Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Sybil Ludington, Revolutionary Heroine," from Edcon Publishing.

A dangerous assignment was willingly accepted by this brave patriot.

Everyone has heard of Paul Revere - of his famous ride to warn his neighbors of the approach of British troops in 1775. Two years later, someone else made a ride to marshal defenders against the British. But how many people have heard of Sybil Ludington?

Paul Revere rode for three hours on a moonlit night over good roads; Sybil Ludington rode for eight hours in heavy rain over roads which were often no more than muddy tracks. His ride covered about fifteen miles; hers is estimated at about fifty miles. Paul Revere was forty years old; Sybil Ludington had just turned sixteen.

Her remarkable ride was but one example of Sybil's courage during the American Revolution. Her family lived in New York, in the Hudson River Valley, where battle and the threat of battle were always near. The fight for independence went on all around her, and Sybil was a part of it.

Her father, Colonel Henry Ludington, was an influential citizen whose farm was a meeting place for local patriot's. 'There his regiment drilled, news was shared, and plans were made. The regiment, consisting of mostly farmers, protected their home district. Home troops were set up at the start of the war by an act of the Continental Congress. All men between the ages of sixteen and fifty were supposed to serve. Besides protecting their own and their neighbors' homes, they were ready to ride out and fight when they were needed. Colonel Ludington commanded the home troops in his county, and Sybil knew them all.

Her father played more than one role in the war for independence. As an important link in a chain of communication, he received top secret reports and passed them on, sometimes even to General George Washington. Sybil knew all the secret codes.

Many times when her father was away at war, she received and delivered such messages herself. Colonel Ludington also served on the Commission of Public Safety all through the war. The Commission's task was to learn which of their neighbors were not in sympathy with the Revolution and then prevent them from giving aid to the British.

Some of the Ludingtons' neighbors were loyal to the British government. One large group met and drilled in secrecy, planning to go to New York City and join the British army there. But Ludington and his men found out about the plan. They surrounded the group and captured them on the very night they had planned to sneak away. Incidents of this kind happened often, and the British commander offered a large sum of money for Ludington's capture, "dead or alive." As a result,his whole family was in constant danger.

Colonel Ludington relied on Sybil and her sister Rebecca, fourteen years old, to help guard their home and family. At a time when women were seldom expected to leave the kitchen or the spinning wheel, these feminine sentries did the job as well as any man. Muskets in hand, Sybil and her sister would watch from the upper windows or lie hidden in the cornfields. One night they found the house surrounded by a band of their father's enemies. The situation seemed desperate. The two girls rushed to wake their father. He quickly roused his wife and younger children, gave each a candle and a musket, and posted them near the windows. Besides Sybil and Rebecca, there were twelve-year-old Mary, and little brothers aged ten, eight, six, and four. Only the baby, Abigail, slept on.

Colonel Ludington moved from child to child, from lighted window to lighted window, waving his arms, trying to look like many men in motion. The children held the muskets where they would be seen from outside. Apparently the show was good enough to convince the men that the house was well defended. They rode away into the night without coming close enough to fire a shot.

Enemies would come again on other nights, but none would escape the notice of the young sentries. And all would be fooled by repeat performances of the lighted candle trick. The lone rider who came galloping up to the Ludington farm on the rainy night of April 26, 1777 was no enemy. He had been riding hard all the way from Danbury, Connecticut to deliver the startling news: the British were burning Danbury. American supplies stored there had already been destroyed, and now the city itself was in flames. Ludington's regiment was needed to help in the fighting.

Colonel Ludington had a problem indeed. Someone had to ride out to all the farms in the district to marshal the home troops. The messenger from Danbury was exhausted, and so was his horse. Ludington couldn't ride out himself, because that would leave no one to organize the troops as they arrived. He had no farm hands to send, and his sons were all too young. But there was one person he knew he could trust, someone who could carry the message with haste and determination.

