Saturday, June 3, 2023

At Yale with Nathan Hale


Nathan Hale is remembered today as the quintessential patriot who proclaimed that his only regret was that he had but one life to give for his country. We don’t actually know for sure if Hale said those words, but we do know that he gave his life on 22 September 1776 when he was hanged as a rebel spy. He was only twenty-one years old and had graduated from Yale College three years earlier. He had been at school through the rise of revolution and conflict, undoubtedly discussing with his erudite peers the events that led to the Declaration of Independence and Hale’s ultimate sacrifice.

Two months after turning fourteen, Nathan began his collegiate life at Yale alongside his brother, Enoch, who was nineteen months his senior. The brothers were close friends and roommates, distinguished by their peers as Primus and Secundus. Even the Yale billing records refer to Nathan as ‘Hale 2.’ The brothers seem to have been rarely separated until after their graduation in 1773.

They shared several friends who also played their part in the American Revolution. Of these young men, Benjamin Tallmadge would eventually become the best known, with the possible exception of Nathan himself. Tallmadge became a highly successful officer and spymaster in the Continental Army, but at Yale he was just another student, if a particularly intelligent and overachieving one. In his memoirs, Tallmadge admitted that his preparation for Yale meant that ‘I had not much occasion to study during the first two years of my collegiate life, which I have always thought had a tendency to make me idle.’ 

One evening in 1771, this idleness led to troublemaking when Tallmadge, the Hale brothers, and some other students broke several windows on campus. One can imagine that Enoch, who was studying to be a minister, must have felt particularly repentant when the bill was sent to their father. Benjamin’s father was also a minister, who might have sent his son a strongly worded reprimand when he was informed of the extra charges.

The boys were not generally troublemakers, however, and a great deal of their free time was spent in intellectual debate as part of the Linonia Society. This fraternity, dedicated to ‘the promotion of friendship and useful knowledge’ gave the young men the opportunity to discuss, debate, and inquire on topics from mathematics and astronomy to religion and philosophy. They undoubtedly had lively talks about the current events of the day and the path to revolution, possibly even discussing Joseph Addison’s Cato from which Nathan’s alleged last words were paraphrased.

In 1771, Nathan served as scribe for the Linonia Society, and his name appears at the end of the surviving meeting minutes. He recorded event participants, questions presented, and topics discussed. One of the items he records is the creation of the society’s library. Since Yale made books available only on-site, the Linonians decided to supply their own library with books that could be checked out by members. The Hale brothers and other members each made contributions of a varied collection of books, including the works of Shakespeare, The Vicar of Wakefield, Rollins Ancient History, Paradise Lost, and The Art of Speaking

When the Hale brothers graduated in 1773, Nathan participated in a debate on the education of women. The transcript of this debate has not survived, but the fact that Nathan later opened lessons to young women at the school he managed gives us insight to the strength of his feelings on this topic. During his brief time as a schoolmaster before entering the army, Nathan taught girls from 5-7am before his male students arrived for the day.

Through his experience at Yale, we can see the development of Nathan Hale into an intelligent, loyal patriot who was willing to sacrifice all, even his life, for his ideals and for his country.

This article was originally published at the blog of Author Salina B Baker as part of the But One Life Blog Tour in June 2022.

Read more about the life of Nathan Hale in But One Life, available on Kindle and in paperback. Read it FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

Friday, June 2, 2023

Do You Know Nathan Hale?


When you hear the name Nathan Hale, you may recall words something like, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.’ Perhaps you remember that Hale was relatively young and an obviously poor spy. However, most Americans think of little else besides a vague sense of patriotism when thinking of Nathan Hale.

Nathan was born on 6 June 1755, on a farm in Coventry, Connecticut, approximately in the middle of a brood of a dozen children born to Elizabeth (Strong) and Richard Hale. His closest sibling was his brother, Enoch, who was nineteen months older. These two brothers were tutored by Reverend Joseph Huntington, though not all the Hale children shared their intellectual pursuits.

