Nathan Hale, the author’s name, was also America’s first spy, a Revolutionary War spy that famously said “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country” before being hanged. In the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series, author Nathan Hale channels his namesake to present history’s roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in the graphic novel format.
One Dead Spy tackles the story of Hale himself, who was an officer and spy for the American rebels during the Revolutionary War. Author Hale highlights the unusual, gruesome, and just plain unbelievable truth of historical Nathan Hale—from his early unlucky days at Yale to his later unlucky days as an officer—and America during the Revolutionary War.
In 1776, George Washington asks for a volunteer for a mission: to spy behind enemy lines before the coming to a Battle . Captain Nathan Hale of the 19th Regiment of the Continental Army stepped forward and subsequently become one of the first American spies of the Revolutionary War.
Disguised as a schoolmaster, the slipped behind British lines on Long Island and then successfully spied about British troop movements for the next several weeks. While Hale was behind enemy lines, the British invaded the island of Manhattan; they took control of the city on September 15, 1776. When the city was set on fire on September 20, 1776, British soldiers were put on high alert for sympathizers to the Patriot cause. The following evening, on September 21, 1776, Hale was captured while sailing Long Island Sound, trying to cross back into American-controlled territory.
Hale was interrogated by British General William Howe and, when it was discovered that he was carrying incriminating documents, General Howe ordered his execution for spying, which was set for the following morning. After being led to the gallows, legend holds that Hale was asked if he had any last words and that he replied with these now-famous words, “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” There is no historical record to prove that Hale actually made this statement, but, if he did, he may have been inspired by these lines in English author Joseph Addison’s 1713 play Cato: “What a pity it is/That we can die but once to serve our country.”
Patriot spy Nathan Hale was hanged by the British on the morning of September 22, 1776. He was just 21 years old. Although rumors later surfaced that Hale’s capture was the result of a betrayal by his first cousin and British Loyalist Samuel Hale, the exact circumstances leading to Hale’s arrest have never been discovered.