Hale Receiving Instructions from Washington - Johnston, Henry P. "Captain Nathan Hale." Harper's New Monthly Magazine. Volume LXI. June To November, 1880.
Capt. Hale, In the Words of an Enemy
"[Maj. Robert Rogers, the daring New England frontiersman and guerrilla commander] detected several American officers, that were sent to Long Island as spies, especially Captain Hale, who was improved in disguise, to find whether the Long Island inhabitants were friends to America or not.
Colonel Rogers having for some days, observed Captain Hale, and suspected that he was an enemy in disguise; and to convince himself, Rogers thought of trying the same method, he quickly altered his own habit, with which he Made Capt Hale a visit at his quarters, where the Colonel fell into some discourse concerning the war, intimating the trouble of his mind, in his being detained on an island, where the inhabitants sided with the Britains against the American Colonies, intimating withal, that he himself was upon the business of spying out the inclination of the people and motion of the British troops.
This intrigue, not being suspected by the Capt, made him believe that he had found a good friend, and one that could be trusted with the secrecy of the business he was engaged in; and after the Colonel's drinking a health to the Congress: informs Rogers of the business and intent.
The Colonel, finding out the truth of the matter, invited Captain Hale to dine with him the next day at his quarters, unto which he agreed. The time being come, Capt Hale repaired to the place agreed on, where he met his pretended friend, with three or four men of the same stamp, and after being refreshed, began the same conversation as hath been already mentioned.
But in the height of their conversation, a company of soldiers surrounded the house, and by orders from the commander, seized Capt Hale in an instant.
But denying his name, and the business he came upon, he was ordered to New York. But before he was carried far, several persons knew him and called him by name; upon this he was hanged as a spy, some say, without being brought before a court martial."
Excerpt from Consider Tiffany's manuscript history of the American Revolution. [pictured here] The page on the left (verso) contains Tiffany's account of the capture of Nathan Hale by Maj. Robert Rogers.
Tiffany's account of the capture of Nathan Hale fits the facts as we know them so well that one is tempted to accept it as being substantially true. Tiffany's story reflects badly on Hale's judgment but not on his moral virtue. His ineptitude as a spy does not diminish his patriotism; on the contrary, it gave him the opportunity, however hateful, to display it in its most magnificent dimensions.
The "martyr-spy" of the American Revolution and the patron saint of the American intelligence establishment; Hale's statue stands today just off the main lobby of CIA headquarters in McLean, Va.
As a 21-year-old captain in the Continental Army whose spotless moral character was universally admired, Hale courageously volunteered in September 1776 for the dangerous mission of reconnoitering British army positions in the New York City area; he was captured and hanged on Manhattan Island on Sept. 22, 1776.
Ardent patriot writers of the 19th century depicted Hale's death in theological tones, describing how the young hero, alone amidst a sea of hostility, established a moral superiority over his tormentors and died triumphantly, uttering the imperishable sentiment:
"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."