Sybil Ludington

Sybil Ludington has been celebrated as the female Paul Revere because of her ride through Putnam and Dutchess Counties to warn the militia that British troops were burning Danbury, Connecticut.

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 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."

The grave of Sybil Ludington in the Maple Ave. Cemetery

On April 25, 1777, a 2000 man British force commanded by General Tryon landed at Fairfield, Connecticut, near the mouth of the Saugatuck River, arriving with twenty transports and six warships. They moved eight miles inland and camped at Weston. The next day the force moved north into Danbury, doing no damage to private property along the way. In Danbury, however, they began a search for stores of Continental Army supplies, also leaving chalk marks on the properties of British loyalists and informers. Properties without chalk marks were set to be destroyed. By 4 PM, several Continental Army storehouses and three private homes were in flames. For security reasons, the Continental Army had recently transferred its supplies from Peekskill to Danbury, where they were thought to be safe, and were consequently poorly guarded. The stores included foodstuffs such as flour, beef, pork, sugar, molasses, coffee, rice, wheat, corn, and several hundred cases of wine and rum. Hospital cots and tents were also stored there, along with clothing and shoes and cooking utensils. Medicines and other medical supplies were stored in New Milford, Connecticut, and were not affected by the British raid. The British soldiers found the rum and decided to consume it rather than destroy it. More fires were started by drunken soldiers, as military discipline broke down. Messengers were dispatched in all directions to announce the British arrival and news of the fires.

Col. Henry Ludington was in charge of the local militia in the Kent/Patterson area. Ludington and his wife Abigail lived in Kent, New York, and operated a mill, which was located just north of the current intersection of NYS Route 52 and Ludingtonville Road in the town of Kent, New York. He fought in the French and Indian War with General Tryon, and served as an aide to General George Washington during the Battle of White Plains during the American War of Independence. He later formed the 7th Dutchess County Militia. At the time of the Danbury attack, the militia numbered 400 men.

A messenger was dispatched from Danbury to Col. Ludington with the news of the attack, and he reached the Ludington home at approximately 9 PM. Col. Ludington began to organize the militia, but the men were scattered throughout the area in their homes, and it was well into the night. The messenger was exhausted and not familiar with the area, and would not be able to find all of the militia volunteers. Sybil Ludington, who had just turned 16, was very familiar with the area, and left to sound the alert. It is unclear whether she volunteered for the task, or whether she was asked to do it by her father. Some accounts indicate that Col. Ludington had planned the route Sybil would take.

Sybil left for her now-famous ride at approximately 9 PM into the rainy night, traveling 40 miles from her home in what is now the town of Kent, south to Mahopac, and north to Stormville, before returning home near dawn the next day. Sybil not only had to avoid British soldiers in the area, but also British loyalists, and "Skinners", who were outlaws with no allegiance to either side in the War. Some accounts indicate that a church bell was rung in Carmel after she gave the alarm, and that a man offered to accompany her on the rest of her ride. These accounts claim that she declined his offer, but instead dispatched him eastward to sound the alarm in Brewster.

Col. Ludington's troops arrived too late to save Danbury, but fought with the British troops as they left the area.

On October 24, 1785, Sybil married Edmond Ogden, according to her Revolutionary War pension application. The Ogdens were married by a Baptist minster named Rev. Ebenezer Cole, but the Rev. Frost's history of the Patterson Presbyterian Church states that in 1789 the couple were listed as members of the Presbyterian Church. They had one son, Henry. Some accounts claim that Odgen was a lawyer while other research indicates that he actually operated a tavern located on what is now NYS Route 22 on what later became known in the 20th century as the Stephens farm or Birch Hill. This research further claims that the Ogdens moved to the Catskills around 1792 and operated a tavern there, which Sybil ran by herself after Edmond's death in 1799. Eventually Sybil, her son Henry, now a lawyer, and Henry's wife moved to Unadilla, New York, where she lived until her death in February, 1839. Sybil was buried near her father in the Maple Avenue Cemetery.

Historical markers tracing her route can be seen throughout eastern Putnam County. Artist Anna Huntington's famous sculpture commemorating Sybil Ludington's ride rests on the shore of Lake Gleneida on Route 52 in Carmel.