Wednesday, April 25

The Midnight Ride of....Sybil?

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By Grant Davies

On this day in 1777, during the Revolutionary War, two thousand British soldiers arrived in Fairfield, Connecticut, and proceeded to march toward Danbury in search of military supplies to confiscate from the Continental army.  They didn't molest any private property along the way and, all in all, were a really well behaved group of nice guys in cool looking red uniforms. They didn't seem to be a rowdy bunch, at least not yet. But all that changed when they found the rum.

A search party was dispatched and issued chalk in order to mark an X on the buildings and homes which were to remain unmolested. Those being, of course, the "FOGs". (friends of George - the king, not the general) You see, when they found all the other supplies, they had no problem setting the buildings ablaze. But c'mon, who burns rum? I mean, if ya have to get rid of it, there are better ways. So they drank it, discipline broke down, they burned a few villagers private homes, and the party was on.

This is where our heroine enters the story. Her name was Sybil, or something like that. It's spelled "Sibbell" on her tombstone, it's "Sebal" on her Revolutionary War pension application, (which apparently she filled out), it's "Sebil" according to her sister Mary, the same way in the 1810 census, and "Cybil" on still other records. No official documents have her as Sybil, so that's how history records her. Go figure.

However you spell her name, she was a pretty good rider for a girl who had just turned 16 and she knew her way around the area at night. That's why she either volunteered, or was chosen by her father, Col. Ludington (head of the local militia), to take the place of the weary and geographically challenged messenger who had brought the news to him.

Sybil took off on her dangerous ride at 9pm on that rainy night and rode forty miles, first to the town of Kent, and then to Mahopac and Stormville, before finally getting back home around dawn the next morning. Along the way she had to avoid the British troops, the loyalist neighbors, and the "Skinners", a group of ruffians and ne'er-do-wells who didn't care who was in charge after the war. A famous guy named Paul Revere had nothing on this girl.

By the time the militia was able to rally and get down to Danbury, it was too late to save the town. But they were able to engage the enemy and drive the drunken British troops out. Well, actually they were already leaving, but why ruin a good story?

So listen my children and you will hear, of the midnight ride of...Sybil Ludington.

For more about this remarkable girl and her family...ELS Audio Blogspot and

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