Sybil Ludington (April 5, 1761 – February 26, 1839), daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, was a heroine of the American Revolutionary War who mounted on her horse, Star, became famous for her night ride on April 26, 1777 to alert American colonial forces to the approach of the British. Her action was similar to that allegedly performed by Paul Revere, though she rode more than twice the distance of Revere and was only 16 years old at the time of her action. She was an aunt of Harrison Ludington, the Governor of Wisconsin.
Sybil was born in 1761 in what was then known as Fredericksburg, and is now known as the Ludingtonville section of the town of Kent, New York. Her father was Colonel Henry Ludington, a respected militia officer who commanded the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia, a volunteer regiment of local men during the Revolutionary War. He and his wife, Abigail Ludington, ran a mill in Patterson, New York. He later became an aide to General George Washington. She was the oldest of Col. Ludington’s 12 children.
There is much confusion concerning the spelling of her first name. Although it is mostly spelled “Sybil”, her tombstone displays her name as “Sibbell”. However, she signed her Revolutionary War pension application as “Sebal”, which is apparently the spelling she preferred. Her sister Mary spelled her name “Sebil.” In the 1810 census, she is listed as “Sibel.”, and appears on other records as “Cybil.” Her name does not seem to appear on any official documents as “Sybil.”
On April 27, 1777, British troops raided Danbury, Connecticut, which housed numerous Continental Army supplies. A messenger was dispacted to alert Col. Ludington. Ludington’s ride started at 9:00 P.M. and ended around dawn. She rode 40 miles, through Carmel, New York on to Mahopac, thence to Kent Cliffs, from there to Farmers Mills and back home. She used a stick to prod her horse and knock on doors. She managed to defend herself against a highwayman with a long stick. When, soaked with rain and exhausted, she returned home, most of her father’s 400 soldiers were ready to march.
The memoir for Colonel Henry Ludington states,
The men arrived too late to save Danbury, Connecticut. At the start of the Battle of Ridgefield, however, they were able to drive General William Tryon, then governor of the colony of New York, and his men to Long Island Sound.
After the war, in 1784, when she was twenty-three years old, Sybil Ludington married Edmond Ogden, with whom she had one child and named him Henry. Edmond was a farmer and innkeeper, according to various reports. In 1792 Sybil settled with her husband and Henry (their son) in Unadilla, New York, where they lived until her death on February 26, 1839, at the age of 77. She was buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson, New York.
Sybil was congratulated for her heroism by friends and neighbors and also by General George Washington.
In 1935 New York State erected a number of markers along her route. A statue of Sybil, sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington, was erected near Carmel, New York, in 1961 to commemorate her ride. Smaller versions of the statue exist on the grounds of the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington, DC; on the grounds of the public library, Danbury, Connecticut; and in the Elliot and Rosemary Offner museum at Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
In 1975 Sybil Ludington was honored with a postage stamp in the “Contributors to the Cause” United States Bicentennial series.
Each April since 1979, the Sybil Ludington 50-kilometer footrace has been held in Carmel, New York. The course of this hilly road race approximates Sybil’s historic ride, and finishes near her statue on the shore of Lake Gleneida, Carmel, New York.