Hale was frequently frustrated with not being able to engage the enemy more directly. He wrote in a journal entry,. 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.
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Under cover of a thick November darkness, Nathan led his men on small boats across the waters and in a bold move, boarded the ship, forced its crew into the hold, and commandeered the ship with its contents for the rebel army. Or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred? Based on Esther , this sermon struck a chord with Nathan and, in a sense, foreshadowed the future events of his short life.
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New York was a critical piece in the puzzle of the colonial war effort. Its deep harbors and the lifeline of the Hudson River made the area a strategic powerhouse for the side who captured it.
If the British could gain control of New York, they could effectively cut Washington off from the southern and western forces of the American army, along with much-needed munitions and foodstuffs. Then the British would have free course into the heart of the continent, into the very center of the American forces, and there would be little stopping them. More than ever, it was critical to ferret out the designs of the British, to anticipate their next move. Up to this point, Washington had been relying on information gathered by couriers and other informal means of intelligence. Now, he needed something more—a spy.
Spying was not an unknown art in war, but it was one with ignominious associations. Though there was no official organization for the training of spies spying was looked down upon by both sides as the worst of wartime criminal activity, short of treason , Thomas Knowlton, Lieutenant Colonel in the American army headed up an elite force of soldiers, called Rangers, handpicked for particularly dangerous missions. And Nathan Hale, along with his brother Enoch, was inducted into this group. To be caught was surely a death sentence. Here, at last, was an opportunity for Hale to serve in a measurable, meaningful way.
His fellow Rangers tried to dissuade him. Some said he was too handsome for such a job; a memorable face like his would stick out in a crowd. Nathan, however, would not waver. Nathan replied to his friends, I think I owe to my country. 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 services while receiving compensation for which I make no return.
Yet I am not influenced by any expectation of promotion or pecuniary award; and every kind of service necessary for the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. Appleton and Co. Late one September evening, Hale left his uniform and personal effects with a fellow soldier and went alone, on foot, across the British lines.
He was armed with nothing but the garb of a Dutch schoolmaster and his Yale diploma. Posing as a teacher looking for work, Hale was to gather intelligence about the British position and their potential attack scenarios and return to General Washington in time to formulate a response plan for the American army. What we do know is that he successfully gathered intelligence about the British fortifications, as well as the number and placement of enemy troops. Hale made detailed, to-scale drawings and recorded notes in Latin and hid them in the soles of his shoes.
On September 21, , Hale made his way to a tavern in Long Island. The history of that portion of the American Revolution, between the Battle of Long Island and the movement to White Plains, became of absorbing interest to me, when as Curator of the Museum in the "Roger Morris House of the Revolution," I found myself located in the old Headquarters on Washington Heights.
Through the kindness of the late Doctor Billings of the New York Public Library, I had put at my disposal, in , the seven volumes of the American Archives, in which all the papers of the Revolution, in the possession of the United States Government, were published in the Eighteen Fifties. The facts contained in these documents were unimpeachable, and frequently revealed the inaccuracy of our Revolutionary history and the absurdity of some of our traditions.
To my surprise, I could find in these official papers but two references to Nathan Hale. One was in "An Extract from a letter from Harlem," dated September 28, , just a week after the great fire of New York. The consequence was that the broadway from the new city hall to white hall is laid in ashes. Our friends were immediately suspected and according to the report of a flag of truce who came to our lines soon after, those that were found on or near the spot were pitched into the conflagration, some hanged by their heals, others by their necks with their throats cut.
Inhuman barbarity! One hale in New York, on suspicion of being a spy, was taken up and dragged without ceremony to the execution post and hung up. The letter suggested retaliation with the following statement:. He was executed when the British army was in an angry mood, following the fire, and even the common soldiers were permitted to offer insults to his body on the tree.
In support of this surprising statement, I quote from a letter written from New York by a British officer on September 26, just four days after the execution. The letter was published on November 9, , in the Kitchen Gazette, at Canterbury, England, and the closing paragraph, with its brutal realism, seems to have been appended by the writer as the mention of a ver trivial event. Nathan Hale, in his disguise of a Dutch schoolmaster, and with cool, undaunted courage, had evidently been in the city during the conflagration.
Scores of innocent people had been arrested during the day and thrown into prison on suspicion of having a hand in the fire, while he passed unsuspected. The British staff believed that Washington had ordered the city to be set on fire and that Hale was one of his agents, and that belief sufficiently accounts for the brutal haste of his execution and the license permitted to the soldiers. All accounts, before and after the fire, seem to agree that the New England troops were the strongest advocates of burning the city, while the New Yorkers were opposed, naturally, to applying the torch to the principal town in their colony.
It is painful and extremely grating to me to give such unfavorable accounts, but it would be criminal to conceal the truth at so critical a juncture. Every power I possess should be exerted to serve the cause, and my first wish is, that whatever may be the event, the Congress will do me the justice to think so. They would derive great conveniences from it on the one hand, and much property would be destroyed on the other. It is an important question, but will admit of but little time for deliberation.
At present, I dare say the enemy mean to preserve it if they can. I Congress, therefore, should resolve upon the destruction of it, the resolution should be a profound secret, as the knowledge of it will make a change in their plans. The post riders who carried that letter from New York to Philadelphia wasted no time on the road, for the reply of Congress, "To his Excellency General Washington," signed by "John Hancock, President," was dated the very next day, September 3d. Such heroic treatment was not likely to appeal to a deliberative body at a distance from the field of action.
It can hardly be doubted that Washington awaited the Consent of Congress to apply the torch, but now his hands were tied. At the same time he was relieved of. General Greene was in favor of burning the city, and sent the following letter to General Washington. Part of the army already has met with a defeat: the country is struck with a panick: any capital loss at this time may ruin the cause. Remember the King of France. Two-thirds of the property of the city of New York and the suberbs belongs to the Tories: We have no very great reason to run considerable risk for its defence.
