In the small town of Coventry, Connecticut on June 6, 1755, Nathan Hale was born, to devout Puritans, Deacon Richard Hale and Elizabeth Strong Hale. Hale was the sixth of twelve children. The Hale’s had 9 boys and 3 girls. Hale’s parents were concerned that he wouldn’t survive his first year, like the two children before Hale (Lough 8). Even though he was a sickly small child, with weak lungs he did not let that stop him from loving the outdoors (Lough). As Hale got older, he became stronger. Sadly Hale’s mother Elizabeth died when he was 12 shortly after giving birth to her 12th child (Tracy 16). It is thought that Hale’s father Richard remarried a wealthy widow, Abigail Cobb Adams, 2 years after Elizabeth’s death, who brought three of her youngest children into the home (Tracy 16).
Like most Puritans, Hale’s parents believed in hard work and education. Hale was a great student and had a hunger for knowledge. His father hired Rev. Joseph Huntington, to prepare him for ministry in the Puritan church. At age 14 Hale and his brother Enoch, who was 16 at the time, entered Yale College (now Yale University) which was founded by ministers in 1701. During this time it was not uncommon for boys of this age to enter college. Yale was strict but did not revolve around studies all the time, Hale and his brother played sports. They also joined a literary and debating society called Linonia during their sophomore, which was founded in 1753.
The brothers stayed in Connecticut Hall together. Hale was described as ‘Almost 6ft, perfectly proportional in figure and manners, over flowing with good humor and was the idol of all his acquaintances.” by Dr. Eneas Munsen. Also his classmates and the schools officials said he was “unusually attractive and beloved.” During the graduation ceremony, Hale gave a speech that included an idea unusual for a young man of the time, education of women (Lough -17). At this time it was not important for women to be educated. In his speech he said, “Whether the education of daughters be not without any just reason, more neglected than that of sons,” (Lough 17). He graduated in 1773 at 18 years old with honors.
Unlike his brother Enoch who became a minister, Hale decided to be a teacher. His first teaching job was at a public school in East Haddam Landing, Connecticut. After having a positive college experience, leaving to teach in a rural town was a culture shock for Hale (Tracy 23), Even though he was well liked, he was still lonely. But a couple months later he was offered a job at Union School in New London, Connecticut, which he gladly accepted. He fell in love with New London. It was busy and exciting like New Haven. Hale taught math, Latin, literature and writing to 30 young men until 1774, when Hale got permission to start teaching 20 young women.
The young women were not able to attend school during normal hours, so they came earlier. His friends teased him about the girls not coming to school for Hale’s “great teaching” but for his “great looks” which may or may not be true. In late 1774, he was offered a promotion to master of Union School and he gladly accepted. During Hale’s teaching career, a war was going on. He had heard about many battles and attended many town hall meetings. Hale spoke out at one saying “Let us march immediately, and never lay down our [weapons] until we obtain independence!” He made a decision to stop teaching and join the Connecticut regiment of the Continental Army. His regiment left immediately but he stayed behind to fulfill his teaching duties, he stayed in New Haven for a little while then left in July 1775. Hale was given commission of lieutenant in Colonel Charles Webb’s 7th Connecticut Regiment. Hale like five of his other brother had joined the fight for their country.
Hale couldn’t wait to get to Boston to fight! But he didn’t get there till January 1776, by this time General Washington had arrived outside Boston. When Hale finally reached Boston, he was given commission as a captain in the 19th Continental Regiment. For him, everything around him was exciting; he kept a detailed diary about his surroundings through his journal we can see that he enjoyed his military life. Hale cared about his men and their well-being. If one of his men took ill, you would most likely find him by their side. Meanwhile in the harsh winter General Washington was preparing an army to fight, his troops kept drilling and learning how to be a good solider.
After America won against the British in Boston, Washington knew that the fighting was far from over (Lough 47). In the spring of 1776, the General decide to march the Connecticut regiment toward New York. Hale was anxious to see battle and that he did. Washington quickly marched his army to Long Island. Hake was stationed along the banks of the East River in New York City where a British supply ship was anchored. Surprisingly, Hale and his small group captured the ship and crew. His courage was brought to attention by Colonel Thomas Knowlton.