The Project Gutenberg EBook of Nathan Hale, by Jean Christie Root

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Title: Nathan Hale

Author: Jean Christie Root

Release Date: March 15, 2010 [EBook #31650]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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"O Beautiful! my Country! ...,
What were our lives without thee?
What all our lives to save thee?
We reck not what we gave thee;
We will not dare to doubt thee,
But ask whatever else, and we will dare!"

Commemoration Ode,

Cleveland, O.               New York, N. Y.


Copyright, 1915,

Set up and electrotyped. Published May, 1915. Reprinted
August, 1925; March, 1929.

[Pg ix]


Nathan Hale's Early Years1
College Days12
A Call to Teach29
A Call to Arms44
Hale's Zeal as a Soldier60
A Perilous Service71
Grief for the Young Patriot91
Tributes to Nathan Hale103
Nathan Hale's Friends114
The Rev. Joseph Huntington, D.D.114
Alice Adams118
Benjamin Tallmadge125
William Hull129
Stephen Hempstead133
Asher Wright136
Elisha Bostwick137
Edward Everett Hale140
Ancestors and Descendants of Nathan Hale's Parents143
Asserted Betrayal of Nathan Hale147
Contrasts Between Hale and André152

[Pg 1]


Nathan Hale's Early Years

It is to-day a recognized fact that no life worthy of our reverence, or even a life calculated to awaken our fear, is the result of accident. Whatever may be the character, its basis has been the result of long-developing causes. This the life of Nathan Hale well illustrates. He was born at a time and under influences that were sure to develop the best qualities in him. He was an immediate descendant of the best of the Puritans on both sides of the sea. His great-grandfather, John Hale, was the son of Robert Hale, who came to America in 1632. John Hale graduated from Harvard in 1657 and was the first pastor settled in Beverly, Massachusetts, remaining there until he died, an aged man. An ardent patriot, this John Hale, in 1676, gave about one-twelfth of his salary, some seventy pounds, for defense in King Philip's War. When need arose in[Pg 2] the French War, he went to Canada as a volunteer, for a threefold purpose,—so that he might accompany a number of his own parishioners, act as chaplain for one of the regiments, and fight when his aid was needed.

Living during the witchcraft trials, he was one of the first to be convinced of the mistaken course pursued. We are not certain as to his approval or disapproval of the progress of the excitement in regard to witchcraft until it became intensely personal to his own family. His wife was, fortunately as the results proved, accused by some misguided person of being a witch. The well-known nobility of her life, and her lovely character, at once convinced all who knew the circumstances that some terrible mistake had been made by her accuser. And if a mistake had been made in her case, why not in others? At once the deadly power of the delusion was broken and, happily, the tide turned back forever. There was no question after this of the Rev. Mr. Hale's viewpoint as to witchcraft.

In the very darkest depths of the witchcraft delusion, some illustrations of splendid courage and noble unselfishness were exhibited. Grewsome as it is, we cannot forbear quoting the example of one Giles Cory, condemned to die as a witch, who knew that if he did not confess he had[Pg 3] bewitched people, his estate, which he wished his wife and family to inherit, would be forfeited, and that he would be pressed to death instead of being hanged.

Being hanged is a comparatively brief experience, while the other way is prolonged and agonizing. But, for the sake of his family, brave old Giles Cory calmly faced this terrible, lingering death. He must have won from some, if not from all, the feeling that a stout-hearted and generous man had proved his love for his own as no mere words could have done.

John Hale appears to have been a worthy ancestor of the youth Nathan Hale, who, a hundred years later, so freely made a sacrifice of his life.

John Hale's son, Samuel, was Nathan's grandfather; he made his home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. One of Samuel Hale's sons, bearing his own name, Samuel, was a Harvard man. Another son, Richard, Nathan's father, born February 28, 1717, looking about to find the best farming lands for the support of a future family, moved to Connecticut, and became a farmer in South Coventry, thirty miles east of Hartford. Distinguished from the beginning for his success in whatever he undertook in business affairs, and also as a man of singularly upright character,[Pg 4] Deacon Richard Hale won the warmest regard of all who knew him. His advice and help were sought, both in political and religious affairs, to the full limit of the time at his command.

His farm was among the best in that section. The house that he first occupied, probably one already on the place, was as comfortable and convenient as the usual homes of the earlier colonists. Later a larger house was built, big enough to accommodate a family of a dozen or more, and many guests as well. The house in which Nathan lived as a boy is still standing, and has fortunately come down to us with almost no mutilation.

Though the forms and the voices of those who dwelt in them have long since vanished, there still linger about these vacant rooms the most tender and inspiring memories of the lives once developing there, now gone forward; nothing wasted or lost, as we will believe, of anything permanent they strove for or cared for in their dear, earthly home.

To this home Richard Hale, married May 2, 1746, at the age of twenty-nine, brought his young bride, Elizabeth Strong. If Richard Hale's pedigree was a good one, his wife, Elizabeth Strong, came from a family even more finely endowed. The first of her ancestors who came to America was Elder John Strong. He was one of the found[Pg 5]ers of Dorchester, now a part of Boston; later he helped to found Northampton, Massachusetts.

Mrs. Hale's grandfather, Joseph Strong, represented Coventry for sixty-five sessions in the General Assembly of Connecticut, and when he was ninety years of age he presided over the town meeting, suggesting by that deed a man of some vigor, for town meetings were no playdays in those early years. His descendants, active in whatever their hands found to do,—in the ministry, the law, business, or politics,—were long prominent in New England and New York, and doubtless many are to-day still helping to mold their country's future.

The son of this Justice Joseph Strong was also named Joseph, and called Captain Joseph Strong. In 1724 he married his second cousin, Elizabeth Strong. He, too, was a noted man among the colonists. She, later, became the "grandmother" to whom Nathan so warmly alludes in one of his last letters to his brother. Captain Joseph Strong and his wife were the parents of Elizabeth Strong who, in her nineteenth year, married Richard Hale.

To Elizabeth Strong Hale we can give but a passing notice. There is not, it is believed, one word that she wrote now in existence, nor any record left of that gracious womanhood, save a[Pg 6] name on an obscure gravestone. But what brave-hearted mother would not count it well worth while to leave, for the coming years, the impress she left upon her many children; one of them alone destined to carry to coming generations of Americans the assurance that such a son could only have been borne by one of the noblest of mothers. Dying at the age of forty,—April 21, 1767,—after a married life of twenty-one years, she had performed all the duties then expected from the mistress of a farmer's household in a section where the principal help that could be secured in any time of need came from the voluntary kindnesses of neighbors; for, like one large family, they felt it necessary to "lend a hand" whenever any one of their number was in need. Mrs. Hale had been the mother of twelve children when she died. Two of her children, named David and Jonathan, were twins. One of the twins, Jonathan, died when only a week old. David lived to be graduated from Yale and to become a minister at Lisbon, Connecticut. A little daughter, Susanna, lived but a month, but ten of Mrs. Hale's twelve children grew to maturity.

Nathan, the sixth child, born June 6, 1755, was the first of the ten to die, leaving to his surviving brothers and sisters a memory that in later[Pg 7] years must have been an unfailing inspiration. He was delicate at first, but owing to his mother's care he later became as robust in body as he was in mind. For an older brother, Enoch, the plan was formed of sending him to college to prepare for the ministry, a custom then prevalent among many of the large and prosperous families in New England. Nathan was at first destined for a business life; but because of the urgent desire of his mother, heartily seconded by that of his Grandmother Strong, he was allowed to enter college with his brother Enoch in 1769, when he was fourteen years old; this was two years after the death of his mother. Four of Mrs. Hale's immediate relatives were graduates of Yale,—a fine illustration of the value those progressive pioneers attached to education.

As a boy Nathan was to his mother what he later became to all who knew him; and the bond between such a mother and such a son must have been very tender and strong. It is a comfort to those who know what such mothers desire for their children, to remember the gladness and hope with which this mother, overworked and dying long before her time, looked forward to the days coming to her children. For Nathan, through her influence, was to become one of Yale's noblest sons.[Pg 8]

As Nathan's mother died nine years before he did, we understand the full meaning of the line in Judge Finch's poem,

"The sad of Earth, the glad of Heaven,"

written many years later in honoring Nathan's splendid sacrifice. The poem to which the line belongs, read more than sixty years ago on the one-hundredth anniversary of the Linonian Society, an organization of Yale College of which Nathan Hale had been an early and an active member, had much influence in rousing first Yale men, and then other patriotic Americans, to recognize Nathan Hale as one of America's bravest martyrs.

Mrs. Hale died in 1767. About two years later Deacon Hale married again, bringing to his home this time a widow, Mrs. Abigail Adams, of Canterbury, who must have been well fitted to take her place as the new head of the family. No ignoble mother could rear such children as she had reared, and Deacon Hale's second choice of a wife proved a wise and happy one. Providence appears to have smiled upon him when he opened his doors and invited Mrs. Adams and her children to share his home, and even the affection of some of his sons. It is said that two of Deacon Hale's sons fell in love with her youngest daughter, Alice[Pg 9] Adams, who, at Deacon Hale's desire, came to live permanently in the family in 1770 or 1771, while his second son, John, married her eldest daughter, Sarah Adams, on December 19, 1770.

The lives of both these women, Sarah and Alice Adams, are sufficient witnesses to the high character of the new mother added to the Hale household. To several of his biographers it has seemed quite probable that Nathan Hale wrote one of his last two letters to this mother. We grant that it may have been addressed to her, while intended for the reading of another. Of this, later.

In regard to the marriage of John Hale and Sarah Adams it may be as well to state here that, after a married life of thirty-one years, John Hale died suddenly in December, 1802, his health probably undermined by his service in the Revolutionary War, where he held the rank of major. His widow, desiring to carry out what she believed would have been his wishes, "bequeathed £1000 to trustees as a fund, the income of which was to be used for the support of young men preparing for missionary service,"—probably among the Indians, as this was before the support of foreign missions was undertaken in America—"and in part for founding and supporting the Hale Library in Coventry, to be used by the ministers of Coventry[Pg 10] and the neighboring towns." Included in the bequest for founding the still existing so-called "Hale Donation" was a portrait of the donor's husband, Major John Hale;—well painted, for the period, and now of great interest. Mrs. John Hale died a few months after her husband. It is easy to believe that, though born of different parents, the Hale and Adams families were congenial mentally and morally, and that Deacon Richard Hale was a wise and fortunate man in his choice of a second mother for his children.

According to his mother's and grandmother's wishes, it was early decided that Nathan should be prepared to enter college. After the fashion of those times, he and two of his brothers began their preparatory studies under the direction of the Rev. Joseph Huntington, D.D., then pastor of the church in Nathan's native town. He is said to have been a man noted for his intellectual power, for his patriotism, and for his courteous manners.

It may be well to say here that, in those early days, the New England ministers usually settled in one pastorate for life, and they were not only teachers in spiritual things, but were noted for their courteous and dignified manners; so that even before he entered college Nathan Hale must have had ample opportunities for the cultivation[Pg 11] of the easy manners and courteous deportment which are said by all who knew him to have been so marked in him.

Nathan Hale, as a boy, had one more asset that must have helped to insure his future success, and that did, as we believe, help him to die nobly. He was not overindulged; he had always the spur of effort to urge him forward. It was told of him, many years after his death, by the woman he had loved and who had known him well all his later years, Mrs. Alice Adams Lawrence, that whatever he did, even as boy, he did with all his heart, as if it engrossed his whole mind. Whether it was work, or study, or play, he gave all his energies to the doing of it. Such a disposition, together with his fine home training, must have helped to insure his success in Yale.[Pg 12]


College Days

In September, 1769, accompanied by Enoch, an older brother, Nathan Hale entered the Freshman class at Yale. His personal traits easily won the hearts of his classmates, while his quick understanding, his high scholarship, and his loyalty to the college standards made him as popular among tutors and professors as among his classmates. It is pleasant to know that, from the time we first learn of him until we see him standing beside the fatal tree, he appears to have won all hearts worth winning.

But Nathan Hale had yet another gift that would surely endear him to college students of to-day as much as it doubtless did to his own classmates. He was a powerful athlete. So great was his skill in this line that, to successive generations of Yale men, the "broad jump" made by Nathan Hale remained unequaled. It is said to have taken place on what is now called "The Green" in New Haven, not far from the Old State House;[Pg 13] and for many years the spot was marked to designate the length of the jump. Even during the years when his courageous death appeared to be well-nigh forgotten, "Hale's jump" was vividly remembered. But he not only "jumped," he excelled in all games then popular in college, besides being a capital shot with his rifle, as well as a fine swimmer.

Hale could, it is said, lay one hand on the top of a six-foot fence and easily vault over it; and, though this astonishing feat is reported as occurring while he was a teacher, he used to delight his companions by showing them how to stand in a hogshead with his hands on his hips, leap over the first hogshead, land in a second, leap from that into a third, and from that out on to the ground,—all this before he was twenty.

Imagine the delight of the "other fellows" standing around to watch Hale go through his various stunts in athletics! It almost makes one feel as if one had been a student and shared in the cheering when Hale did these things, so easy to himself, so difficult to the onlookers. Then fancy the talk at the supper tables, when the candles burned brightly and the eatables tasted twice as good because "old Hale" had won laurels for "old Yale" that afternoon by some "splendid" deed, as[Pg 14] the boys called it. Whatever he did, we may be sure that it was done well and with all his might, and that nobody equaled him.

This much for the athletic life of Hale in his student days. It was only natural to such a man that whatever he was—friend, student, teacher, or soldier—he should carry zest and earnestness to all his work, even as he carried his manliness, his courtesy, and his unquenchable spirit.

Let us now turn to the record of his years of successful work at Yale. It has been said that whatever he did, he did with all his might, and his brain work was as notable in its results as were the strength and agility of his body. In those early days the college bell rang for prayers, as the beginning of the day's work, at half past four in summer and an hour later in winter; and there are men still living who remember, in later years and at later hours, the wild rushes half-dressed students used to make, adjusting what they could of their hastily donned clothing on their race to morning chapel.

Hale, however, as well as his companions a hundred and forty years ago, were accustomed to early rising, and able to fill every hour of their long days with work or play. The course of study then was much shorter than it is now, but if lack[Pg 15]ing in quantity it certainly made up in some of its qualities. We doubt if Freshmen to-day would outshine their fellows of that very early time if their declamations on Fridays were required to be in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, "no English being allowed save by special permission."

Science as we now know it had not entered into the college course, but the little then known, and the other studies considered essential, comparatively limited as they must have been, were taught so thoroughly that the men who carried away a college diploma carried a sure guarantee that they had been carefully taught whatever was then considered essential to a college education.

Although it is true that science was then in comparative infancy, it is also true that it was deeply absorbing to young Hale. Some of his most valued books were scientific, and, aside from the studies he was obliged to pursue, he eagerly absorbed educational theories and the best literary works then available. As a college student, he stood high; as a thinker and as one interested in the finest pursuits of his period, he ranked equally high. Before he was nineteen he had won the permanent friendship and ardent admiration of a man who was then his tutor, Timothy Dwight, later the renowned president of Yale College, and[Pg 16] to the end of his long life a lover of his boy-friend, Nathan Hale.

Another warm friend, a classmate, destined to be notable in future years, was James Hillhouse, later United States Senator, the first man to leave the stamp of beauty on his native city, New Haven, in the wonderful elms of his planting.

In addition to these two noted men, many of Hale's warmest friendships were formed at college among the leading men of his own and of other classes. At least two or three of these were his companions in arms, to whom we may refer later. Of his scholarship, one sure test remains. At graduation, of the thirty-six men in his class, he ranked among the first thirteen.

In one other important line Nathan Hale made a notable mark in college, namely, in his intense interest in Linonia. This society had been founded in 1753 "to promote in addition to the regular course of academic study, literary stimulus and rhetorical improvement to the undergraduates," and to create friendly relations among its members. The organization lived a long and honorable life, and did a most helpful work among its members. Nathan Hale was the first in his class to become its Chancellor, later styled President. He was for some time also its scribe, and many of his entries[Pg 17] in the Linonian reports are still "clear throughout and well-preserved" as is his signature at the end, after the passing of more than a hundred years.

During his college course his name occurs in the reports of almost every meeting of the society. At one time he delivered "a very interesting narration"; at another, "an eloquent extemporaneous address." On various occasions he is said to have taken part in some of the plays that were frequently acted, and to have proposed questions for discussion.

Besides taking part in the society and college exercises, he enjoyed frequent correspondence with a number of his classmates on themes of taste and criticism and of grammar and philology.

As incoming Chancellor at the end of the college year of 1772, Hale responded in behalf of Linonia to the parting address from one of the graduating class.

Hale's farewell address to the Linonians of the class of 1772 is preserved to Yale College on the society records. In reading it one must remember that the speech was made by a boy of seventeen. The dignity of the address, the assured ease with which he speaks, the sense of the Yale bond, as strong then as it ever has been, all show the only boyish thing about the speaker, namely, his sense[Pg 18] of the superiority of Linonia, then nearly twenty years old, to the struggling new society of "The Brothers," less than eight years old. All this brings before us very vividly a boy in years, but a man in thoughts and aspirations, ardent and scholarly, and full of a noble ambition that looked forward, as do all ambitious students in their college days, to years of generous life.

A few paragraphs quoted from various parts of the quaintly courteous speech will illustrate alike the youth and the maturity of the speaker. He said:

"The high opinion we ought to maintain of the ability of these worthy Gentlemen" [the retiring members of the Society] "as well as the regard they express for Linonia and her Sons, tends very much to increase our desire for their longer continuance. Under whatsoever character we consider them, we have the greatest reason to regret their departure. As our patrons, we have shared their utmost care and vigilance in supporting Linonia's cause, and protecting her from the malice of her insulting foes. As our benefactors, we have partaken of their liberality, not only in their rich and valuable donations to our library, but, what is still more, their amiable company and conversation."

["This is a fine portrait of Hale painted by himself," says a friend of Hale to-day.][Pg 19]

"But as our friends, what inexpressible happiness have we experienced in their disinterested love and cordial affection! We have lived together not as fellow students and members of the same college, but as brothers and children of the same family; not as superiors and inferiors, but rather as equals and companions. The only thing which hath given them the preëminence is their superior knowledge in those arts and sciences which are here cultivated, and their greater skill and prudence in the management of such important affairs as those which concern the good order and regularity of this Society. Under the prudent conduct of these our once worthy patrons, but now parting friends, things have been so wisely regulated, as that while we have been entertained with all the pleasures of familiar conversation, we have been no less profited by our improvements in useful knowledge and literature."

Hale's direct address to the parting members is as follows:

"Kind and generous Sirs, it is with the greatest reluctance that we are now all obliged to bid adieu to you, our dearest friends. Fain would we ask you longer to tarry—but it is otherwise determined, and we must comply. Accept then our sincerest thanks, as some poor return for your[Pg 20] disinterested zeal in Linonia's cause, and your unwearied pains to suppress her opposers.... Be assured that we shall be spirited in Linonia's cause and with steadiness and resolution strive to make her shine with unparalleled luster.... Be assured that your memory will always be very dear to us; that though hundreds of miles should interfere, you will always be attended with our best wishes.

