Nathan Hale was born in Coventry, Connecticut, on June 6, 1755. At age 14, he enrolled at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. While at Yale, he became close friends with Benjamin Tallmadge, a fellow Yale student who would later become George Washington’s head of intelligence during the Revolutionary War. Hale graduated from Yale with honors and became a schoolteacher in nearby East Haddam and later in New London. When the war began, he joined the Connecticut militia and became a first sergeant. In 1776, he was promoted to captain in the Continental Army’s 7th Connecticut Regiment.
In August and September of 1776, during the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, Hale volunteered to spy on British troop movements. Disguised as a schoolteacher, he was captured by British forces near present-day Queens following the torching of New York City. British officials, suspicious of Hale’s schoolteacher facade, pretended to be Patriots and succeeded in convincing him to reveal his espionage (spy) activities. He was then questioned by British General William Howe. After interrogating Hale, Howe felt he had uncovered enough evidence and Hale was hanged the following day. According to eyewitness accounts, Hale’s composure in the moments before his execution was astounding. His final words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country,” have been immortalized forever. Today, statues of Nathan Hale can be seen at the Nathan Hale Homestead, Yale University, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and Andover Academy in Massachusetts.