Upon his seizure, Nathan Hale was found in possession of indisputable incriminating documentation of his spying. He had concealed documents written in Latin in the soles of his shoes, and he had not used what was then known as invisible ink on his writings. He was immediately taken to General Howe’s Headquarters in New York City. Although impressed by Hale’s courage and demeanor after so eloquently confessing to spying and offering a spirited and patriotic justification of his actions, Howe ordered him to be hanged as a spy the following morning.
Hale was confined that night at Beekman Mansion at Turtle Bay, Howe’s Headquarters. After requesting some writing materials, Hale wrote two letters that evening in the makeshift greenhouse prison cell. One was to his mother and another to a close friend and fellow officer. Provost-Marshal William Cunningham, a hated and brutal British officer, destroyed the letters upon learning of them, never to be seen again. Cunningham also refused Hale’s request for a Bible.
Nathan Hale, the 21 year old American Patriot – never married, no children, and who owned nothing but his dignity, his honor and his love of his country – was marched to Rutgers Orchard the following morning as the sun rose. In the shadow of the apple tree used as his gallows, he stood. When asked by Cunningham if he had any statement to offer, Nathan Hale defiantly stood at attention and BOLDLY proclaimed: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country!” Nathan Hale was hanged and his body was left hanging for several days by order of William Cunningham.
Two-Hundred and Thirty-Five years ago, and 185 years before President John Fitzgerald Kennedy asked, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country;” Nathan Hale answered that question. Let us never forget how his answer!!!
Robert Shurtleff – Revolutionary War Soldier
On May 20, 1782, 21 year old Robert Shurtleff joined the 4th Massachusetts Regiment at Middleborough, Massachusetts. The young trooper had walked thirty miles from the farm in Plimpton, Massachusetts to join the fight for Independence.
Shurtleff was assigned to the light infantry command under Captain George Webb. Webb’s infantry marched north to defend the Hudson River crossings at West Point, New York.
At a place known as No man’s Land near the Tappan Zee crossing, a savage battle began. Robert Shurtleff fearlessly held the ground throughout the bloody battle but was seriously wounded by both a musket ball to the upper left thigh and a saber slash across the forehead. Although seriously wounded, Shurtleff survived the battle but was forced to seek medical treatment. Shurtleff was treated for the saber wound but did not disclose the fact that there was also a musket ball wound to the upper left thigh. Shurtleff somehow continued on. Shortly after the battle concluded, Shurtleff removed the musket ball without assistance or other medical treatment.
Weeks passed before the next skirmish. Shurtleff was now hindered by a noticeable limp and was reassigned to General John Patterson’s Brigade as an Orderly. Having also developed a high fever, Shurtleff was once again forced to seek medical treatment, this time at a hospital. While being treated there by Dr. Barnabus Binney, he discovered why Shurtleff had earlier concealed the bullet wound. Robert Shurtleff was actually Deborah Sampson!
Deborah Sampson wanted to do more to help secure the Independence of a young Nation. As a young woman, she would not have been allowed to serve as a soldier. She used the name Robert Shurtleff, her deceased brother’s name. Dr. Binney arranged for her Honorable Discharge. Deborah Sampson, (aka) Robert Shurtleff, was Honorably Discharged at West Point, New York on October 25, 1783.
Paul Revere petitioned the U.S. Congress in 1804 to recognize her as our Nation’s First Woman Soldier and give her a pension of $4 a month. In 1818 her pension was doubled. Deborah married Benjamin Gannett and had three children. She died April 29, 1827 at the age of 66.
On May 23, 1983, then Governor Michael J. Dukakis officially proclaimed her as America’s First Woman Soldier.