"May Providence protect you in all your ways, and may you have prosperity in all your undertakings! May you live long and happily, and at last die satisfied with the pleasures of this world, and go hence to that world where joys shall never cease, and pleasures never end! Dear Gentlemen, farewell!"

Not only in speeches but also in deeds Hale proved his love for Linonia. He is said to have contributed some of his own books to the library of the Society, and to have coöperated with Timothy Dwight and James Hillhouse in promoting its growth. In time the library owned more than thirteen thousand volumes. These three Linonians were always considered its real founders, and were so honored at the Society's centennial anniversary on July 27, 1853.

Timothy Dwight, the first of that name to be[Pg 21] president of Yale College, was, like Nathan Hale, a descendant of Elder Strong who founded Northampton, Massachusetts. Dwight graduated in 1769, the year Hale entered college. He then became a tutor and was a personal friend of Hale's. He was a teacher of extraordinary power and was made president of Yale in 1795. He was one of the most remarkable men of his time, molding the moral and religious, as well as intellectual, character of the college so that his influence extended not only over the whole state but, to a great degree, over the whole United States. He was a fine illustration of the great abilities that centered in so many of the leading families of the colonists. Such connections as this man add even a higher luster to the genealogy of Elizabeth Strong Hale, and lessen our wonder that a son of hers, while hardly more than a boy, could face the duty and calmly accept the responsibility that he felt rested upon him.

As may easily be inferred, the Hale boys, Enoch and Nathan, were not forgotten by their home friends while making honorable records in college, and forming pleasant friendships outside the college walls—then the happy lot of all the best men in college—among the cultured families of what was then a small New England city.[Pg 22]

An instance of the friendships Nathan made in New Haven is shown by the words of Æneas Munson, M.D., formerly of that city. When an aged man he spoke in the warmest terms of Hale's fine qualities as he observed them when he was a boy in his father's house, and he treasured a letter to his father from Hale in 1774 which will be given farther on.

Of home letters, happily a few from their father in Coventry to his two sons in college are still preserved; these prove, as no words of any stranger could, his constant and practical interest in all that concerned them. They show us how an upright father tried to influence his boys' religious characters while distant from them, and at the same time they show the economies which even well-to-do fathers then had to exercise in providing for their sons while at college. The first letter also shows that Nathan must have entered college when fourteen years and three months old, having been born in June, 1755, and entering college in September, 1769. We here give the first letter, with all its quaint old spelling, and after it two others written during successive years. We may smile at their old-time expressions, but we must own to a sincere admiration for the kind and thoughtful father, so interested in his boys, and[Pg 23] so solicitous concerning their health "after the measles."

Dear Children:

I Rec'd your Letter of the 7th instant and am glad to hear that you are well suited with Living in College and would let you know that wee are all well threw the Divine goodness, as I hope these lines will find you. I hope you will carefully mind your studies that your time be not Lost and that you will mind all the orders of College with care.... I intend to send you some money the first opportunity perhaps by Mr. Sherman when he Returns home from of the surcit [circuit court] he is now on. If you can hire Horses at New Haven to come home without too much trouble and cost I don't know but it is best and should be glad to know how you can hire them and send me word. If I don't here from you I shall depend upon sending Horses to you by the 6th of May,—if I should have know opportunity to send you any money till May and should then come to New Haven and clear all of it would it not do? If not you will let me know it. Your friends are all well at Coventry—your mother sends her Regards to you—from your kind and loving

Richd Hale

Coventry Decr. 26th
A.D. 1769.

Dear Children:

I have nothing spettial to write but would by all means desire you to mind your Studies and carefully attend to the orders of Coledge. Attend not only Prayers in the[Pg 24] chapel but Secret Prayr carefully. Shun all vice especially card Playing. Read your Bibles a chapter night and morning. I cannot now send you much money but hope when Sr Strong comes to Coventry to be able to send by him what you want....

from your Loving Father
Richd Hale

Coventry, Decr. 17th, 1770

Loving Children—by a line would let you know that I with my family threw the Divine Goodness are well as I hope these lines will find you. I have heard that you are better of the measles. The Cloath for your Coat is not Done. But will be Done next week I hope at furthest. I know of no opportunity we shall have to send it to Newhaven and have Laid in with Mr. Strong for his Horse which his son will Ride down to New Haven for one of you to Ride home if you can get Leave and have your close made at home. I sopose that one measure will do for both of you. I am told that it is not good to study hard after the measles—hope you will youse Prudance in that afare. If you do not one of you come home I dont see but that you must do with out any New Close till after Commensment. I send you Eight Pound in cash by Mr. Strong—hope it will do for the present—

Your Loving Father
Richd Hale

Coventry August 13th, 1771

Some students of to-day in college with elder brothers might protest vigorously at the idea of new suits provided for two boys of different sizes[Pg 25] being fitted for the larger, though the younger might find some consolation in the fact that he would have plenty of room in which to grow! At all events, good Deacon Hale's kindly letters give us a very friendly feeling toward him, revealing as they do his love for his boys. The letters also suggest indirectly the happy home-coming of these college boys, riding thither on horseback over many miles, buoyed up by high spirits, college news, and the prospect of vacation.

In their home, as time went by, they found the two new members of the family, their stepmother's daughters, Nathan to find in Alice Adams, the youngest, some of the happiest inspirations of his manly young life. It is pleasant to linger a moment and try to realize the pride Deacon Hale must have felt in his boys, and their delight in being once more home with him and with all the family circle. We can fancy them as they sat around that generous board—none the less generous, we are sure, because of the home-coming of the "Yale boys."

Deacon Hale was a man of remarkable energy—"a driver," in other words. As a rule, in the busiest season of the year he would finish his meal before the family were half through theirs, rise, return thanks, and be off to the field, leaving the others to resume their seats around the table. Alice[Pg 26] Adams used to say of him, "I never saw a man work so hard for both worlds as Deacon Hale."

One amusing incident was long in circulation and laughed over by many who did not know the energetic haymaker by name. As it really happened to Deacon Hale, it is worth telling as an example of the energy that has characterized his descendants.

One haying season Deacon Hale hired a tall, brawny countryman, of uncommon strength, to help him house his crop. While in the field he took upon himself the task of "packing" the load, the hired man's duty being to pitch it on to the cart. The man began his work too slowly to suit Deacon Hale, who soon called out, "More hay!" This call he repeated three or four times, as cock after cock of hay was still somewhat lazily pitched up to him. Finally his tardy helper, becoming sensible that his easy way of working was being rebuked, set himself to work with a will equal to the Deacon's, and at last pitched the hay up so rapidly that his employer was unable to "pack" it properly upon the cart. Very soon, therefore, to the dismay of both men, the whole load slipped off in one great mass on to the ground, carrying the Deacon along with it!

"What do you want now, Deacon?" shouted the Hercules by his side with a satisfied grin.[Pg 27]

"More hay!" instantly replied the discomfited Deacon, nimbly scrambling back to his place on the cart.

Despite this little accident at the beginning of the afternoon, it is safe to state that a generous storage of hay took place before sunset.

But happy as were these college days and home-comings, and rich as were the harvests gleaned in them, the four years in college halls sped swiftly, and in 1773 Enoch Hale and Nathan turned their faces toward the future; the one to a long life and faithful Christian service, the other toward the briefest of mortal days, but to a service whose memory will not end till his college walls shall have crumbled, and the names of all its heroic sons faded from the earth. For even though stones may crumble, influence lives on.

It has already been said that at graduation Nathan Hale stood among the first thirteen in a class of thirty-six. On Commencement Day, September 3, 1773, he took part in a forensic debate on the question, "Whether the Education of Daughters be not, without any just reason, more neglected than that of Sons."

In "Memories of a Hundred Years" Dr. Edward Everett Hale says: "As early as 1772 there appears at Yale College the first question ever de[Pg 28]bated by the Linonian Society. It was, 'Is it right to enslave the Affricans?' I think, by the way, that this record, bad spelling and all, is made by my great-uncle, Nathan Hale." These debates show how seriously, even in the colonial period, men were thinking of the urgent problems of later days.

In the debate first mentioned, the others taking part in it were Benjamin Tallmadge, Ezra Samson, and William Robinson. Some account of Major Tallmadge's after life is given in later pages. Samson was, for a time, a clergyman, and then became an editor, first in Hudson, New York, and then of the Courant, at Hartford, Connecticut.

William Robinson was a direct descendant of Pastor John Robinson of Leyden. He studied for the ministry and was ordained in 1780 at Southington, Connecticut. In the winter of that year—which was one of the coldest and most severe on record—he walked the whole distance from Windsor to Southington, about thirty miles, on snowshoes, to be installed as pastor, an office he held for forty-one years.[Pg 29]


A Call to Teach

College days behind them, Nathan, now eighteen years old, and Enoch pressed on toward their future. Here, to some extent, we part with Enoch, catching only occasional glimpses of him in a few straggling letters to his brother. It is probable that, as he intended to enter the ministry, he soon began his theological studies. In 1775 he was licensed to preach. Nathan, however, turned toward teaching as the next step in his career.

In the meantime Nathan's love for Alice Adams had not prospered. An older brother, John, had married Alice Adams's elder sister Sarah, and the mother and sister of Alice thought that she should not wait four or five years for Nathan. Perhaps they decided that two intermarriages in one family were quite enough; anyway, they induced Alice to accept the offer of a prosperous merchant of Coventry, Mr. Elijah Ripley, and a short time before Nathan's graduation her marriage had apparently terminated their personal relations.

Nathan Hale was at this time an unusually hand[Pg 30]some young man, almost six feet in height, well proportioned, with broad chest, athletic, as we have seen, and with a handsome, intelligent face, blue eyes, light brown hair of a rich color, and a winning smile. These, added to a musical voice and gracious manners, gave him a personal charm that attracted all who saw him.

As a teacher he combined unusual tact and manly dignity, making his discipline in school as effective as it was reasonable. He also proved to be as skillful in imparting knowledge as he had been in acquiring it, and his success as a teacher was assured from the outset.

His first school was in East Haddam, Connecticut. There was then much wealth and business activity in the town, although, to a man fresh from college and the city, it appeared to be a very quiet place, as one or two of his early letters indicate. Yet there too he did with all his might what his hands found to do, and soon proved that not only his work, but his social qualities, were endearing him to new friends, some of whom remembered him with pleasure during their own long lives; one of them saying of Nathan Hale in her own old age, "Everybody loved him, he was so sprightly, intelligent, and kind," and, she added withal, "and so handsome!"[Pg 31] He had many correspondents among classmates and friends. Sometimes he was stimulated to put his thoughts into rhyme by some poetical epistle he received. One such was from Benjamin Tallmadge, then in Wethersfield.

Tallmadge had apologized for his muse and Hale, in pure boyish fun, with a fine disregard of whether he was invoking the muse or mounting Pegasus, replied as follows:

"But here, I think you're wrong, to blame
Your gen'rous muse and call her lame,
For when arriv'd no mark was found
Of weakness, lameness, sprain or wound."

Then, invoking her himself, he describes her as if she were indeed the wingèd steed,

"With me in charge (a grievous load!)
Along the way she lately trode,
In all, she gave no fear or pain,
Unless, at times, to hold the rein."

At last, on his supposed arrival at Wethersfield, he invites Tallmadge's judgment on the appearance of the equine muse, thus:

"Now judge, unless entirely sound
If she could bear me such a round.
It's certain then your muse is heal'd,
Or else, came sound from Weathersfield."
[Pg 32]

Before the end of the first term (October, 1773, to mid-March, 1774) in East Haddam, however, his work had aroused attention elsewhere, and in May, 1774, he took charge of a school in New London, called the "Union School,"—a larger school and a more lucrative position than that at East Haddam. In it Latin, English, arithmetic, and writing were taught. The salary was seventy pounds a year with a prospect of an increase, and he was allowed to teach private classes as well.

It will not surprise those acquainted with human nature that, as we will allow him to tell in a letter to a relative, he soon had a class of some twenty young ladies between the unusual hours of five and seven in the morning! It does not take a very vivid imagination to picture the vivacity of these twenty young ladies, the becomingness of their simple but pretty gowns, and the zest with which each studied; nor, on the other hand, the ill-concealed, bantering interest of the big brothers of the same,—asking perhaps, now and then, with mock gravity, if mother thought Patty would be so prompt every morning at five o'clock if old Parson Browning were the teacher!

But whatever might have been the dominant interest of the young ladies, "Master Hale" was quite as practical in his teaching in the early hours[Pg 33] of the day as with the boys in the later classes. An uncle of his, Samuel Hale, was for many years at the head of the best private school in New Hampshire, numbering among his pupils some of the leaders in Revolutionary times. To him, September 24, 1774, Nathan wrote a letter from which we give the following extracts:

"My own employment is at present the same that you have spent your days in. I have a school of thirty-two boys, about half Latin, the rest English. The salary allowed me is 70 £ per annum. In addition to this I have kept, during the summer, a morning school, between the hours of five and seven, of about 20 young ladies for which I have received 6s [shillings] a scholar, by the quarter. Many of the people are gentleman of sense and merit. They are desirous that I would continue and settle in the school, and propose a considerable increase in wages. I am much at a loss whether to accept their proposals. Your advice in this matter, coming from an uncle and from a man who has spent his life in the business, would, I think, be the best I could possibly receive. A few lines on this subject and also to acquaint me with the welfare of your family ... will be much to the satisfaction of

Your most dutiful Nephew,
Nathan Hale."

A letter to Enoch Hale, containing allusions to the excited feeling in the colony at this time, runs as follows:[Pg 34]

New London, Sept. 8th. 1774.

Dear Brother.

I have a word to write and a moment to write it in. I received yours of yesterday this morning. Agreeable to your desire I will endeavour to get the cloth and carry it on Saturday. I have no news. No liberty-pole is erected or erecting here; but the people seem much more spirited than they did before the alarm. Parson Peters of Hebron, I hear, has had a second visit paid him by the sons of liberty in Windham. His treatment, and the concessions he made I have not as yet heard. I have not heard from home since

I came from there.

Your loving Brother
Nathan Hale.

Mr. E. Hale. Lyme.

A letter from Hale to his friend the senior Dr. Æneas Munson, of New Haven, has been mentioned. It runs as follows:

New London, November 30, 1774

Sir: I am very happily situated here. I love my employment; find many friends among strangers; have time for scientific study; and seem to fill the place assigned me with satisfaction. I have a school of more than thirty boys to instruct, about half of them in Latin; and my salary is satisfactory. During the summer I had a morning class of young ladies—about a score—from five to seven o'clock; so you see my time is pretty fully occupied, profitably, I hope to my pupils and to their teacher.

Please accept for yourself and Mrs. Munson the grateful thanks of one who will always remember the kindness he ever experienced whenever he visited your abode.

Your friend
Nathan Hale.

[Pg 35]

On one occasion, as Hale left his house after paying a visit, Dr. Munson observed, "That man is a diamond of the first water, calculated to excel in any station he assumes. He is a gentleman and a scholar, and last, though not least of his qualifications, a Christian."

The son of Dr. Munson (who bore his father's name), when an aged man, said: "I was greatly impressed with Hale's scientific knowledge, evinced during his conversation with my father. I am sure he was equal to André in solid acquirements, and his taste for art and talents as an artist were quite remarkable. His personal appearance was as notable. He was almost six feet in height, perfectly proportioned, and in figure and deportment he was the most manly man I have ever met. His chest was broad; his muscles were firm; his face wore a most benign expression; his complexion was roseate; his eyes were light blue and beamed with intelligence; his hair was soft and light brown in color, and his speech was rather low, sweet, and musical. His personal beauty and grace of manner were most charming.

"Why, all the girls in New Haven fell in love with him," continued Dr. Munson, "and wept tears of real sorrow when they heard of his sad fate. In dress he was always neat; he was quick to lend[Pg 36] a helping hand to a being in distress, brute or human; was overflowing with good humor, and was the idol of all his acquaintances."

Young masters of schools, public or private, unmarried and attractive, usually rank next in popularity to other professional men,—ministers, lawyers, or doctors, as the case may be,—and a boy of nineteen, the object of as much attention as Nathan Hale must have received, might well be pardoned if his head had been slightly turned, in thus becoming the admired teacher of a large class of young ladies. One special mark of stability of character appears to have characterized this young man in a greater degree than is always the case at the present day. Detached as he was, as he supposed irrevocably, from the woman he loved, he appears to have carried himself with almost middle-aged dignity, and, what is not a little to his credit, even his intimate friends among his classmates could not, by the most delicate cross-questioning, draw from him anything suggesting more than a pleasant interest in any of the young ladies with whom he was thrown in contact.

A letter that will be given in its proper place shows his courteous and cordial interest in the little city he left when he entered the army; yet it is rather a noteworthy fact that one of his class[Pg 37]mates, writing to him during his camp life, had to suggest that, as the young ladies he had taught were always inquiring when he had heard from "Master," it would doubtless give them pleasure if he could find time to write some one of them a note with friendly messages to others, to show that he still remembered them.

Many young men would hardly have needed such a suggestion. But Nathan Hale, so far as we can learn, while given to warm friendships among his classmates, and to the cultivation, while in New Haven, Haddam, and New London, of the society of the best families, appears, from the beginning, to have taken life seriously. Disappointed in the love of the one woman for whom he cared, he had turned with sincere absorption to the work to which he felt himself called before entering on the theological course it is thought that his father had planned for him.

There is further evidence of Hale's notable gifts as a teacher. Colonel Samuel Green, who had been a pupil of Hale in New London, said of him, in oldtime phrase: "Hale was a man peculiarly engaging in his manners—these were mild and genteel. The scholars, old and young, were attached to him. They loved him for his tact and amiability.

"He was wholly without severity and had a[Pg 38] wonderful control over boys. He was sprightly, ardent, and steady—bore a fine moral character and was respected highly by all his acquaintances. The school in which he taught was owned by the first gentlemen in New London, all of whom were exceedingly gratified by Hale's skill and assiduity."

A lady of New London who was for some time an inmate of the same family with Hale, adds her testimony:

"His capacity as a teacher was highly appreciated both by parents and pupils. His simple and unostentatious manner of imparting right views and feelings to less cultivated understandings was unsurpassed by any other person I have ever known."

He was, as we see, a successful teacher, and, as we learn elsewhere, had serious thoughts of remaining a teacher.

Unexpectedly, however, events verified the truth of the old adage, "Man proposes, God disposes." A great historical drama was to be enacted before the eyes of the wondering world, and events were ripening that were to form a great epoch in history.

America was being led first to protest against the unjust exactions laid upon its people, and then to resist the oppressions that were being forced upon it. Gradually the idea prevailed that a taxation which might have been acceptable, if coupled with[Pg 39] representation in Parliament, was absolutely intolerable without representation, and the Stamp Act in 1765 struck the first note of intense opposition. Thenceforward the political clouds grew darker and the warning incidents multiplied.

And yet, as a people, Americans were walking as if their personal plans lay easily in their own control. Scores of young men were fitting themselves for ordinary callings, Nathan Hale among them. His father's plans combining with his own appeared to be that he was to teach for a while, and then follow his brother Enoch into the ministry. As it proved, his days as a teacher were numbered. He was never to enter a pulpit, though he was to utter one sentence that, graven upon bronze or granite, will last while America lasts. He was to teach, by his last, unpremeditated words, and by an example more potent than any other in American history, what all generations of Americans must venerate—the sublimity of a complete sacrifice.

