Highlighting an American hero
Who was Sybil Ludington? Chances are she is an unknown unless you live near Dutchess County, New York. Sybil is a female counterpart of Paul Revere, and her solo, unheralded ride through the New York countryside in the dead of night at age 16 was longer and much more dangerous than that of her Massachusetts parallel.
Sybil was the oldest of the twelve children of militia Colonel Henry Ludington, in her home area of New York. Her father later became an aide to George Washington; she grew up well-schooled in military knowledge and the virtues of patriotism.
Sybil’s warning ride ensued in April 1777 as a huge British force of 2000 men worked its way across Connecticut and toward New York. In its wake, the British employed some slash and burn tactics, confiscated critical Continental Army supplies, and set upon the area in a drunken melee resulting from overindulgence in discovered spirits.
A messenger arrived to warn Ludington of the impending British forces and attack on Danbury, but the man had ridden to the point of exhaustion to deliver his message. Sybil continued the trek through the rainy night, riding 40 miles north and then south, then north in a different direction to spread the alarm to local patriots. She had to avoid British soldiers, British loyalists, and “Skinners”, local outlaws bent on self-gain only.
Sybil went on to lead a mundane life following her heroic and dangerous ride. She lived the remainder of her 78 years in the area around her birthplace. The only controversy surrounding her appears to be the correct spelling of her given name. Although she is officially “Sybil”, that spelling never appears on any official documents. Other spellings include “Sebal”, her personal preference, “Sebil”, “Cybil”, and “Sibel”. Her tombstone is engraved with “ Sibbell”.
This little lady, teen, unsung heroine, American patriot, courageous child-woman, is an example of the mettle that continues to validate the rise of extraordinary women who make a difference in this country when a difference needs to be made.
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