Nathan Hale: Quote, Biography & Facts

Instructor: Jeremy Battista
We have all heard of our Founding Fathers, but what about the men and women that helped them? What about the people responsible for winning the war through blood and determination? Let us investigate one of them, Nathan Hale.

Early Life

Born in 1755 in Connecticut, Nathan Hale was the son of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong. At age 14, he attended Yale University along with his brother. While there, he excelled at academics and graduated with honors at age 18, in the year 1773. As you can tell by the years listed here, we will see Nathan Hale becoming an integral part of the Revolutionary War.

Capt. Nathan Hale statue. This is the best picture of what we think he looked like based on descriptions.
Nathan Hale

He became a school teacher in Connecticut where he remained until the outbreak of the war. Hale had a big decision to make; serve his country who needed every man they could get, or continue in his career as a teacher. I think you can predict his choice.

Revolution

When the Revolutionary War started, Nathan Hale was employed as a teacher and also a member of the Connecticut militia. A friend from college, one Benjamin Tallmadge, wrote him a letter from Boston where he was watching the siege taking place there by the British. He urged him to join the cause.

'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.' Benjamin Tallmadge, 1775.

Hale, inspired by the passion in his friend's letter, enlisted immediately, becoming a first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment. He would not stay on the front lines long as he answered the call of General George Washington, to become a spy. Nathan Hale would rise to fame in the annals of history during this period in his life.

Capture

On September 8, 1776, Nathan Hale volunteered to spy on the British behind their lines. He was taken to New York City on September 12, 1776, where he began to work as a spy for the Continental Army. This would not last very long for Hale as he was captured in the days following his introduction into New York and September 22, 1776, when he was hanged.

Much of the history of Nathan Hale is shrouded in some mystery as there were no social media or cell phones to get fully detailed accounts. As best as we are able to ascertain, Hale was sitting in a tavern in New York City when he was approached by the famous Robert Rogers (of French and Indian War fame), who was a loyalist. Rogers recognized Hale and lured him via a false sense of security into confessing to be a spy. Rogers and his men, Roger's Rangers, then apprehended Hale and turned him over to General William Howe, commander of the British forces there.

Hale was questioned by Howe and physical documents, and materials were found on him that gave more evidence of his being a spy. At that time, spies were not treated like normal soldiers, and, therefore, were not subject to the rules of war. Instead, they were to be hung immediately, which was to be Hale's fate.

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