Smoldering discontent on the part of the Americans, waxing stronger and stronger for a decade, and the aggressive course of action on the part of the British authorities, finally culminated in a sudden outbreak, as matches applied to gunpowder; and on the 19th of April, 1775, the first blood of the American Revolution was shed. Settlement after[Pg 40] settlement, big and little, learned the facts as rapidly as couriers on horseback could carry them, and the thirteen colonies arrayed themselves against one of the most powerful monarchies of the world.

The story is too well known to need recalling here, save as it draws Nathan Hale toward his doom. Within a few days after the fatal 19th of April, four thousand Connecticut volunteers were on their way to Boston to help Massachusetts in its earliest struggle with the English. Ununiformed, undisciplined, straight from whatever had been their ordinary vocation, with whatever they owned in the way of arms and ammunition, they went hurrying toward Boston. Israel Putnam, renowned veteran of the "Old French War," was plowing in his fields at Pomfret, Connecticut, when he heard the stirring news. Leaving his plow in the furrow, he hastened to his house, left a few orders for the management of his farm and the comfort of his family, and marched at the head of a body of volunteers toward the camp near Boston. We are told that, in some households, families sat up all night, the fathers melting their pewter plates into bullets for ammunition to be used by their sons, and the mothers and sisters fashioning for them, with all possible speed, the clothing they could not go without.[Pg 41]

On the arrival of the news from Boston, the people in New London at once held a meeting. Hon. Richard Law, District Judge of Connecticut and Chief Justice of the Superior Court, was chairman. Hale was one of the speakers.

At that meeting a company was selected from the already existing militia and ordered to start for Boston the next morning. This company Nathan Hale, with his keen sense of duty, could not then join. But, for a few succeeding weeks, in addition to his regular work in school, he did all in his power to keep alive the interest of the young men in the town concerning their duties as Americans. With his enthusiastic nature, and broad comprehension of what might soon confront the country, it is probable that his seriousness and his activity were never greater than during the few weeks intervening between his speech at the political meeting and his departure from New London to enter the military service of his country.

Of course his becoming a soldier would greatly interfere with the plans that his father had made for him, and he at once wrote home on the subject, stating that "a sense of duty urged him to sacrifice everything for his country"; but he added that as soon as the war was ended he would comply with his father's wishes in regard to a profession.[Pg 42] The father was quite as patriotic as the son. He immediately assented to his son's desires. In those days, however, correspondence could not be conducted so swiftly as at present, and some time must have elapsed before this matter was positively settled between the two. As the war went on, and doubtless none the less whole-heartedly after the news of Nathan's death had been received, Mr. Hale did all he could for the comfort of passing soldiers. It is said of him that many a time he sat at the door of his hospitable home and watched for passing soldiers that he might take them in and feed them; and, if necessary, lodge and clothe them. He often forbade his household "to use the wool raised upon his farm for home purposes, that it might be woven into blankets for the army."

Anxious as had been young Hale to join the army, he appears to have deferred making any decided plans until he had received the necessary permission from his father. Having received it, he at once took steps for securing his dismissal from his school and his admission into the army. During the weeks of waiting it had become known that he was anxious to enlist, and a military appointment was waiting his acceptance. To secure his dismissal, on July 7 he addressed the following letter to the[Pg 43] proprietors of his school,—a letter that for a young man of twenty is as dignified as it is patriotic:

Gentlemen: Having received information that a place is allotted me in the army, and being inclined, as I hope for good reasons, to accept it, I am constrained to ask as a favor that which scarce anything else would have induced me to, which is, to be excused from keeping your school any longer. For the purpose of conversing upon this and of procuring another master, some of your number think it best there should be a general meeting of the proprietors. The time talked of for holding it is six o'clock this afternoon, at the schoolhouse. The year for which I engaged will expire within a fortnight, so that my quitting a few days sooner, I hope, will subject you to no great inconvenience.

School-keeping is a business of which I was always fond, but since my residence in this town, everything has conspired to render it more agreeable. I have thought much of never quitting it but with life, but at present there seems an opportunity for more extended public service.

The kindness expressed to me by the people of the place, but especially the proprietors of the school, will always be very gratefully remembered by, gentlemen, with respect, your humble servant,

Nathan Hale

[Pg 44]


A Call to Arms

The place "allotted" to him was that of lieutenant in the third company of the 7th Connecticut regiment, commanded by Colonel Charles Webb. No doubt exists that Lieutenant Nathan Hale was the same Nathan Hale who had won distinction in all his college work, in his subsequent teaching, and in all the events thus far associated with his early manhood, with this difference; he was now lifted to a line of service that in his opinion seemed the highest possible for him to follow, and no one who studies his subsequent course can question that in this following he found the loftiest consecration thus far possible to him. Perhaps unconsciously he was to verify the poet's assertion,

"So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can."

With no trace of merely personal ambition, but with that splendid power of absorption in duty as[Pg 45] in work, Nathan Hale followed in the steps of those devoted American patriots whose blood, so freely shed at Lexington, was calling upon their countrymen to shed theirs as freely, should duty demand it.

Dead almost one hundred and forty years, we still are thrilled by proofs of the splendid manhood henceforth to be so prominent in every remaining day of Hale's brief life. A few letters to friends, a fairly comprehensive diary for a few months, his camp-book, and the recollections of a few of the officers and of his body-servant, give a moderately complete picture of Nathan Hale for a few brief weeks, during which time he had been doing all in his power to perfect himself and the men under him in the duties of soldiers.

By the middle of September the Connecticut troops, having received orders from General Washington to proceed to the camp near Boston, the 7th Regiment, containing Lieutenant Hale's company, went to the spot appointed, remaining there during the winter, and leaving for New York, again by Washington's orders, in the spring. Of these intervening months, so momentous to the little army whose many members were impatient for the close of the war, Nathan Hale himself gives us vivid pictures; of the work he was trying to do; of the men he was meeting; of the religious life[Pg 46] he was in no sense forgetting, and of his own deepening patriotism. Letters written to him show the attitude of friends at home, and their interest both in the affairs of the country and in him personally. The following letter from Gilbert Saltonstall, a young Harvard graduate and warm friend of Hale while in New London, shows how fully the men at home, as well as those in the army, entered into the anxieties of the times:

New London, Octo. 9th, 1775.

Dear Sir:

By yours of the 5th I see you're Stationd in the Mouth of Danger—I look upon yr. Situation more Perilous than any other in the Camp—Should have thought the new Recreuits would have been Posted at some of the Outworks, & those that have been inured to Service advanc'd to Defend the most exposed Places—But all Things are concerted, and ordered with Wisdom no doubt—The affair of Dr. Church[1] is truly amazing—from the acquaintance I have of his publick Character I should as soon have suspected Mr. Hancock or Adams as him.

[1] Of this Dr. Church, John Fiske writes: "In October, 1775, the American camp was thrown into great consternation by the discovery that Dr. Benjamin Church, one of the most conspicuous of the Boston leaders, had engaged in a secret correspondence with the enemy. Dr. Church was thrown into jail, but as the evidence of treasonable intent was not absolutely complete, he was set free in the following spring, and allowed to visit the West Indies for his health. The ship in which he sailed was never heard from again."

[Pg 47]

(Then follow accounts of an affair on Long Island Sound, and extracts from a paper two days old just brought from New York, describing army matters in the North.)

I have extracted all the material News—should have sent the Paper but its the only one in Town and every one is Gaping for news.

Your sincere Friend
Gilbert Saltonstall.

Another, also from Saltonstall, reads in part as follows:

Esteemed Friend

Doctor Church is in close Custody in Norwich Gaol, the windows boarded up, and he deny'd the use of Pen, Ink, and Paper, to have no converse with any Person but in presence of the Gaoler, and then to Converse in no Language but English. ... what a fall ...

Yr &c
Gilbert Saltonstall.

Novr. 27th 1775

A letter already referred to as showing Hale's interest in New London and its people, also his feeling as to camp life, is here given. "Betsey" was one of his pupils in his early-morning classes. We note the little touch of good-natured fun in the last paragraph.[Pg 48]

Camp Winter Hill, Octr 19th 1775

Dear Betsey

I hope you will excuse my freedom in writing to you, as I cannot have the pleasure of seeing and conversing with you. What is now a letter would be a visit were I in New London but this being out of my power, suffer me to make up the defect in the best manner I can. I write not to give you any news or any pleasure in reading (though I would heartily do it if in my power) but from the desire I have of conversing with you in some form or other.

I once wanted to come here to see something extraordinary—my curiosity is satisfied. I have now no more desire for seeing things here, than for seeing what is in New London, no, nor half so much neither. Not that I am discontented—so far from it, that in the present situation of things I would not except a furlough were it offered me. I would only observe that we often flatter ourselves with great happiness could we see such and such things; but when we actually come to the sight of them our solid satisfaction is really no more than when we only had them in expectation.

All the news I had I wrote to John Hallam—if it be worth your hearing he will be able to tell you when he delivers this. It will therefore not (be) worth while for me to repeat.

I am a little at a loss how you carry at New London—Jared Starr I hear is gone—The number of Gentlemen is now so few that I fear how you will go through the winter but I hope for the best.

I remain with esteem
Yr Sincere Friend
& Hble Svt.
N. Hale

To Betsey Christophers
At New London

[Pg 49]

The next letter refers to the time when, on account of their personal privations, the Connecticut troops were thinking seriously of withdrawing from the struggle, and returning to their homes:

New London Decr-4th 1775

Dear Sir

The behaviour of our Connecticut Troops makes me Heart-sick—that they who have stood foremost in the praises and good Wishes of their Countrymen, as having distinguished themselves for their Zeal & Public Spirit, should now shamefully desert the Cause; and at a critical moment too, is really unaccountable—amazing. Those that do return will meet with real Contempt, with deserv'd Reproach. It gives great satisfaction that the Officers universally agree to tarry—that is the Report, is it true or not?—May that God who has signally appear'd for us since the Commencement of our troubles, interpose, that no fatal or bad consequence may attend a dastardly Desertion of his Cause.

I want much to have a more minute Acct. of the situation of the Camp than I have been able to obtain. I rely wholly on you for information.

G. Saltonstall.

To explain some of Saltonstal's references to the feelings of some of the Connecticut troops, we quote from Captain Hale's diary of October 23:

"10 o'clock went to Cambridge with Field commission officers to General Putman to let him know the state of the Regiment and that it was through ill usage upon the[Pg 50] Score of Provisions that they would not extend their term of service to the 1st of January 1776."

Other letters to Hale from New London friends, among them one from an officer absent on furlough, speak freely of the anxieties of those watching the progress of the reënlistments, and the home reception that would be given to any leaving the army.

Another letter from Saltonstall reads as follows:

New London Decr. 18th 1775

Dr. Sir....

I wholly agree with you in ye. agreables of a Camp Life, and should have try'd it in some Capacity or other before now, could my Father carry on his Business without me. I proposed going with Dudley, who is appointed to Commn. a Twenty-Gun Ship in the Continental Navy, but my Father is not willing, and I can't persuade myself to leave him in the eve of Life against his consent....

Yesterday week the Town was in the greatest confusion imaginable; Women wringing their Hands along Street, Children crying, Carts loaded 'till nothing more would stick on, posting out of Town, empty ones driving in, one Person running this way, another that, some dull, some vex'd, more pleased, some flinging up an Intrenchment, some at the Fort preparing ye Guns for Action, Drums beating, Fifes playing; in short as great a Hubbub as at the confusion of Tongues; all of this occasioned by the appearance of a Ship and two Sloops off the Harbour, Suppos'd to be part of Wallace's Fleet,—When they were found to be Friends, Vessels from New Port with Passengers ye consternation abated....

[Pg 51]

A postscript runs as follows:

The young girls, B. Coit, S. and P. Belden [Hale's pupils] have frequently desired their Compliments to Master, but I've never thought of mentioning it till now. You must write something in your next by way of P.S. that I may shew it them.

Favored by copies of these letters by Saltonstall, one must regret all the more that so few of Hale's own letters have been discovered, ten being the limit. Within a comparatively short period, however, some sixty more records—mostly letters written to Hale—have come to light, preserved, as it is now seen, by the same "orderly care" that marked his interest in all the correspondence of his friends.

In them are expressed, in letter after letter, the affectionate interest and warm admiration of the writers. It is now said that Hale kept these letters with him down to the date of his tragic mission. We can easily imagine the glow of satisfaction that must have filled his brotherly soul in the few spare moments he could devote to these letters.

Brief extracts are made from his diary, fortunately preserved for evidence as to his work and growing interest in the duties he had entered upon. The diary was found in the camp-book brought to[Pg 52] his family by Asher Wright, Hale's attendant in camp before he left New York.

In the diary, under date of November 19, 1775, this entry is made:

" ... Robert Latimer the Majrs Son went to Roxbury to day on his way home. The Majr who went there to day and ... return'd this eveng bt acts that the Asia Man of War Station'd at N. York was taken by a Schooner arm'd with Spear's &c.... This account not creditted."

A month after the return from camp mentioned above, Robert Latimer wrote to Captain Hale, his former teacher, the following interesting and diverting letter:

Dr Sir,

As I think myself under the greatest obligations to you for your care and kindness to me, I should think myself very ungrateful if I neglected any oppertunity of expressing my gratitude to you for the same. And I rely on that goodness, I have so often experienc'd to overlook the deficiencies in my Letter, which I am sensible will be many as maturity of Judgment is wanting, and tho' I have been so happy as to be favour'd with your instructions, you can't Sir, expect a finish'd letter from one who has as yet practis'd but very little this way, especially with persons of your nice discernment.

Sir, I have had the pleasure of hearing by the soldiers, which is come home, that you are in health, tho' likely to be deserted by all the men you carried down with you,[Pg 53] which I am very sorry for, as I think no man of any spirit would desert a cause in which, we are all so deeply interested. I am sure was my Mammy willing I think I should prefer being with you, to all the pleasures which the company of my Relations Can afford me.

I am Sir with respect yr Sincere friend
& very H'ble St
Rob't Latimer

Decbr 20th 1775—

P. S. My Mammy and aunt Lamb presents Complimts. My Mammy would have wrote, but being very busy, tho't my writing would be sufficient—my respects to Capt Hull. Addressed to Capt. Hale.

Here is a second letter from the same ardent friend of Captain Hale. His admiration for his former teacher is evident in every line.

New London, March 5th 1776

Dear Sir,

as my letter meet with such kind reception from you, I still continue writing & hope that the desire I have of improving, added to the pleasure, I take in hearing often from so good a friend, will sufficiently excuse me for writing so often—I Recd your kind letter Sr pr the post & cant deny but your approbation, of my writing, gives me the greatest pleasure, & should be afraid of its raisg my pride; did I not consider that your intention in praising my poor performance, must be with a design, of raising in me an ambition, to endeavour to deserve your praise—& I hope that instructions convey'd in such an agreeable manner, will not, be thrown away upon me—You write Sr that you have got another Fifer, & a very good one too, as I hear.[Pg 54] Which I am very Glad to hear, tho' I sincerely wish I was in his Place—

Have not any News.

So will Conclude—I am Sr
with Respect Yr friend & S't,

Robert Latimer

P. S. My Mammy & Aunt
Present Compts &c—

Capt. Hale.

Only one thought dims the pleasure with which we read these two letters,—the consciousness of the depth of distress that must have filled that loyal boy's heart to overflowing when he learned of the tragic death of his hero friend.

Two notable records from Captain Hale's diary are these:

November 6. It is of the utmost importance that an officer should be anxious to know his duty, but of greater that he should carefully perform what he does know. The present irregular state of the army is owing to a capital neglect in both of these.

November 7. Studied ye best method of forming a Reg't for a review, of arraying the Companies, also of marching round ye reviewing Officer. A man ought never to lose a moment's time. If he put off a thing from one minute to the next, his reluctance is but increased.

Later in November, when the men in his company were unwilling to reënlist, this notable entry was made, signed with his full name:[Pg 55]

28, Tuesday. Promised the men if they would tarry another month, they should have my wages for that time.

Nathan Hale.

These brief quotations, proving as they do Hale's intense devotion to duty, and his practical efforts to hold his men to their duty, show how clearly he understood the tremendous responsibility resting upon the commander-in-chief as given in Washington's own words in letters to friends and to Congress, soon to be quoted; and that, known or unknown to Washington, there were men among his officers fully aware of the condition of the army, and as anxious to serve it as was their magnificent leader.

We here quote from Washington's letters; the first one was written to a friend:

I know the unhappy predicament in which I stand; I know that much is expected of me; I know that without men, without arms, without ammunition, without anything fit for the accommodation of a soldier, little is to be done, and what is mortifying, I know that I cannot stand justified to the world without exposing my own weakness, and injuring the cause, by declaring my wants which I am determined not to do farther than unavoidable necessity brings every man acquainted with them. My situation is so irksome to me at times, that if I did not consult the public good more than my own tranquillity, I should long ere this have put everything on the cast of a die. So far[Pg 56] from my having an army of twenty thousand men, well armed, I have been here with less than half that number, including sick, furloughed, and on command; and those neither armed nor clothed as they should be. In short, my situation has been such, that I have been obliged to conceal it from my own officers.

The second letter was written to Congress:

To make men well acquainted with the duties of a soldier, requires time. To bring them under proper discipline and subordination, not only requires time, but is a work of great difficulty; and in this army where there is so little distinction between officers and soldiers, requires an uncommon degree of attention. To expect, then, the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as from veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did, and perhaps never will happen.

On the 23d of December, 1775, Hale began his first and only trip to Connecticut for the sake of securing additional enlistments. If on this one visit home he became engaged—as some have believed—to the woman he had so long loved, now a widow of about nineteen, Alice Adams Ripley, we may infer that love brightened his embassy even though patriotism inspired it. No record remains of the glorified hours he may have spent in Coventry. We have good reason to believe that, if he survived the war, he expected to[Pg 57] marry the woman he had so faithfully loved. After a few brief days in his home, he left it, never to return, speeding on his way to serve his country's needs.

If this new zest entered his life at this time, we can easily imagine as he fared on, striving to arouse his countrymen to their duty as patriots, that the happiest hours of his life were urging him forward to the most perfect service he could render in the present, and to unlimited hopes and ambitions for the future he might well expect was awaiting him. Crowned by human love, and with unlimited opportunities to serve his country, who can tell by what "vision splendid" he was "on his way attended"? Who can help rejoicing that such days, brief as they were, and uplifting as they must have been, were given to this man, now past twenty?

Details concerning that trip are scanty. We know for a certainty that, starting from camp December 23, 1775, he returned to it the last week in January, 1776, having been in New London and other places seeking recruits, and going back with the recruits he himself had secured, joined by others coming from the various towns in Connecticut, and all heading toward the camp around Boston.

