Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Enemy Spies
Nathan Hale and John Andre

by Karen Deal Robinson

If you enjoyed reading this story, click here to see more of my writings.

This book, which was written for middle-school readers, is complete on this site. It is also now available as a paperback at


This book can be read two ways. The odd-numbered chapters are about the American spy Nathan Hale. The even-numbered chapters are about the British spy John Andre. If you read all the odd numbered chapters first, and then all the even numbered chapters, you will read about events in the order in which they occurred. If you read them in the order in which they appear in this book, you'll be more likely to see the eerie parallels in the lives and deaths of these two spies of the American Revolution. In particular, note the people who show up in both stories: Benedict Arnold, George Washington, John Montresor, Benjamin Tallmadge, and Alexander Hamilton. Notice the time of year, late September. Notice the Beekman Mansion, the papers hidden in shoes, the boats and pocket watches and letters. And note that each of the two men had a friend who was present at the death of the other.

e-mail for questions or comments.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to top
return to table of contents

Chapter 1 September 7, 1773 New Haven, Connecticut

On a sunny fall morning, three young men walked together along a city street. Horses and carts and carriages clopped along on the packed earth beside them.

"Hold fast a minute, Tallmadge." Nathan stopped in front of Benedict Arnold's drug store. "I want to go in here one more time, before we leave New Haven."

Ben Tallmadge punched him on the shoulder. "What do you want from the apothecary, Hale Second? Some cure for a lovesick heart? I know half the girls in New Haven are in love with you. Which one is it that makes you so sorry to go? Or do you regret that you've not yet kissed them all?"

Nathan laughed and shook his head. He'd kissed one or two girls this past year. But it was his college friends he'd miss the most, Tallmadge and Wyllys and Hull and the others. He'd known them for four years, ever since he came to Yale. But now they were eighteen, ready to graduate and go out into the world as adults.

Nathan's brother Enoch said innocently, "'Tis not a cure Brother Nathan seeks here, but books. And so do I. Arnold's shop has a greater selection of books than any other in the neighborhood. We shall need books in our new callings."

Nathan gave Enoch a grateful look. Sometimes he got tired of Tallmadge's constant teasing. He realized suddenly that he'd miss Enoch more than anyone else.

Anyone looking at them would have known they were brothers. They both had the same light brown hair, cut short in a time when most men wore their hair in a braid. They both had a long straight nose and a wide straight mouth, and one eyebrow that raised slightly above the other, as though a little amused all the time.

Enoch was the serious, quiet one. At college they called him "Hale First", because he was the older brother. He had studied to become a minister.

Nathan was more athletic. He'd set a record at Yale for the broad jump, and could kick a football higher than anyone in his dorm. He was planning to be a teacher, at least for now. In his secret heart, he thought he'd like to do scientific experiments, like Dr. Benjamin Franklin.

Ben Tallmadge looked nothing like the brothers. He had wild curly black hair, and a head full of wild, romantic, dramatic ideas. He too would be a teacher for a while.

"Take your mind out of the gutter, now, Friend Tallmadge," said Nathan, "and come improve it with literature. Maybe you'll find that copy of 'Cato' you've been seeking." He opened the door and went in.

Tallmadge lingered a moment in the doorway. "Ah, 'Cato'!" he said. He raised his hand in a dramatic gesture and quoted, "'Who would not be that youth? What a pity it is that we can die but once to serve our country!'"

Enoch shook his head. "I hope it will not come to that," he said seriously.

The man behind the counter nodded to them. His black eyes watched them sharply. "Welcome, Brothers Hale. I have a new shipment of books. Have you any money this time? I'm not a lending library, you know."

"We have money," said Enoch. "A graduation gift from our family."

"Who is your young friend?" said Arnold.

"Damon," said Nathan mischievously, and all three of them burst out laughing.

"My true name is Tallmadge," said Ben. "Sometimes my friend calls me Damon, and I nickname him Pythias."

Arnold nodded. He didn't need an explanation. Everyone knew the ancient story of Damon and Pythias, the two friends who had each been ready to die to save the other. "You are fortunate to have such a friend. Did you say you were seeking a copy of 'Cato'? I have one, for eight shillings." He pulled a book from the shelf behind him and handed it to Tallmadge. "You college boys do like those old Roman heroes, don't you?" he went on. "It may be that you will see those times come again."

They stared at him. "What do you mean, sir?" asked Tallmadge.

Arnold lowered his voice. "I mean that once again you may see the heroes of a republic throw off the chains of tyranny. Talk is that the citizens of Boston will not allow the next shipment of tea to land."

"They say," said Enoch mildly, "that even with the tea tax it costs less than what the smugglers would charge."

"That's not the point, boy!" Arnold snapped. "The point is tyranny. We are being taxed without having a vote."

"My brother understands that." Nathan jumped to Enoch's defense. "It was only an observation. We do not buy tea in my family."

"Do you think it will come to war?" said Enoch.

Arnold's dark eyes glinted. "Does that thought disturb you? For myself, I would welcome it."

A few minutes later the friends stood outside the shop once more, with their new books in their hands. "What do you think of him?" Tallmadge asked.

