What happened to Sybil after her daring ride in April 1777? History books tell us almost nothing about that night—or the rest of her life. She didn’t write her own story down, and there are no other records of it from that time.
Following the burning of Danbury, fighting between the British and Continental armies lasted for four more grueling years. British forces finally surrendered in October 1781. In 1783, Great Britain and the new United States signed a treaty formally ending the war.
Historians would go on to write about the great leaders and battles of the Revolution without mentioning the night ride of 16-year-old Sybil Ludington.
But about 60 years after her death in 1839, tales of the young hero suddenly began appearing in accounts of the war.
Sybil’s story had been kept alive privately by her family, it turned out. Eventually, one of her descendants had shared it with a historian who was writing about the American Revolution.
From there, the legend of Sybil’s ride began to grow. Over the years, she’s been celebrated differently by each generation. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Sybil represented the bravery of average Americans in hard times. Later, women striving for equality began honoring her as a “foremother” who helped form a nation.
Sybil’s story captures our imagination because it is thrilling and heroic. It’s also powerful because it reflects how people like Sybil played an important role in the founding of our nation, says historian Vincent Dacquino, who has written four books about her.
“She was a tough woman who did what she had to do,” he says. “She was exactly what Americans are made of.”