He received his commission as captain in the[Pg 58] new army in January, being still in Colonel Webb's regiment, which now became the Nineteenth of the Continental Army. For a few weeks he followed the routine of his earlier months there, doing all that was possible to assist his brother officers in perfecting the discipline of the raw troops, deepening their patriotism, and proving himself a soldier as devoid of fear as he was rich in all manly qualities. Not a word of regret can be found in his diary. Acknowledging in a letter to a former pupil, Miss Betsey Christophers of New London, that the novelty and glamour of camp life had worn off, he asserts, with intense ardor, that nothing would tempt him to "accept a furlough" or shrink in any manner from any of his duties as a soldier. And so the weeks passed on.

During the winter heavy cannon from Fort Ticonderoga had been brought through the snows over the Green Mountains. The cannon were placed on Dorchester Heights which commanded the British camp, thus compelling the British general to choose between attacking the American army and evacuating the city. In a letter written in April, 1776, to his half-brother, John Augustine, Washington wrote thus regarding this time:

The enemy ... apprehending great annoyance from our new works, resolved upon a retreat, and accordingly,[Pg 59] on the 17th (March) embarked in as much hurry, precipitation and confusion as ever troops did ... leaving the King's property in Boston to the amount, as is supposed, of thirty or forty thousand pounds in provisions and stores.

Washington's victory in this maneuver, his first great success, tremendously cheered the hearts of all patriotic Americans. Congress gave him a vote of thanks, also a gold medal—"the first in the history of independent America"—in commemoration of the event. Here again we catch a glimpse of the delight that must have thrilled the hearts of all his officers, not least among them that of Nathan Hale. But Washington, proving himself in these earlier events, as he was to, year after year, through successive discouragements, "the first in war," turned toward New York as his next base.[Pg 60]


Hale's Zeal as a Soldier

In the letter just quoted, Washington wrote further:

"Whither they [the enemy] are now bound,... I know not, but as New York and Hudson's River are the most important objects they can have in view ... therefore as soon as they embarked, I detached a brigade of six regiments to that government and when they sailed another brigade composed of the same number, and tomorrow another brigade of five regiments will march. In a day or two more, I shall follow myself, and be in New York ready to receive all but the first."

Uncertain as to his power to hold New York, Washington promptly took the next step that appeared open to him, carrying in his heart a heavy weight of care, and realizing, as perhaps no other man did, that only divine assistance could give him final success. He was bent upon a desperate mission, but to it, with sublime patience, he gave every energy of his masterly mind, and the entire consecration of all that he possessed.

Well was it for him that the power which con[Pg 61]trols nations was quietly working with him. Well, also, that in his army were men ready for any enterprise of danger, for any sacrifice that duty might demand.

Washington proceeded to New York, to ultimate victory, to final and permanent fame. Nathan Hale went also, simply as a captain of a Connecticut company,—he not to victory, not to immediate fame, but to something higher in one sense than either victory or fame, and to a service well worth a man's doing.

Nathan Hale belonged to the first brigade dispatched to New York—that of General Heath. After rapid marching, considering the state of the roads, "Hale found himself" (March 26th) "for the third time" among his New London friends. The next day they "embarked in high spirits on fifteen transports and sailed for New York." On March 30th the troops "disembarked at Turtle Bay, a convenient landing place" near what is now East 45th Street. Not far from that spot, within six months, Nathan Hale was to win a victory that time can never dim, even if, for a time, it appeared to have covered his memory with a pall. But in that landing-day no shadows were apparent,—only hope, and the zest inevitable in a soldier's life.[Pg 62]

A minor honor was soon to come to Nathan Hale. Late in 1775 Enoch Hale was licensed to preach. In the summer of 1776 he attended Commencement at New Haven, from July 23 to 26. He makes note in his diary of friends and classmates whom he saw; also that he obtained the degree of Master of Arts for Nathan and himself. Of the latter his record is, "Write to brother to tell him I have got him his degree."

One or two more letters of Hale are extant from which only partial extracts have been made. One that was written on the 3d of June, 1776, we give with more fullness, omitting only some unimportant clauses. This letter has especial value as an illustration of the fact that most of us now and then have received letters that seemed casual in themselves, but have, to our surprise and often to our deep sadness, proved to be farewell letters.

It is not probable that, in the hurried days that followed, further messages were sent to his grandmother, to his former pastor and beloved teacher, Mr. Huntington, and to his sister Rose and her family. In the late autumn of 1776, after they had learned his fate, and in the years that followed, one can easily imagine how precious seemed these appreciative words, embalming as it were the abiding affection of the man who wrote them.[Pg 63] Hale's reference to "the Doctor" also recalls the fact that, from the immediate family of Deacon Richard Hale, five men—three sons, one stepson, and one son-in-law (Surgeon Rose)—entered the Revolutionary Army; one son dying in 1776, one son in 1784, his health having been ruined while in the service, and one son in 1802, his life perhaps shortened by his exposures. Whatever else may have been lacking in that one family, patriotism certainly was not deficient,—the patriotism that does not count the cost to one's self, but the gain to one's country.

The following is the letter referred to, written to his brother Enoch:

Dear Brother,

New York June 3d 1776

Your Favour of the 9th of May and another written at Norwich I have received—the first mentioned one the 19th of May ult.

You complain of my neglecting you—It is not, I acknowledge, wholly without reason—at the same time I am conscious to have written to you more than once or twice within this half year. Perhaps my letters have miscarried.

Continuance or removal here depends wholly upon the operations of the war.

It gives pleasure to every friend of his country to observe the health which prevails in our army. Dr. Eli (Surgeon of our Regt.) told me a few days since, there was not a man in our Regt. but might upon occasion go out with his Firelock. Much the same is said of other Regiments.[Pg 64]

The army is improving in discipline, and it is hoped will soon be able to meet the enemy at any kind of play. My company which at first was small, is now increased to eighty and there is a sergeant recruiting who, I hope, has got the other ten which completes the company. We are hardly able to judge as to the numbers the British army for the Summer is to consist of—undoubtedly sufficient to cause us too much bloodshed.

I had written you a complete letter in answer to your last, but missed the opportunity of sending it.

This will find you in Coventry—if so remember me to all my friends—particularly belonging to the Family. Forget not frequently to visit and strongly to represent my duty to our good Grandmother Strong. Has she not repeatedly favored us with her tender, most important advice? The natural Tie is sufficient, but increased by so much goodness, our gratitude cannot be too sensible.

I always with respect remember Mr. Huntington and shall write to him if time admits. Pay Mr. Wright a visit for me. Tell him Asher is well—he has for some time lived with me as a waiter.... Asher this moment told me that our brother Joseph Adams was here yesterday to see me, when I happened to be out of the way. He is in Col. Parson's Regt. I intend to see him to-day and if possible by exchanging get him into my company.

Yours affectionately.
N. Hale.

P. S. Sister Rose talked of making me some Linen cloth similar to Brown Holland for Summer wear. If she has made it, desire her to keep it for me. My love to her, the Doctor, and little Joseph.

[Pg 65]

As Washington had supposed probable, the English decided upon the occupation of New York. In July and August the largest army ever collected in one body upon the American continent prior to 1861, an English army numbering nearly thirty-two thousand men, with a formidable fleet and large munitions of war, gathered at Staten Island. Washington, in the meantime, was occupying a portion of Brooklyn and a portion of the city of New York, fortifying each place and preparing to defend it to the extent of his ability with his small army, never so well fed nor so thoroughly disciplined as that of the British.

Human wisdom would have assumed that the British army would soon succeed in restoring English control; but the best-laid plans miscarry, and a power interposes that helps the weaker and hinders the stronger army.

The English did their best to be ready for the coming conflict, and we know that Washington spared no pains in preparing for the worst that might come.

On August 20, Nathan Hale wrote the following letter to his brother Enoch—the last letter that he ever wrote, so far as we know, to reach its destination. It shows that his heart was absorbed in the duties of the conflict he was sharing, and it[Pg 66] also shows how wholly he was leaving the ultimate issue to a higher power.

New York, August 20, 1776.

Dear Brother.

I have only time for a hasty letter. Our situation this fortnight or more has been such as scarce to admit of writing. We have daily expected an action—by which means, if any one was going and we had letters written, orders were so strict for our tarrying in camp that we could rarely get leave to go and deliver them. For about 6 or 8 days the enemy have been expected hourly, whenever the wind and tide in the least favored. We keep a particular lookout for them this morning. The place and manner of our attack time must determine. The event we leave to Heaven. Thanks to God! We have had time for completing our works and receiving our reinforcements. The Militia of Connecticut ordered this way are mostly arrived. Col. Ward's Regiment has got in. Troops from the southward are daily coming. We hope under God to give account of the enemy whenever they choose to make the last appeal.

Last Friday night, two of our fire vessels (a Sloop and Schooner) made an attempt upon the shipping up the river. The night was too dark, the wind too slack for the attempt. The Schooner which was intended for one of the Ships had got by before she discovered them; but as Providence would have it, she run athwart a bomb-catch, which she quickly burned. The Sloop by the light of the former discovered the Ph[oe]nix—but rather too late—however she made shift to grapple her, but the wind not proving sufficient to bring her close alongside, or drive the flames immediately on board, the Ph[oe]nix after much difficulty got her clear by[Pg 67] cutting her own rigging. Sergt. Fosdick, who commanded the above sloop, and four of his hands were of my company, the remaining two were of this Regt. The Genl. has been pleased to reward their bravery with forty Dollars each, except the last man that quitted the fire-sloop who had fifty. Those on board the Schooner received the same.

I must write to some of my other brothers lest you should not be at home. Remain

Your friend &c
Brother Na. Hale.

Mr. Enoch Hale.

Aside from this letter, the following brief quotations from his diary are all that remain to us in the handwriting of Nathan Hale. Till he lays down his pen for the last time we see him absorbed in the cares and duties of the life about him, fearlessly facing whatever remains to him of life and service.

Aug. 21st. Heavy storm at Night. Much and heavy Thunder. Capt. Van Wyke, and a Lieut, and Ens. of Colo. McDougall's Regt. killed by a Shock. Likewise one man in town, belonging to a Militia Regt. of Connecticut. The Storm continued for two or three hours, for the greatest part of which time [there] was a perpetual Lightning, and the sharpest I ever knew.

22d. Thursday. The enemy landed some troops down at the Narrows on Long Island.

23d. Friday. Enemy landed more troops—News that they had marched up and taken Station near Flatbush, their advce Gds [advance guards] being on this side near the Woods—that some of our Rifle-men attacked and[Pg 68] drove them back from their post, burnt 2 stacks of hay, and it was thought killed some of them—this about 12 O'clock at Night. Our troops attacked them at their station near Flatb. [Flatbush], routed and drove them back 1½ mile.

One of the facts most perplexing to General Washington was what appeared to be Sir William Howe's delay in making an attack. Indeed, to an outsider unfamiliar with military tactics, Howe's conduct resembles the cruel pleasure a cat sometimes takes in tormenting a mouse that it knows cannot escape. The uncertainty as to what the next British move might be caused much anxiety. Remembering that Howe's force had arrived the last of June, one sees how leisurely must have been his preparations for attack, and how assured his hope of victory.

The expected attack occurred on August 27. The Americans were defeated and driven within their works, their losses being great, especially in prisoners. The Nineteenth Regiment was held in reserve, but Captain Hull wrote that they were near enough to witness the carnage among their fellow-soldiers.

The night after the battle the enemy encamped within a few hundred yards of the defeated Americans. On the 29th Washington decided upon a retreat to New York, and it was effected that[Pg 69] night. If the English had suspected that the Americans were withdrawing their forces from Brooklyn, it is easy to imagine the carnage that would have ensued. So great was Washington's anxiety at this time that he is said not to have slept during forty-eight hours, and rarely to have dismounted from his horse.

One account of the retreat is as follows: "A disadvantageous wind and rain at first prevented the troops from embarking, and it was feared that the retreat could not be effected that night. But about eleven o'clock a favorable breeze sprung up, the tide turned in the right direction, and about two o'clock in the morning, a thick fog arose which hung over Long Island, while on the New York side it was clear. During the night, the whole American army, nine thousand in number, Washington embarking last of all, with all the artillery, such heavy ordnance as was of any value, ammunition, provision, cattle, horses, carts, and everything of importance, passed safely over.

"All this was effected without the knowledge of the British, although the enemy were so nigh that they were heard at work with their pickaxes and shovels. In half an hour after the lines were finally abandoned, the fog cleared off and the enemy were seen taking possession of the American works. One[Pg 70] boat on the river, ... within reach of the enemy's fire, was obliged to return; she had only three men in her, who had loitered behind to plunder."

That opportune appearance of the fog must have seemed, to more than one devout heart, as helpful as some of the remarkable interpositions of Providence described in the old Biblical stories.

Hale's company, with its many seamen, rendered effective service in this passage from Long Island. Every student of history, and especially of military history, can recall certain decisive hours in momentous battles when some utterly unforeseen event has entirely changed the face of affairs, and given the victory into unexpected hands; thus, a mistake in the understanding of a phrase used by his captors made André a prisoner, and saved the capture of West Point by the English; while Waterloo, Gettysburg, and many another decisive battle has hinged on seeming chance,—chance truly, if there is no power working for righteousness among the affairs of nations.

The position of the American army, however, now appeared more perilous than ever. Two war vessels had moved up the East River and were followed by others. Active movements among the British troops were reported by all the scouts, but the enemy's designs could not be penetrated.[Pg 71]


A Perilous Service

Writing of these events afterward, Captain Hull said, "It was evident that the superior force of the British would soon give them possession of New York. The Commander-in-chief, therefore, took a position at Fort Washington at the other end of the island. To ascertain the further object of the enemy was now a subject of anxious inquiry with General Washington."

In a letter to General Heath at this crisis Washington wrote as follows: "As everything in a manner depends upon obtaining intelligence of the enemy's motions, I do most earnestly entreat you and General Clinton to exert yourselves to accomplish this most desirable end. Leave no stone unturned, nor do not stick at expense, to bring this to pass, as I never was more uneasy than on account of my want of knowledge on this score."

Johnston, in his valuable "Life of Nathan Hale," says: "If he [Washington] had been anxious to fathom Howe's plans before the latter began the[Pg 72] campaign from Staten Island, he was infinitely more so now. It was not enough to keep a ceaseless watch across the East river.... Like every other commander in history, all through the contest he came to depend much on intelligence gained through the 'secret service.'"

Stuart, the earliest reliable biographer of Hale, in writing of spies says: "The exigency of the American army which we have just described, would not permit the employment, in the service proposed, of any ordinary soldier, unpracticed in military observation and without skill as a draughtsman,—least of all of the common mercenary, to whom, allured by the hope of a large reward, such tasks are usually assigned. Accurate estimates of the numbers of the enemy, of their distribution, of the form and position of their various encampments, of their marchings and countermarchings, of the concentration at one point or another, of the instruments of war, but more than all of their plan of attack, as derived from the open report or the unguarded whispers in camp of officers or men,—estimates of all these things, requiring a quick eye, a cool head, a practical pencil, military science, general intelligence, and pliable address, were to be made. The common soldier would not answer the purpose, and the mercenary might yield to the[Pg 73] higher seductions of the enemy, and betray his employers."

During the war with the French and Indians, American officers had learned the need of trained men who could keep the commanders informed both of the movements and of the plans of the opposing forces. Washington had learned this unforgetable lesson in Braddock's campaign, and, as full commander and wholly responsible not only for the immediate safety but for the future success of his little army, he realized the necessity of obtaining the most accurate information possible.

A corps collected from the best men in the army was organized, and its command was given to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton. He had gained experience as a ranger in the French and Indian War, and was noted for his coolness, skill, and bravery at Bunker Hill. One hundred and fifty men and twenty officers were considered sufficient for the work assigned to this special corps, known as Knowlton's Rangers. They were divided into four companies. Two of the captains of these men were chosen from Knowlton's own regiment; the other two—one of them Nathan Hale—were from other companies. There can be little doubt that Nathan Hale was proud of his enrollment in this brave corps.[Pg 74]

After Hale's services were ended, one brief record remained of "moneys due to the Company of Rangers commanded late by Captain Hale." After the 1st of September, about which time this company of Rangers was organized, it was constantly on duty wherever its services were required, and one can easily imagine Nathan Hale's enthusiasm in his enlarged duties.

Knowlton spoke to some of his officers of the wishes of the commanding general for some one to enter upon this special secret service,—wishes that so appealed to Hale that he at once seriously considered offering himself for the hazardous undertaking.

Captain Hull, two years his senior in age, and one year in advance of him in Yale, a close friend while in college and during their subsequent days, shall describe the personal interview between himself and Captain Hale in regard to this matter. It is said that many remonstrated with Hale at his decision, but Hull's statement shows the arguments of a practical man against which Hale had to contend.

In his memoirs Captain Hull writes thus of his last interview with Captain Hale:

"After his interview with Col. Knowlton, he repaired to my quarters and informed me of what had passed. He remarked 'I think I owe to my[Pg 75] country the accomplishment of an object so important, and so much desired by the commander of her armies—and I know of no other mode of obtaining the information than by assuming a disguise and passing into the enemy's camp.'

"He asked my candid opinion. I replied that it was an act which involved serious consequences, and the propriety of it was doubtful; and though he viewed the business of a spy as a duty, yet he could not officially be required to perform it; that such a service was not claimed of the meanest soldier, though many might be willing, for a pecuniary compensation, to engage in it; and as for himself, the employment was not in keeping with his character. His nature was too frank and open for deceit and disguise, and he was incapable of acting a part equally foreign to his feelings and habits. Admitting that he was successful, who would wish success at such a price? Did his country demand the moral degradation of her sons, to advance her interests?

"Stratagems are resorted to in war; they are feints and evasions, performed under no disguise; are familiar to commanders; form a part of their plans, and, considered in a military view, lawful and advantageous. The tact with which they are executed exacts admiration from the enemy. But[Pg 76] who respects the character of a spy, assuming the garb of friendship but to betray? The very death assigned him is expressive of the estimation in which he is held. As soldiers, let us do our duty in the field; contend for our legitimate rights, and not stain our honor by the sacrifice of integrity. And when present events, with all their deep and exciting interests, shall have passed away, may the blush of shame never arise, by the remembrance of an unworthy though successful act, in the performance of which we were deceived by the belief that it was sanctioned by its object. I ended by saying that, should he undertake the enterprise, his short, bright career would close with an ignominious death.

"He replied, 'I am fully sensible of the consequences of discovery and capture in such a situation. But for a year I have been attached to the army, and have not rendered any material service, while receiving a compensation for which I make no return. Yet,' he continued, 'I am not influenced by the expectation of promotion or pecuniary reward. I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary for the public good, becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claims to perform that service are imperative!'[Pg 77]

"He spoke with warmth and decision. I replied, 'That such are your wishes cannot be doubted. But is this the most effectual mode of carrying them into execution? In the progress of the war there will be ample opportunity to give your talents and your life, should it be so ordered, to the sacred cause to which we are pledged. You can bestow upon your country the richest benefits, and win for yourself the highest honours. Your exertions for her interests will be daily felt, while, by one fatal act, you crush forever the power and opportunity Heaven offers for her glory and your happiness.'

"I urged him for the love of country, for the love of kindred, to abandon an enterprise which would only end in the sacrifice of the dearest interests of both. He paused—then affectionately taking my hand, he said, 'I will reflect, and do nothing but what duty demands.' He was absent from the army, and I feared he had gone to the British lines to execute his fatal purpose."