"Who, Arnold?" said Enoch. "They say he's a smuggler, practically a pirate. But that's idle gossip. He's certainly a man with a temper. What do you make of his motto?" He pointed to the sign above the door. Below Arnold's name, were the Latin words Sibi Totique.

"'For himself and for everyone'," Nathan translated.

"I make it 'Completely for himself'," said Tallmadge.

Nathan laughed. "Why, because he charged you eight shillings for your book? It's not such a bad price. He seems all right to me."

"He would," said Tallmadge. "You like everyone you meet, Hale Second.

Nathan shrugged that off. "One thing I'll say for him, he seems willing to fight for freedom. If it does come to war, I expect it won't be long before all America knows the name of Benedict Arnold."

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 2

November, 1776 New York City, New York

"These drawings are excellent," said General Howe, shuffling through a stack of papers. "You are talented. And your report will be very useful."

The young British captain, John Andre, smiled. "Thank you, sir. It was a shame we had to surrender Fort Saint John in Quebec, but as you see I made use of my time as prisoner of war. Since the worsted-stockinged knaves moved us from town to town, I made maps and drawings as I went. I'm grateful for the prisoner exchange that set me free and brought me here."

"What is your desire now?" asked the general. "A bright young man like yourself should go far in the British Army."

John tried to hide his delight at the general's words. "My present ambition is to become an aide-de-camp for one of our generals."

"Hmm. Perhaps it can be done. General Gray is in need of an aide-de-camp. In the meantime, I invite you to spend the night here at my headquarters. The Beekman estate is one of the finest in New York. I will have one of my officers show you around."

General Howe beckoned to a red-coated soldier. The soldier bowed to John. "I am Captain Montresor," he said. He was a handsome man in his forties, with a thin gray mustache and a friendly face. "I am an engineer. From what I saw of your drawings you have studied engineering as well."

John nodded. "Engineering and mathematics. But I have an interest in art and music and the theater as well."

He followed Captain Montresor out of the general's study and down a sunny corridor. He caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror and adjusted his lace neck cloth. A bit of white powder had fallen from his hair onto his shoulder; he brushed it off. He was twenty-five, and had the fine features and the olive skin and black eyes of his French ancestors. Ladies found him irresistible.

Montresor chuckled. "Theater, eh? You may have a chance to indulge that interest. General Howe is fond of spectacles of that sort. What do you think of this villa? Just the place for a theatrical production, don't you think?"

"It's beautiful," said John. "And the grounds are magnificent too. Is that a greenhouse I see, across that lawn?"

Montresor nodded. "Yes, though most of the delicate plants have died since we displaced the rebel owner. We soldiers are not gardeners." He stared out the window for almost a minute without saying anything more. He seemed to be lost in thought. Then he turned to John. "There was an interesting incident concerning that greenhouse, about two months ago."

"Yes?" said John. Any bit of gossip he could learn about General Howe or his staff might be useful to him.

Montresor looked out the window again. "It was the night the fire burned half of New York City. A patrol brought a prisoner to General Howe. The prisoner was dressed in plain brown clothes, but when he was searched, we found drawings of our fortifications, and lists of our weapons and troops. He admitted then that he was a captain in the American army, and had come to New York as a spy. You know, of course, what the penalty for spying is."

John shrugged. "Of course. Death by hanging. Serve the villain right."

"Yes, I suppose so," said Montresor. "He spent the night in that greenhouse, under heavy guard, and was hanged the next morning, in a nearby orchard. I saw him die."

"You seem moved," said John. "Why should you be? He was just a spy, and deserved his fate."

"I admit he caught my interest," said Montresor. "His drawings were not the usual sort. They were as fine as your own. And the notes were written in Latin. He had a good education. He gave quite a stirring speech at the gallows. Even quoted from 'Cato'."

John snorted politely. "'Cato'! Yes, these rebels are fond of Addison and his Roman rebels. If they want a play about Julius Caesar's assassination, they should read Shakespeare. He gives a truer picture of rebellion and treachery. I don't know how you could have any sympathy at all for a spy. If he was educated and an officer, he should have known better than to undertake such a dishonorable mission."

Montresor nodded again. "I agree with you, of course. But he didn't see it that way. He said his commander needed the information, and so his mission became honorable by being necessary."

John would have been shocked if he hadn't come to expect such statements from the rebels. "There's a fine set of morals for you! You could justify anything that way. No wonder they shoot at us from behind trees. Do you remember the name of your educated rebel spy?"

"He told the patrol his name was Nathaniel Hales, but that was his disguise name. It was really Hale. Captain Nathan Hale."

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 3 January, 1776 Camp Winter Hill, Boston, Massachusetts

"Tallmadge! Ben Tallmadge! What a pleasure to see you again! So you've enlisted too. Our old Yale friend Will Hull is somewhere about; we'll have to look him up before you go. He's in my regiment. We've become close friends the past few months." Nathan held the tent flap open. "Come in, come in out of the snow. Winter Hill always looks as though snow had fallen, with its white tents everywhere. But in January it really earns its name."

Tallmadge came in and sat on the rough camp chair by the cot. "I'm still your best friend, though," he said, with an engaging smile. "Damon and Pythias, right?"

