Nathan Hale

There is a saying that has come down to us from Revolutionary War days. It is that “freedom is purchased with the blood of brave men.” Freedom is one thing we take for granted in this country. We so often forget the blood, sweat and tears that brought this precious commodity to our great land.
Today I will tell you about one of the brave men who gave his life for the cause of liberty. He was a young man, 21 years of age, a captain in the Revolutionary army. He was a graduate of Yale University and a schoolmaster in civilian life.
The American army under General Washington had been defeated and driven out of New York City, and the British were planning a drive to destroy Washington’s army and crush the rebellion. In this situation, Gen. Washington was in desperate need of information on the enemy. He asked for a volunteer to enter the British lines to provide him with information as to the plans and preparations and the strength of the British Army and Naval forces in New York City.
No doubt by this time you know the name of the young man who volunteered for this hazardous undertaking. What was his name? Nathan Hale. Hale, disguised as a Dutch schoolmaster, crossed the British lines in September, 1776. He traveled all across Long Island making careful records of men and fortifications of the British. He then crossed to Manhattan Island and did the same thing there. Hale was a diligent spy and had accumulated a mass of valuable information which he concealed in his shoes.
When he attempted to slip through the British lines on his return to Gen. Washington’s headquarters, he was captured by a British patrol. Brought before British General Howe, Hale made no attempt to deny his mission or to conceal his true identity. He admitted that he was a spy.
Howe was reluctant to pass judgement on this young man, but he bowed to the stern rules of war and sentenced him to death by hanging. The next morning Nathan Hale was marched to the place of execution selected by the Provost Marshal. The place is believed to be near where Grand Central Station is located on 42nd Street in New York City. The Provost Marshal was called away on some other business, so Hale was left with a guard to await the return of the Provost Marshal. A British Captain, named Montresor, engaged Nathan Hale in conversation. How did you come to join the rebellion? Nathan Hale told Capt. Montresor he had hesitated for several months. He had an excellent post as a schoolmaster in New London, Connecticut. “I wanted to make sure in my own mind that my country’s cause was a just one,” he said. “Once that was clear, once I saw that our liberties were threatened, my hesitation was over.” The young captain asked Hale if he had any regrets. “I have no regrets about anything I have done, even this last role as a spy.”
“No regrets?” asked Capt. Montresor, “when you think of all the pupils you will never teach, all the years of study to prepare for a long and useful life, all wasted by your determination to join the rebellion? If you had remained neutral you would be able to look forward to a long, happy life.”
Hale replied, “I can’t see how such a life would be happy if it is spent in self reproach and with a tortured conscience. No, Capt. Montresor, I had no other choice.”
The Provost Marshal arrived and with the prisoner and his guards, they marched over to the place of execution nearby with the drummer beating the death march. Capt. Montresor could not bear to witness the execution so he retired to his tent until after the ordeal was over. Later he talked to the Provost Marshal about Nathan Hale and asked the Marshal if Hale said anything before he was hung.
“Yes,” said the Provost Marshal, “he made a pretty little speech. He said he had been asked if he had any regrets. He had thought about it and found but one, that this was the only life he had to lose for his country.”
This is the kind of dedication that makes men free.

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