Just how soon after this conversation Captain Hale left camp on his perilous mission, cannot now be determined. We only know that it must have been early in September, during the first week or ten days. He proceeded with Sergeant Hempstead by the safest route, and reached Nor[Pg 78]walk before finding a place to cross Long Island Sound.

Sergeant Hempstead alone has furnished the few details of Captain Hale's final preparations. He had decided to assume civilian's dress, probably that of an educated man seeking employment as tutor among the Americans still living in New York. Hempstead says he was dressed in a brown suit of citizen's clothes, with a round, broad-brimmed hat. On parting he gave Hempstead his private papers and letters, and his silver shoebuckles, to take care of for him.

It is, we think, not an undue inference that the letters and private papers he left in Hempstead's care were all to be sent to his family. These doubtless included personal letters to them, for no man such as we know Nathan Hale to have been would have faced a journey from which he might never return without some words of explanation, and possible farewell, to those he loved at home. There is one fact that all who believe in the sanctity of personal confidences and possible farewells will be glad to remember,—that not one private word from Nathan Hale to Alice Adams Ripley, or from her to him, has ever been exploited to satisfy the curiosity of those who have no right to share it.

Hempstead left Captain Hale, who, now fully[Pg 79] committed to his hazardous quest, set forth on the armed sloop Schuyler with Captain Pond—one of the captains in the 19th Regiment—in command, across the Sound to Long Island. When he landed Captain Hale said farewell to the last American friend he was to be with, so far as we have any record.

Assuming that he reached this point on or near the 15th of September, one or two other facts suggest themselves. It is known that the Declaration of Independence had been carried to the American camp as early as possible after its announcement in July, had been read to the troops assembled for that purpose, and had been received with unbounded enthusiasm. It is probable that both Colonel Knowlton, later in command of the Rangers, and Captain Hale, one of its officers, were present at that reading and joined in the huzzas. Singularly enough, neither one of these two men was a citizen of the United States for three months.

Two months later Colonel Knowlton fell in the battle of Harlem Heights, on September 16th, six days before Nathan Hale's execution. Knowlton's last words are said to have been, "I do not care for my life, if we do but win the day."

From the moment of his leaving New York, the mind of such a man as Nathan Hale must have had[Pg 80] solemn foreshadowings of the possible result, of the tremendous risk he was facing. Men do not grow old by the passing of years so much as by the endurance of great experiences, and in the few brief days that were left to Nathan Hale we know really nothing of his whereabouts, of what risks he ran, of how often he barely escaped recognition as a spy, where he slept, of any possible friends whom he may have encountered, or of any moment when his very life seemed to hang on the accidental glance of an enemy's eye.

Finally dawned the 21st of September. Hale had fully accomplished his mission.

There are conflicting accounts as to what occurred on the last evening of Nathan Hale's life, some going into minute details of occurrences that were assumed to have taken place. One with considerable plausibility says that, as the time had elapsed which he had expected to spend among the British (at the end of which time a boat was to be sent across the Sound for him), Hale, having finished his quest, had entered a tavern kept by a certain widow Chichester. She was a stanch friend of the Tories, and her house was the constant resort of Tories and British men and officers. While Hale was sitting in the tavern, apparently at his ease among the men there assembled, some one passed him[Pg 81] whose face he thought familiar,—a man who glanced at him sharply and then passed from the room. Later it was said to have been his own cousin who betrayed him. Fortunately, there is not a word of truth in the assertion.

Although Deacon Hale writes that his son was undoubtedly betrayed by some one, it appears to have been effectually disproved that he was betrayed by a relative—a cousin who, it is stated, had never seen him, and therefore could not have recognized him. A much more probable rumor is that he was recognized by a loyalist woman who might easily have seen him before the American army retreated farther north on the island, and been impressed by his personal appearance and by his prowess in kicking the football over the trees in the Bowery. This feat Hale is said to have performed.

The report goes on to say that a man suddenly entered saying that a boat was approaching, and that Hale, supposing this boat to have been sent for him, at once left the room and went to the shore. If there is any truth in this narrative, it is very possible that here Hale committed his one indiscretion. In his joy at seeing the friends who had been sent for him, he may have uttered words of such joyous welcome that the officer who heard[Pg 82] them must have known that this was some one expecting a boat, and presumably a boat from the opposite shore. At all events, it is stated that Hale, seeing his mistake when several marines presented their guns, turned to fly, stopping only when told by the officer to stand or be shot. These events are said to have taken place at Huntington, Long Island, about forty miles from New York.

But more than a century after Hale's death a British Orderly Book was found, containing the statement, dated September 22d, 1776, that follows:

Footnote [1] A spy fm the Enemy (by his own full Confession) Apprehended Last night, was this day Executed at 11 o'clock in front of the Artilery Park.

From an Orderly Book of the British Guard. Reproduced from the original in possession of the New York Historical Society.

This, with other knowledge obtained about the position of the ship by whose crew he was said to have been taken, gives reason for believing that[Pg 83] the arrest was not made at Huntington by the crew of that ship, but in the city of New York. The order proves also that, once apprehended, he made not the slightest attempt at concealment, nor any effort to escape his doom. The information gained by Hale's brother Enoch in New York supports this belief as to his capture.

All that we actually know is, that he was captured while attempting to make his way back to his friends, and that this must have been the sharpest moment in his experience. Before it, he had hopes of escape; after his capture he knew that his doom was certain, and his splendid soul adapted itself quietly and bravely to the inevitable.

That fatal night—the night of the 21st of September—was in many respects the most terrible that New York has ever passed through. A fire had broken out near the docks at two in the morning, and was spreading with fearful rapidity toward the upper part of the city, the blaze carried northward by a strong breeze. It looked at one time as if nothing could stop the conflagration, and that the whole city would be destroyed.

For a time the enemy believed that the Americans had deliberately set fire to their own city in order to expel the hated British. Later this was found to be untrue, as the fire proved to have started in a[Pg 84] low drinking house where several coarse fellows were carousing. The fire swept on, destroying more than five hundred houses, one fifth of all the buildings then in the city, and was stopped only near Barclay Street by a sudden sharp change in the wind, which blew the fire southward toward the already burning district.

Report says that the provost marshal was given authority by Howe to dispose summarily, without the delay of a trial, of any Americans found rushing about the burning buildings, assuming, of course, that they were intent on the destruction of more buildings, rather than on the natural desire of saving what they could of their own property; and that as a result of this authority, more than one hapless householder was thrown into his own burning home.

Up to this point, the early or late evening of the 21st, there is more or less of unsolvable mystery in regard to Nathan Hale's movements; but from the memoirs of Captain William Hull, Nathan Hale's college friend and companion in arms, we have what appears to be unimpeachable evidence as to Hale's arrest and being brought to General Howe's headquarters. We quote from Captain Hull the information he received from an English officer through a flag of truce:[Pg 85]

"I learned the melancholy particulars from this officer, who was present at Hale's execution and seemed touched by the circumstances attending it. He said that Captain Hale had passed through their army, both of Long Island and [New] York Island. That he had procured sketches of the fortifications, and made memoranda of their number and different positions. When apprehended, he was taken before Sir William Howe, and these papers, found concealed about his person, betrayed his intentions. He at once declared his name, his rank in the American army, and his object in coming within the British lines.

"Sir William Howe, without the form of a trial, gave orders for his execution the following morning. He was placed in the custody of the provost marshal. Captain Hale asked for a clergyman to attend him. His request was refused. He then asked for a Bible; that too was refused.

"'On the morning of his execution,' continued the officer, 'my station was near the fatal spot, and I requested the provost marshal to permit the prisoner to sit in my marquee while he was making the necessary preparations. Captain Hale entered; he was calm, and bore himself with gentle dignity. He asked for writing materials, which I furnished him; he wrote two letters, one to his mother and[Pg 86] one to a brother officer. He was shortly summoned to the gallows. But a few persons were around him.'"

He was condemned to die in the early morning of the 22d, but in the confusion prevailing throughout the city on account of the spreading fire, at one time threatening the whole town, Provost Marshal Cunningham must have been that morning very fully occupied, and it was late in the forenoon before he completed his preparations for Hale's execution.

At eleven o'clock Cunningham was ready, and, as it proved, Nathan Hale was ready also. Quietly standing among the few who had gathered to see him die, and it is said in response to a taunt from Cunningham that if he had any confession to make now was the time to make it, Hale responded, glancing briefly at Cunningham and then calmly at the faces about him, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

For once in his life Cunningham must have been astounded. With no plea for mercy, no shrinking from the worst that Cunningham could do, this man, still almost a boy in years, had shown himself utterly beyond his power—had lifted himself forever from the doom of a victim to the grand estate of a victor. One sharp, brief struggle and Nathan Hale was free—dead, but victorious![Pg 87]

Indefinite as are most of the details, there are some unwritten points that may confidently be assumed.

That 22d of September was a Sabbath day, a day associated in Nathan Hale's mind with religious observances; prayers at the family altar, readings of the Bible, and gatherings of his friends within church walls. Whether or not his family knew the dangerous quest on which he had ventured, he knew that he was not absent from their memories, and that the family were bearing him in their thoughts that Sabbath morning. No other day could have made that assurance so real to him, and this thought was probably one of his strongest earthly consolations and inspirations while he was awaiting the slow but relentless preparations for his death.

No wonder that he bore himself "calmly and with dignity," as Captain Montressor said of him. No wonder that he died bravely—seemingly without a tremor of soul. In his last words Nathan Hale, true and faithful in every relation and every act of his brief life, gave to his country more than his life, more than all the hopes he was relinquishing so freely for her sake. In one short, indomitable breath of patriotism, he uttered words that will be forgotten only when American history ceases to be read.[Pg 88]

William Cunningham, Provost Marshal of the English forces in America, murderer and inhuman jailer, would have laughed to scorn the idea that any being, human or divine, could preserve Nathan Hale's last words for the inspiration of coming generations, yet a kindly British officer, Captain John Montressor, carried them to Hale's friends.

Cunningham has left a record of brutality unsurpassed in American history. He is himself said to have boasted that he had caused the death of two thousand American soldiers. We know that any reference to the prison ships in New York Harbor sets Cunningham before us as a cowardly murderer, starving men to death by depriving them of rations which the English supplied for them, and which he sold, pocketing the proceeds. He stands alone on a pedestal of infamy.

The letters that Hale had written and left, as he hoped, to be delivered to his friends, Cunningham ruthlessly destroyed, giving as his reason that "the rebels should not know that they had a man in their army who could die with so much firmness." Though Hale's letters were destroyed, the English officer, John Montressor, aide to General Howe—a gentleman in whose presence we may safely assume that Cunningham, cowardly as all brutal men are, had not dared to maltreat Nathan[Pg 89] Hale as he was known to maltreat other prisoners—that very Sunday evening spoke of Hale's death to General Putnam and Captain Alexander Hamilton at the American outposts where he had been sent with a flag of truce by General Howe to arrange for an exchange of prisoners. More was learned when a flag of truce was sent two days later to the British lines by General Washington, in answer to the one on September 22. Two friends of Hale, Captain Hull and Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Webb, were among those who went with the flag.

Through these flags of truce—and perhaps others—were obtained all the positive knowledge that Hale's friends were ever able to secure; but the unvarnished story, told by Captain Montressor, gave all that was essential to reveal to his friends his manly attitude when in the presence of General Howe, and his calmness and dignity when he was awaiting execution; while his last unpremeditated but immortal words, in reply to Cunningham's taunt, proved to all his friends that he had died as he had lived—a Christian patriot, and a hero.

We may suppose that Nathan Hale himself had not the remotest idea that anything concerning his death would ever be made known to his friends save that, detected as a spy, he had died[Pg 90] as the penalty he had known would follow capture. The words spoken by Nathan Hale, as his last earthly thought, seem to prove that the thought, breathed from the depths of his fearless soul, shall live as long as pure patriotism thrills the souls of mortal men.[Pg 91]


Grief for the Young Patriot

From Enoch Hale's diary, parts of which were first published by his famous grandson, Edward Everett Hale, we learn how the news reached the Hale family. Enoch writes as follows:

"September 30. Afternoon. Ride to Rev. Strong's [his uncle] Salmon Brook [Connecticut]. Hear a rumor that Capt. Hale, belonging to the east side of Connecticut River near Colchester, who was educated at College, was sentenced to hang in the enemy's lines at New York, being taken as a spy, or reconnoitering their camp. Hope it is without foundation. Something troubled at it. Sleep not very well.... October 15. Get a pass to ride to New York.... Accounts from my brother Captain are indeed melancholy! That about the second week of September, he went to Stamford, crossed to Long Island (Dr. Waldo writes) and had finished his plans, but before he could get off, was betrayed, taken, and hanged without ceremony.... Some entertain hopes that all this is not true, but it is a gloomy, dejected hope. Time may determine. Conclude to go to the camp next week."

He afterwards wrote that Webb, one of Washington's staff, brought word to Washington that[Pg 92] Nathan Hale, "being suspected by his movements that he wanted to get out of New York, was taken up and examined by the general [Howe] and some minutes being found upon him, orders were immediately given that he should be hanged. When at the gallows, he spoke and told that he was a Capt. in the Continental army, by name Nathan Hale."

To those who have experienced the long weeks of distressing anxiety that often fall to the lot of those whose friends are in battle, or carried prisoners to unknown camps, no words are needed to depict the anxiety among Nathan Hale's family until particulars of his noble death were finally learned.

It is a solemn but perhaps a comforting fact, that the deepest human distress seems, after a few generations have passed, to have been "writ in water." Bitter as must have been those early sorrowful hours, the only later reminder of the tears that then flowed is given in the statement that one who had loved him could not speak of him fifty years later without tears in her eyes.

Of how many wept for him we can form no conception. Indeed, we should have pitied any warmhearted girl or young man who knew him, and had shared his joyous young life, who could have heard of his tragic death without tears almost as bitter as for one intensely loved.[Pg 93]

Duly Enoch Hale and his family learned all that ever will be known of the last days of their beloved, and now honored, dead.

The following letter of Deacon Richard Hale's—good man and uncertain speller that he was!—was written to his brother Samuel at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a few months after Nathan's death had become known:

Dear Brother

I Recd your favor of the 17th of February Last and rejoce to hear that you and your Famley ware well your obversation as to the Diffulty of the times is very just. so gloomey a day wee niver saw before but I trust our Cause is Just and for our Consolation in the times of greatest destress we have this to sopert us that their is a God that Jugeth in the earth if we can but take the comfort of it. as to our being far advanced in life if it do but serve to wean us from this presint troublesom world and stur us up to prepare for a world of peace and Rest it is well. the calls in Providance are loud to prepare to meet our God and O that he would prepare us. you desired me to inform you about my son Nathan you have doutless seen the Newberry Port paper that gives the acount of the conduct of our kinsman Samll Hale toard him in New York as to our kinsman being here in his way to York it is a mistake but as to his conduct tord my son at York Mr. Cleveland of Capepan first reported it near us I sopose when on his way from the Armey where he had been Chapling home as was Probley true betraie'd he doubtless was by somebody. he [Pg 94]was executed about the 22nd of September last by the aconts we have had. a child I sot much by but he is gone I think the second trial I ever met with. my 3rd son Joseph is in the armey over in the Jarsyes and was well the last we heard from him my other son that was in the service belonged to the melishey and is now at home. my son Enoch is gone to take the small pox by enoculation. Brother Robinson and famley are well we are all threw the Divine goodness well my wife joins in love to you and Mrs Hale and your children

Your loving Brother
Richard Hale

Coventry March 28th 1777

For a while after Nathan Hale's death, in the crowding events of the Revolution, his personal friends appear to have been his chief mourners. One lady is said to have told Professor Kingsley of New Haven that she had never seen greater anguish than that experienced by Deacon Hale and his family when they heard of Nathan's death.

What the news meant to his "good grandmother Strong" we are not told. For her, so faithful and unselfish in her loving, we can but be glad that if she went home all the earlier for this blow, she must have gone all the more serenely; assured that if the earth was the poorer, heaven was the richer, because the grandson she had loved so truly was there awaiting her.

Mrs. Abbot, daughter of Deacon Richard Hale's[Pg 95] son, Joseph Hale, lived at her grandfather's from 1784 till her marriage in 1799. Many years ago she wrote to her cousin, "From my earliest recollection I have felt a deep interest in that unfortunate uncle. When his death or the manner of it was spoken of, my grief would come forth in tears. Living in the old homestead I frequently heard allusions to him by the neighbors and persons that worked in the family, much more so than by near relatives. It seemed the anguish they felt did not allow them to make it the subject of conversation. Was it not so with your mother?"

Rev. Edward Everett Hale refers in a historical address to the fact that in his own early days the name of Nathan Hale was seldom mentioned in his presence. We of to-day can but wish that somewhat of the luster from the radiant halo that was to encircle his memory and to grow brighter as the years pass on, might have comforted them. Yet each one of that sorrowing family has long since learned to rejoice that, as nobly as any martyr has ever died for his country, their lad went forth into the eternities.

The poem which follows was published in "Songs and Ballads of the Revolution," collected by Mr. Frank Moore. It is not known when these verses first appeared, but they are among the[Pg 96] earliest tributes to Hale after his death. It is thought possible, by some students of Revolutionary history, that the lines may yet prove valuable in throwing light upon the manner of Hale's capture and death, as they are probably based on accounts current at that time of which records have not yet appeared.

Capture and Death of Nathan Hale

(By an unknown poet of 1776)

The breezes went steadily thro' the tall pines,
A-saying "oh! hu-sh!" a-saying "oh! hu-sh!"
As stilly stole by a bold legion of horse,
For Hale in the bush, for Hale in the bush.

"Keep still!" said the thrush as she nestled her young,
In a nest by the road; in a nest by the road;
"For the tyrants are near, and with them appear,
What bodes us no good, what bodes us no good."

The brave captain heard it, and thought of his home,
In a cot by the brook; in a cot by the brook.
With mother and sister and memories dear,
He so gaily forsook; he so gaily forsook.

Cooling shades of the night were coming apace,
The tattoo had beat; the tattoo had beat.
The noble one sprang from his dark lurking place
[Pg 97]To make his retreat; to make his retreat.

He warily trod on the dry rustling leaves,
As he pass'd thro' the wood; as he pass'd thro' the wood;
And silently gain'd his rude launch on the shore,
As she play'd with the flood; as she play'd with the flood.

The guards of the camp, on that dark, dreary night,
Had a murderous will; had a murderous will.
They took him and bore him afar from the shore,
To a hut on the hill; to a hut on the hill.

No mother was there, nor a friend who could cheer,
In that little stone cell; in that little stone cell.
But he trusted in love from his father above,
In his heart all was well; in his heart all was well.

An ominous owl with his solemn bass voice
Sat moaning hard by; sat moaning hard by.
"The tyrant's proud minions most gladly rejoice,
For he must soon die; for he must soon die."

The brave fellow told them, no thing he restrained,
The cruel gen'ral; the cruel gen'ral;
His errand from camp, of the ends to be gained,
And said that was all; and said that was all.

They took him and bound him and bore him away,
Down the hill's grassy side; down the hill's grassy side.
'Twas there the base hirelings, in royal array,
His cause did deride; his cause did deride.