"My brother Enoch is my best friend, and after that I don't make comparisons. I've told you that. But you and I will always be Damon and Pythias."

Tallmadge nodded, satisfied. "Wish I could be in your regiment too. Well, Hale Second, what do you think of army life? Quite a change from schoolteaching, I've found."

Nathan sat on the cot. "Yes," he said. "I thought I'd be a schoolteacher all my life. I enjoyed it. When the war is over, I'd like to return to it."

Tallmadge dug him in the ribs with his elbow. "Especially that class you taught for young ladies, eh? It wasn't enough for you to break the hearts of all the girls in New Haven, you had to go on and conquer New London as well."

Nathan pushed him away with a laugh. "Same old Tallmadge. I didn't teach that class to break hearts. I've always felt that girls should be allowed the same education as their brothers."

Tallmadge winked. "Yes, I heard you argue that point in our debate on graduation day. And I saw the girls in the audience wave their handkerchiefs to cheer you on."

"What good times we had at Yale!" said Nathan. "Those late night meetings in the dormitories, the plays we put on. If we'd had girls studying at Yale, you wouldn't have had to put on petticoats and act a girl's part in our last play."

"Well, we did what had to do, " said Tallmadge with a laugh. "Imagine girls going to college! Speaking of those days, have you heard of the exploits of your old friend Arnold?"

"Arnold?" Nathan tried to remember if there was anyone he'd known at Yale named Arnold. "Who do you mean?"

"Why Benedict Arnold, the bookseller."

"He's not my old friend," Nathan protested. "I only met him a time or two. I've heard a little about him. I heard how he and Ethan Allen took Fort Ticonderoga from the British, 'in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress!"'

"Yes, and Congress nearly made them give it back," said Tallmadge dryly. "But that's old news. Did you hear how Arnold and Montgomery marched to Quebec through the winter snows?"

"I had heard something about that. But news travels slowly. The last I heard they captured the fort at Saint John. But I've heard nothing about Quebec itself. Do you have more recent news?"

Tallmadge looked sly. "I'm good at gathering news. The siege of Quebec failed. At least it seemed that way. But it kept the British from invading us from the north, and that's what Washington really wanted. Arnold's a brigadier general now."

"You see?" said Nathan. "I told you he was courageous. Do you still think he's a rascal?"

"A man may be courageous and still be a rascal," Tallmadge retorted. "But I admit he's sacrificed much for his country. They say he was wounded at the siege of Quebec. I don't mind if he turns out to be a hero."

"I wonder whether we'll see action soon," said Nathan thoughtfully.

"We see it every day. From our camp, at least, we can hear the cannons firing, and see the shells falling on Boston."

"You know what I mean. I've been in the army nine months, and haven't been in a battle yet."

Tallmadge gave him a strange look. "Are you so eager for battle?"

"Eager? Not exactly. But this waiting is hard. I joined the army to be useful, and so far I've done nothing but practice marching. That and play checkers and football. I'd have been more use to my country if I'd stayed at home and taught school."

Tallmadge nodded. "You're right about schoolteaching being useful to the country. That's why I kept at it so long, and only joined the army last month. But I think the fighting is going to get heavier soon, and Washington will need every one of us. You'll get your chance to be useful, Hale Second. I don't doubt that at all."

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 4

September 20, 1780 New York City, New York

"Everything is ready, sir," said John, as he followed General Clinton into the study of the Beekman mansion. "Benedict Arnold is eager o meet with me. I will go up the Hudson River by ship, the warship Vulture. I will meet Arnold on the shore by Stony Point. He will give me the plans to the fort at West Point, and we will discuss the details of how the fort can be turned over to us with the least amount of bloodshed. We will also discuss how and when he will leave the Americans and join the British, and how much he will be paid."

John had come a long way in the past four years. He had gone to Philadelphia with General Howe. When Howe resigned, John and his friend Montresor and several other officers gave a grand farewell party for Howe. The party included a parade of ships, officers dressed as old-time knights acting out a joust, and officers' wives and daughters dressed as Turkish harem girls. Montresor had been in charge of the fireworks. John had been in charge of the ladies' costumes, and the drawings for the programs and tickets.

The new general, General Clinton, was too shy for spectacular parties. But he liked John very much, and even promoted him above men who had served in the army much longer.

John was now an adjutant general. That meant that though he had the rank of major, he was General Clinton's closest aide. He was also Clinton's chief intelligence officer.

They were back in New York now. General Clinton's headquarters were at another house, but he used the Beekman mansion as a hunting lodge, and visited it often.

"Arnold wants me to meet him out of uniform," John went on. "He says it would be too dangerous for him to meet with a uniformed British officer."

"Too dangerous!" exclaimed General Clinton. "What about the danger to you, if you should go so near enemy lines out of uniform? What if by some accident you should find yourself behind their lines? If you were captured wearing no uniform, you could be considered a spy."

As intelligence chief, John dealt with spies all the time. They were low-lifes, criminals who would sell anything for money. Spying was something a gentleman would never do. And yet sometimes he envied his spies for the excitement in their lives. It was like something out of a play.

He glanced out the window at the greenhouse where Montresor's American spy had spent his last night. Spying was more dangerous than any play. "I don't mind danger," he said, "if I can win the king's favor. If I manage to get West Point and Arnold too, I'm sure the King will make me a brigadier general."

