"I Regret I Have One Life to Give to My Country"

Nathan Hale was a young teacher from Connecticut who served as a spy for the American army. He was captured by the British on September 21, 1776, and executed the next day without a military trial, or court martial. He probably never said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," which is a paraphrase of a line from Joseph Addison's play, Cato. According to the diary of Captain Frederick Macenzie, a British officer who witnessed the execution, Hale's last words were, "it is the duty of every good officer to obey any orders given him by his commander-in-chief." Patriot leaders used stories about his execution to make American angry about Britain's unfairness. At the time of Hale's death, the American army was doing poorly, and the patriots needed encouragement. Hale's example helped strengthen support for the cause of independence.