In New York City with this day in 1776, Nathan Hale, a Connecticut schoolteacher and captain in the Continental Army, is executed by the British for spying.
A graduate of Yale University, Hale joined a Connecticut regiment in 1775 and served in the effective siege of British-occupied Boston. On September 10, 1776, he volunteered to cross behind British lines on Long Island to spy on the British in preparation for the Battle of Harlem Heights.
Disguised as a Dutch schoolmaster, the Yale-educated Hale slipped behind British lines on Long Island and successfully gathered information regarding British troop movements for another several weeks. While Hale was behind enemy lines, the British invaded the island of Manhattan they took manage of the town on September 15, 1776. When the town was set burning on September 20, British soldiers have been told to check out for sympathizers to the Patriot cause. The following evening, September 21, Hale was captured while sailing Long Island Sound, wanting to cross back to American-controlled territory. Although rumors surfaced that Hale was betrayed by his initial cousin and British Loyalist Samuel Hale, the precise circumstances of Hale’s capture haven’t been found.
Hale was interrogated by British General William Howe and, when it had been found that he was carrying incriminating documents, General Howe ordered his execution for spying, morning that was set for the next. After getting resulted in the gallows, legend holds that the 21-year-old Hale said, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” There is not any historical record to prove that Hale really made this statement, but, if he did, he could have already been inspired by these lines in English author Joseph Addison’s 1713 play Cato: “What a pity it is/That we can die but once to serve our country.”