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Home > Social Studies > US American History Articles, Info, Printables, Quotes and Facts > George Washington > The Heroic Tale of Nathan Hale

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The Heroic Tale of Nathan Hale

With forces so unequal, a single unwise movement might bring disaster. If only Washington could learn the plans of the British! The only way to do this was to send a spy over into their camp. He called for a volunteer to go inside the enemy’s line and get information. Now, you know that spying is dangerous business, for if captured the man will be hanged; and none but a brave man will undertake it.

Probably many of you boys and girls know the name of the hero whom Washington selected for this delicate and dangerous task. It was Nathan Hale.

Perhaps you ask why he was chosen, and why he was willing to go.

We can answer those questions best by finding out something about his life.

Nathan Hale was born in Coventry, a little town in Connecticut, in 1755. His parents, who were very religious people, had taught him to be always honest, brave, and loyal.

Nathan was bright in school and fond of books. He was also fond of play. Although he was not very strong as a small boy, he grew sturdy and healthy by joining in the sports of the other boys. They liked him, because, like George Washington, he always played fair.

Later he went to Yale College, where he studied hard but yet had time for fun. He became a fine athlete, tall, and well built. He sang well, and his gentlemanly manner and thoughtfulness of others made him beloved by all who knew him.

After he left college, he taught school with much success, being respected and loved by his pupils. He was teaching in New London, Connecticut, when the Revolutionary War broke out.

He felt sorry to leave his school, but believing his country needed the service of every patriotic man, he joined the army and was made a captain.

When he learned that his commander needed a spy, he said: “I am ready to go. Send me.”

He was only twenty-one, hardly more than a boy, yet he knew the danger. And although life was very dear to him he loved his country more than his own life.

Nathan HaleHis noble bearing and grace of manner might easily permit him to pass as a Loyalist, that is, an American who sympathized with England - there were many such in the British camp - and Washington accepted him for the mission.

He dressed himself like a schoolmaster, so that the British would not suspect that he was an American soldier.

Then, entering the enemy’s lines, he visited all the camps, took notes, and made sketches of the fortifications, hiding the papers in the soles of his shoes. He was just about returning when he was captured. The papers being found upon him, he was condemned to be hanged as a spy before sunrise the next morning.

The marshal who guarded him that night was a cruel man. He would not allow his prisoner to have a Bible, and even tore in pieces before his eyes the farewell letters which the young spy had written to his mother and friends.

But Nathan Hale was not afraid to die, and held himself calm and steady to the end. Looking down upon the few soldiers who were standing near by as he went to his death, he said: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” All honor to this brave and true young patriot!

 

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