America is safe during this struggle for freedom, not even little City Point, Virginia. When British General Cornwallis invades and takes over her home at Bollingbrook Plantation, Susanna overhears his plans — plans that could tip the balance in Britain's favor. If she's going to save the day, she'll have to outwit the General and all his troops, and ride through the night — against her mother's objections — to carry this critical information. Based on a true story of courage, this thrilling novel, with its inspiring and resourceful heroine, will captivate young readers.

Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue

Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue

Written by: Susan Casey
Recommended Age: 12 and up

Every schoolchild knows about Paul Revere, but what about 16-year-old Sybil Ludington, who rode twice as far to help her father muster his scattered troops? And while we cheer the defiance of Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death!", few know Martha Bratton's more daring declaration "It was I who did it!" to British soldiers after she blew up a gunpowder stash to keep it out of their hands. This lively collection of profiles from the Women of Action series highlights the little-known but remarkable women of the American Revolution, providing a fresh new perspective on this dynamic period in history.

Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence

Written by: Carol Berkin
Recommended Age: Adults

In the fight for America's independence, women played a key role — whether they were supporting their fathers, husbands, and brothers from home, or taking their own place on the battlefield. Author Carol Berkin showcases the many roles women of the Revolutionary War had to play, whether they were boycotting British goods, raising funds to support their new nation, stepping into businesses that had previously been run by men, or taking their place shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers. This groundbreaking and comprehensive history shows that America's women were critical to its success in the past — an inspiring lesson for the girls and women who will drive America's future.

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

Written by: Cokie Roberts
Recommended Age: Adults

Revolutionary history is full of male heroes — but there were many women who contributed to the fight for America's independence too! Best-selling author Cokie Roberts sought out the stories of inspiring women, though letters, private journals, and more, to bring to life the role of women in the Revolutionary War. In these pages, women like Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Read Franklin, Eliza Pinckney, Catherine Littlefield Green, Esther DeBerdt Reed and Martha Washington get their due. To share these stories with middle grade leaders, Roberts also adapted her work into Founding Mothers: Remembering The Ladies for ages 7 to 11.

Heroines of the American Revolution Coloring Book

Heroines of the American Revolution Coloring Book

Manufacturer: Bellerophon Books
Recommended Age: 7 and up

Stories of the men of the American Revolution are easy to find, but kids will be fascinated to learn that many women made their mark on this period of American history! This coloring book provides inspiring, detailed pictures to color, along with short biographies of some of these little-known but inspiring figures. They make a great addition to a history unit or the perfect gift for a history fan.

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