Nathan Hale: American Revolutionary War Patriot
During the American Revolutionary War, the British Army had the superior training and weaponry to be a formidable foe to the upstart colonists. What the Continental Army had was a better knowledge of the land and a will to fight for their independence. This prompted many members of the Continental Army to find ways to gain advantages that their more experienced counterparts had. This included the use of spies, such as Nathan Hale to report on the movement of the British Army.
Nathan Hale was born in Coventry, Connecticut on June 6, 1755. In 1768, Nathan Hale and his brother were sent to Yale College to begin studies. The Hale brothers both graduated from Yale with honors in 1773. Upon graduation, Nathan Hale accepted a job as a Teacher, where he remained until the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
When the War for Independence began, Nathan Hale immediately volunteered for the Connecticut Militia, where he became a First Lieutenant. His initial involvement in the War was in the Siege of Boston. Hale then joined the Continental Army’s 7th Connecticut Regiment and was appointed Captain and participated in defending New York City in 1776.
However, during the Battle of Long Island in 1776, the British Army was able to capture New York City. In September 1776, Captain Nathan Hale volunteered to go behind enemy lines and report on the activities of the British Army. Hale volunteered to spy on the British and help the Continental Army despite knowing that if caught it would be punishable by death.
During the capture of New York City, the British Army was looking to discourage residents of the city from being loyal to the patriots of the Continental Army. In September 1776, the British Army set the Great New York Fire of 1776, in hopes of rounding up non-loyalists. During the Great Fire, Nathan Hale, in disguise, was in New York City. However, despite the disguise he was spotted by Major Robert Rogers, who recognized him and Rogers portrayed himself as a patriot to get Hale to admit his loyalty, which he did.
Hale was subsequently taken to General William Howe, who questioned Hale and determined that evidence of his espionage was on Hale. As was customary, Howe sentenced Hale to be put to death by hanging. On September 22, 1776, Hale was taken the Park of the Artillery in New York City and was hanged at the age of 21.
However, before his hanging, Nathan Hale gave a speech which contains one of the most famous lines in American history. He said “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Upon his death, reports of Hale’s bravery and his last speech spread among the patriots. This speech and display of courage in the face of certain death became a rallying cry for the patriots, and Hale’s death provided the spark for the Continental Army’s victory over the British and for the colonists to get their independence.
From his brave actions and words, Hale became one of the most famous patriots and has earned a place in history of the United States. For more information about one of Connecticut’s and the United States most famous patriots, here is a collection of reference material on his life and death: