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Communicating America’s Founding Principles

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CONSTITUTION CORNER - Article 7

A Tribute to our Founding Mothers

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive   
Who remembers that famous day and year...
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

But wait...there is another story about Sybil Ludington, known as the female Paul Revere! 

Sybil (1761-1839) was the daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington, commander of the 7th Dutchess County Militia during the Revolutionary War.  This was a volunteer regiment of about 400 men who lived in the country surrounding the hamlet of Fredericksburg NY, where the Colonel had his drill grounds in a field opposite his manor house.  The volunteers enlisted for periods of time in between planting and harvesting their crops, and when possible they assembled for drill on the Colonel's "Parade Grounds."

 As the eldest child, Sybil, at 16, had numerous duties in the household -- kitchen work, baby tending, as well as outdoor work in the fields and mill.  But, she found time to watch her father as he drilled already tired farmers into soldiers. 

The Continental Army had a military storage facility in Danbury CT.  The British entered Danbury, found the supplies, stole some, destroyed others and drank the rum.  Drunk, they burned, looted, and generally ransacked the town.  

One night, a messenger rode to Colonel Ludington's home to alert him about the advancing British troops.  Sybil knew the dangers for a young girl riding alone as the woods were full of bushwackers and army deserters.  But, knowing this was an emergency, she offered to ride her horse to the scattered homes of the militiamen to call them to arms.  She rode sidesaddle, and carried a large stick, so she could bang on the doors without dismounting, and also ward off highwaymen. 

So, she began at 9 that night, in the rain.  She traveled on the narrow, unmarked ox-cart roads of 1777, covering 40 miles through woods and swamps.  At each house she told the men: "The British are burning Danbury and the Colonel is mustering the troops."  When she returned home after dawn, nearly the entire regiment of 400 men was assembled in the field across from her home.  Colonel Ludington's regiment arrived in time to join General Wooster's forces at Ridgefield and from there, helped drive the British back to their ships in Long Island Sound. 

HONORS: Bronze statue of Sybil Ludington in Carmel NY; Image on US Bicentennial Postage Stamp-1975; Annual 50km footrace along Ludington's Night Ride. 

 So, with deep gratitude for Longfellow's tribute to Paul Revere, we hereby share Meryl Ann Butler's adaption of this famous poem with her rendition: 

THE MIDNIGHT RIDE OF...SYBIL LUDINGTON 

Listen my children, and you will know
Of Sybil's ride to thwart the foe.
 
On the twenty-sixth of April, in seventy-seven,
She rode her steed like an angel from heaven. 

Rain drenched her clothes, branches pelted her face,
As she galloped on dark, muddy paths to each place. 

Choosing to knock on a Patriot's home,
And carefully leaving those Tories alone.
She rapped on the doors of those who would trust her,
And shouted, "Make haste - to Ludington's to muster!" 

With the liberal use of the rum they'd discovered
When the Patriots' hidden supplies were uncovered.
In chaotic astonishment, drunken redcoats retreated,
Which swayed the next battle, where the Brits were defeated.

 Sybil was hailed "heroine," and none e'er outranked her,
Even George Washington came calling, and thanked her.
She was but Sweet Sixteen, while Paul's age was forty.
His miles were sixteen, but her mileage was forty. 

So why's she forgotten, un-revered in history
While Revere has the spotlight? It is QUITE a mystery!
Well, any poor poet, no matter how sincere, 
Must embellish the story that promotes HIS career. 

So, in spite of the stellar job Washington said Sybil'd done,
Poor Longfellow failed to find any rhymes for "Ludington."
 And, that is how Paul Revere's ride became history,
While Sybil waits still, for the telling of "Sis"-story. 

Thanks to contributor, Marcia Williams, Colonial Historian. 

CONSTITUTION CORNER - Join us next Friday, 9/15/17