It would deprive them of a general market; the price of things would prove a temptation to our people to supply them for the sake of gain, in direct violation of the laws of their country.
Robert Hales (Schatzkanzler)
I have said nothing at all about the temper and disposition of the troops, and their apprehensions about being sold. This is a strong intimation that it will be difficult to get such troops to behave with proper spirit in time of action, if we should be attacked. First points, that is, that a speedy and general retreat is necessary, and also, that the city and suburbs should be burned, I would advise to call a general council upon that question, and take every general officers opinion upon it. The agitation for burning the city had begun even before the Battle of Long Island, for the Convention of the State of New York, as early as August 22, on hearing a rumor that the city might be set on fire, interrogated Washington on the subject.
News of the plan to burn the city had reached the camps outside. A letter from an officer, "to his friend in Edinbrough," written from Staten Island as early as August 11, and published in the St. James Chronicle , concludes with these words: "We have a fine view of New York from this place, which we expect soon to see in flames. The same paper, on October 22, published a letter from an officer on Long Island, dated September 2, from which the following is an extract: "All accounts agree that they are preparing to evacuate the Town.
Whether they will burn it or not is uncertain, as the Provincials from the Jerseys and the neighborhood strenuously oppose that measure. On September 2, another English officer wrote home from Long Island: "I have just heard that there has been a most dreadful fray in the town of New York.
The New Englanders insisted on setting the town on fire and retreating; this was opposed by the New Yorkers, who were joined by the Pennsylvanians, and a battle has been the consequence, in which many lost their lives. Another letter written on September 4, to "a gentlemen in London," contains the following curious information: "In the night of the second instant three persons escaped from the city in a canoe and informed our general that Mr.
Washington had ordered three battalions of New York Provincials to leave New York, and that they should be replaced by an equal number of Connecticut troops; but. Absurd as many of these letters are, they were written by English officers during the time when the agitation for burning the city was at fever-heat, and they throw a lurid light on a subject which is almost completely ignored by American history.
They indicate with precision what they expected and from whom they expected the blow to come. Their information came from Tories in the city who knew the feeling of the troops from the different colonies. They expected the city to be set on fire by New Englanders, and, after the fire occurred, every description of it and every official dispatch sent home claimed that the New Englanders had done so. The savage burning of this city by the New England incendiaries will be a lasting monument of their inveterate malice against the trade and prosperity of this colony, as well as rooted disaffection to British law and government.
They had long threatened the performance of this villainous deed: and this is the best return that the people of property in this city, who have espoused their cause, are to expect for their heedless credulity. General Washington had driven the enemy out of Boston by siege; if that success had been followed by scourging him out of New York by fire, at the beginning of winter, it would have been a brilliant piece of military strategy, that would probably had compelled him to seek some other port for his fleet, and would have completely frustrated the plan of campaign prepared over-sea.
And such action by Washington would have been "justified to the whole world.
On Sunday, September 15, the last of the Continental troops were withdrawn from the city, leaving it intact for the British officers to winter in, with a host of their Tory friends to entertain them. It was a bitter condition to contemplate for the majority of the army who had favored the burning, with the near prospect of themselves shivering in huts with inadequate clothing. But something was going to happen. On the night of Friday, September 20, there was a commotion in this old house, -- old now, as I write, but new then.
I can see them assembling on the little balcony under the front porch, and peering through the windows, for there was a great red light on the horizon to the south, the light of a great conflagration. Every man knew that it was the city of New York burning, the city that had been wrested from them five days before to be the comfortable winter-quarters of the hated enemy.
Nathan Hale - Wikipedia
It was a sleepless night at headquarters. There were eyes watching the fire on through the small hours of the morning, until day broke and revealed a great column of smoke above the city and the spire of Trinity Church still standing against the flames. The fire lighted for the purpose of burning the enemy out of New York City ha been a dismal failure. The rebel army having carried off all the bells of the city, the alarm could not be speedily communicated, and very few of the citizens were in town, most of them being driven out by the calamities of war, and several of the first rank, sent prisoners to New England and other distant parts.
A few minutes after the fire was discovered at White hall, it was observed to break out in five or six other places, at a considerable distance. Lord Howe ordered the boats of the fleet to be manned, and after landing.
Nathan Hale Family Group | Nathan Hale | Ahnentafel No: 1 ()
Long before the main fire reached Trinity Church, that large, ancient and venerable edifise was in flames, which baffled every effort to suppress them. Posted on Jun 6, Nathan Hale - Wikipedia. Capt Marty Hogan. He volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City but was captured by the British and executed. Hale has long been considered an American hero and, in , he was officially designated the state hero of Connecticut.
Nathan Hale - Wikipedia Posted from en. Responses: 8. LTC Stephen F. Background from biography. After graduating from Yale University, he became a schoolteacher. When war began in the American colonies, he joined a Connecticut regiment and was made a captain in A prominent family, the Hales were devout Puritans and instilled in their children the importance of hard work, religious virtue and education. At 14, Nathan was sent off to Yale College with his older brother, Enoch, where he excelled in literature and debate.
He graduated with honors, at age 18, and became a school teacher in East Haddam and later New London, Connecticut. Some accounts say he saw battle during the Siege of Boston, while others point out he was still under his teaching obligation. In any case, he was fully aware of the danger: spies were considered illegal combatants and quickly executed. Nathan Hale left the American lines at Harlem Heights on September 12, , posing as an itinerant teacher.
He most likely spent a few days in Huntington, impersonating as a teacher looking for work.