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Student Wins DAR Essay Contests

Anna Gray writes of forgotten Revolutionary hero.

Thirteen-year-old Anna Gray discovered the story of unsung hero Sybil Ludington when she googled “Revolutionary War women” — and as Anna explains her choice, “She was the most interesting of the women I had not heard of.” Sybil Ludington was a 16-year-old girl who volunteered to gallop 40 miles through a cold damp night on horseback to warn American troops that the British were approaching.

The assignment was to write about “Forgotten Patriots Who Supported the American Struggle for Independence” for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) annual American History Essay Contest. Anna, a seventh grade student at the Fourth Presbyterian School in Potomac, read her winning essay to the Goshen Mill DAR Chapter on Feb. 11, where she accepted a certificate and monetary award. That same day, they announced that her essay had also won the Maryland State Society DAR contest and she will receive her award on March 23. Her essay will now be entered in the Eastern Division contest and could advance to the national level.

Anna’s composition, “Teen Rides Forty Miles in Storm To Save Town” was written as a newspaper article for the Danbury Post Historic Special on the Revolutionary War of 1777. Under the name of “Annie Grayson, Staff Writer” she wrote the story of a young woman who most likely had many of the same feelings, thoughts and aspirations as Anna does today. Sybil wanted to be independent and to help her country, as well as her father, a colonel, in the fight against the British. When an exhausted messenger relayed the news that the British were soon planning to attack and burn Danbury, Conn., Sybil, a skilled horseback rider, volunteered for the dangerous mission. She rode from village to village shouting for the militia to meet at her house, since her tired father was mustering the troops. After her journey, she arrived back home to find that the men had all responded and were waiting for orders in her front yard. She was thrilled that they had listened and immediately responded.

Anna wrote, “Her father later reflected on the extraordinary circumstances of his daughter’s daring ride. He was overwhelmed that a child of 16 could accomplish so much. He stated in his memoir ‘there is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere and its midnight message.’ Unfortunately the troop was unable to stop the burning of Danbury on April 26, 1777. The 7th Duchess Militia joined the Continental Army, though, in the Battle of Ridgefield and was able to push the British back to their boats the next day.”

Anna also included that George Washington and the French Comte de Rochambeau visited Sybil’s house to thank her for her bravery. Her birthplace, Fredericksburgh changed its name to Ludingtonville and statues of her stand in Lake Glenieda and outside the Danbury Library. Anna states, “Sadly, after she died, she was only a quickly fading memory.”

The DAR American History Essay Contest was established to encourage young people in grades 5 – 8 to think creatively about the nation’s history and to learn about it in a new light. Essays are judged for historical accuracy, adherence to the topic, organization of materials, interest, originality, spelling, grammar, punctuation and neatness.

Anna is the daughter of Karen and Corey Gray of Bethesda.