When it came time to attend Yale College in 1769, Nathan and Enoch went together, sharing a dorm room as they had shared a bedroom at home. The boys’ mother, Elizabeth, had died two years earlier, soon followed by their youngest sister, Susannah. Their father, Richard, remarried Abigail Adams (not THAT one) months before Nathan and Enoch set out for their university education.

At ages fourteen and fifteen, Nathan and Enoch would already have learned their Virgil and Cicero from Reverend Huntington and would have read their New Testament in Greek. While this might have been impressive to their Coventry neighbors, it was the norm for erudite young men entering Yale. In fact, one who became a best friend of Nathan’s was Benjamin Tallmadge, who was so well prepared by his own minister father that he sometimes found himself bored enough to get into trouble.

Alongside Tallmadge, the Hale brothers broke windows on campus one evening, incurring an extra billing that had to be explained to their fathers. However, most of the time the boys were well behaved and hard working. They were members of the Linonia Society, a club for debate, rhetoric, and civil discourse. One can imagine their conversations as the current events of the day were leading down a path to war. Perhaps they discussed the Boston Massacre when it occurred and tried to discern whether it had been a riot or a firing line as they compared varied reports.

They graduated in 1773 shortly before arrival of news of the Tea Act having been passed by parliament. Enoch continued his studies to become a minister, while Nathan took a teaching position. At commencement, Nathan had participated in a debate regarding the education of women. Once he was established at a Latin school in New London, he did more than speak in favor of increased opportunities for females. He offered classes for girls from 5-7am before the boys arrived for the day.

Nathan’s time as a schoolmaster did not last long. When shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, he left his position to become an officer in the New London artillery company. The summer of 1775 was spent drilling and recruiting before marching to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in September. Hale’s surviving army diary and letters reveal his disillusionment with army life and desire to do something that would make a real impact. The soldiers spent most of the winter of 1775-6 battling smallpox, hunger, and cold rather than the British.

During his time in the Continental Army, Nathan participated in a raid that successfully stole a British supply sloop and an attempt to set fire to another. However, most of his time was spent drilling and foraging for food. It was not the glorious experience he had been hoping for, so when the opportunity came to be of notable service, he grasped at it.

His friends and fellow officers did not believe that Nathan was well-suited to espionage. He was friendly, good-looking, and naturally trusting. He was intelligent but not cunning. Nothing they could say could change his mind. Nathan was determined to serve his country by sneaking onto Long Island and discovering the enemy’s next move.

It took only a few days for Nathan to be captured by Major Robert Rogers. He carried incriminating notes taken in Latin and confessed his mission. With little hope of mercy or a prisoner exchange, Nathan spent the night of 21 September 1776 in Beekman’s greenhouse in New York City. The next morning, he was hanged, a trial being deemed unnecessary given the evidence against him.

The last words often attributed to Nathan Hale, ‘I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country,’ are paraphrased from Cato by Joseph Addison, a play that he likely read and discussed during his time at Yale. The Essex Journal ascribed another Cato paraphrase to Hale, reporting that he said, ‘If I had ten thousand lives, I would lay them all down.’ Whether Nathan said both or neither of these lines, British Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie, who witnessed Hale’s execution, recorded that he ‘behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good officer to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief and desired the spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.’

This article was originally published at Historical Novels R Us on 10 June 2022 as part of the But One Life Blog Tour.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Failed Spies: Nathan Hale and John Andre


Espionage played an important role during the American Revolution, with both sides in the conflict experiencing some victories and tragic defeats in this area. British spymasters had the advantages of experience and expertise, while Americans benefited from working in their native land with a better idea of who could be trusted and who could not. Very early in the conflict, General George Washington stated his desperate need for knowledge of the enemy. 

‘I do most earnestly entreat you and General Clinton to exert yourselves to accomplish this most desirable end. Leave no stone unturned, nor do not stick at expense, to bring this to pass, as I was never more uneasy than on account of my want of knowledge on this score,’ Washington wrote to General William Heath seventeen days before Captain Nathan Hale was hanged as a rebel spy on 22 September 1776.

Today, Nathan Hale is remembered as the quintessential patriot. He was recently graduated from Yale when he joined the Continental Army with many other young men of his acquaintance. When he learned that a volunteer was needed to discover the information needed by Washington, he did not hesitate, despite the advice of many friends who insisted he was not well-suited to the mission. 