"I'm sure of it too," said General Clinton. "But if you're caught behind enemy lines out of uniform, you could end up being hanged like a common criminal instead. You're like a son to me, John. Will you listen to my advice?"

John sighed and nodded. "What do you advise?"

"Good boy. Meet with General Arnold under a flag of truce. It's not uncommon for enemies to talk under a flag of truce. And whatever you do, there are three important rules you must follow, as long as you are away from your ship: Do not go behind American lines. Do not carry any papers that might incriminate you. And do not, under any circumstances, take off your British uniform. Will you promise me to follow those three rules?"

John sighed. So much for his exciting adventure. "Yes, I promise," he said.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 5 September 10, 1776 Harlem Heights, New York

"General Washington desperately needs information about the plans of the British army," said Colonel Knowlton. He looked slowly around the table at his Rangers. They met in a large tent, lit by a glowing lantern. "Another disaster like the Battle of Long Island could mean the end of the Revolution. He asked me to find a volunteer to go behind enemy lines and find out what he can."

"You mean as a scout?" said one of the men doubtfully. "He'd be picked up by the patrols as soon as he set foot on Long Island."

"I don't mean a scout, exactly. To avoid being caught he'd have to go out of uniform, in disguise."

The men broke out in a low murmur of protest.

"You mean be a spy?"

"We're soldiers, not sneaks and scoundrels."

"Find some cutthroat who'll go for the money, but don't ask soldiers to play the part of a spy!"

"I don't mind risking death in battle, be I won't risk being hung like a dog."

Nathan listened from the door of the tent. He was still weak from a recent fever, and he'd come late to the meeting.

"We can't trust a hired spy," said Knowlton. "We need someone who can make intelligent drawings and notes, someone with an education. Will any of you go? General Washington will not command anyone to undertake such a mission, but he desperately needs a volunteer."

The Rangers were silent. Nathan closed his eyes. He was so tired. But the thought of the Revolution ending so soon in bitter defeat was unbearable. He still hadn't been in battle. How could he go home to his father and brothers and sisters and tell them the war was lost because no one would volunteer for a mission Washington desperately needed? "I'll do it," he said slowly.

"Thank you, Captain Hale," said Colonel Knowlton, giving him a grateful look. "I'll arrange for you to meet with General Washington to get your instructions."

Nathan walked out of the tent into the starry night. His friend William Hull followed him. "Don't do it, Hale Second," he said in a low voice. "It's not too late to change your mind. Let them find someone else."

"No one else is willing. And I'm tired of waiting. I've been with the army for over a year, and I've done nothing but play checkers."

"You captured the supply ship," argued Hull. "That's the sort of thing you're good at. We're soldiers. There will be plenty of opportunity to be brave in battle. You're not the sort of person who could be a successful spy. I don't think you know how to lie. I can't imagine you pretending to be someone's friend, and then betraying him. That's what a spy has to do. Our country doesn't have the right to ask us to do something so dishonorable. Besides, you're a terrible actor, Hale Second. I always thought so when we did those plays at Yale."

"You did?" Nathan tried not to feel hurt. He knew Hull was trying to protect him. "You never told me that."

"You were great at making speeches and debating, as long as you believed in what you were saying. You even acted well if the character was enough like you that you could believe in your lines. But whenever you had act apart that was different from your feelings, you'd blush and get stiff. If you go on this mission, you'll be captured, and your short, bright career will end with a dishonorable death."

Nathan shivered in the chilly night air. "I know what will happen if I'm caught. But still don't think of it as dishonorable. If it's necessary for our country's survival, then even spying becomes honorable."

"You're so talented, Hale Second. You have so much to give your country. Don't throw it away on a mission that's doomed to fail. Think how it would break your father's heart if you died that way."

Nathan winced. Would his family be ashamed of him? He shook Hull's hand. "I'll think about what you've said, my friend. I promise you I won't do anything I think is dishonorable. I won't do anything but what my duty as a soldier requires me to do."

Hull looked into his face as though trying to read his mind. "I hope that means you won't go," he said. "God be with you, Hale Second."

Nathan watched him disappear into the night. Then he took a long breath, and walked toward General Washington's tent, to get his orders.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 6 September 21, 1780 Near Stony Point, New York

John pulled his cloak over his red British uniform and huddled into the shadows of the trees. The wide Hudson River flowed past, glimmering in the starlight.

"Ten thousand pounds is my price for changing sides," said Benedict Arnold gruffly. "Twenty thousand if our plan is successful. If you coordinate your attack on the fort at West Point with my plans to weaken its defenses, you should be able to take it easily."

John nodded. "I'm authorized to offer you twenty thousand for West Point and six thousand for your joining us if the plan fails. But I'm sure I can raise another four thousand. And now I should be getting back to my ship. It's almost morning."

"I can't get you a boat at this time of night," said General Arnold. "The farm hands who rowed you here from your ship have gone to bed. I'll take you to Mr. Smith's house, and you can wait there until I can arrange for a boat to take you back to the Vulture."