Five minutes were given, short moments, no more,
For him to repent; for him to repent;
He pray'd for his mother, he ask'd not another;
[Pg 98]To Heaven he went; to Heaven he went.

The faith of a martyr, the tragedy shew'd,
As he trod the last stage; as he trod the last stage.
And Britons will shudder at gallant Hale's blood,
As his words do presage; as his words do presage.

"Thou pale king of terrors, thou life's gloomy foe,
Go frighten the slave; go frighten the slave;
Tell tyrants to you their allegiance they owe.
No fears for the brave; no fears for the brave."

The body of the Martyr Spy was never found. For many years there appears to have been some interest, but little knowledge, as to the place of Nathan Hale's execution. During the last one hundred and thirty-eight years, writer after writer has described his life and all the events connected with it as they are believed to have occurred; and, as was inevitable under the circumstances, some things have been written that the critical historian cannot indorse.

Until near the end of the nineteenth century no reliable information, even as to the place of his execution, had been gained. The late Mr. William Kelby, Librarian of the New York Historical Society, "an accepted authority on all subjects of this and kindred nature," is said to have undertaken to locate the exact spot where it occurred, and met with at least partial success.

Writing on the subject in 1893 he says in sub[Pg 99]stance: When the British took possession of New York in September, 1776, after the battle of Long Island, General Howe occupied the Beekman house on Fifty-first Street and First Avenue as his headquarters, while the army extended across the island to the north of him. The corps of Royal Artillery occupied part of the high ground between Sixty-sixth and Seventy-second Streets, where they parked their guns and formed a camp.

Close to the camp were the old "five-mile stone" on the way to Kingsbridge, and a tavern long known as "The Sign of the Dove." The exact location of this tavern is shown from a survey of 1783 as being west of the post road on Third Avenue between Sixty-sixth and Sixty-seventh streets. It belonged, with four acres of land attached, to the City Corporation.

The extract already shown on page 82 is from an Orderly Book (discovered by Mr. Kelby) kept by an officer of the British Foot-Guards. Other entries read as follows:

"October 6. The effects of the late Lieutenant Lovell to be sold at the house near the Artillery Park.

"October 11. Majors of Brigade to attend at the Artillery Park near the Dove at five this afternoon."[Pg 100]

The story of Hale's confinement in the Beekman greenhouse at Fifty-first Street and First Avenue on the night of September 21, 1776, is generally accepted. Former stories of the place of execution are disproved by the first extract from the Orderly Book, while the others indicate the location of the Artillery Park. It therefore appears that Hale was executed upon some part of this common land of the Corporation of the City of New York, and it is probable that his body was buried there.

The tract is now covered mainly by buildings devoted to educational and philanthropic uses. Possibly the dust of the Martyr Spy may lie in the grounds of the Normal, or Hunter, College.

Other materials, found since Mr. Kelby wrote, confirm his conclusions and make Third Avenue, not far north of Sixty-sixth Street, the most probable spot of Nathan Hale's death. The noblest educational institutions in New York City could have no more appropriate foundations than those laid above the bodies of patriots who have died, not only for the freedom of the city, but for that of the whole land.

For a time, as was inevitable, a pall seemed thrown over the memory of Nathan Hale, and at first only the love of his own family strove to commemorate his life and death. A stone was erected[Pg 101] to his memory in the cemetery at South Coventry, near the spot where his father expected to be buried. It still stands there and has been declared to be one of the best examples of the lettering of the times. It bears this inscription:

"Durable stone preserve the monumental record. Nathan Hale Esq. a Capt. in the army of the United States, who was born June 6th, 1755, and received the first honors of Yale College, Sept. 1773, resigned his life a sacrifice to his country's liberty at New York, Sept. 22d, 1776, Etatis 22d."

One by one were placed near his, his father's stone (his father died at eighty-five), and those of other members of his family. These graves are in a common burial lot near the Congregational Church in South Coventry where the family had worshiped.

In November, 1837, the Hale Monument Association was formed for the purpose of erecting at Coventry a fitting memorial of the martyr-soldier. Congress was applied to for several years, but was slow in appropriating money to honor the dead,—strangely unlike England in honoring her martyrs, as will be seen later.

Appeals were made to the State legislature, and Stuart, Hale's earliest biographer and sincere admirer, used his influence as a legislator in securing an appropriation of twelve hundred and fifty dol[Pg 102]lars. The women of Coventry redoubled their zeal, and by fairs, teas, etc., raised a sufficient sum, added to the grant from the legislature and contributions from some prominent men of the country, to pay for the cenotaph. It is a pyramidal shaft, resting on a base of steps, with a shelving projection one-third of the way up the pedestal. The material is of hewn Quincy granite. It was designed by Henry Austin of New Haven. It is fourteen feet square at the base and forty-five feet high. It was completed under the superintendence of Solomon Willard, architect of Bunker Hill Monument, at a cost of about four thousand dollars.

The inscription on the north side is, "Captain Nathan Hale, 1776"; on the west, "Born at Coventry, June 6, 1755"; on the east, "Died at New York, Sept. 22, 1776"; on the south, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

The monument stands on elevated ground. "Its site is particularly fine;... on the north it overlooks a beautiful lake, while on the east it looks through a captivating natural vista to greet the sun."

With the planning of this monument began the revival of interest in Nathan Hale's short but splendid career that is still gathering strength and will eventually establish his name among those of the bravest American patriots.[Pg 103]


Tributes to Nathan Hale

When Captain Montressor told Hale's dismayed friends of the terrible doom that had befallen their comrade, it must have seemed as if all the influence Hale might have had in a prolonged life, all that could come to such a man, had been sacrificed. We must not blame them if the question involuntarily rose in their hearts, "Why such waste? Why was such an influence so permanently destroyed?" Curiously enough, many years passed with little special notice by the public of Hale's death. But the leaven of patriotism works, even though slowly, and step by step Hale was coming to his own. Little by little the memory of his sacrifice for his country, and the fact that he had left words that should glow with increasing splendor, took possession of those who had ears to hear and hearts to remember.

Old Linonia in Yale did not forget the splendid boy, once its Chancellor, who died as he had lived. Linonia's records still bear, in clear and[Pg 104] perfect lines, reports his hand had written when he was its most assiduous member. Others might have forgotten him; Linonia had not.

On its one-hundredth anniversary, July 27, 1853,—Commencement Week,—the poet of the occasion was Francis Miles Finch, Yale, 1846, later Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. As poet, Mr. Finch of course recalled many former members of the society. He ended with a poem on Nathan Hale in which he held his listeners spellbound as stanza after stanza, magnetic in proportion to their truthful beauty, fell from his lips.

There has been a further service to his country by Judge Finch. His own character has been graven into two different poems,—the one just referred to, and one that he wrote later. The latter poem had, undoubtedly, a powerful influence in causing our national Decoration Day to be celebrated throughout the United States.

The story of this poem is interesting. In a town in Mississippi certain Southern women went on a spring day, soon after the close of the Civil War, to cover with flowers the graves of their beloved dead. The gracious and tender thought must have come to them that in the graves of aliens buried among them lay those as deeply mourned in North[Pg 105]ern homes as were those they themselves had loved.

Certainly no sweeter suggestion could have been more tenderly carried out than that which led these bereaved women to spread flowers over the graves of those who were once their enemies. Mr. Finch was told of this incident, and the lines he wrote show his appreciation of the "generous deed." The poem, "The Blue and the Gray," did much to heal the wounds in both North and South.

The two poems by Judge Francis Miles Finch are quoted here, the first with the drum-beat pulsing through it; the second in musical, flowing lines that carry in them sorrow, loyalty, and the community of a common bereavement.

Hale's Fate and Fame

And one there was—his name immortal now—
Who dies not to the ring of rattling steel,
Or battle-march of spirit-stirring drum,
But, far from comrades and from friendly camp,
Alone upon the scaffold.

To drum-beat and heart-beat
A soldier marches by;
There is color in his cheek,
There is courage in his eye,
Yet to drum-beat and heart-beat
[Pg 106]In a moment he must die.

By starlight and moonlight
He seeks the Briton's camp,
He hears the rustling flag,
And the armèd sentry's tramp.
And the starlight and moonlight
His silent wanderings lamp.

With slow tread and still tread
He scans the tented line,
And he counts the battery guns
By the gaunt and shadowy pine,
And his slow tread and still tread
Give no warning sign.

The dark wave, the plumed wave!
It meets his eager glance;
And it sparkles 'neath the stars
Like the glimmer of a lance:
A dark wave, a plumed wave,
On an emerald expanse.

A sharp clang, a steel clang!
And terror in the sound;
For the sentry, falcon-eyed,
In the camp a spy hath found;
With a sharp clang, a steel clang,
The patriot is bound.

With calm brow, steady brow,
He listens to his doom;
In his look there is no fear
Nor a shadow trace of gloom;
But with calm brow and steady brow
[Pg 107]He robes him for the tomb.

In the long night, the still night,
He kneels upon the sod;
And the brutal guards withhold
E'en the solemn Word of God!
In the long night, the still night,
He walks where Christ hath trod.

'Neath the blue morn, the sunny morn,
He dies upon the tree;
And he mourns that he can lose
But one life for Liberty;
And in the blue morn, the sunny morn,
His spirit-wings are free.

His last words, his message words,
They burn, lest friendly eye
Should read how proud and calm
A patriot could die,
With his last words, his dying words,
A soldier's battle-cry!

From Fame-leaf and Angel-leaf,
From monument and urn,
The sad of Earth, the glad of Heaven,
His tragic fate shall learn;
And on Fame-leaf and Angel-leaf,
The name of Hale shall burn!

The Blue and the Gray

By the flow of the inland river,
Whence the fleets of iron had fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
[Pg 108]Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
Under the sod and the dew;
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the one the Blue;
Under the other, the Gray.

These in the robings of glory,
Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
In the dusk of eternity meet:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the laurel, the Blue;
Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers,
Alike for the friend and the foe:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the roses, the Blue,
Under the lilies, the Gray.

So, with an equal splendor,
The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
On the blossoms blooming for all:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Broidered with gold, the Blue;
[Pg 109]Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth
On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
The cooling drip of the rain:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Wet with the rain, the Blue,
Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
No braver battle was won:
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Under the blossoms, the Blue,
Under the garlands, the Gray.

No more shall the war cry sever,
Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
When they laurel the graves of our dead!
Under the sod and the dew,
Waiting the judgment-day;
Love and tears for the Blue;
Tears and love for the Gray.

On the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the evacuation of New York by the British—November 25, 1893—a bronze statue of Nathan Hale was presented to the city of New York. It was given by the New York Society of the "Sons of the American Rev[Pg 110]olution," a society founded in 1876 to perpetuate the memory and deeds of the war for American independence. The presentation was made by the president of the society, Mr. Frederic Samuel Tallmadge, the grandson of Major Tallmadge, Hale's classmate and fellow-captain. The statue is of bronze and is by Frederick Macmonnies of Paris. It represents Hale bareheaded, bound about his arms and his ankles, ready for his death. It was placed in City Hall Park where Hale was, for a time, supposed to have been executed. On the pedestal are graven his last wonderful words.

During the exercises at the unveiling of this statue Dr. Edward Everett Hale said: "The occasion, I suppose, is without a parallel in history. Certainly, I know of no other instance where, more than a century after the death of a boy of twenty-one, his countrymen assembled in such numbers as are here to do honor to his memory and to dedicate the statue which preserves it.

"He died near this spot, saying, 'I am sorry that I have but one life to give for my country.' And because that boy said those words, and because he died, thousands of other young men have given their lives to his country; have served her as she bade them serve her, even though they died as she bade them die."[Pg 111]

The day's celebration was concluded by a dinner of the Society. Dr. Hale spoke on this occasion also. He said in part:

"Let us never forget that this is the monument of a young man—that he is the young man's hero. Let us never forget how the country then trusted young men and how worthy they were of the trust. It was at the very time of which I spoke that Washington first knew Hamilton and asked him to his tent. Hamilton had already won the confidence of Greene. Hamilton was, I think, in his nineteenth year. Knox, who commanded Hamilton's regiment, was, I think, twenty-four. Webb, who commanded Hale's regiment, was twenty-two. When, the next year, Washington welcomed Lafayette, whom Congress appointed major-general, he [Lafayette] was not twenty. And Washington himself, before whom others stood abashed, had only attained the venerable age of forty-four. The country needed her young men. She called for them and she had them. It is one of those young men who, dying at twenty-one, leaves as his only word of regret that he has but one life to give to her."

Although it is now known that Hale was not executed near City Hall Park, in some respects there could be no more fitting location for a monument to him than this, perhaps the busiest con[Pg 112]flux of human beings that anywhere crowd this great city. Thousands pass this statue, learning from it their first lessons in American history. Hundreds have stopped, seeing this bareheaded, dauntless man, evidently doomed to die, to try to learn whence he came and why he stands there, appealing to the noblest patriotism—patriotism that must touch the heart of any man who knows the love of country.

Since this statue was placed, memorials of various kinds to Nathan Hale have been erected in several parts of the country. The schoolhouses in which he taught, although not occupying their original sites, have been restored, and are in possession of patriotic societies.

To-day Yale, endowed with buildings costing millions, is learning that stone and mortar, in edifices however beautiful, do not enshrine their noblest memories.

Through a few friends of Yale, a statue of Nathan Hale by Bela Lyon Pratt has recently been placed near the oldest college building, Connecticut Hall. This building has been restored to the appearance it bore when Nathan Hale dwelt therein. Who shall say that the statue of the bound boy, facing death so manfully, will not prove one of Yale's noblest endowments?[Pg 113]

Still another beautiful statue of Nathan Hale by William Ordway Partridge may be seen in the city of St. Paul, Minn.

Happily, Nathan Hale's ability to die for his country is but one side of a Yale shield from which gleam the names of hundreds of her sons, who, doubtless as ready to die for their country as he, had they been in his place, have proved their power to live for God and for their native land. Everywhere, in all quarters of the world, the Nathan Hale spirit of unselfish devotion has inspired the sons of Yale to the noblest service they could render; and every man, young or old, who passes the statue of Nathan Hale will realize that hosts have lived lives inspired by the same splendid spirit.

Nathan Hale himself went forth from his alma mater filled with the joyous hopes and ambitions that have filled the souls of many other men, all unconscious of the fact that the finest heroism and the highest self-sacrifice lay just before him, but conscious that he meant to be ready for the best that life could give him. He was ready; and the best of life for him was the power to die as he died.[Pg 114]


Nathan Hale's Friends

(1) Rev. Joseph Huntington, D.D.

A somewhat full description of the Rev. Joseph Huntington, D.D., is well worth placing among the friends of Nathan Hale. It was impossible for such a boy as Nathan to have been under the care of such a man as Dr. Huntington, first as pastor and then as his private teacher in his preparation for college, without having been strongly influenced by him. Indeed, scanning these old records of a parish of a hundred and fifty years ago, we cannot help feeling a strong personal attraction toward the Rev. Joseph Huntington.

Few men more fully prove the claim that many of the early New England pastors were eminently fitted to lead their people heavenward and also in the practical development of their daily lives.

Dr. Huntington lived a life evidently inspired by the finest ideals, and also by shrewd common sense, always so dear to the heart of a New[Pg 115] Englander. It is a pleasure to recall the story of this man's useful life, and realize that besides the reverence almost invariably accorded to "the minister" in those days, he must have held the everyday affection and wholesome trust of his people. Year by year he proved himself not only their pastor, but a friend full of all kindly sympathies, never above a hearty laugh when mirth was rampant, or a sympathetic tear for hearts wrung with anguish.

He was born in Windham, Connecticut, in 1735. His ancestors came from England about 1640 and the family ultimately settled in Windham. His father, a man of somewhat arbitrary character, had determined that Joseph should be a clothier, and forced him to remain in that business until he was twenty-one. His intellectual ability was thought to be somewhat remarkable, and his moral character so good that his pastor advised him to begin a course of study for the ministry. He completed his preparation for Yale College in an unusually short time, and was graduated there in the year 1762.

His call to be settled over the First Church in Coventry was received so soon after his graduation that we are forced to believe that his theological course must have been brief. The parish in Coven[Pg 116]try had been greatly reduced in numbers. The meeting-house had been allowed to go to decay, and the religious life of the parish was in a corresponding state of depression. His ordination services were held out of doors,—whether because the assemblage was too large for the church, or because the building was too dilapidated, does not appear. The first thing Mr. Huntington did after his settlement was to urge upon his people the project of building a new meeting-house. They responded so heartily that in a short time they had built the best church in the whole region, having expended for it about five thousand dollars—a large sum in those days.

Dr. Huntington does not appear to have been a laborious student. He had few books of his own, largely depending upon borrowing. But he had a remarkable memory and the power of so making his own whatever he read that his scholarship and his originality appear never to have been questioned. The Rev. Daniel Waldo says of him that he was rather above the middle height, slender and graceful in form, and that he seemed to have had an instinctive desire to make everybody around him happy. This, added to his uniform politeness, caused him to be very popular in general society.[Pg 117]

The Rev. Mr. Waldo adds that Dr. Huntington was fond of pleasantry and gives this instance:

A very dull preacher who had studied theology with him was invited by his people to resign, and they paid him for his services chiefly in copper coin. On telling Dr. Huntington how he had been paid, he was advised to go back and preach a farewell sermon from the text, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil." Many such anecdotes and repartees of Dr. Huntington were current in Coventry for years after his death.

This brief summary of Dr. Joseph Huntington's life shows that the men to whom Richard Hale intrusted the preparation of his three sons for entering Yale was not only a Christian, but a gentleman of the finest culture. He was able not only to impart to Enoch, Nathan and David Hale the rudiments of scholarship requisite for entering Yale, but to inspire such boys with the keenest appreciation of courtesy, broad mental endowments, and a wholesome zeal for high public service.

The correspondence concerning the Union School in New London shows that Dr. Huntington gave Nathan Hale the necessary recommendation for the place. It is on record in Hale's diary that on December 27, 1775, the day after his arrival home from Camp Winter Hill, he visited Dr. Huntington;[Pg 118] and in one of his New York letters he wrote, "I always with respect remember Mr. Huntington and shall write to him if time permits."

Admitting that Nathan Hale's father and mother were his most important early friends, we believe that Dr. Huntington, as pastor, tutor, and friend during the six years before Nathan entered college, may have stood not far behind the parents in deep influence upon his character—that splendid character, destined to be one of the beacon lights of our country's history.

(2) Alice Adams

Studying the lives of the founders of our republic, we are interested in noting the early marriages that so often occurred, and which seem to have been justified by the early mental maturity of the young men and women in the eighteenth century.

With early marriage, large families were the rule and not the exception; and eulogize the forefathers of New England as much as one may, no one at all familiar with the lives of the mothers of those generations can question the share that the foremothers had in broadening the lives and inspiring the characters of the husbands and sons in that early period. Nathan Hale showed the power of heredity, and Alice Adams, the woman he is[Pg 119] said to have loved, proved well that she too had come of no unworthy stock.

