I have but one life...
On September 22, 1776, American patriot Nathan Hale was hanged for spying on British troops. As he was lead to the gallows, Hale proclaimed his famous last words —"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
Nathan Hale was born in Coventry, Connecticut, on June 6, 1755. He graduated with honors from Yale College in 1773 and went on to teach, first in East Haddam, and then in New London, Connecticut.
Five of Hale's brothers fought the British forces at Lexington and Concord, with Nathan joining them there on July 6, 1775. Hale quickly rose to the rank of captain in the military.
British General William Howe, who evacuated Boston in March of 1776, continued to battle General George Washington's troops. After his retreat from Boston, Howe planned to use New York as a base. The British captured Staten Island and began a military build-up on Long Island. George Washington succeeded in saving his army by secretly retreating onto Manhattan Island. At the battle of Harlem Heights, Washington, again facing Howe, requested a volunteer to undertake an intelligence mission behind enemy lines. Hale stepped forward.
Disguised as a Dutch schoolmaster, Nathan Hale set out on his mission on September 12, 1776. For over a week he gathered information on the position of British troops but was captured while returning to the American side and taken to Beekman Mansion, headquarters of General William Howe. Hale's possession of incriminating papers made clear to the British he was involved in espionage. It is said that his cousin, a British sympathizer under Howe's command, betrayed him. Howe ordered young Hale to be hanged the following day.