The Life of Nathan Hale

By: Emma Huckaby 


On June 6,1755 in a little town called Coventry, Connecticut, the sixth child of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong Hale, was born. The child’s name was Nathan Hale. Nathan was the sixth child out of twelve children born, but only ten of his siblings survived.



Early Years

Nathan was a very educated and religious boy during his childhood. In 1769, When Nathan was 14 years old. He and his 16 year old brother, Enoch, went to Yale College. He attended Yale until 1773 and graduated with first-class honors. He became a school teacher for two years.


Military Life 

After those two years, until July 6,1767, Nathan Hale joined the army and became a lieutenant in the Seventh Connecticut Militia. After a few years he became apart of the Continental Army and became one of many captains. Not long after he was asked by Lt. Col. Thomas Knowlton to lead a group of Knowlton Rangers. Knowlton Rangers were an elite group of men from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. These states selected to carry out reconnaissance missions.



As soon as he had lead them and made his journey back to camp he acquired the information that George Washington had recently asked Lt. Col. Knowlton. To find a soldier that would be willing to spy on the British at Long Island. As soon as he found out about this, he went straight to Lt. Col. Knowlton and volunteered himself to do the job.



He was asked by many to reconsider and not go through with it, but he did anyways; he believed in America’s Independence and wanted to do whatever he could to help his country. He left the Continental Army’s camp at Harlem Heights and traveled to Norwalk, Connecticut. He worked his way to where the British were at Long Island dressed as a Dutch school teacher and carried his diploma with him at all times just in case of having to prove anything. He went all over the Northern Colonies collecting information about enemy strength and the movement of where and when the British soldiers would be somewhere. He wrote constantly about every little detail that he could find out.



He wrote down all of his information with ink and paper instead of invisible ink which was sold at the time. None of the British Officers or Soldiers had suspected that he was a spy.


 Getting Caught

There are three different stories of how he got caught. The first one was rumored that as he was dining in a tavern, despite his appearance, Loyalist Major Robert Rogers recognized him. Major Rodgers then pretended to be a Patriot and conned the truth out of Hale. Another story goes as he was ratted out by his Loyalist cousin Samuel Hale. The last one also happened in a tavern. Nathan was in a tavern and was wearing something of the British and a lot of the people that met him as a Patriot soldier and reconized him and they turned him in. Either way, after being caught, General Howe ordered that Nathan Hale be executed the next day. Later after he was executed all of the information about the British’s planned attacks, movements, and enemy strength was found.



The morning of September 22,1776, Nathan Hale was to be hung. Back then it was customary that spies be hung. When the day came Nathan Hale was walked up to a tree with a noose hanging from its branches. The noose was put around Hales neck. The hangman questioned if he had any last words. His last words became infamous, as they read: “I regret I have only but one life to give for my country.” He was only twenty one years of age when hung.




Nathan Hale played a very important part during the Revolutionary War. He was the first American to be captured and executed for spying. There are many statues of him standing present in New York and Washington. As there are no portraits of Hale, most are just a generalization of his description: blonde hair, blue eyes, well dressed and stood slightly taller then most. He is still known as the American Hero to us today, through his efforts to help the American Revolution.



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Krizner, L.J.. Nathan Hale: Patriot and Martyr of the American Revolution. 2002

Olson, Nathan. Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy. 2006

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