An Unexpected Heroine

“Listen my children and you shall hear the midnight ride of Paul Revere,” chants the famous poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow about a heroic rider in the Revolutionary War.Although Paul Revere’s adventure is well known throughout America, the story of a teenager’s midnight ride two years later remains less popular.This teen rode twice the distance of Paul Revere and never got caught.

She displayed great courage and determination.Her name was Sybil Ludington.The ride she accomplished designates her a heroine of the Revolutionary War. In 1761, Sybil was born to Henry Ludington, a well respected militia officer, and his wife, Abigail. Sybil’s childhood was filled with the average duties a farm girl performed such as sewing, cooking, and gardening.

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She held a lot of responsibilities.At sixteen years of age, most of her time was spent looking after her eleven younger brothers and sisters.Little did she know her upcoming actions would help not only her family, but her country as well. On the night of April 26, 1777, it happened.Colonel Ludington was putting the children to bed while he was home for a visit.A messenger appeared soaked and shivering at their door.

This messenger came from Danbury’s militia with a request for aid from Fredricksburg.Two-thousand British soldiers were attacking and burning the city of Danbury, Connecticut that lay seventeen miles away.Warehouses containing food, clothing, and munitions had been destroyed by the British.Danbury’s militia needed men, ammunition, food, and supplies to continue the fight.Clearly, they needed assistance.

Colonel Ludington had a problem.He knew his soldiers needed to be rounded up to halt the advance of the British.However, the men from the Fredricksburg’s militia would be difficult to assemble.Since planting season had arrived, the men had temporarily been relieved of duty.All of the men at their respective farms lay miles apart. Yet, if aid would be sent to Danbury, all of his men must be alerted.

Who could go?The messenger, being too exhausted and unfamiliar with the area, was unable to go.Colonel Ludington couldn’t go either, for he must remain at his house to supervise the muster.Sybil had the answer.Certain militia men held the responsibility of warning their area if danger arose.Whoever alerted these men needed to be aware of where they lived.She knew.

Only these homes required a visit, then those men could alert the community.Despite the rain and darkness, Sybil was eager to rouse her neighbors for the defense of Danbury with the confident assurance she knew the way.Reluctantly, her father agreed. Before Sybil left, her father warned of the possible dangers ahead.British soldiers and”skinners,” outlaws with no allegiance to either side, might be lurking about.Promising her father that she would be careful, Sybil departed home around nine in the evening.

Nearly forty miles she traveled before returning home weary and wet.She had ridden throughout the country and almost four hundred men had departed to fight the British. Sybil’s ride didn’t initially accomplish what everyone intended.It did not result in a victory for Danbury.Fredricksburg’s militia had been organized too late.When they reached the town, it lay in ruins.

George Washington still appeared at the Ludington home after the battle at Danbury to personally thank Sybil for her help.However, the following day on April 27, Fredricksburg’s militia engaged the British at the battle of Ridgefield, stopping the British advance.The British retreated from Ridgefield before reaching where the Ludingtons lived in County, New York.Therefore, Sybil’s bravery did not save Danbury, but it did result in the British halting their advance through New England. Although Sybil’s courageous act of heroism never gained the fame Paul Revere’s ride obtained, she has been honored in many different ways since her death in 1839.

A statue of Sybil stands by Lake Gleneida in Carmel, New York and the postal service honored her with a stamp in 1975.The route Sybil took is also designated by markers for people who wish to retrace the pathshe traveled during the rainy night of April 26, 1777. Sybil’s courageous ride dubs her a heroine and can still inspire people today.Fame didn’t motivate her midnight ride.Rather, Sybil realized, as a teen, what needed to be done and did it.

When faced with a challenging problem to solve, one can’t let fear get in the way.He should do it.Courage is not the absence of fear, it’s working through it.One’s response may result in a chain reaction and help America, just like the ride of Sybil Ludington.