Nathan Hale

Colonel Nathan Hale, 2nd Regiment, New Hampshire Continental Line

Nathan Hale was born September 23, 1743 in Hampstead, New Hampshire. He was the son of Moses and Elizabeth (Wheeler) Hale. In his teens he moved with his family to Rindge, New Hampshire. He married Abigail Grout, daughter of Colonel John and Joanna (Boynton) Grout of Lunenburg, Massachusetts. At the organization of the town of Rindge in 1768, Nathan Hale was chosen as the first constable of the town. He was moderator of the annual town meetings in 1773, 1774 and 1775.

As early as 1774 he was captain of a company of “minutemen” and on the alarm of the battle of Lexington, April 19, 1775, led his company at once to the field.

On April 23, 1775, he was commissioned as a Major in Colonel James Reed’s 3rd New Hampshire Regiment. He fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill attached to Captain Ezra Towne’s Company of the 3rd New Hampshire. On January 1, 1776, he was retained and commissioned as a Major in the 2nd Continental Infantry Regiment (the temporary designation for the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment, Continental Line).

Major Nathan Hale was transferred to the 2nd New Hampshire, Continental Line under Colonel Enoch Poor and commissioned as Lieutenant Colonel with duties as Deputy Commander on November 8, 1776.

When Colonel Enoch Poor was promoted to Brigadier General, Lieutenant Colonel Hale was promoted to Colonel and assumed command of the 2nd New Hampshire on April 2, 1777. In the same year he served under Major General Arthur St. Clair at the Siege of Fort Ticonderoga. The Siege took place from July 2–6, 1777. British forces under Generals John Burgoyne and William Phillips numbered some 7,000 men as well as about 800 Indians and Canadians. Officers and Men of the Continental Army under St. Clair were increasingly nervous over the opposing hill named Mount Defiance. If cannon were placed on Mt. Defiance by the British, then Ticonderoga would have no defense.

Apparently, Major General St. Clair did not believe cannon could be placed there as it was nearly impossible to scale. However, on July 4, 1777 the British managed to place two cannon and soldiers atop Mt. Defiance. It was a checkmate move by General Burgoyne. Major General St. Clair met with his officers and decided to escape in the night. The sick and wounded were to sail by ship further south. Major General St. Clair assigned this task of getting the many sick and wounded to safety while evacuating Ticonderoga in the dark to Colonel Nathan Hale. If the sick and wounded were to survive they had to move fast to escape, but they could not move fast enough as they straggled in a long line towards Hubbardton (in present day Vermont).

The uncontested surrender of Ticonderoga caused an uproar in the American public and in its military circles, as Ticonderoga was widely believed to be virtually impregnable, and a vital point of defense. Major General St. Clair and his superior, Major General Philip Schuyler, were vilified by Congress. Both were eventually exonerated in courts martial, but their careers were adversely affected. Schuyler had already lost his command to Major General Horatio Gates by the time of the court martial, and St. Clair held no more field commands for the remainder of the war.

General Burgoyne took over Fort Ticonderoga and Fort Independence while the Americans sheepishly slipped out in cover of darkness never defending themselves

Just a few days later, Colonel Nathan Hale was still retreating with many sick and wounded as they straggled into Hubbardton. During the Battle of Hubbardton, he and the sick and wounded were discovered and were taken prisoner by the British on July 7, 1777. His surrender there was the subject of controversy. He was later released on limited parole by the British on the condition that Hale was not allowed to serve in the Army and he had to come back to the enemy lines. He returned to Rindge, New Hampshire on July 20, 1777. Since he was not exchanged, Hale returned to prison on June 14, 1779. Colonel Hale had hoped to be able to exonerate himself after a prisoner exchange. Colonel Nathan Hale died on September 23, 1780 in New Utrecht, Brooklyn while in prison.

Sources: R. Safford Hale. Genealogy of descendants of Thomas Hale of Walton, England, and of Newbury, Mass. (Salem, 1889), 199; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army (Baltimore, 1914), 204; Richard M. Ketchum, (1997). Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War. (New York, 1997); Rev. Abner Morse, The Genealogy of the Descendants of Capt. John Grout (Boston, 1857); The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 31 (1877); Selected Wartime Service Records for Colonel Nathan Hale.