Just as a DJ at a wedding reception or an AM radio host takes requests from listeners, this week's column is written because of a reader's request. Former Norwich Historian, Patricia Scott, suggested that readers would enjoy the Revolutionary War legend of Sybil Ludington and how she earned her bronze statue in a public square. I agree.
In April of 1777, when Sybil was just 16 years old, she did a very adult-like thing. Sybil made an all-night horseback ride alerting minutemen in New York's Hudson Valley of the advance of a British army raiding party. Many historians thought Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow should have made Sybil the subject of his famed Midnight Ride poem instead of Paul Revere.
Sybil Ludington was the eldest of 12 children from parents Abigail and Henry. Sybil and her family lived on a farm in Dutchess County, which lies between the Hudson River and the Connecticut state line. During the Revolutionary War, this area was of strategic importance. It was also a hotbed of emotions and clashes between the rebels and the loyalists to the Crown.
Sybil's father, Henry, was a veteran of the French and Indian war of the 1750s. Others called it the Sever Years war. Either way, Henry Ludington, in 1777, was a farmer, but still an experienced soldier. He was in charge of approximately 400 Dutchess County area militiamen fighting for independence from Britain's King George III.
Some of Henry Ludington's neighbors felt the Colonel was a traitor to the King of England. The loyalist neighbors made plans to go to the Ludington's home under cover of night to seize him, and then turn him over to the British army. The eldest daughter, Sybil, devised a plan to protect her father.
The night of the planned kidnapping, Sybil lit lanterns around the outside of their home. She then had her siblings march around the farmhouse, back and forth in a military manner. In the candlelight, her numerous brothers and sisters cast a silhouette that appeared as militiamen on guard duty, which scared away the loyalists.