Hale accepted a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment under Colonel Charles Webb of Stamford.
The following Spring, they joined the Continental Army's effort to prevent the British from taking New York City.
tradition is that Nathan Hale was part of daring band of patriots who
captured an English sloop filled with provisions from right under the
guns of British man-of-war.
General Washington was desperate to know where the British planned to invade Manhattan Island, writing on September 6, 1776:
"We have not been able to obtain the least information on the enemy's plans."
sought a spy to penetrate the British lines at Long Island to get
information, and Nathan Hale was the only volunteer.
Fellow officer Captain William Hull attempted to talk him out it, but Hale responded:
wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary to the public
good becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my
country demand a peculiar service, its claim to perform that service are
On September 21, 1776, Hale was captured by the "Queen's Rangers" commanded by an American loyalist, Lieut. Col. Robert Rogers.
General William Howe ordered him to be hanged the next morning.
wrote a letter to his mother and brother, but the British destroyed
them, not wanting it known a man could die with such firmness.
He asked for a Bible, but was refused.
Hale was marched out and hanged from an apple-tree in Rutgers's
orchard, near the present streets of East Broadway and Market in New
The Essex Journal stated of Nathan Hale, February 13, 1777:
the gallows, he made a sensible and spirited speech; among other
things, told them they were shedding the blood of the innocent, and that
if he had ten thousand lives, he would lay them all down, if called to
it, in defense of his injured, bleeding Country."
may have drawn inspiration for his last words "I only regret that I
have but one life to lose for my country" from the well-known English
play "Cato," written by Joseph Addison in 1712, as Hale had been
involved in theater while a student at Yale:
"How beautiful is death, when earn'd by virtue! Who would not be that youth? What pity is it That we can die but once to serve our country."
(95-46 BC), was a leader during the last days of the Roman Republic
who championed individual liberty against government tyranny;
representative republican government against a despotic dictatorship;
and logic over emotion.
Attempting to prevent Julius Caesar from
becoming a dictator, Cato was know for his immunity to bribes, his
moral integrity, and his distaste for corruption.
George Washington had the play "Cato" performed for the Continental Army while they were encamped at Valley Forge.
American Heritage Magazine's
article, "The Last Days and Valiant Death of Nathan Hale" (April
1964), gave fellow soldier Lieutenant Elisha Bostwick's description of
"He was undoubtedly pious; for it was remark'd
that when any of the soldiers of his company were sick he always
visited them & usually prayed for & with them in their