Nathan Hale was born on the 6th day of June, 1755 in the town of Coventry, Connecticut. He was born to Richard Hale who had moved to Coventry from Newbury Mass. In 1748. His Mother’s name was Elizabeth Strong. Richard and Elizabeth had twelve children of which Nathan was sixth among them. Nathan’s father was a successful farmer and he was able to provide very good educations for all his children. He attended Yale University with his bother Enoch. He enrolled at the age of fourteen and graduated at the age of eighteen. There is record that upon commencement day Nathan took what was called a pert, and it is recorded that he graduated in the top thirteen of his class. It appears that Nathan was going to become a Christian minister upon leaving college like his brother Enoch did but, as it was with most young men he became a teacher. In 1774 he accepted an appointment at the Union Grammar School which was a public school in the town of New London, Connecticut. The school was paid for by the men of the town to prepare their children for higher learning. In a time when most women were taught at home, or not taught at all, Nathan devoted the hours from five to seven in the morning to teaching no less than twenty young women at a time. Then at seven a.m. he would begin teaching the young men for the rest of the day.
He was a devoted militia member. When word of Lexington and Concord made it to New London in 1775, there was a town meeting held. At this town meeting it is said that a Nathan said of the British attack, “Let us march immediately” and he then said, “and never lay down our arms until we obtain our independence”. It is said that this was one of the first times the word ‘Independence’ was used to describe the struggle between the Colonists and the British. He became a Captain in the Continental Army, and a spy for the cause of liberty.
In September, 1776, the British occupied New York city. Nathan was deep behind enemy lines when he was captured by the British. His personal effects were searched, they included a sketch book of drawings that Hale had made of enemy fortifications and other Continental documents, upon the discovery of these he gave his name and rank in the American Army. He was arrested as a spy, sentenced with no trial by General Howe to be hung on the morning after his capture. When his execution neared, he asked for a clergyman to attend to him, this request was met with a most egregious no. After being turned down by Howe for the attention of a clergyman, Nathan asked that he might have a Holy Bible, this request was met with the same answer. So, as Hale sat alone waiting to die he only found mercy in an officer that asked that Nathan be left in his custody. The officer that had custody of Nathan provided him paper and pen so he might write a letter to his mother and a military officer brother. When the time came, 11:00 am on September 22nd, 1776, it is said of an eyewitness that Nathan Hale walked solemnly to the noose, turned to the men attending his execution and said his famous words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”! This from a young man of twenty-one years of age, what courage this man possessed, even in the face of death, he was defiant, he knew his cause was just. A true patriot! The execution of Nathan Hale
It is reported that Sir William Howe made the following entry in his Orderly Book on the day of the execution: “A spy from the enemy by his own full confession, apprehended last night, was executed this day at 11 o’clock in front of the Artillery Park.”
Remember Nathan Hale this friday, he died for the freedom that we enjoy today.
Robert E. Stage Jr.