It was not only because of his open, honest personality that they attempted to dissuade him. Spywork was considered a low, dishonorable duty. One friend, who tried to talk Hale out of his mission, reported later that Hale had insisted, ‘I wish to be useful, and every kind of service, necessary to the public good, becomes honorable by being necessary.’

Whether due to pride or excessive patriotism, Hale set forth upon a mission to Long Island, New York, his Yale diploma in hand to support his disguise as a Latin tutor. Hale had briefly served as a schoolmaster between graduation and army service, so his ruse should have come naturally to him. However, he was a trusting and friendly man, unlike the clever spy-catchers employed by the British. Within days of leaving his regiment, Hale was captured and executed, possibly with a paraphrase of Cato on his lips that his only regret was that he had but one life to give for his country. His body was left hanging for days to warn other would-be spies.

In the meantime, Major John André was making a name for himself in the British ranks as one who had connections and could get information. He was, like Hale, young, erudite, and eager to serve his country. André believed he had found the key to securing his future when he received correspondence from American General Benedict Arnold. The hero of Saratoga was willing to turn his coat for the right price.

Arnold had married Peggy Shippen a month earlier, and she was friends, or possibly more, with André. Together, they convinced the general that the British would show him greater appreciation and compensation, and they were bound to win the war anyway. In the spring of 1780, Arnold informed André that he was expecting to gain command of West Point, an important series of forts that controlled traffic on the Hudson River. He was willing to turn it over to the British in return for cash and a position in British command.

On 21 September 1780, almost precisely four years after the death of Nathan Hale, John André was captured after a secret meeting with General Benedict Arnold to finalize their plan. He begged that Washington treat him as an officer rather than a spy. 

‘Let me hope, Sir, that if aught in my character impresses you with esteem towards me, if aught in my misfortune marks me as the victim of policy and not resentment, I shall experience the operation of these feelings in your breast by being informed that I am not to die on a gibbet.’ Washington refused his request, and André was hanged on 2 October 1780.

Other American espionage efforts were more successful than Hale’s, most notably the Culper Spy Ring, managed by Hale’s good friend and Yale classmate, Benjamin Tallmadge. The names of those involved in this successful ring were not revealed until over a century after the war had ended. Tallmadge also played a part in John André’s capture. One can imagine he had a sense of justice served as Hale’s British counterpart shared his fate.

This article was originally published at History, the Interesting Bits on 6 June 2022 as part of the But One Life Blog Tour. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

How Long Island became a Summer Destination


Good morning, dear readers. As you know, I am currently working on a biography of James Alexander Hamilton, lifelong New York resident and pretty fantastic guy. So, today, I'm excited to welcome a guest who is sharing a bit of New York history with us. Have you ever wondered how Long Island became a famous destination for summer vacationers? Inez Foster is here to tell us!

Welcome, Inez!

~ Samantha


How Long Island became a Summer Destination

Guest Post by I.M. Foster

By the later part of the nineteenth century, Manhattan had grown into a major metropolitan center and financial hub. Wealthy gentlemen liked to be in the thick of the business world, while their socialite wives enjoyed the cultural aspects of big city life. For the middle class, it was seen as the place to rise up the ladder and meet influential people, maybe even marry well. As for the poor, in many cases, they could afford to go nowhere else. 

As the population of Manhattan grew, however, the wealthy and middle class sought to build their homes away from the crowded streets, in a more serene environment. They began to move their families further and further uptown and across the river to the City of Brooklyn, settling in residential neighborhoods like Park Slope The poor, too, hoped to escape the close quarters of downtown Manhattan, and many an Irishman, Italian, or German crossed the river to places like Greenpoint and Williamsburg. By 1898, Manhattan had annexed the Bronx and Staten Island and consolidated with the City of Brooklyn and half of Queens County, both of which were on Long Island, becoming the five boroughs of Greater New York.  

This gradual migration created a demand for better transportation. After all, men still had to frequent downtown to do business and their wives continued to enjoy the shopping and cultural entertainment the busy streets of Manhattan had to offer.  As a result, around 1878, the first el train was erected in Manhattan, eventually crossing over to Brooklyn, and thus affording residents of the outlying areas the best of both worlds.