It has been given few women to be so worthily loved as was Alice Adams, from the time we catch our first glimpse of her till the last, in her eighty-ninth year. She was born in June, 1757. Her mother married Deacon Hale when Alice was in her thirteenth year. We do not know when Alice first met Nathan Hale; but we do know that while both were very young they found out that they loved each other, and proceeded to engage themselves without consulting their elders. Nathan had several years of work preparatory to his profession still before him, and, acting as they supposed in the best interests of both the boy and the girl, the mother and elder sister Sarah promptly discouraged the engagement and it was broken.

In February, 1773, while Nathan was still at Yale and before she was sixteen, Alice was married to Elijah Ripley, a prosperous merchant at Coventry. Within two years Mr. Ripley died, aged twenty-eight, leaving behind him a little son, also named Elijah, who died in his second year.

After Mr. Ripley's death, Mrs. Ripley with her baby boy returned to Deacon Hale's home almost as an adopted daughter, comfortably provided for by the estate of her late husband. A member of[Pg 120] the Hale family, she must have seen that whatever was true of Nathan Hale in the days when they were boy and girl together, he, now a Yale graduate and a man among men, first as teacher and then as soldier, was even more worthy of her love than in their early days. It is probable that they corresponded more or less, though happily none of the letters of either are preserved for the curious to delight in. All we know is that in December, 1775, a year after her husband's death, Nathan Hale stopped in Coventry while absent from camp on army business, and the broken engagement has been said to have been then renewed, this time without opposition.

Having been married and widowed, and having lost her little son, Alice Adams Ripley was now free to listen to the claims of the first love that had entered her heart. What the few brief months that remained to Nathan Hale must have meant to Alice Ripley, believing in him and caring for him, only the noblest women can comprehend.

In regard to the letters written by Nathan Hale on the morning of his execution, one of these letters is said to have been written to his mother. One or two of his biographers have inferred that this must be an error, and that it was written to his father or to a brother. With the natural delicacy always so[Pg 121] conspicuous in him, a letter to his "mother," so called, in reality the mother of one whom we believe to have been his betrothed wife, Alice Adams Ripley, who would show it to Alice and undoubtedly give it to her, was probably what he would have written. The others would know what he had written, but Alice Adams would doubtless possess the letter.

Alice Adams was to live many, many years, to become one of the most notable women in the city in which she dwelt; so honored that a copy of her portrait has long hung in the Athenæum, Hartford's finest shrine for such portraits.

It was said of her that for several years after Nathan's death she had no intention of marrying, but, after a widowhood of ten years, events—some say changed circumstances—led her to accept an offer of marriage from William Lawrence, of Hartford, which was thenceforth her home. For many years she was naturally associated with the social life of that city.

Whatever letters may have passed between Nathan Hale and Alice Adams Ripley, no trace of them remains to-day. For this we can only be grateful that, unlike other unfortunate lovers,—Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browing, for instance,—not one word remains of their[Pg 122] correspondence. That belonged to him and to her alone. It is fortunate that no mere curiosity hunter can feast his eyes or gossip over the words these two people wrote to each other.

To Alice's husband Nathan's father gave the powder horn she once spoke of as having seen Nathan working upon in his customary intense fashion, "doing that one thing as if there was nothing else to be thought of at that time." Its being given to Mr. Lawrence by Nathan's father, to whom it must have been dear, proves that Mr. Lawrence, as well as his wife, was a welcome addition to the Hale family. Mr. Lawrence in turn gave it to his son William, and it is now treasured by the Connecticut Historical Society.

Mrs. Lawrence lived well into the nineteenth century, dying in 1845, in her eighty-ninth year. She was thoroughly appreciated in Hartford, but it is from the pen of a granddaughter, in a note written to the Hon. I. W. Stuart, that the best description of Mrs. Lawrence is given. Speaking of her grandmother she said: "In person she was rather below the middle height, with full, round figure, rather petite. She possessed a mild, amiable countenance in which was reflected that intelligent superiority which distinguished her even in the days of Dwight, Hopkins, and Barlow in Hartford—men who could[Pg 123] appreciate her, who delighted in her wit and work, and who, with a coterie of others of that period who are still in remembrance, considered her one of the brightest ornaments of their society.

"A fair, fresh complexion ... bright, intelligent, hazel eyes, and hair of a jetty blackness, will give you some idea of her looks—the crowning glory of which was the forehead that surpassed in beauty any I ever saw, and was the admiration of my mature years. I portray her, with the exception of the hair, as she appeared to me in her eighty-eighth year. I never tired of gazing on her youthful complexion—upon her eyes which retained their youthful luster unimpaired, and enabled her to read without any artificial aid; and upon her hand and arm, which, though shrunken much from age, must in her younger days have been fit study for a sculptor.

"Her character was everything that was lovely. A lady who had known her many years, writing to me after her death, says, 'Never shall I forget her unceasing kindness to me, and her noble and generous disposition. From my first acquaintance with her, and amid all the varied trials through which she was called to pass, I had ever occasion to admire the calm and christian spirit she uniformly exhibited. To you I will say it, I never knew so faultless a character—so gentle, so kind. That[Pg 124] meek expression, that affectionate eye, are as present to my recollection now as though I had seen them but yesterday.'

"Such is the language of one who had known her long and well and whose testimony would be considered more impartial than that of one who like myself had been the constant recipient of her unceasing kindness and affection."

When she died, the story of the early home of the Hales found its completion. Shall we pity them or congratulate them that in those long ago days so many sorrows came to them?—testing their strength, developing their faith, and fitting them, as their days went by, for life and service beyond.

The following chivalric poem was written by Nathan Hale—perhaps in camp. It expresses his mental as well as emotional appreciation of Alice Adams. It is here given exactly as it appears in the original manuscript, with almost no punctuation marks. It is probable that this is a first rough draft, intended to be improved at some future time. There are marks on the margin of the paper which show that the writer had possible alterations in mind.

To Alicia

Alicia, born with every striking charm
[Pg 125]The eye to ravish or the heart to warm
Fair in thy form, still fairer in thy mind
With beauty wisdom sense with sweetness join'd
Great without pride, & lovely without Art
Your looks good nature words good sense impart
Thus formed to charm Oh deign to hear my song
Whose best whose sweetest strains to you belong.

Let others toil amidst the lofty air
By fancy led through every cloud above
Let empty Follies build her castles there
My thoughts are settled on the friend I love.
Oh friend sincere of soul divinely great
Shedest thou for me a wretch the sorrowed tear
What thanks can I in this unhappy state
Return to you but Gratitude sincere
T'is friendship pure that now demand my lays
A theme sincere that Aid my feeble song
Raised by that theme I do not fear to praise
Since your the subject where due praise belong
Ah dearest girl in whom the gods have join'd
The real blessings, which themselves approve
Can mortals frown at such an heavenly mind
When Gods propitious shine on you they love
Far from the seat of pleasure now I roam
The pleasing landscape now no more I see
Yet absence ne'er shall take my thoughts from home
Nor time efface my due regards for thee.

(3) Benjamin Tallmadge

Benjamin Tallmadge, one year older than Nathan Hale, was Hale's classmate and one of his cor[Pg 126]respondents. Like Hale he became a teacher for a time, and then, entering the army, served with distinction throughout the war. He was intrusted by Washington with important services. In October, 1780, he was stationed with Col. Jameson at North Castle. He had been out on active service against the enemy and returned on the evening of the day when Major André had been brought there and had been started back to Arnold for explanations. This was four years after the death of Hale.

Listening to the account of the capture, and the pass from Arnold, Tallmadge at once surmised the importance of retaining André and insisted upon his being brought back.

When André was once more in American hands, Tallmadge is said to have been the first to suspect, from the prisoner's deportment as he walked to and fro and turned sharply upon his heel to retrace his steps, that he was bred to arms and was an important British officer. Major Tallmadge was charged with his custody, and was almost constantly with him until his execution. Tallmadge writes: "Major André became very inquisitive to know my opinion as to the result of his capture. In other words, he wished me to give him candidly my opinion as to the light in which he would be[Pg 127] viewed by General Washington and a military tribunal if one should be ordered.

"This was the most unpleasant question that had been propounded to me, and I endeavored to evade it, unwilling to give him a true answer. When I could no longer evade his importunity and put off a full reply, I remarked to him as follows: 'I had a much loved classmate in Yale College, by the name of Nathan Hale, who entered the army in the year 1775. Immediately after the battle of Long Island, General Washington wanted information respecting the strength, position, and probable movements of the enemy.

"'Captain Hale tendered his services, went over to Brooklyn, and was taken just as he was passing the outposts of the enemy on his return.' Said I with emphasis,

"'Do you remember the sequel of this story?'

"'Yes,' said André, 'he was hanged as a spy. But you surely do not consider his case and mine alike?'

"I replied, 'Yes, precisely similar, and similar will be your fate.'

"He endeavored to answer my remarks, but it was manifest he was more troubled in spirit than I had ever seen him before."

Major Tallmadge walked with André from the[Pg 128] Stone House where he had been confined to the place of execution, and parted with him under the gallows, "overwhelmed with grief," he says, "that so gallant an officer and so accomplished a gentleman should come to such an ignominious end."

What would have occurred if André had not been recalled, but had reached Arnold—whether both could have escaped by boat to the Vulture as did Arnold; whether Arnold, leaving André to his fate, could have escaped alone under these suspicious circumstances; or whether Hamilton and the others, who were dining with Arnold when the news of André's capture reached him, could have managed to hold both until Washington's arrival, cannot now be surmised. We only know that to Major Tallmadge belongs the credit of the recall and retention of André as a prisoner, thereby preventing the loss of West Point.

Major Tallmadge remained in the army and was greatly trusted by Washington, rendering important assistance in the secret service. He took part in many battles and in time became a colonel. For sixteen years he was in Congress. He died at the age of eighty, leaving sons and grandsons who won honored names in various callings.[Pg 129]

(4) William Hull

When Captain William Hull, impelled by a strong natural caution, spoke as forcibly as he could of the disastrous results that might follow Nathan Hale's acceptance of the office of a spy in his country's service, he described not only the result of the failure which seemed almost inevitable, and which would result in a disgraceful death, but also the contempt that would be felt among his fellow-officers should he be successful. Hale, as we have seen, deliberately chose these dangers that appeared so appalling, and lost his life in the manner predicted by Hull.

Could Captain Hull, on that September day in 1776, have looked forward to other days in 1812, when, because of his surrender of Detroit, he himself would stand as the most disgraced man in the American army, he would have wondered what disastrous set of causes could have doomed him to lower depths of discredit than he had imagined possible for his friend Hale.

This is the story of Captain Hull as told by his grandson, the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, a Unitarian clergyman, and an author of high repute.

After remaining in the army throughout the Revolutionary War, where he distinguished him[Pg 130]self on repeated occasions, constantly rising in rank, he settled in Massachusetts, practicing law, becoming prominent as a legislator, and finally as one of the Massachusetts judges. In 1805, as General Hull, he was appointed governor of the territory of Michigan by President Jefferson, and removed thither, stipulating that in case of war he should not be required to serve both as general and governor, as he did not believe the duties of both could be successfully administered by the same person.

The outbreak of the war of 1812, which occurred while Madison was President, found what was then the northern frontier of America wholly unprepared for hostilities. The country was new, with dense forests and few roads. There were no adequate means of land defense, and no adequate navy to patrol the lakes.

The British, as usual, had all the vessels needed, well-drilled soldiers, and, more terrible than all, more than a thousand Indians, ready to commit any atrocities upon defenseless white settlers. As Hull had insisted, another officer was appointed to command the troops, such as they were, but this officer became ill and Governor Hull was forced to take command.

In the meantime, no amount of urgent entreaties[Pg 131] could induce the authorities at Washington to send reënforcements to the assistance of the defenseless settlers. The American troops were unprepared to maintain their own position, and absolutely unable to conquer and annex Canada, as the government expected them to do. General Hull found himself with some eight hundred men facing more than fifteen hundred British regulars, and threatened in the rear by a thousand Indians.

What President Madison or any of his officers would have done, we cannot say. They appear to have thought that it was General Hull's duty to annihilate the British army, effectually dispose of the Indians, and present Canada to the American government.

General Hull, however, was a practical soldier. He knew the fate that would await the women and children in his territory, to say nothing of his small army, if he risked a battle and was defeated, as he surely would be; so he did what seemed to him the only possible thing to save the people of Michigan. He surrendered. Canada remained unannexed; the white settlers of Michigan were not delivered to the tender mercies of the Indians, and General Hull paid the penalty of the independent stand he had taken.

He probably foresaw that he must face a terrible[Pg 132] ordeal. The whole country appeared to be roused against him, and Hull at once became the best-hated man in America. A court-martial was appointed.

At first it was hoped that he would be convicted of treason, but the evidence showed that this charge could not be sustained. He was tried for cowardice in face of the enemy, found guilty, and sentenced to be shot. The latter part of the sentence President Madison remitted, in consideration of his past eminent services in the army. So, stamped with indelible disgrace by all who did not know the facts, a ruined and dishonored man, in his sixty-first year General Hull went back to the farm in Newton that had come to him through his wife. Here, surrounded by the most devoted affection, he passed his few remaining years.

A ruined and discredited man he truly was,—the reputation and the honor due him from his countrymen irrevocably lost and by no fault of his own. Yet his grandson, the Rev. James Freeman Clarke, asserts that he was not once heard to say an unkind word about the government that had treated him so cruelly.

After his death, in 1825, one of his daughters wrote the story of his life from his own writings, and the Rev. James Freeman Clarke sketched for the world an outline of his grandfather's services in[Pg 133] Michigan. This shows that the man who, in his youth, tried to dissuade his friend Nathan Hale from accepting the rôle of martyr, himself, in his old age, bravely and gently endured a martyrdom compared to which the ostracism he predicted for Hale, even if he succeeded in his mission, was but a passing dream.

(5) Stephen Hempstead

To Stephen Hempstead, a sergeant in Nathan Hale's company in 1776, we are indebted for the most reliable account that is known of Hale's movements after he left New York in the service from which he was not to return. Sergeant Hempstead removed to Missouri after the war, and this account was first published in the Missouri Republican in 1827. His own words describing his last days with Hale are these:

"Captain Hale was one of the most accomplished officers, of his grade and age, in the army. He was a native of the town of Coventry, state of Connecticut, and a graduate of Yale College—young, brave, honorable—and at the time of his death a Captain in Col. Webb's Regiment of Continental Troops. Having never seen a circumstantial account of his untimely and melancholy end, I will give it. I was attached to his[Pg 134] company and in his confidence. After the retreat of our army from Long Island, he informed me, he was sent for to Head Quarters, and was solicited to go over to Long Island to discover the disposition of the enemy's camps, &c., expecting them to attack New York, but that he was too unwell to go, not having recovered from a recent illness; that upon a second application he had consented to go, and said I must go as far with him as I could, with safety, and wait for his return.

"Accordingly, we left our Camp on Harlem Heights, with the intention of crossing over the first opportunity; but none offered until we arrived at Norwalk, fifty miles from New York. In that harbor there was an armed sloop and one or two row galleys. Capt. Hale had a general order to all armed vessels, to take him to any place he should designate: he was set across the Sound, in the sloop, at Huntington (Long Island) by Capt. Pond, who commanded the vessel. Capt. Hale had changed his uniform for a plain suit of citizen's brown clothes, with a round broad-brimmed hat, assuming the character of a Dutch schoolmaster, leaving all his other clothes, commission, public and private papers, with me, and also his silver shoebuckles, saying they would not comport with his character of schoolmaster, and retaining noth[Pg 135]ing but his College diploma, as an introduction to his assumed calling. Thus equipped, we parted for the last time in life. He went on his mission, and I returned back again to Norwalk, with orders to stop there until he should return, or hear from him, as he expected to return back again to cross the sound, if he succeeded in his object."

So far as there is any other evidence, it tends to confirm this part of Sergeant Hempstead's report, and he is to-day considered one of the most valuable authorities on Hale's last intercourse with brother soldiers.

Of the details of his captain's arrest and execution, which are told in the last part of the account, and of which Hempstead had no personal knowledge, he declares that he was "authentically informed" and did "most religiously believe" them. Some of the incidents he gives appear to have been proved since to have no basis in fact; others that vary from reports now accepted may yet, with more light gained, be found to be true.

The second letter sent by Sergeant Hempstead to the Republican deals with his experience in the army in 1781, when he was one of the victims of the brutalities inflicted upon the hapless prisoners of war at Fort Griswold, Groton, Connecticut. The injuries he received there were, as he tells[Pg 136] us, so severe that his own wife, having searched for his body in the fort among the dead, scanned carefully the face of every wounded soldier sheltered by pitying neighbors, passing him twice without recognizing him—he too ill to make any sign—and then resuming her search among the dead.

Later she found him, and after a time he regained sufficient strength to be carried to his home. He was, however, incapacitated by his injuries for service in the field, and was thenceforth able to perform only duties calling for honest watchfulness rather than personal labor. After the removal to Missouri the whole family prospered greatly. He settled on a farm near the city of St. Louis, where he lived many years, respected by all who knew him. He died in 1831.

(6) Asher Wright

Near the place where the Hale family lie buried is another grave covering the dust of Asher Wright, once Nathan Hale's attendant. He was so strongly attached to Hale that his tragic death is thought to have unsettled his mind so that he never was quite himself again, and never able to earn his own living. For several years after Nathan Hale's death Wright was not heard of in his early home. Then he came back to Coventry, bringing with[Pg 137] him some of Nathan Hale's effects that he had doubtless carried with him in his wandering, giving them, on his return, to Deacon Hale's family.

Asher Wright died in his ninetieth year, having lived all his later days in his house not far from the Hale home. His pension of ninety-six dollars a year was so supplemented by the Hale family, and by David Hale of New York, editor of the Journal of Commerce, that his last days were very comfortable. His grave is marked by a marble headstone giving his name, age, and former connection with Nathan Hale.

His farm adjoined that of the Hale homestead and has now become a part of it.

(7) Elisha Bostwick

One letter concerning Nathan Hale comes to us with a curious and interesting history.

Not long ago, while in the city of Washington, a loyal friend and warm admirer of Nathan Hale, George Dudley Seymour, Esq., of New Haven, had his attention called to a remarkable tribute to Hale. It proved to have been written by a fellow-soldier in the Revolutionary War, Captain Elisha Bostwick. This remarkable document was found in the musty records of a very old pension list,[Pg 138] and the portion relating to Nathan Hale is here given. It came to light a hundred and thirty-five years after Hale's execution. We give this valuable record of Captain Bostwick's as it appeared in the Hartford Courant of December 15th, 1914:

"I will now make some observations upon the amiable & unfortunate Capt. Nathan Hale whose fate is so well known; for I was with him in the same Regt. both at Boston & New York & until the day of his tragical death; & although of inferior grade in office was always in the habits of friendship & intimacy with him: & my remembrance of his person, manners & character is so perfect that I feel inclined to make some remarks upon them: for I can now in imagination see his person & hear his voice—his person I should say was a little above the common stature in height, his shoulders of a moderate breadth, his limbs strait & very plump: regular features—very fair skin—blue eyes—flaxen or very light hair which was always kept short—his eyebrows a shade darker than his hair & his voice rather sharp or Piercing—his bodily agility was remarkable. I have seen him follow a football & kick it over the tops of the trees in the Bowery at New York (an exercise which he was fond of)—his mental powers seemed to be above the common sort—his mind of a[Pg 139] sedate and sober cast, & he was undoubtedly Pious; for it was remarked that when any of the soldiers of his company were sick he always visited them & usually prayed for & with them in their sickness.—A little anecdote I will relate; one day he accidentally came across some of his men in a bye place playing cards—he spoke—what are you doing—this won't do,—give me your cards, they did so, & he chopd them to pieces, & it was done in such a manner that the men were rather pleased than otherwise—his activity on all occasions was wonderful—he would make a pen the quickest & best of any man—

"Innumerable instances of occurrences which took place in the Army I could relate, but who would care for them: Perhaps it may be thought by some that I have already been at the expense of Prolixity. Nobody in these days feels as I do, left here alone, & they cannot if they would, but to me it is a melancholy pleasure to go back to those Scenes of fear & anguish & after the laps of 50 years (1826 was in my 78th year) to rumenate upon them which I think I can do with as bright a recollection as though they were present—One more reflection I will make—why is it that the delicious Capt. Hale should be left & lost in an unknown grave & forgotten![Pg 140]

"The foregoing Statements were made from Memory & recollection & from documents & Memorandoms which I kept.—Elisha Bostwick."

