Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883

Volume I, Page 552

Fate of Capt. Nathan Hale.-A circumstance connected with the loss of Long Island and New York city, should be named in this connection. While his army was yet in New York, Washington desired to gain certain information respecting the future intentions of the enemy, which could only be obtained by sending a messenger into the British camp. Several brave men were applied to, who were ready to fight, but would not take the risk of being bung. Washington made known his wishes to Col. Knowlton, of the Conne0ticut line, who sought an interview with Capt. Hale, a young officer of his own regiment, whose bravery he had tested. The Colonel told him the great hazard of the mission, which might end in an ignominious death; but the young hero at once expressed a willingness to make the sacrifice, if it must be so. Receiving his instructions from the Commander-in-chief which Monument to the memory of Capt. Hale at South Coventry, Ct. were verbal, with a hearty God-speed from those officers and a hasty preparation, in a very short time he had started on his perilous enterprise. In the character of a school-master, as believed, he reached the camp of the enemy, gained the desired information, and was on his way back near Harlem, when he fell in with a party of the enemy-one of whom was a cousin, who betrayed his 'character and position-and he was at once taken before Gen. Howe, who was then quartered in New York. The proof of his object was so conclusive, that he frankly acknowledged who he was and the object of his mission. .Without the form of a trial, Howe ordered his execution the next morning. The order was executed at an early hour in the most brutal manner, by one Cunningham, the British Provost Marshal, than whom a greater villain never went unhung, or disgraced humanity.

Thus fell one of the bravest and best men in the American army, without the expectation of reward or worldly honor, a willing sacrifice for liberty. He died unpitied and unwept by any human eye, but the great American heart will forever lament his untimely fate. Here is what an early writer said of his death. *

"The order [of Gen. Howe] was executed with unfeeling rigor. The attendance of a clergyman was refused him, and a Bible, though requested, was not- procured. Letters written to his mother and friends on the morning of his execution, were destroyed; the provost marshal assigning this extraordinary reason for that outrage, 'that the rebels should not know they had a !\lan in their army who could die with so much firmness.' Capt. Natha Hale united in his character the soldier, the patriot and the soho]ar. Gen. Washington, after the retreat from Long Island, applied to Col. Knowlton to adopt some method of gaining the necessary information respecting the enemy; and Col. Knowlton communicated the General's request to Capt. Hale, who at once offered himself a volunteer for that hazardous service. His dying observation was: 'I only lament that I have but one life to lose for my country.' This estimable man was born in Coventry, Ct. [June 6, 1755], and educated at Yale College, where he graduated in September, 1773. [He was executed September 22, 1776.] Dr. Dwight, who personally knew him, has thus characterized him in his Conquest of Canaan :

* Holmes' American Annals, vol. 1. 369.

' With genius' living flame his bosom glow'd,
And charmed him to her sweet abode;
In worth's fair path his feet adventured far;

The pride of peace, the rising grace of war;
In duty firm, in danger calm as even,
To friends unchanging, and sincere to Heaven.'
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