Monday, March 05, 2007

Who was Nathan Hale?

Nathan Hale is famous for saying, "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." But who was he?

He was a young schoolteacher from Connecticut who joined General Washington's army in the excitement of the first days of the American Revolution in 1775. After a year of drilling with other soldiers and one hair-raising escapade, in which he rowed out and captured a British boat full of weapons in New York City's East River, Nathan Hale learned that Washington needed a volunteer. A large British force was camped on Long Island and Washington needed to know the strength of this force and its general's plans. The only way to get this information was for someone to go to the camp, pretend to be a passing civilian, and take notes and draw sketches of whatever was important. What was needed, in fact, was a spy.

Nathan Hale volunteered to do this even though at this time spying, in any army, was considered disgraceful, especially for officers (he was a captain). He walked into the British camp posing as a schoolteacher, and wandered there several days quietly drawing maps and taking notes in the Latin he had learned at Yale. Why or how he was caught remains a mystery; someone recognized him and when he was brought before the British general, he admitted what he had been doing. He was hanged the next day, on September 22, 1776, not having been allowed to see a minister or read a Bible for comfort beforehand. The last letters he wrote were torn up as he watched. His last words were the famous quote that he regretted he had only one life to give for America. He was 22 years old.

To learn more about Nathan Hale, stop byYouth Services and check out:
Nathan Hale: Patriot Spy, by Shannon Zemlicka (2002) or (for a very leisurely, old-fashioned read), Nathan Hale: A Story of Loyalties (1932) by Jane Darrow.

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