In celebration of Putnam County’s Bicentenniel, the Town of Kent Historical Society is inviting the community to attend a reenactment of a small portion of the long journey undertaken by Revolutionary War hero Sybil Ludington that will take place at 1 p.m. this Saturday, April 28.
Many Putnam County residents know the name from the grand bronze statue that stands next to Lake Gleneida in the Hamlet of Carmel or from the sign posts that mark the path the 16-year-old Sybil took on a cold and rainy night in 1777 to rally local militia members against British troops who were burning and pillaging Danbury, Conn.
“She belongs to Putnam County,” said Mahopac resident Vincent Dacquino, whose interest in Sybil was piqued by one of those sign markers back in 1997 and led to him penning three books on the young woman. “If we are going to celebrate 200 years, then we are going to celebrate Sybil.”
With a three-year investigation that began with a stop at Mahopac Public Library, Dacquino researched Sybil’s life and through such corrected many mistruths that were previously believed about her. Having been the only author to write a cradle-to-grave biography, he is considered the preeminent expert on Sybil Ludington.
His calendar is full of invitations from organizations and schools asking him to come speak about the brave young woman, and during these talks Dacquino said he likes to draw the comparison between Sybil, the lesser-known figure of the Revolutionay War, with the universally known Paul Revere, who made a similar ride to alert soldiers to the Brits impending arrival.
“Paul Revere rode 12 miles; Sybil rode more than 40. Paul Revere was in his 40s; Sybil was 16 years old. Paul Revere rode through the well-traveled roads of Boston on a nice night. Sybil rode over mud paths in bad weather,” Dacquino said, leaving the grandest distinction as the kicker. “Paul Revere got caught. Sybil didn’t.”
Although New York State has mandated Sybil’s ride as part of the fourth grade curriculum, he said that children all over the country should be taught about the young lady’s brave act.
Sybil’s father was a militia colonel and on that noted night in 1777 a horseman arrived from Danbury to alert Colonel Ludington that troops were needed to fend of the British. The messenger exhausted from his ride and unable to go on, Colonel Ludington asked his daughter to take on the task of rallying his men. With no weapon and bearing only a stick to knock on doors without dispatching from her horse, Sybil rode through the night, avoiding “Skinners” and “Cowboys,” lawless bands of marauders who most likely would have killed her if their paths had crossed.
“By day break, thanks to her daring, nearly the whole regiment was mustered before her father’s house…, and an hour or two later was on the march for vengeance on the raiders,” read an article published in Connecticut Magazine in 1907, according to Dacquino’s book, “Sybil Ludington, A Call to Arms.”
But if a reenactment is to be put on, who will play the part of Sybil?
The event on Saturday was organized by Town of Kent Councilman John Greene, who set about to find a modern-day Sybil.
It was during that search that 16-year-old Pleasant Valley resident Marki-Lynn Sullivan was working as a ski instructor at Thunder Ridge in Patterson and heard Greene making inquiries about just that.
Sullivan, having rode horses since the age of 7, told Greene that she wanted to take on the role of Sybil.
“When I heard about it, I googled who she was and researched her and found a little bit about what she had done,” Sullivan said. “I was interested in the story she had and so that made me want to do it even more.”
Being of the same age, 200-plus years later in a time when expectations of what young women are capable of have evolved, Sullivan said she was impressed with Sybil’s contribution to the founding of our country.
“I found it so interesting, of her being so young and having such a big part in history,” Sullivan said. “She rode such a long way and having to do that at the age of 16 must have been really hard that long ago.”
Community members who want to attend the event should arrive early, by 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at the Kent Elementary School located at 1091 Route 52, where they can park their cars and then take a trolley cart to the portion of North Horsepound Road where the reenactment will take place. Following Sybil’s ride, the trolley cart will transport attendees close by to the Kent Historical Society where Dacquino will give a talk on Sybil’s life and hot dogs and beverages will be available.
Dacquino said that he has become an adopted family member among Ludington’s descendents and will be hosting a bus tour for them in July. The tour, of course, will include a stop by the bronze statue next to Lake Gleneida and another at Sybil’s grave that is located behind the Patterson Presbyterian Church.
Dacqino hoped that all Putnam County residents would take pause to remember Sybil.
“Every single time we ignore history, we cheat our children of their tomorrows, by not helping them learn about their yesterdays. It’s our duty to pass that on to them,” Dacquino said. “Heroes only die when they are forgotten.”