(8) Edward Everett Hale

Of the subsequent records of the Hale family no trace remains that is not honorable. Nathan's brother Enoch was settled at Westhampton, Massachusetts, in 1777, where he remained a useful and beloved pastor for sixty years. Enoch's eldest son, Nathan, graduated at Williams College in 1804. He was editor-in-chief of the Boston Daily Advertiser for more than forty years. Nathan's son, Nathan, a Havard graduate, became associate editor of the Boston Advertiser.

Lucretia Peabody Hale, a well-known writer in her day, whose delightful and amusing "Peterkin Papers" are still read and remembered, was a granddaughter of the Rev. Enoch Hale.

Edward Everett Hale, a man beloved by every one who knew him, was the son of "a great journalist," Nathan, grandson of Enoch, and therefore grandnephew of Captain Nathan Hale. He, too, had a son Nathan who died in his early manhood. Edward Everett Hale was one of the most commanding and admired of men, with rare endowments as clergyman, author, editor, and patriot.[Pg 141]

Those interested in the study of his granduncle, Nathan, owe to him the preservation of many records of the Hale family, and an arrangement of the genealogy of the Hale family, made while he was a Unitarian minister in Worcester, Massachusetts, and kindly lent to the Hon. I. W. Stuart, one of Hale's early biographers.

It will be long before some of Edward Everett Hale's vital words are forgotten; longer still before his marvelous story, "The Man Without a Country," shall cease to thrill its readers.

The impassioned sentences in which he cites its unhappy hero as speaking to a boy—a midshipman—while under heavy stress, read, "For your country, boy, and for your flag, never dream a dream but of serving her as she bids you, though the service carry you through a thousand hells. No matter what happens to you, no matter who flatters you or who abuses you, never look at another flag, never let a night pass but you pray God to bless that flag. Remember, boy, that behind all these men you have to do with, behind officers, and government, and people even, there is the Country Herself, your Country, and that you belong to Her as you belong to your own mother."

No one justly comprehending the bed rock of Edward Everett Hale's boundless patriotism can[Pg 142] doubt that if the same call of duty had come to him that came in bygone days to his relative, young Nathan Hale, he would have done exactly as Nathan Hale did. That call did not come, but to the end of his days Edward Everett Hale lived for his country as nobly as Nathan Hale died for it.[Pg 143]


Ancestors and Descendants of Nathan Hale's Parents

Robert Hale arrived in Massachusetts in 1632. He was one of those sent from the first church in Boston to form the first church in Charlestown in 1632, and was a deacon of this church. He was a blacksmith by trade. He also had a gift for practical mathematics, being regularly employed by the General Court of Massachusetts as a surveyor of new plantations. His son John, of whom mention has been made in connection with the witchcraft delusion, was a graduate of Harvard in 1657. Samuel, the fourth son of John, was the father of Richard, father of Nathan Hale.

Elizabeth Strong, wife of Deacon Richard Hale and mother of Nathan, came from a family more notable than that of her husband. Her grandfather, Joseph Strong, represented Coventry in the General Assembly of Connecticut for sixty-five sessions and presided over town-meeting in his ninetieth year.[Pg 144]

Mrs. Hale had four immediate relatives who were graduates of Yale college. Three of the sons of Deacon Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong Hale graduated from Yale,—Enoch, the fourth son, Nathan, the sixth child, and David, the eighth son. Three of the sons were officers in the Revolutionary army, and the husband of a daughter was a surgeon there. John was a major; Joseph, who died as the result of the privations endured there, was a lieutenant; and Nathan was a captain. Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph, married Rev. Abiel Abbot, for many years minister in Coventry. Three of their sons were college graduates—two of Yale and one of Dartmouth. Rebekah, another daughter of Joseph, married Ezra Abbot of Wilton, N.H. Three sons were graduates of Bowdoin. One son, the Rev. Abiel Abbot, was settled in East Wilton.

Two daughters also married clergymen. Another daughter of Joseph, Mary, married the Rev. Levi Nelson. For a man who died at the age of thirty-four, Lieutenant Joseph Hale appears to have been well represented by his descendants.

Surgeon Rose of the Revolutionary army, and Elizabeth Hale, daughter of Deacon Richard Hale, were the grandparents of the distinguished lawyer and statesman, Washington Hunt, and of Lieuten[Pg 145]ant Edward Hunt, U.S.A., first husband of the celebrated author, Helen Hunt.

Enoch Hale, Deacon Richard Hale's fourth son, graduated in the same class with his brother Nathan, became a minister, and spent a long life in his first and only pastorate. One of his sons, Enoch, was educated at Yale and Harvard and became a noted physician. A son, Nathan, was a graduate of Williams College, and editor of the Boston Advertiser for more than forty years. His son Nathan, a Harvard man, became coeditor with him. One of Enoch's granddaughters married a minister named Montague.

David, another son of Deacon Richard Hale, graduated at Yale, and was settled in the ministry at Lisbon, Connecticut. Joanna, the second daughter of Richard Hale, married Dr. Nathan Howard.

One of Enoch Hale's grandsons was president of the Continental Bank in New York City. The most noted of Enoch Hale's descendants was the Rev. Edward Everett Hale, clergyman, editor, and author, and a graduate of Harvard. The writer, Lucretia Peabody Hale, was one of Enoch Hale's grandchildren. David Hale, a grandson of Richard Hale, was long in control of the Journal of Commerce in New York City and noted for his[Pg 146] charities. Alexander and Charles, grandsons of Enoch, were graduates of Harvard.

As this list of college graduates and professional men is not extended beyond the year 1850, a little past the limit of a century after the marriage of Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong, one is inclined to wonder whether any other farmer's family within that, or any other, period in American history, can show a more remarkable record.

One is impressed, too, most profoundly, by the realization that, although Elizabeth Strong Hale died so early, as lives are now measured,—she was only forty,—to few women in any land who have reached the appointed limit of human life have been given the remarkable power of leaving to so many descendants such warmth of feeling and such nobility of nature as passed through that century of her descendants.[Pg 147]


Asserted Betrayal of Nathan Hale

For some time after the death of Nathan Hale a report was circulated, and apparently substantiated, that he had been betrayed into the hands of the British by a Tory cousin. Ultimately this report was printed in a Newburyport (Massachusetts) newspaper of the day, and read by Mr. Samuel Hale of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This Mr. Hale was a prominent teacher and a strong friend of the American cause, and uncle both to Nathan Hale and to Samuel Hale, the cousin who was said to have betrayed Nathan.

Mr. Samuel Hale never for a moment believed the report, and set himself at once to disprove it. This appears to have been done in the most effectual way by the combined efforts of Mr. Samuel Hale and Deacon Hale, who furnished proof that the supposed betrayer of Nathan Hale had never visited in Deacon Hale's family, and, not being in his uncle's house when Nathan visited there, had never so much as seen Nathan Hale.[Pg 148]

There were, of course, at the time, strong animosities existing between those who supported the British cause among the Americans, and the Americans who were opposing England. As at all such times, some members of each party were not only unjust but cruel to the other party; and in some respects this nephew of the teacher, Samuel Hale, and asserted betrayer of Nathan, paid very heavily for his loyalty to the English cause. We will let him tell his own story, only adding that when hostilities broke out he was a young and successful barrister practicing in Portsmouth, was married, and had one child.

Unswerving in his loyalty to the English cause, he was soon obliged to leave New Hampshire, and eventually to go into English territory. He wrote to his uncle Samuel, in whose family he had been reared, and later to his wife; neither letter is dated, but it is probable that when the latter was written he was in Nova Scotia. His letter to his uncle runs in part as follows:

"My affections as well as my allegiance are due to another nation. I love the British government with filial fondness. I have never been actuated by any political rancor towards the Americans. My conduct has always been fair, explicit, and open, and I may add, some of your people have found it[Pg 149] humane at a time when affairs on our side wore the most flattering appearances. My veneration is as high, my friendship as warm, and my attachment as great as ever it was for many characters among you, though I have differed much from them in politics. In the justness of the reasoning which led to the principles that have guided me through life, I can suppose myself mistaken. The same thing may have been the case with my opponents. Our powers are so limited, our means of information so inadequate to the end, that common decency requires we should forgive each other when we have every reason to think that each has acted honestly.

"Sure I am, this is the case with me and I hope it is the same with some of you. My conduct during this unhappy contest has been invariably uniform. I can in no sense be called a traitor to your state. I never owed it any allegiance, because I left it before it had assumed the form or even the name of an independent state, and when I neither saw or felt any oppression. I must have been mad as well as wicked to have acted any other part than I did upon the principles I held. If I have been mistaken I am sorry for the error, and if it be error I still continue in it."

This letter is certainly a good illustration of the truth that, in all great contests, perfectly honorable[Pg 150] and consistent men are forced to take opposite sides, even at the cost of suffering heavy injustice. The letter to his wife is here given in full.

My Dear Girl,—

This you will get by Mr. Hart's flag of Truce, who is coming to Boston for his family. I know the disposition of the Leaders at Boston so well, that I doubt not of his success. I would have come for you and the boy, but I thought you would leave your father with reluctance, nor am I sure that I could have obtained leave for you to come away, if you were disposed. I fear the resentment of the people against me may have injured you, but I hope not. I am sorry such a prejudice has arisen.

Depend upon it, there never was the least truth in that infamous newspaper publication charging me with ingratitude, etc. I am happy that they have had [to have] recourse to falsehood to vilify my character. Attachment to the old Constitution of my country is my only crime with them—for which I have still the disposition of the primitive martyr.

I hope and believe you want no pecuniary assistance. If you should you may apply to some of my friends or your relations. You may then use my name with confidence that they shall be amply satisfied. I believe I shall have the power, I am sure I shall have the will, to recompense them again.

I somewhat expect to see you in a few months—perhaps not before I have seen England. In the meanwhile, my dear Girl, take care of your own and the Boy's health. He may live to be serviceable to his country in some distant period.[Pg 151] Respect, Love, Duty, etc., await all my inquiring and real friends.

I am, etc.
S. Hale.

To Mrs Hale

These letters sufficiently attest the character of the man, and we can hope that in later days he was enabled to return to his family, and to prove that political differences of opinion had not changed the integrity of his life.

Knowing nothing of his later days, we may rejoice that the base assertion that this own cousin had betrayed Nathan Hale was wholly without foundation; and that in him, also, the Hale trait of loyalty to honest opinions enabled him to make sacrifices as great in their way as those made by many of his kindred.[Pg 152]


Contrasts Between Hale and André

If Nathan Hale was in many respects the most notable American martyr, another man, in the English army, four years later met a doom that to the English appears to have exalted him to a rank corresponding to Nathan Hale's. For a long time there was a glamour about André that lifted him above the place to which, in the minds of many, he rightfully belonged, and comparisons have often been made between him and Hale, as if in reality their services and their characters justified such comparison.

It has been our aim to describe Hale as accurately as possible. He has been presented as an educated, high-minded patriot, wholly intent upon serving his country to the full extent of his ability, ready to run any risk in her service, and fully comprehending, in his last supreme effort to serve her, that he was risking his life and facing the possibility of a dishonorable death. He expected no reward if he[Pg 153] succeeded, save the consciousness of having done his duty. But fail he did, and we have seen how simply and bravely he accepted his doom. His grave is unknown to this day, and his country, as a country, has made no recognition whatever of his supreme sacrifice.

In regard to André, we know that he was of foreign parentage, his father a Genevan Swiss, and his mother French. He had not inherited a drop of English blood. Born, however, after his parents removed to London, he was, in ordinary acceptance, English.

His parents were able to educate him thoroughly, and to fit him for what they supposed would be a successful commercial career. A disappointment in love, however, led him to seek a change of scene, and he entered the English army.

Personally he was most attractive, charming in his manners beyond the average man, a fine linguist, and a brave man. He soon attracted attention among the English officers engaged in the war against America, and was eventually made adjutant general of the English army. So far as can now be judged, his life as a soldier had been most agreeable, and he had made friends with all his associates. While Arnold was perfecting his designs to betray West Point into the hands of the[Pg 154] English, and thus in effect terminate the war, André was appointed to act as the intermediary between Arnold and Sir Henry Clinton.

André may have looked upon himself as an envoy from his own commander to an American commander, and he well knew that, if successful, high honor and a desirable command in the British army would be awarded him by the English government. He does not appear to have considered the fact that he was risking his life in the service of the English. Indeed, none of the English officers appear to have thought it possible that the Americans would dare to treat as a spy an English adjutant general who had been invited to his headquarters by General Arnold, and by him provided with safeguards for his return. So sure were they of André's safety that it is said the British officers treated with derision the suggestion that he was in danger, even after his capture.

Once captured, they should not have been so sure of his safety. But neither they nor he had any idea that he would be captured. Indeed, we can hardly see how he could have been captured had he followed the instructions of Sir Henry Clinton, who strictly enjoined him not to go within the American lines, not to assume any disguise, and not to carry a scrap of writing.[Pg 155]

At first André had supposed that Arnold would meet him on the Vulture, and that all their negotiations would be completed there. But Arnold, too crafty to run any personal risk, or arouse any suspicion in his own officers, insisted upon André's landing and conferring with him at some little distance from his own headquarters. Disregarding, through Arnold's persuasions, Clinton's first order to remain upon the Vulture, André's other failures in obedience appear to have been inevitable, and taking the risks as they came, he went forward to his doom, to his death, to Arnold's ruin as an American citizen, and to the preservation of the infant republic.

For the third time, Providence appears to have thwarted the shrewdest plans of the enemies of America. First came the fog in New York Bay, enabling Washington to withdraw his troops from Brooklyn without the knowledge of the British; second, the knowledge of Hale's fate and the preservation of his last words by a humane English officer, despite the malice of Provost Marshal Cunningham; third, and apparently most important of all, the capture of André, involving the defeat of Arnold's traitorous plans to ruin his country's cause.

From the moment André fell into the hands of[Pg 156] the Americans, he was treated with the utmost courtesy. Every possible opportunity for him to prove his innocence was given him, and an offer to exchange him for Arnold, who had fled to the British camp, was made to the commanders of the English. This, however, could not be done honorably by Sir Henry Clinton, and André had to face a fate he had not for a moment thought possible.

He bore himself bravely, and he certainly won the hearts of those who held him prisoner. When he came to die in Tappan—not, as he had hoped, as a soldier, shot to death, but hanged as a spy—he seemed for a moment greatly affected. Then recovering himself before the fatal drop he said, "Gentlemen, I beg you all to bear witness that I die as a brave man."

Self-pity, the desire to be honored despite the manner of his death, marked André's exit from the world. Hale had gone hence without one personal expression of regret save that he could not add to his service for his country.

André had died pitied and lamented even by loyal Americans. England, remembering what he had done to serve her, and that he had died in her service, rendered his memory the highest honor. She conferred knighthood on his brother, and a[Pg 157] pension of three hundred guineas a year on his mother and sisters, already well provided for.

Forty years later she sent one of her war vessels to America to bring his body back to England; and then the doors of stately Westminster Abbey, in which lie buried the dust of those she most delights to honor, were opened to receive his remains; there they will lie till the old Abbey crumbles.

Thus England honors the men who try to serve her in any line of heroic service, proving that if she "expects every man to do his duty," she, in her turn, expects to honor those who serve her, be they her own sons or the sons of strangers born "within her gates."

October 2, 1879, the ninety-ninth anniversary of the execution of André, a monument, prepared by order of Cyrus W. Field and placed over the spot of André's execution, was unveiled. There were present members of historical societies, of the United States Army, of the newspapers, and various other persons. At noon, the hour of André's execution, the memorial was unveiled. There were no ceremonies on the occasion. The epitaph had been prepared by the Rev. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, the beloved and honored Dean of Westminster, at whose suggestion Mr. Field had erected the memorial. It is inscribed as follows:[Pg 158]

Here died, October 2, 1780
Major John André of the British Army,
Who, entering the American lines
On a secret mission to Benedict Arnold,
For the surrender of West Point,
Was taken prisoner, tried and condemned as a spy.
His death
Though according to the stern rule of war,
Moved even his enemies to pity;
And both armies mourned the fate
Of one so young and so brave.
In 1821 his remains were removed to Westminster Abbey.
A hundred years after the execution
This stone was placed above the spot where he lay,
By a citizen of the United States against which he fought,
Not to perpetuate the record of strife,
But in token of those friendly feelings
Which have since united two nations,
One in race, in language, and in religion,
With the hope that this friendly union
Will never be broken.

On the other side are these words of Washington:

"He was more unfortunate than criminal."
"An accomplished man and gallant officer."

George Washington

The first of the two lines was from a letter of Washington to Count de Rochambeau, dated October 10, 1780. The second is from a letter[Pg 159] written by Washington to Colonel John Laurens on October 13 of the same year.

In the year 1853 some Americans who believe that all historic spots in our land should be marked by permanent memorials, erected a monument at Tarrytown, New York, in honor of the captors of André. Hon. Henry J. Raymond made the address at its dedication. Mr. Raymond was born in 1820 and was graduated from the University of Vermont in 1840. He assisted Horace Greeley in the conduct of the Tribune and other newspapers. He founded the New York Times in 1851 and died in 1869.

In the address just mentioned, Mr. Raymond, contrasting the halo that surrounded André's name with the oblivion then seemingly the fate of Nathan Hale, closed with these impassioned words:

"Where sleeps the Americanism of Americans, that their hearts are not stirred to solemn rapture at thought of the sublime love of country which buoyed him [Hale] not alone above 'the fear of death,' but far beyond all thought of himself, of his fate, and his fame, or of anything less than his country, and which shaped his dying breath into the sacred sentence which trembled at the last upon his unquivering lip?"[Pg 160]

With this tribute we close, believing that the tardy justice accorded to our martyr-hero is destined to become a nation-wide loyalty; that the day will yet come when our nation, as a nation, will recognize the nobility of nature displayed, and will assign a high place to the brave lad who so sublimely relinquished all that life held, and all that coming years might bring, to die for his country,—our country,—the high-souled Nathan Hale.

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