Out rode Sybil into the rain and the darkness with no light from moon or stars to show her the way. The farms of her father's soldiers were far apart, and she rode many long, lonely stretches with nothing to guide her but her memory and judgment. All through the night she rode from farm to farm, delivering her message again and again. "The British are burning Danbury. Gather at Ludington's." By dawn, the regiment was assembled and ready to ride to Danbury where they helped defeat the English troops.

When the British came up the Hudson River later that same year, Colonel Ludington again took an active role and continued to rely on Sybil as his sentry and messenger. During the battle of White Plains, he served on General Washington's staff. And in the summer and fall of 1778, Washington used the Ludington house as his headquarters. It was necessary that messages come in and out of the house in complete secrecy. Sybil not only understood the coded reports, but helped in carrying them. Many more rides by daylight and dark were made by the young patriot who knew the importance of both haste and caution.

After the war, Colonel Ludington remained an influential figure in New York State politics. Little is known about Sybil's later life. We do know that she married a man named Ogden and had four sons and two daughters. Years later, in Indian territory, one of her grandsons died a hero's death when he refused to leave behind some of his men who were too sick to travel. He died fighting to protect them. Perhaps he was following the example set by his grandmother. A model of feminine confidence and courage, Sybil Ludington has never had the fame she deserves. Travelers in the area of New York State now known as Ludingtonville may notice roadside markers along the route of her night ride. One of her father's mills remains standing near the small family graveyard where Sybil is buried.

In 1975, the United States government issued a stamp in her honor. Beneath a picture of a young girl on horseback are the words: "Sybil Ludington - Youthful Heroine." But how many people who see that stamp know who Sybil Ludington was? How many know of her ride through the long stormy night, or the way she risked her life again and again in the fight for independence?

1. Sybil Ludington rode in order to _____
a. warn her neighbors of approaching British troops.
b. marshal local troops to march on Danbury.
c. fool the British troops.
d. learn which roads were safe.

2. Colonel Ludington, Sybil's father, commanded ______
a. General George Washington's regiment.
b. the Continental Congress.
c. a regiment of home troops.
d. a large group of female sentries.

3. In order to help win independence, Sybil often _______
a. taught her brothers to make candles.
b. drilled a regiment of farmers at her home.
c. received and delivered secret messages.
d. dressed as a British soldier.

4. General George Washington used the Ludington house as his headquarters ______
a. before Sybil's famous ride.
b. after Sybil's famous ride.
c. before Danbury was burned.
d. before the regiment marched on Danbury.

5. Sybil's ride was ________
a. her only act of courage.
b. one of her many acts of courage.
c. a sign of her loyalty to the British.
d. the only famous ride during the Revolution.

6. The Ludington sisters helped guard their home at a time when ______
a. women were expected to stay near the kitchen.
b. women were expected to defend their homes.
c. women were not allowed in corn fields.
d. female sentries often helped their country.

7. Paul Revere's ride _______
a. took much longer than Sybil's.
b. was made sixteen years before Sybil's
c. is more well-known than Sybil's.
d. is not as well-known as Sybil's.

8. Sybil Ludington's story would most likely be found in the following book:
a. The Life of Paul Revere.
b. The American Revolution.
c. Women of the American Revolution.
d. Famous British Spies.

9. Another name for this selection could be ______
a. "Riders in the Night."
b. "Battles of the Revolution."
c. "Helping the British."
d. "She Deserved More Fame."

10. This selection is mainly about ______
a. a young woman who helped her country.
b. a family who drilled troops.
c. the British attack on Danbury.
d. Paul Revere's famous ride.

This story is an article from a series of Reading Comprehension Workbooks by Edcon Publishing Group. Edcon Publishing has a very large selection of different types of readings and other
materials for learning. I highly recommend this company. - The Teacher

Paul Revere's Ride:

Sybil Ludington in Wikipedia
Paul Revere's Ride, Youtube
Paul Revere Slide Show


  1. This helped me alot!

  2. Terrific history! We will be using one of your images, with full attribution, on our blog, http://Cheeky History.blogspot.com, unless you object. Thanks in advance.