Nathan Hale was born in 1755, the child of a devout Connecticut family. At fifteen, he went to Yale, the path to either teaching or the ministry. Hale pursued the former, and despite his youth, taught for a brief time before the Revolution began.
A history of dissent among New Englanders made it natural for them to embrace the American cause, the latest rebellion against a king. When General Washington called for men to serve the army as spies, Hale offered himself, despite the fact that spying was considered immoral and dishonorable for a gentleman. His letters indicate he believed that God intended America to be free, and whatever he did for the Cause was God’s Will.
His conviction, though sincere, did not make him a good spy. He seems to have betrayed himself on the eve of his escape with tavern talk to a Tory colonel. The drawings he’d made of fortifications around New York City were easily found, and he was hanged soon after his capture, a sorry end for any 21-year-old. A sympathetic British officer preserved his famous dying words.
Nathan Hale starts slowly. Although the pace and style improves and there are interesting notes, the book makes a brief life seem almost too long. If you are specifically interested in Nathan Hale, you might try this one, but I found the wider ranging Washington’s Spies more readable.