Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Forgotten Hero of History: Nathan Hale

Growing up, I had a fascination with history. Especially the Revolutionary War and Civil War. I would go to the library and check out stacks of books on the subject and read them all. To me, it was more than dates and casualties. It was stories. (No wonder I ended up writing historical fiction, huh?)

Depiction of Nathan Hale's Hanging
(Public Domain)
One of the gems I found during those precious days when I had few responsibilities to draw me away from a book, was Nathan Hale. Oh, what a hero! What an interesting person! What a tragic story! And yet, most of the time when I mention his name, I get a blank look. PEOPLE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHO HE IS!  And that horrifies me. My favorite person of the Revolutionary War, and they don't even know he existed.

Today, I remedy that for you. AND I am throwing in an extra GIVEAWAY today as well. If you DO know who Nathan Hale is, you get EXTRA points in the drawing for a paperback copy of my Revolutionary War book, Dawn of Liberty.
If you DON'T know who Nathan Hale is, that's okay too. You can still enter the drawing. ;)

Okay, on to the story of this amazing hero.

Nathan Hale was born June 6, 1755 in Coventry, Connecticut. At the age of fourteen, Nathan went with his brother to Yale College. After graduation, he became a teacher. When the Revolutionary War erupted in 1775, he joined the Connecticut militia. According to a letter from Nathan's classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge, and the fact that Nathan stayed behind when his regiment went to engage in the Siege of Boston, it would appear that Nathan had some sort of hesitation. It is uncertain if this was in regards to his contract that bound him to his teaching position, or as to whether fighting in a war was the moral and Christ-honoring thing to do. I'm not sure if Nathan asked his friend for advice, or if his friend gave it anyway, but the letter was frank and strong.

"Was I in your condition, I think the more extensive service would be my choice. Our holy Religion, the honor of our God, a glorious country, & a happy constitution is what we have to defend."

Only a few days after receiving his friend's letter, he threw his heart into the cause and accepted the position of first lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut. Hale had just turned 20 years old.

A little over a year later, General George Washington needed volunteers for a behind-enemy-lines mission in New York City. It was a spying mission that would be punishable by immediate death if caught.

While Hale was on this mission, General Washington was forced to draw back and leave the city in the hands of the British. The Great New York Fire of 1776 ensued. After this event, the British began rounding up any patriots they could find. There are contradictory accounts of how Nathan Hale was discovered. One account asserts that Nathan was betrayed by his own cousin, Samuel Hale, who was a loyalist. Another account claims he was recognized despite his disguise and tricked into betraying himself by a British officer posing as a patriot. Either way, Hale was caught. Evidence was found on him, and he was sentenced to hanging.
Nathan Hale Postage Stamp

He spent the night before his death in a greenhouse. He requested a Bible, but the British denied him. Later he asked to see a parson, but this request was also denied.

Accounts of Hale's last words also differ, but it must have been epic, because so many took note of it. His words were something to the effect of "My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country."

One thing that doesn't differ in the accounts of Hale's death, is that he remained composed and resolute in his fate. At the age of only 21 years old, Nathan Hale laid down his one life for his country.

He has been honored as a hero ever since. He was named the State Hero of Connecticut, honored on a postage stamp, and had a memorial at Yale college and statues dedicated to him. It grieves me that his memory, heroism and patriotism are today being forgotten by most people.

Have you heard of Nathan Hale before? If so, where?
Amber Schamel is the author of the CSPA Book of the Year Award winning short story collection, Dawn of Liberty. She writes stories that bring HIStory to Life from her home near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Visit her at www.AmberSchamel.com and get a free story subscribing to her newsletter.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a paperback copy of Dawn of Liberty!


  1. I do not recall when I first learned about Nathan Hale, but recognized his name for this blog post. Thank you for the great history lesson.

    I do not need to be in the drawing for Dawn of Liberty, as I have a copy already. This is a beautiful story with history brought to life with Samuel Adams.

    1. Hello Marilyn!
      I'm so glad you recognized his name. :) Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Yes, my history lessons made me familiar with Nathan Hale and his famous declaration but I didn't know that he was so young. Thanks for this great post.

    1. Yes, his youth was one of the main things that inspired me.
      Thanks for sharing, Connie!

  3. Yes! I’m old enough to remember learning about Nathan Hale in history class. Besides, I’ve loved history since I was little. My mother, who just turned 101, was an antique dealer. While she was researching, she used to take us kids to the library on the bus . I learned to love books then , too! We lived in a house that was built in 1836 and is now a museum. So I come by it naturally!

    1. Forgot paulams49ATsbcglobalDOTnet

    2. Oh wow! How neat, Paula! Your mother has seen a lot of changes during her lifetime, I'm sure.

  4. I have heard the name in history, and I've heard the quote, but did not put them together or know anything about him. He truly was a hero.