They went to a clearing where Joshua Smith waited with three horses. He was a country lawyer who thought John was an English merchant with some sort of shady business to transact with General Arnold. It was Smith who had brought John here from the vulture in a boat rowed by two farmhands.

John rode silently beside the general and the lawyer. The road was dark and empty. Suddenly a voice said, "Halt, who goes there?" A sentry stepped onto the road. Then he lowered his rifle and saluted. "Oh, it's you, General Arnold." He waved them on.

John hesitated. If he went any farther, he would be going behind American lines. He was probably behind them already. But he still wore his uniform, even if was hidden under his cloak. Besides, he couldn't very well go back and sit on the beach. He might be there for days before he found a boat to take him to his ship. With his heart pounding, he rode forward.

At the lawyer's house, he took off his cloak without thinking. Mr. Smith stared at him. "Why are you wearing a British officer's uniform?"

John froze. He was behind American lines. He had to be more careful. Arnold trusted Smith to be quiet about shady business dealings, but treason was another matter.

Before John could think of an answer, Arnold lied easily, "Oh, he took it from a British soldier, and wears it because he likes the pretty red color. My friend John Anderson is something of a dandy."

They sat down to breakfast. The sound of cannon fire interrupted them. John jumped up and looked out the window. He could see the Vulture in the river, and puffs of smoke from the shore. Someone on the American side must have been nervous about a British warship in the river. Soon the ship began to return fire. But then its sails billowed out, and it sailed away, out of sight down the river.

John watched it go. He felt sick. Now he was stuck behind American lines. "I wish I were on board that ship!"

"Well," said General Arnold, "it may return soon. If it doesn't, you can always go back to New York on horseback."

On horseback! That was easy for Arnold to say. It was bad enough being behind enemy lines for an hour. How could he ride all the way back to New York behind enemy lines without being made a prisoner of war?

Mr. Smith carried the breakfast dishes away. General Arnold took a small bundle of papers from his coat pocket. "These are the plans of the fort," he said quietly, so the lawyer wouldn't hear. "Take them back to General Clinton. He'll see all the weaknesses in our defenses."

"No, indeed!" exclaimed John. "General Clinton told me there were three things I must never do. The first was cross your lines. I've already done that. The second was carry any papers from you. I'm to report from memory alone."

"What was the third thing?" asked General Arnold.

"Never to take off my uniform until I was safe on my ship."

"You'll have to take it off, though, if you ride back on horseback. You'll be made prisoner if you try to get through in your uniform." General Arnold stood up. "I have to get back to the fort, or my soldiers will get suspicious. Now where can you hide these papers? I know: in your boot. Here, put them in your stocking." He bent down and pushed the packet of papers into John's stocking.

John watched helplessly. Why was he letting Arnold do this? Something in Arnold's intense voice and eyes made it impossible to say no. And something in John wanted to show Arnold that he was a bold adventurer, not afraid of a little danger.

"If you are captured, find some way to destroy the plans."

"Of course," said John, feeling dazed.

"And now I must go. If your ship has not returned by this afternoon, I advise you to set out on horseback. Ah, Mr. Smith. It looks as though my merchant friend may have to return to New York by land. Will you escort him? I'll write out passes for you. If you are stopped, my pass should get you past any sentry. Farewell, now."

John put Arnold's pass in his pocket. He stood at the window and watched in vain for his ship. Hours passed. At last Mr. Smith put his hand on John's shoulder. "Your ship will not return today, I think. Shall I have the horses saddled?"

John took a long, slow breath. What should he do? He couldn't wait here forever. "All right," he said at last.

When the lawyer returned, he said, "You'd better take off that red coat. You won't get far wearing that. Here, I've brought you a good suit of clothes."

John took the maroon velvet coat, feeling more helpless than ever. Mr. Smith thought he was a merchant who only wore the red coat because he liked its looks. If that were true, there could be no reason why he wouldn't change into another suit of clothes. He couldn't insist on wearing his uniform without letting Smith know he was really a British officer. Feeling as though he were caught in a play, following a script someone else had written, John Andre took off his uniform.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 7 September 21, 1776 Somewhere on the north shore of Long Island, New York

For the first time in more than a week, Nathan felt he could breathe easily. He’d wandered through the British camps, wearing the clothes of a schoolteacher and saying that he was looking for work. The soldiers had laughed at him and said they had no use for Latin. But they were willing to take time from their boring sentry duty to talk to him. He’d found out a lot by listening to bored soldiers. And he’d found out more by using his eyes, counting cannons and tents and studying the fortifications the soldiers had built from piles of earth topped with wooden stakes.

It wasn’t too hard pretending to be a schoolteacher, since he’d been one for three years. It was harder pretending to be a Tory, an American who was loyal to the king of England.

But now he’d met some men with whom he could be himself. A grizzled man named Rogers had introduced him to three other men who were on the American side, men who lived on Long Island and who could gather information without arousing suspicion.

They met one afternoon in a tavern, in a room where they could discuss their business in secret. The shuttered windows made the room dark, even as the September sun shone outside. They drank a quiet toast to Washington and the Continental Congress. Nathan felt a huge rush of relief to be back among people who thought as he did. It was almost like being home.

