On this day (April 26th) in 1777, 16 year old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles through the darkness to warn her father’s militiamen that the British troops were attacking and burning a supply depot in Danbury, CT. A messenger had come to warn her father at his farm, but the messenger refused to ride any further, and her father’s militiamen were spread out across their farms, having been given permission to return home and plant crops. Since her father could not leave his farm, Sybil volunteered to go. She rode alone through the rain and dark from 9pm until dawn, knocking on the door of every farmhouse she past, shouting out that the British were burning Danbury and to muster at her father’s farm. She rode until dawn, through the settlements of Carmel, Mahopac, Mahopac Mills, Kent Cliffs and Farmers Mills, even allegedly fighting off a highwayman with a long stick (according to some historians) and hiding from British soldiers. Because of her warning, the people of the are a (and Danbury) managed to escape mostly unharmed, and by the time she returned home at dawn, almost 400 soldiers were ready to march on the British; they couldn’t save Danbury from burning but managed to drive the British troops back in the Battle of Ridgefield. General George Washington came to thank Sybil in person for her bravery.
Despite the fact that she rode twice as far as Paul Revere did in his very well-known ride (which took place when he was 40, was less than half the distance, and took place on well-lit roads with stops for supper and relaxing), Sybil’s ride was barely spoken of. (Gee, I wonder why?) If it wasn’t for her grandson eventually re-telling her story, and the Daughters of the American Revolution eventually immortalizing her in a statue in 1961, her story might have become forgotten.