Nathan Hale is often remembered as a hero of the Revolutionary War, serving as a soldier and spy during the early years of the war. Hale was born on June 6, 1755 in Coventry, Connecticut. Hale was born to Deacon Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong. He came from a long line of important colonial figures including Reverend John Hale and Elder John Strong. In 1769 Hale attended Yale College alongside his brother Enoch and Benjamin Tallmadge (who would also later serve as a spy for the Continental Army). Hale served as a member of Linonian Society of Yale and graduated with first class honors.
Once the Revolutionary War began in 1775 Hale joined the Connecticut militia, earning a spot as first lieutenant. Through the encouragement of Tallmadge, Hale accepted a commission in the 7th Connecticut Regiment under Colonel Charles Webb as a first lieutenant. Hale also served as a member of the intelligence service “Knowlton’s Rangers”. After the British defeated the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island, Hale accepted General Washington’s call for a spy behind enemy lines. He was the only man to volunteer for this job.
Hale was ferried to Long Island on September 12, 1776. He disguised himself as a Dutch school teacher, but did not travel under an assumed name. Hale wasn’t on assignment for very long, getting captured before the end of the month. Some accounts say he was recognized by Major Robert Rogers, while other accounts point to his cousin Samuel Hale, a Loyalist. Hale was hanged on September 22, 1776 at the age of 21. His last words were famously quoted as, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”.
Hale’s legacy has lived on. His nephew, also named Nathan Hale, founded the Boston Daily Advertiser and the North American Review. His great nephew was Edward Everett Hale, a Unitarian minister and activist in the abolitionist movement. Hale’s heroics have been honored with several statues and numerous buildings have been named after him including schools and military installments. In 1985 Hale was officially designated as the state hero of Connecticut.