In addition, the mid-eighteen-sixties had seen the Long Island Railroad head east to Long Island, opening up a world that had yet to be explored by most city-dwellers: the wide-open spaces and beckoning shorelines of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Populated mostly by farming communities, there were a few villages that became community hubs, Patchogue being one of them. It was known for the manufacturing of items such as lace and lumber, as well as for having, not one, but two, of its own department stores: Swezey and Newins and Hammond Mills. Best of all, it was away from the sweltering hot city streets, at least for part of the year.

Long Island offered a perfect playground for the rich and famous, many of whom built luxurious summer homes along both the north and the south shores. As the Railroad became more accessible, the opportunity was opened to middle-class and blue-collar workers as well. While they might not build grand homes, they could enjoy a day away from the grit and grime of the city, or maybe even a weekend. Soon large hotels and seaside cottages were being built to accommodate the rich and middle-class vacationers who came to enjoy the sun-drenched beaches. Patchogue was one of the villages along the south shore that served as a favorite destination. Hotels, boarding houses, and bungalows along the bay welcomed visitors from all economic backgrounds and became what author Hans Henke dubbed the Queen City of the South Shore.

Murder on Oak Street by I.M. Foster

New York, 1904. After two years as a coroner’s physician for the city of New York, Daniel O'Halleran is more frustrated than ever. What’s the point when the authorities consistently brush aside his findings for the sake of expediency? So when his fiancée leaves him standing at the altar on their wedding day, he takes it as a sign that it's time to move on and eagerly accepts an offer to assist the local coroner in the small Long Island village of Patchogue.

Though the coroner advises him that life on Long Island is far more subdued than that of the city, Daniel hasn’t been there a month when the pretty librarian, Kathleen Brissedon, asks him to look into a two-year-old murder case that took place in the city. Oddly enough, the case she’s referring to was the first one he ever worked on, and the verdict never sat right with him.

Eager for the chance to investigate it anew, Daniel agrees to look into it in his spare time, but when a fresh murder occurs in his own backyard, he can’t shake his gut feeling that the two cases are connected. Can he discover the link before another life is taken, or will murder shake the peaceful South Shore village once again?

Connect with I.M. Foster

I. M. Foster is the pen name author Inez Foster uses to write her South Shore Mystery series, set on Edwardian Long Island. Inez also writes historical romances under the pseudonym Andrea Matthews, and has so far published two series in that genre: the Thunder on the Moor series, a time-travel romance set on the 16th century Anglo-Scottish Borders, and the Cross of Ciaran series, which follows the adventures of a fifth century Celt who finds himself in love with a twentieth century archaeologist. 

Inez is a historian and librarian, who love to read and write and search around for her roots, genealogically speaking. She has a BA in History and an MLS in Library Science and enjoys the research almost as much as she does writing the story. In fact, many of her ideas come to her while doing casual research or digging into her family history. Inez is a member of the Long Island Romance Writers, the Historical Novel Society, and Sisters in Crime.

Connect with Inez through her website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Book Bub, Amazon Author Page, and Goodreads

Thursday, May 25, 2023

If you could change history, would you?


We all know the past is the past, but what if you could change history?

We asked eight historical authors to set aside the facts and rewrite the history they love. The results couldn’t be more tantalizing.

What if Julius Caesar never conquered Gaul?

What if Arthur Tudor lived and his little brother never became King Henry VIII?

What if Abigail Adams persuaded the Continental Congress in 1776 to give women the right to vote and to own property?

Dive in to our collection of eight short stories as we explore the alternate endings of events set in ancient Rome, Britain, the United States, and France.

An anthology of the Historical Writers Forum.

Get it for 99c on Amazon or read it FREE with Kindle Unlimited!

Meet the Authors:

Samantha Wilcoxson

Samantha Wilcoxson is an author of emotive biographical fiction and strives to help readers connect with history's unsung heroes. She also writes nonfiction for Pen & Sword History.