He looked around at the shadowed faces of the men in the flickering light of a lantern. Could he trust them with his secret? He was taking a terrible chance. But these men had lived in the area since before the war began. If he could recruit them, the Americans would have not just one spy on Long Island, but the beginnings of a whole network of spies who could continue to gather information after Nathan returned to his camp with what he had learned.

He took a deep breath and made his decision. “Gentlemen,” he said, “Mr. Rogers has introduced me as a schoolmaster who favors the American cause, as you do yourselves. But I am actually engaged in much more important work, secret and serious work that can help our cause, and I ask you to aid me.”

All four of them listened intently, and Rogers’ eyes gleamed in the lantern light. “We’re with you,” said Rogers. “What work do you mean? How can we help?”

Nathan took another breath. If he said one more word, there would be no turning back. But he saw in Rogers’ eyes the same passion for liberty that he felt in his own heart. He swallowed, and then spoke. “I was sent here by General Washington himself, to gather information for him. I will be returning to him shortly, but you could help by remaining here and continuing to gather information. We could arrange a way to meet in the future, so you wouldn’t even have to leave your homes or put yourselves in any danger whatsoever.”

There was a long silence. At last one of the men said, “You mean you want us to be spies?”

Nathan felt his face grow red. “I know it sounds dishonorable. But if it’s necessary for your country’s good, even spying can be honorable.”

Again the men were silent. Then the one who had spoken said, “How do we know you’re not just some braggart, pretending to be connected to Washington? Are you part of his army, or are you just some paid footpad?”

Nathan’s face grew hotter. Footpad? That sounded even worse than spy. How could he make these men believe him? “I’m no footpad. I’m an honorable soldier, and a captain in Knowlton’s Rangers.”

“A captain, you say?” drawled Rogers.

Nathan felt the hair prickle on the back of his head. What had he just done?

The men stood, shadows in the firelight.

Nathan jumped to his feet, the chair clattering over behind him.

Rogers opened the shutter, and Nathan blinked in the sudden daylight. Outside the window he saw soldiers, redcoats surrounding the tavern.

“Well, then, Captain, I’ll tell you that I am Major Robert Rogers, in His Majesty’s army, and I hereby place you under arrest.”

The redcoats took Nathan to the ship Halifax. The captain of the ship looked at him curiously as he climbed on board. “What is this, Major Rogers?”

“A rebel spy, Captain Quarme.”

“I’m not a spy!” cried Nathan. “These men tried to recruit me, and I went along with them, hoping to draw them out, for I thought they were traitors to the King.” The lie tasted bitter. He’d been telling lies for a week, and he still hadn’t gotten used to it. But he needed to make this one stick, to save his life.

Captain Quarme shrugged. “It’s not up to me. I’m on my way to General Howe to make a report. You can tell your story to him. All right, Major Rogers. Take him below, and keep an eye on him.”

Escorted by his guards, Nathan climbed down another ladder into the hold of the ship. If only they’d leave him alone for a minute, he’d destroy the notes in his shoes. But the guards tied his hands behind his back before they pushed him into a small, dark room. One of the guards came in with him, and set a lantern on the floor. Nathan couldn’t do anything about the notes as long as the guard was there. But if they didn’t search him, maybe he’d still get out of this somehow.

In an hour or two, the ship bumped against a pier. The smell of smoke was thick in the late afternoon air. Off to the southwest a black cloud rose up over New York City, a cloud too dark to be natural. The belly of the cloud glowed orange.

Nathan’s guards marched him up a broad green lawn. A tall house stood black against the fiery sunset. Nathan recognized it from the time he’d spent in New York, before the British took the city. The hill was called Mount Pleasant, and the house had been taken from James Beekman, a wealthy rebel supporter. It was a beautiful, three-story house, with tall pillars on the porch and walkway around the top of the roof. But despite the beauty of the house and the name of the hill, the place looked sinister to Nathan now. The commander-in-chief of the British army lived here.

Soon Nathan found himself in a wood-paneled study. The man behind the mahogany desk looked something like General Washington. Nathan realized that this must be General Howe. A captain who must be an aide to the general stood behind the desk. A few other officers were in the room as well. One of them was saying, “It seems to have started near the wharf at Whitehall Slip.”

General Howe raised his hand to silence the man. “One moment, Lieutenant. Yes, Captain Quarme? Do you have a report for me?”

Captain Quarme made his report. At the end of it, he said, “Major Rogers says this prisoner is a rebel spy.”

The general raised his eyebrows. “Major Rogers? What is this?”

Rogers told the general how he had met with Nathan, how Nathan had tried to recruit them to be spies. “He said he was a captain the American army.”

“I was only trying to draw them out!” Nathan protested. “I thought they were spies themselves, and I could uncover their activities.”

The general’s face was unreadable. “Has he been searched, Major Rogers?”

“No, sir.”

“Very well. Thank you, Captain Quarme. You are dismissed.” General Howe beckoned to one of the redcoats. “Sergeant, search the prisoner.”

Nathan set his face in a bland expression. His life depended on his acting skills now. He had to look as though the search didn’t matter. But his heart beat hard as he thought of the papers in his shoes.

