Sybil Ludington was 16 years old when she rode 40 miles on horseback one night in April 1777 to warn her father’s troops about a British attack on Danbury, Connecticut.
A messenger from Danbury had ridden hard to bring news of the attack to Sybil’s father, Colonel Henry Ludington, who was in charge of the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia in New York State. He started calling his troops together right away, but it was late at night and they were scattered all around the county. The messenger was worn out, so the colonel had Sybil — the eldest of his 12 children with wife Abigail — ride through the night to spread the word to his men.
The teen traveled through rainy woods and over rugged roads until nearly dawn. By then, most of the regiment had made it to the Ludington home. The British burned Danbury before the colonel’s men got there, but his troops still fought the enemy as they left the scene.
General George Washington himself praised Sybil’s heroism, but her deed wasn’t well known during her lifetime. After the war, she married lawyer Edmond Ogden, and they had a son named Henry. Sybil died in 1839 at age 77.
Her late-night dash finally came to light in 1907, when her great-nephew, historian Louis S. Patrick, published an article about it. Perhaps in part thanks to a 1912 poem that told her story in a verse style similar to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous “Paul Revere’s Ride” (1860), Sybil became known as “the female Paul Revere” — although she actually rode a much longer distance than he did.
In 1975, Sybil was featured on a U.S. postage stamp. Today, you can see historical markers showing her route; bronze statues of her on horseback stand in Danbury, New York’s Putnam County, and elsewhere. They serve as lasting testaments to the power of a teenage patriot.