Some Obscure Patriots

I am sure you are familiar with the famous portrait, “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Emanuel Leutze painted two versions of the portrait. He began the first in 1849 in Germany, immediately following the failure of Germany’s revolution. Some believe he painted the portrait to stimulate patriotism in Germany.


In addition to General Washington, Leutze has filled the boat with various ‘types’ of soldiers. Washington and his two officers are distinguished by their blue coats, the trademark attire of a Continental officer. The remaining nine men appear to be members of the militia. Three men row at the bow of the boat. One is an African American, another wears the Scottish checkerboard bonnet, and the third wears a coonskin cap. Two farmers, distinguished by their broad-brimmed hats, huddle against the frigid cold in the middle of the boat while the man at the stern wears the moccasins, pants, and hat of a Native American. Some believe the red coat and black scarf figure may represent the women who fought and died for freedom. This collection of people suggests the all-inclusive nature of the Colonial cause in the American Revolutionary War.[1]


Our War for Independence included the aristocratic influencers of the day like George Washington. Those we would call “blue-collar” soldiers are also in the boat. So many of the obscure patriots made significant contributions to the cause of liberty.


Last week we mentioned the midnight ride of Paul Revere and his fellow horse riders. We have heard of Revere but William Dawes is less known. There were also others whose names are not known. These men did not take the field at Lexington Green, but they played a noteworthy role in warning two key Founders and preparing the Minutemen for the arrival of the 700 British Regulars.


Today I want to turn our attention to some even more obscure patriots. Several women played essential roles in the Revolution. Some of these women were spies, some fought in the field, and at least one made a similar ride as Paul Revere. These ladies did not get the acclaim of their male counterparts, but their contributions speak for themselves.


Let me begin with Margaret Corbin. Margaret accompanied her husband, John, when he joined the Continental Army in 1776. A British artillery bombardment fatally wounded John. Margaret took his place on his cannon to continue firing. She fought until she was wounded. Margaret Corbin became the first woman to receive a veteran’s pension from Congress.


Ann Simpson Davis is our next female patriot. Ann served the American cause as a spy. George Washington handpicked her to carry messages to his generals while the Continental Army was in eastern Pennsylvania. Ann was a skilled rider and carried secret orders in grain sacks and sometimes in her clothing. Washington honored her with a commendation for her service.[2]


I want to focus on a teenager named Sybil Ludington.[3] Sybil’s father owned a gristmill along a route between Connecticut and Long Island. Mr. Ludington served in the military for sixty years, including in the French and Indian War. Ludington was a British loyalist until 1773, when he changed sides to support the Patriots. He led his local regiment as a Colonel.

On April 26, 1777, a rider informed Ludington that the nearby town of Danbury was under attack by British troops and needed help. At this point, Ludington disbanded his regiment for planting season. His men were working throughout the area at their respective farms. The rider was too tired to continue, so Mr. Ludington enlisted his daughter, Sybil, to carry the news to the Patriots. She either volunteered, or her father asked her to make the ride. Either way, Sybil rode through the night, alerting the Colonel’s men of the danger and urging them to return to the fight. She rode all night through dark woods and in the rain, covering 20 to 40 miles. When she returned home, hundreds of soldiers gathered to fight the British.


After the Revolution, Ludington married Edward Ogden in 1784, at age 23. The couple had one son, Henry, and lived in Catskill, New York. Sybil’s husband died of yellow fever in 1799. She bought a tavern and helped her son become a lawyer four years later. When she sold the tavern, she earned a tidy profit and purchased a home for her son and his family, where she also resided. After her son, Henry died in 1838, Ludington applied for a Revolutionary War pension since her husband had served in the military. Congress denied her pension, claiming insufficient proof of marriage. At age seventy-seven, Ludington died in poverty.[4]


Our Founding Fathers were not the only ones willing to sacrifice their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. Every day people sacrificed, too. The majority of those involved in the War for Independence were not interested in acclaim. Most wanted Liberty and were willing to make all necessary sacrifices to attain it.


How does our generation stack up to our Founding generation? It appears to me that most of us today are more interested in comfort than Liberty. As Benjamin Franklin observed, many of us have decided to trade Liberty for a bit of security and deserve neither.


There is a progression that we need to consider. Someone has observed that “Hard times create strong men (and women); strong men (and women) create easy times; Easy times create weak men (and women),” and the cycle continues.


We live in “hard times” because we have been weak people. We have been weak because we have had it so easy. We have had life easy because our ancestors were strong people who sacrificed for Liberty, both for themselves and us.


I think of our eighteen-year-old ancestors who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944 and our young ancestors who sacrificed for our independence. I wonder if our current generation can rise to our challenges. Can we make the sacrifices they did?


James reminds us of the value of trials in James 1:2-8 (NKJV):

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.


As much as we hate discomfort, we are better people at the end of our trials than before. Our nation became the greatest nation in the world. We endured the trials of independence from tyranny. It is our turn to step up to current challenges.

Keep The Light of Rising to the Challenge Burning!

[1] “Did You Know?: ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’ Painting.” Purdue University: Purdue Today, 13 Feb. 2014,

[2] Lee, Dr. Richard G., General Editor. The American Patriot’s Bible: The Word of God and the Shaping of America. Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, 2009. P. 272.

[3] FMI, Cummings, Brad, and Lance Wubbels, editors. The Founders’ Bible. Newbury Park, CA, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012, p. 1133.

[4] Michals, Debra.  “Sybil Ludington.” National Women’s History Museum. 2017.