“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” were the last words of 21-year-old American patriot Nathan Hale, who was hanged by the British without a trial on SEPTEMBER 22, 1776.
A Yale graduate, 1773, Nathan Hale almost became a Christian minister, as his brother Enoch did, but instead became a teacher at Union Grammar School.
When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Nathan Hale joined a Connecticut militia and served in the siege of Boston.
On July 4, 1775, Hale received a letter from his Yale classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge, who was now General Washington’s chief intelligence officer:
“Was I in your condition … I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our holy Religion, the honour of our God, a glorious country, & a happy constitution is what we have to defend.”
Nathan Hale accepted a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment under Colonel Charles Webb of Stamford. Tradition has it that Nathan Hale was part of daring band of patriots who captured an English sloop filled with provisions from right under the guns of British man-of-war.
Following the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, August 27, 1776, the British went from Staten Island across Long Island and were intent on capturing New York City. General Washington was desperate to know British plans and wrote on September 6, 1776: “We have not been able to obtain the least information on the enemy’s plans.”
Washington sought a spy to penetrate the British lines to get information. On September 8, 1776, Nathan Hale stepped forward as the only volunteer.Knowing that the act of spying on the British, if caught, would be punishable by death, his fellow officer Captain William Hull attempted to talk him out it.
“I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claim to perform that service are imperious.”
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