The sergeant reached into Nathan’s big coat pockets. He pulled out a folded parchment and laid it on the desk. General Howe opened it. “Ah, a diploma,” said the general. “ ‘Nathaniel Hales’. So you are a schoolmaster; that was true, if this is really yours. But not a Tory, I think, not with a diploma from Yale. That place has been a hotbed of rebellion for years.”

Despite his predicament, Nathan fought a smile as he remembered late-night debates in the dorm rooms of Yale. Yes, it was a hotbed of rebellion, and he was proud of it. The sergeant continued his search. Nathan felt a tiny pang of regret as the redcoat found his pocket watch. He should have left it in camp with his other things, so his brother Enoch might have it.

The sergeant knelt down. “Lift your foot,” he said. Nathan’s stomach twisted. But he did as he was told. The soldier pulled off Nathan’s shoes, one after the other. Nathan’s mouth was so dry he couldn’t swallow as he watched him take a letter opener from the desk and pry out the inner soles.

The redcoat gave a soft whistle, and then spread the crackling papers on the desk. The aide leaned over the general’s shoulder and studied them. “These are our fortifications on Long Island! I couldn’t have drawn them better myself.”

General Howe frowned at Nathan’s drawings. “So Major Rogers is right; you are a spy.”

Nathan let out a long slow breath. There was no use pretending any longer. He couldn’t explain away the notes he’d made. In away, it was a relief to be able to tell the truth at last. “Yes, sir.”

“Did you set the fire?”

“Fire?” Nathan thought of the smoke he’d smelled, and the flaming sunset.

“The fire that burns New York City!” Howe said impatiently. “It’s no good lying about it, after you’ve condemned yourself by admitting to spying.”

“I’ve been on Long Island for the past week. I knew nothing about the fire until I saw the smoke half an hour ago.”

Howe tapped his fingers on the desk, thinking. Then he dropped the subject of the fire.

“These plans are too well done to be the work of a common soldier. You must be an officer, as Major Rogers claims. What is your real name, Nathaniel Hales?”

“Hale. Nathan Hale. I only had to alter my diploma a little, you see.”

“Your rank?”




For an instant, Nathan saw a flicker of pity cross the general’s face. “Tell me, what would induce a man of your education and youth to undertake such a shameful business as spying?”

Nathan remembered the gratitude on Washington’s face, the warmth of Washington’s big hands as he shook Nathan’s hand and wished him well. He’d failed Washington. The shame wasn’t in spying. The only shame was in failing. “I thought it was my duty to obey the wishes of my commander-in-chief,” he said.

The general’s face hardened. “I assume you knew when you agreed to the task what the penalty would be if you were caught.”

Nathan closed his eyes for a moment. He knew what was coming now. “Yes, sir.”

“Very well, Captain Hale. Tonight you will be kept under guard. Tomorrow at eleven o’clock, you will be taken to the parade ground, and there you will be hanged by the neck until you are dead.”

Nathan couldn’t feel anything; he was numb inside. Tonight, he knew, his feelings would come crashing down on him: grief and fear and shame. But for now the general’s words were like the lines in some play. And all Nathan could do was play his part. He didn’t have any choice about that now. The only choice he had left was how. He had to believe that somehow, the way he played his part tomorrow would make a difference.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 8 September 23, 1780 Tarry town, New York

"Halt, or we shoot!"

John reined in his horse. He'd traveled for a day and a half with the lawyer, Mr. Smith. But Smith had turned back when they neared British lines. There were Tories who prowled these woods, stopping travelers on the road. They were little more than highway robbers. The local farmers called them Cowboys.

Three young men stood in the road, with long rifles trained on John's heart. But he thought if they were Cowboys, they'd respect a British officer. It was true he didn't look much like an adjutant general now, with his black hair unpowdered and his maroon velvet coat. "Gentlemen," he said, "I hope you are members of the king's party. I am a British officer, and I trust you will not detain me."

The three didn't move. At last, one of them drawled, "You hope wrong, redcoat. We're American minutemen, and we're hunting Cowboys today. But if we've caught an officer, so much the better. Get down from your horse."

John swallowed. He should have waited before he spoke. But maybe he could still talk his way past his captors. He gave a laugh that he hoped would sound unconcerned. "I thought you were Cowboys yourselves. So I said what I did, just to get by. But actually I am on business for the American army. See, I have a pass from General Arnold."

"Get down! Damn Arnold's pass! You said you was an officer. Where's your money?"

John stepped down onto the packed dirt road. So that was what this was about: simple robbery. "I don't have much money with me. But if you come with me to the British camp, I can get more."

"Yes, and be captured ourselves! Come behind these trees. Now take off your coat." They searched his pockets. "Whee, look at these two watches! Gold and silver by the looks of them. No money, though. Maybe he's got it in his boots."

They pushed him to the ground and tugged at his boots. John's heart gave a powerful extra beat. Until now he'd been more angry than scared. But now he thought of the papers in his stocking. Would these yokels understand what they meant?

They turned the boots upside down, as though expecting coins to fallout. Then one of them said, "What's that in his stocking? Here, Johnny, you can read. What does it say?" He handed the packet to the leader.

The leader studied the papers. His mouth fell open. "These are plans to the fort at West Point. This man is a spy!"

