IntroductionOn the morning of September 22nd of 1776, in New York City, a young man named Nathan Hale was led to the gallows by his British captors accused of being an American Revolutionary spy. When asked if he had any final words he proudly stated "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country"; words that would make him an American hero and inspire the American colonist in their fight for independence from Great Britain. After he uttered these now famous words Nathan Hale was executed for spying; becoming the first American executed for spying for America. Below is a list of interesting facts about this American Revolutionary War hero. Information includes why he volunteered to be a spy, where he spied, and how he was caught by the British. This information is written for both kids and adults.
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Interesting Nathan Hale Facts
- He was born on June 6th of 1755.
- He graduated from Yale University in 1773 after which he became a schoolteacher.
- In 1775, with the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War, Hale joined the Connecticut militia where he became a first lieutenant.
- After the British withdrew from Boston Hale's regiment was relocated to New York.
- Nathan Hale volunteered to spy on the British positions near New York City. He was to report back on such crucial information as British troop positions and movements.
- Why he volunteered for this extremely dangerous assignment is perhaps best explained by his quote "I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary".
- He had no training in espionage or intelligence gathering of any kind.
- On September 12th of 1776 he snuck behind the British lines on Long Island disguised as a Dutch schoolteacher. He was fully aware that if he were captured the British would without doubt execute him as a spy.
- How Nathan Hale was discovered to be a spy by the British is in question. Some historians believe British Major Robert Rogers saw Hale and suspected him of spying; Rogers then pretended to be an American spy also tricking Hale into revealing his spy mission. Another theory is that Hale was turned in by his cousin, Samuel Hale who was a Loyalist.
- When Nathan Hale was captured the British soldiers found papers on him that left no doubt he was an American spy.
The Execution of Nathan Hale
- After being captured Hale was brought to New York City, which had been captured by the British a few days earlier, and sentenced to be executed by the British commander Sir William Howe.
- Nathan Hale's execution took place on Sept 22nd of 1776; however the exact location in New York City is in question. Some historians believe the execution took place near what is now 66th Street near Third Avenue; others believe the site to be in present-day City Hall Park in downtown Manhattan.
- By all accounts 21 year old Nathan Hale showed great bravery at his execution. His famous final words showed this bravery and his unshakeable patriotism; "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country".
- The exact words that Nathan Hale spoke before his execution are in question but by all accounts he expressed his dedication to the fight for American independence.