The Power of Story, Travel and Everyday Heroes

Educators who expand their classroom with student travel know the power of experiential education.  Teachers of early American History and the American Revolution, for instance, know that visiting Plimoth Patuxet, Lexington and Concord and Boston, Massachusetts makes curricula come alive to their students.  The living museums, statues, monuments, and memorials at such places, when properly introduced, hold the power to positively influence students for the rest of their lives.  This can be done through the confidence gained by a greater grasp of history (a value in itself!) or through the life-changing nature of an inspiring story.   Truly, stories of honor, service, courage and sacrifice for young students to personalize while actually visiting historic sites can, and have, changed lives for the better.   So, in honor of the recognized start to the American Revolution in April of 1775, and in keeping with our pursuit of inspiring students to meaningful ends through travel, we look to one of those influential stories…

The name Paul Revere is often synonymous with the American Revolution.  He has been a name and face of our war for independence since that fateful April day in 1775; even more so following Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s classic poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” nearly 100 years later.  Revere’s “midnight ride” to warn Massachusetts colonists of the coming British regulars is no less than American lore.  The two lanterns in the old North church, the British coming by sea, his ride to the famed Lexington and Concord towns to warn John Hancock and company, all American Revolution folklore making the silversmith one of the most famous Americans in history.  To this day tourists descend on the beautiful and historic Boston, Massachusetts to visit Revere’s house, gaze up at the famous steeple of the old North Church, admire his heroic equestrian statue, and trace the actual route of his ride that memorable night.  

Students of American history, however, know that many stories of heroism remain unknown and untold.   Sybil Ludington was a 16 year old girl living just southwest of Revere at the time of his famous ride.  Her father, Henry Luddington, was a leader in a colonial militia at the start of the American Revolution and a future aide to George Washington.  On April 26th, 1777 when word of British invasion of their region reached the Ludington’s, the intrepid 16 year old mounted her steed and rode nearly 40 miles through the night in a driving rainstorm to rouse the countryside for defense.  (For reference, Revere rode about 12.5 miles, and was captured).  With her efforts, the local militia were able to drive the British forces south and spare the people of the region further wartime ravages.  It wasn’t until 100 years afterward that family accounts of her heroism surfaced for the greater public to know, and nearly 60 years after that when her actions were immortalized through the lively statue erected in her honor near Danbury, CT.  

She does not have her name in the opening stanza of a famous poem, nor a statue in one of the most visited of American cities or a place in common American folklore.  But Ludington’s act deserves mention in the annals of American history along with the likes of Revere and his midnight ride.  Her heroism – perhaps even inspired by the tales of Paul Revere – is the type of story that inspires generations to selfless acts of courage, something not to be taken for granted.

Stories behind statues like this can be powerful.  And they give reason to ask:  What stories are you telling?   And who might they inspire?

Stories such as that of Sybil Luddington and the values that it teaches, are exactly the types of stories that Global Travel Alliance guides weave into our educational travel programs. But whether you’re traveling with us to Boston, elsewhere, or teaching in the classroom, we hope you enjoyed this April tale of valor.

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