Smithsonian

Confirmation Readings

Martha Washington

Martha Washington was raised on a large plantation near Williamsburg, Virginia. Martha met George Washington a year after the death of her first husband, Daniel Custis. Martha and George married in 1759 and made their home at Mount Vernon, just outside Alexandria, Virginia.

Their life together was disrupted when George was asked to lead the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. During the war, Martha did not get to see George as often as she wished. However, during the months that the army stayed in winter quarters, Martha would go to camp and stay with her husband. She did this every year for eight years.

While Martha was at the army camps, she did many things to help her husband and his troops. She helped with sewing, rolling bandages, organizing other women to help, and encouraging the soldiers. Martha was at Valley Forge in the hard winter of 1777–78. She stayed with General Washington and his army in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Martha Washington was a very brave woman who did not mind helping in the army camps during difficult times.

Sybil Ludington

Many people have heard of Paul Revere’s ride to warn the people that the British were coming. He became famous that night. In Putnam County, New York, there was another rider who did not become as famous as Paul Revere but was just as brave!

At the age of sixteen, Sybil Ludington was the oldest of twelve children and no stranger to hard work. On the night of April 26, 1777, Sybil was helping her brothers and sisters to bed when there was a loud knock at the door. An exhausted messenger had come to tell Sybil’s father, Colonel Henry Ludington, that the British were looting and burning the town of Danbury, Connecticut. The residents of Danbury needed help and someone needed to ride throughout the area to let her father’s minutemen know they were needed to gather (muster) for the fight.

Sybil volunteered for the dangerous mission. She took her horse, Star, and rode forty miles through the countryside on a moonless night, shouting “The British are burning Danbury . . . muster at Ludington’s.” Her mission was a success. By the time she rode home, most of her father’s four hundred soldiers were ready to march to Danbury. After the battle, Sybil was congratulated by her friends and neighbors. Even George Washington thanked her!

Deborah Sampson Gannett

In 1782 Deborah Sampson exchanged her dress for men’s clothing and enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army. She used the name Robert Shutleff. Deborah was strong and tall enough to look like a man. She was able to fool everyone. They thought she didn’t have to shave because she was a very young man.

Deborah’s unit was sent to West Point, New York, and she was wounded in a battle nearby. She was taken to a hospital to be treated but snuck out so that she would not be discovered to be a woman. She operated on herself and took a musket ball out of her thigh. When she recovered from her wound, she went back to her regiment.

The next time Deborah was wounded, her doctor found out she was a woman and arranged for her to be discharged from the Continental Army in November of 1783. Due to her wounds, Deborah received a military pension from the United States of America. Later, in 1838, Congress passed a special act granting a pension to her heirs.