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Newtown Historical SocietyTo Ride With Sybil Ludington



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Most persons have heard the stirring story of Paul Revere. Fewer are aware that two years and a few days after Revere's famed ride the situation was duplicated in our own area; on the 26th of April, 1777, Sybil Ludington rode out from her father's farm to gather the patriot troops to oppose the British in their attempt to seize and destroy supplies the patriots had sent inland to Danbury.

Lacking a Longfellow to compose and sing her ballad, Ludington's feat remained on the back pages of history, never quite forgotten, but increasingly surrounded by the mists of myth. On Monday, April 9, at 7:30 pm, the Newtown Historical Society will present the Sybil Ludington story at the Community Room of the Booth Library, 25 Main Street, with a program by Vincent Dacquino, author of the first serious adult biography of Ludington.

Sybil Ludington had just turned 16 when the Revolutionary War took a turn toward Danbury and gave her life a purpose that would carry her name across the centuries. As General William Tyron marched his British regular from their landing in Westport up to Danbury, the patriots were caught by surprise. Not until the troops reached Danbury on April 26 did warning go forth; distance in this farming region would preclude any substantial gathering of patriot forces until it was too late to save the supplies or prevent the British from burning the town. But the message went in several directions, including the militia centered around Fredericksburgh (now Ludingtonville), N.Y.

With the primary messenger exhausted and Colonel Henry Ludington forced to stay at home to muster arriving troops, Sybil was appointed to ride a circuit to rouse her father's regiment to the defense of Danbury. Riding throughout the night as the warning ebbed its way across the countryside, Sybil faced not only the dangers of capture by regular British troops but the threat posed by illegal bands of unorganized raiders whose only loyalty was to themselves. While the troops were not in time to save Danbury, their gathering at Ridgefield led to both pitched battle and harassing attacks all the way back to Westport beach.

While the British won the tactical Battle of Danbury, the troops so successfully summoned by Sybil in the east and others in the south were able to make the Battle of Ridgefield and the long march back to the ships so intimidating that the strategy of inland invasion was lost; the British would not again perform such a mission.

Vincent Dacquino is a teacher in the Mahopac school system. He was fascinated by the Sybil Ludington historical markers he passed along the local roads, but found it hard to learn more about her. While her name has never passed completely from our country's annals, and she has become an increasingly popular subject in children's literature in the last generation or two, no authentic biography of Sybil Ludington has been done. Mr Dacquino determined to research her story, and spent three years searching across the state and through the military archives in Washington. His efforts have resulted in the first serious biography of this important figure in Revolutionary and local history. Together with this information, Mr Dacquino will present photographs of the Ludington Mill, Sybil's burial place, documents connected to her efforts to obtain a military pension for her husband's Revolutionary service, and other sites and records which elucidate her life.

Newtown Historical Society programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the presentation. For further information, please call 426-5937.

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