Samantha loves sharing trips to historic places with her family and spending time by the lake with a glass of wine. Her most recent work is Women of the American Revolution, which explores the lives of 18th century women, and she is currently working on a biography of James Alexander Hamilton.


Sharon Bennett Connolly

Historian Sharon Bennett Connolly is the best-selling author of five non-fiction history books, with a new release coming soon.

A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Sharon has studied history academically and just for fun – and has even worked as a tour guide at a castle. She writes the popular history blog, www.historytheinterestingbits.com. 

Sharon regularly gives talks on women's history; she is a feature writer for All About History magazine and her TV work includes Australian Television's 'Who Do You Think You Are?'




Cathie Dunn

Cathie Dunn writes historical fiction, mystery, and romance. The focus of her historical fiction novels is on strong women through time.

She loves researching for her novels, delving into history books, and visiting castles and historic sites.

Cathie's stories have garnered awards and praise from reviewers and readers for their authentic description of the past.




Karen Heenan

As an only child, Karen Heenan learned early that boredom was the enemy. Shortly after she discovered perpetual motion, and has rarely been seen holding still since.

She lives in Lansdowne, PA, just outside Philadelphia, where she grows much of her own food and makes her own clothes. She is accompanied on her quest for self-sufficiency by a very patient husband and an ever-changing number of cats. 

One constant: she is always writing her next book.




Salina B Baker

Salina Baker is a multiple award winning author and avid student of Colonial America and the American Revolution. 

Her lifelong passion for history and all things supernatural led her to write historical fantasy. Reading, extensive traveling and graveyard prowling with her husband keep that passion alive. 

Salina lives in Austin, Texas.




Virginia Crow

Virginia Crow is an award-winning Scottish author who grew up in Orkney and now lives in Caithness.

Her favourite genres to write are fantasy and historical fiction, sometimes mixing the two together. Her academic passions are theology and history, her undergraduate degree in the former and her postgraduate degree in the latter, and aspects of these frequently appear within her writings.

When not writing, Virginia is usually to be found teaching music. She believes wholeheartedly in the power of music, especially as a tool of inspiration, and music is often playing when she writes. Her life is governed by two spaniels, Orlando and Jess, and she enjoys exploring the Caithness countryside with these canine sidekicks.

She loves cheese, music, and films, but hates mushrooms.




Elizabeth K Corbett

Elizabeth K. Corbett is an author, book reviewer, and historian who has recently published a short story, “Marie Thérèse Remembers.” She is currently working on her debut novel, a gothic romance set in Jacksonian America.

When she is not writing, she teaches academic writing, something she is very passionate about. She believes in empowering students to express themselves and speak their truth through writing. Additionally, she is a women’s historian who studies the lives of women in eighteenth and nineteenth century North America. Mostly, she is fascinated by the lives of the lesser known women in history.

A resident of gorgeous coastal New Jersey, she takes inspiration from the local history to write her historical fiction. She is an avid reader who adores tea and coffee.




Stephanie Churchill

After serving time as a corporate paralegal in Washington, D.C., then staying home to raise her children, Stephanie Churchill stumbled upon writing, a career path she never saw coming.

As a result of writing a long-winded review of the book Lionheart, Stephanie became fast friends with its New York Times best-selling author, Sharon Kay Penman, who uttered the fateful words, “Have you ever thought about writing?” 

Stephanie’s books are filled with action and romance, loyalty and betrayal. Her writing takes on a cadence that is sometimes literary, sometimes genre fiction, relying on deeply-drawn and complex characters while exploring the subtleties of imperfect people living in a gritty, sometimes dark world.

She lives in the Minneapolis area with her husband, two children, and two dogs while trying to survive the murderous intentions of a Minnesota winter.




Michael Ross

Best selling author Michael Ross is a lover of history and great stories.

He's a retired software engineer turned author, with three children and five grandchildren, living in Newton, Kansas with his wife of forty years. He was born in Lubbock, Texas, and still loves Texas.

Michael attended Rice University as an undergraduate, and Portland State University for his graduate degree. He has degrees in computer science, software engineering, and German. In his spare time, Michael loves to go fishing, riding horses, and play with his grandchildren, who are currently all under six years old. 




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