Scouting, Volume 67, Number 5, October 1979 Page: 73
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backdoor approach from Connecticut in order to get into
By night, an armed American sloop took him across Long
Island Sound to Huntington Bay. When he stepped ashore on
Long Island, he was Mister Hale—a schoolmaster dressed in a
plain brown suit, broad-brimmed hat, and shoes with wooden
buckles. His disguise was further authenticated by having
brought along his diploma from Yale College.
Acting the part of a schoolteacher came naturally, but he
detested having to assume the role of a Loyalist. However, he
wanted to move about as freely as possible without raising
Heading westward across Long Island,
Hale began his hazardous work. He ob-
served troop movements, scrutinized the
position and size of fortifications, and kept
an ear open for all information that might
be useful to General Washington. Once they were made, the
sketches and notes, penned in Latin, were concealed within the
soles of his shoes.
After reaching Brooklyn, Captain Hale crossed the East River
into lower Manhattan. New York was in British hands, and
General Howe could be preparing to launch attacks by land or
sea against upper Manhattan. How, when, and where would the
British strike Washington's forces?
Hale was diligent and cautious in performing his mission, but
somehow he came under suspicion on the night of September 21.
Under guard, he was escorted to British headquarters where
General Howe interrogated him.
When the hidden notes were found in his shoes, Hale made no
pretense of being a civilian spy as he could have done. Instead,
he confessed that he was a Continental Army officer under
official orders to spy behind enemy lines.
There was no trial. With a freely-made admission of guilt from
Hale, General Howe proceeded with an order consistent with
military code, death by hanging!
The following morning—Sunday, September 22,
1776—Captain Hale was escorted to a British artillery park in the
custody of William Cunningham, the provost marshal. Cun-
ningham had earned a reputation for being ruthless toward
American prisoners, and he quickly showed his contempt for the
condemned American officer in his care. When Hale requested
permission to speak with a minister, Cunningham refused.
Likewise, a request for a Bible was
Nathan Hale's life and death reJected
,17 r The fateful hour arrived at 11 A.M.
Wete a matchless saga Oj standing beneath the outstretched limb of
courage. a tree, Hale stared out across the artillery
park as the hangman's noose was placed
around his neck. He had to face death alone, not side by side with
other American patriots on the battlefield.
Asked if he had anything to say, Captain Hale replied that,
yes, he would speak to the small group of British offi-
cers, artillerymen, and camp followers collected around the gib-
"He behaved with great composure and resolution," observed
Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers,
"saying he thought it the duty of every good officer to obey any
orders given him by his commander-in-chief, and desired to
spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever
shape it might appear."
Hale was ready for death, and his last words were calm and
"/ only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." ■
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Boy Scouts of America. Scouting, Volume 67, Number 5, October 1979, periodical, October 1979; New Brunswick, New Jersey. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth353681/m1/73/: accessed April 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Boy Scouts of America National Scouting Museum.