Statue of Sybil Ludington on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel, New York by Anna Hyatt Huntington, via Wikipedia

It was a dark night in April 1777, about 9 p.m. The American Revolution was taking over the country, pitting neighbor against neighbor. In Putnam County, New York, a 16-year-old girl was preparing her younger siblings for bed. A frantic man banged on the door, and her father opened it to reveal an exhausted and somewhat confused messenger.

The British had arrived and were ransacking Danbury, Connecticut, 25 miles away. Homes of Patriot families were burning, and the British were taking the much-needed militia supplies stored in the town. Colonel Henry Ludington swung into action, but soon realized that his militia was scattered throughout the county, most preparing to turn in for the night. The messenger was too exhausted and unfamiliar with the area to continue, and the Colonel had to remain at home so the troops could be organized when they arrived.

Sybil Ludington jumped into action, pulling on her cloak and preparing her horse, Star. Whether of her own volition or at her father’s urging, Sybil rode over 40 miles that night. She evaded British loyalists and troops, and even the notorious outlaws who ransacked without cause. Alone and in the dark, Sybil alerted the militia to the north and south, ordering them to gather at her father’s home before traveling to Danbury.

Her father’s troops arrived too late to save Danbury, but did engage the British, causing them to flee from the town. Sybil succeeded where Paul Revere, who had been captured by the British during his midnight ride, had failed. She had become a hero, but one that would remain silent in the history books. She lived out her life in New York, marrying and bearing one son. She died in 1839, and is buried in Maple Avenue Cemetery.

In 1907, her great-nephew published an article detailing the family legend of her ride. Over the next several decades, scholars would continue digging into her story, hailing her as the female Paul Revere. She was commemorated in poems and statues, and eventually became the 35th woman to be honored on the U.S. postal stamp. Historical markers through Putnam County, NY, trace her route that dark night. Yet her true worth remains in the legends told about her: a brave 16-year-old girl who risked her life to save a town 25 miles away, riding Star through the dark night, proving that a woman could change the course of history.

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