Nathan Hale

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Statue of Nathan Hale in City Hall Park, New York City

Nathan Hale (1755-1776) was born as the son of a prosperous farmer, and died at the age of 21 at the hands of the British with the inspirational words, "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country."

Early life

In 1769, after studying under a village pastor, Hale entered Yale College. In 1775, Hale was commissioned a lieutenant in the Continental Army. Having offered to spy on the British troops, he disguised himself as a teacher, carrying his Yale diploma. Hale gathered much information and prepared to return to American troops.[1]


On the night of September 21, 1776, Hale was captured by the British when attempting to return to American lines. He was carrying all the information he had collected during his stay with the British. When he saw the maps and information carried by Hale, General Howe ordered that he be hanged. Although no record was made at the time, Hale is said to have uttered his inspirational final words before being hanged. He is famous for those last words, which are thought to have been inspired by Joseph Addison's Cato, a play which Hale learned while in college.