Colonial women had the same desire for liberty as the men, but did not
have the same opportunities to fight for its gain. Perhaps that is why we
sometimes overlook heroines like Sybil Ludington of New York's Putnam
County, who in 1777 completed a ride every bit as important as Paul Revere's
and every bit as treacherous as Jack Jouett's -- all at the age of 16, and on
Sybil was the eldest daughter of Col. Henry Ludington, whose New York
militiamen had just returned from a long deployment to begin spring planting
at home. On the evening of April 26, Sybil was helping her mother put her
seven siblings to bed when word came that the colonial governor of New
York, Gen. William Tyron, had led his troops to nearby Danbury, Conn.
There, his 2,000 British soldiers looted and burned precious patriot supplies
and ammunition, including (according to the colonial version of an after-action
report) "4,000 barrels of beef and pork and … 5,000 pairs of shoes and
stockings," and many other essentials. Intoxicated by the pillage, the redcoats
proceeded to get drunk on whatever alcohol they could find, and Tyron found
it difficult to maintain order.
At this point, a patriot rider reached the Ludington's home in what was then
Fredericksburg (now Ludington), N.Y. After passing the word of the British
presence to Ludington, he collapsed in exhaustion.
Ludington knew he had to stay put to muster his regiment. No one knows
who decided Sybil should ride out in warning -- but it must have taken all of
Sybil's bravery to agree. April 26 was a moonless night, and the upstate
roads were narrow, muddy from spring rains, and rutted by cartwheels and
Holding a stick she used both for prodding her horse, Star, and for
knocking on militiamen's doors, Sybil set out. Riding the unmarked roads, she
went from Carmel to Mahopac, then on to Kent Cliffs and Farmer's Mills
before reaching home again. Some 400 men responded to her summons and
gathered just in time to help Ludington and Gen. Wooster drive the drunken
redcoats back to their ships in Long Island Sound.