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Nathan Hale

1755 - 1776

"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

By Danielle T.   - Gotha Middle School, Windermere, Florida.

Nathan Hale is one of America's most remembered heroes. He was a very successful teacher in Connecticut. He later became a great American Patriot in the Revolutionary War.

Nathan Hale was born in Connecticut in 1755. He was one of twelve children. He took many opportunities of education. He prepared for college and was tutored by Joseph Huntington. He later went to Yale. In 1773 after graduating from college he started teaching school in Connecticut.

Even though Hale was a successful teacher he was very concerned about American rights. In 1755 Hale received a lieutenant's commission and helped in the siege of Boston. When the British left Boston and entered New York Hale marched along with other Patriot soldiers to meet the new threat. By this time he had become a Captain in the Continental Army. Hale became a member in a select fighting group called the Ranger's because of his good leadership and by capturing a supply-loaded vessel under the fire of a British warship. The Rangers were usually known for their daring leadership and fighting qualities in dangerous missions.

General George Washington had asked the Ranger commanders to pick a man who could slip through British lines to get information about British plans. Hale volunteered to take the very dangerous mission, knowing that if he were caught the penalty would be death. He disguised himself as a Dutch schoolteacher looking for work. He gathered the requested information for General Washington.

On September 21,1776 when Nathan Hale was crossing back onto American lines the British captured him. The British had discovered his true identity. Lt. Col. Robert Rogers took him to see General William Howe. Hale freely admitted his identity and his mission. Rumors said that his cousin Samuel Hale who was working for General William Howe probably betrayed Hale. Samuel Hale however denied the accusations and the rumors were never proven. Nathan Hale told the British that he was willing to die without regret. On September 22,1776 Nathan Hale was marched to his death. Before his execution he made a speech to the few attendees. According to tradition he ended his speech with, "I only regret that I have but one life to loose for my country." The 21 year old Captain and schoolteacher were executed by hanging.


Hale, Nathan soldier, born in Coventry, Connecticut, 6 June, 1755; died in New York city, 22 September, 1776, was a feeble child, and gave little promise of surviving his infancy; but as he grew up he became fond of out-door sports, and was famous for his athletic feats. His attention was early turned to books, and his father desired him to study for the ministry. Accordingly, he was fitted for college by the Reverend Joseph Huntington, and was graduated at Yale in 1773. Dr. Eneas Munson, of New Haven, says of him at this time that "he was almost six feet in height, perfectly proportioned, and in figure and deportment he was the most manly man I have ever met. His chest was broad; his muscles were firm; his face wore a most benign expression; his complexion was roseate; his eyes were light blue, and beamed with intelligence; his hair was soft and light brown in color; and his speech was rather low, sweet, and musical. His personal beauty and grace of manner were most charming. Why, all the girls in New Haven fell in love with him, and wept tears of real sorrow when they heard of his sad fate. In dress he was always neat; he was quick to lend a helping hand to a being in distress, brute or human, was overflowing with good humor, and was the idol of all his acquaintances."

At his graduation he was engaged with William Robinson and Ezra Samson in a Latin syllogistic dispute followed by a debate on the question, "Whether the education of daughters be not, without any just reason, more neglected than that of the sons." His classmate, James Hillhouse, wrote: "In this debate Hale was triumphant. He was the champion of 'the daughters,' and most ably advocated their cause." He then taught school first in East Haddam and afterward in New London. The news of Lexington reached the quiet village where he was teaching, and a town meeting was at once held. Among the speakers was Hale, who urged immediate action, saying: "Let us march immediately, and never lay down our arms until we have obtained our independence." He at once enrolled himself as a volunteer, and was made a lieutenant in Colonel Charles Webb's regiment. In September, 1775, his regiment was ordered to Cambridge, where, after participating in the siege of Boston, he was made a captain in January, 1776.

He then went to New York, where, early in September, with a few picked men, he captured at midnight a supply vessel that was anchored in the East river under the protection of the guns of the British man-of-war "Asia." The stores of provisions from the prize were distributed among his hungry fellow soldiers. About this time he was made captain of a company in the "Connecticut Rangers," a corps known as "Congress's Own," commanded by Thomas Knowlton. In response to a call from General Washington, he volunteered to enter the British lines and procure intelligence. Disguising himself as a school-master and loyalist, he visited all of the British camps on Long Island and in New York, openly making observations, drawings, and memoranda of fortifications. As he was about returning, he was apprehended and taken before Sir William Howe, who, upon the evidence found in his shoes, condemned him to be executed before sunrise on the next morning. He was denied the attendance of a chaplain, and his request for a Bible was refused. The letters he had written to his sisters and betrothed (who was his step-sister) were destroyed before his eyes by the provost-marshal, William Cunningham, so that, as he afterward said, "the rebels should never know that they had a man who could die with such firmness." His execution took place in Colonel Henry Rutgers's orchard, near the present junction of Market street and East Broadway. As he ascended the scaffold he said: "You are shedding the blood of the innocent; if I had ten thousand lives, I would lay them down in defence of my injured, bleeding country"; and his last words were: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

A little fort, built during the war of 1812 on Black Rock, at the entrance of New Haven harbor, was named Fort Hale in his honor, and a granite memorial was erected at Coventry in 1846. The illustration represents Karl Gerhardt's bronze statue, which was placed in the capitol at Hartford on 14 June, 1887. An address presenting the statue to the state was made by Charles Dudley Warner, and responded to by Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury. The Society of the Sons of the Revolution have at present (1887) undertaken the raising of funds for the purpose of erecting a statue to Captain Hale's memory in Central park. The manuscript of one of his college orations is preserved by the Linonian society at Yale. President Timothy Dwight, the elder, who was his tutor when at Yale, has commemorated his career in verse. See also "Life of Captain Nathan Hale, the Martyr Spy of the American Revolution," by Isaac W. Stuart (Hartford, 1856), and "The Two Spies, Nathan Hale and John Andre," by Benson J. Lossing (New York, 1886).

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