The Burning Question About Nathan Hale
Topics: American Revolution, Historical Memory, Historiography, Nathan Hale, Robert Rogers, New York Fire of 1776, Loyalist History
Length: 45 minutes
Historians are hard pressed to account for the rough justice meted out to Revolutionary War spy and Connecticut state hero Nathan Hale. He was denied a court martial, hanged within a day of his capture, refused the attendance of a minister – even his final letters were opened, read, and left undelivered. In this lecture, taken from his new book Creating Connecticut: Critical Stories That Shaped a Great State (Globe Pequot Press, 2020), Walt Woodward argues that there is a direct connection between Hale”s treatment, and a fire that raged in New York City the night Nathan Hale was arrested as a spy.
Today, many people know that there is some question about whether state hero Nathan Hale actually said the words for which he is famous (“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”) at the time of his hanging. A few also know that a recently discovered manuscript casts doubt on Hale’s truthfulness at the time of his capture as a patriot spy on Long Island in the late summer of 1776.
But was there a connection between Hale and the great fire which nearly destroyed New York City the day before his capture?
In this lecture, Walt Woodward examines all these issues, especially the question as to whether Hale was an arsonist, and provides new insight into Hale’s life, death, and very real heroism.
This revision of a revisionist account of Nathan Hale’s life and death is an especially interesting subject for groups and organizations interested in the history of Connecticut’s participation in the American Revolution, or who want to know more about our state hero.