John shivered. But there was still hope. The American commander in the area was Benedict Arnold. If they sent him to Arnold, he'd be safe.

The minutemen let John get dressed. They tied his hands behind his back, put him on his horse, and took him to the barn their commander, Colonel Jameson, used as a headquarters.

Jameson studied the papers with a puzzled face. Then he studied John. "What shall I do with you? I suppose I'd better send you to General Arnold."

John went weak with relief. But he knew he had to hide it. He was better at designing costumes than acting. He hoped his face looked as worried as it had before.

"I think I'll send these papers directly to General Washington," Jameson continued.

John stiffened again. It would be a race now. If he reached Arnold before the papers reached Washington, he and Arnold could escape together. But if the papers reached Washington first, they might both be captured. Washington would understand what the papers meant about Arnold's part in the plot.

John and his new guards rode north, in a big loop through the woods. His hands were still bound, and a guard led his horse. Occasionally, from the top of a hill, he glimpsed the gleaming thin line of the Hudson River far away to the west. He wondered if the Vulture was still there somewhere, looking for him. Maybe he would be safely aboard her by nightfall.

His thoughts were interrupted by the thud of hoofbeats behind them. A new group of American soldiers caught up with John's guard. "I have new orders from Colonel Jameson. You're to take the prisoner back."

"Back! But we wanted to visit our friends at West Point," argued one of the guards.

John couldn't believe his ears. British soldiers would never argue with an order. He felt a new surge of hope. "We're almost to Arnold's headquarters now," he put in. "Why not see what he says about it?"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" said the new arrival. "We had a visit from one of Washington's intelligence officers. When he heard what was in the papers, he wanted us not only to call you back, but to march to Arnold's headquarters and arrest him."

"Arrest Arnold!" exclaimed John's guard. "You don't mean to tell me Arnold's in on this! The hero of Saratoga? I don't believe it. We couldn't arrest a general anyway, not without a direct order from Washington himself. Who was this fellow?"

"It was that Major Tallmadge you see dashing around on his horse all the time."

"Well," sighed the leader of John's guards, "we'd better take this spy back, if Jameson says so. But I can't believe Arnold's a traitor. He should be notified that we've caught a spy."

The new soldier nodded. "He will be. Colonel Jameson gave me a letter to take to him."

They turned around, leaving the soldier to go on alone. John knew he was really in danger now. When they stopped for the night, he asked for a pen and paper. Under the watchful eye of his guard, he wrote a letter to General Washington, explaining who he was, and how he came to be behind American lines out of uniform. He'd been trapped; he had no choice. Surely Washington would understand that he wasn't really a spy.

The next morning, in pouring rain, John continued his journey. He was guarded now by a hundred dragoons. One of them was Benjamin Tallmadge. John liked him immediately, in spite of the fact that it was Tallmadge who had stopped him from escaping to Arnold. With his tall hat and plume, and his curly dark hair, Tallmadge looked every inch a dashing dragoon. He was a real soldier, not like those three clowns who had first captured John.

John lost track of where he was as he rode through the heavy rain with the patrol. They spent the night at West Point, but Arnold had fled. The next day they went down the Hudson River on a barge. "Your friend Arnold has escaped," said Tallmadge. "He must be aboard the Vulture right now. But we caught Joshua Smith."

For a minute John gave way to bitterness. Arnold was safe on the Vulture, while he was a prisoner. And it was Smith's fault he was caught out of uniform. But he couldn't really blame the lawyer. "Smith is completely innocent," he told Tallmadge. "He knew nothing about Arnold's plot. He thought I was a merchant."

"We'll see. You're both to be tried by a military court when we reach Tappan."

The barge landed, and John was put on horseback again. How would the court view him? As an officer under a flag of truce, or as a spy? At last he turned to Tallmadge, who was riding beside him, to ask him what he thought. "Do you know in what light my case is being considered?"

Tallmadge looked away, as though he didn't want to answer.

"Tell me, please."

After a moment, Tallmadge turned back toward him. "I had a dear friend once," he said reluctantly, "a much-loved classmate at Yale College by the name of Hale. Four years ago, after the Battle of Long Island, Washington wanted information about the strength of the enemy. Hale volunteered, went over to Brooklyn, and was taken just as he was passing the outposts of the enemy on his return. The day you met with Arnold was the anniversary of his capture. Do you know the story?"

John's mouth went dry suddenly. Why was Tallmadge bringing this up? He remembered the day he and Montresor had looked out at the greenhouse, and Montresor had told him about the spy who spent his last night there. Hale. Yes, that was the name. John nodded. Yes, he knew the story.

Tallmadge was silent for another minute. Then he said, "Do you know how the story ended?"

John cleared his throat nervously. "Yes. He was hanged as a spy. But you surely don't consider his case and mine alike!"

Pity shone in the dragoon's eyes. "They are exactly the same. And you will suffer the same fate."

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 9

September 21-22, 1776 New York City, New York

Nathan knelt on the dirt floor of the greenhouse. His hands were still tied behind his back. Two stone-faced soldiers watched him in the light of a single candle.

The realization that he was going to die in twelve hours had just washed over him. He tried not to mind that so much. When he'd enlisted, he knew he might be killed. It was the waiting that was hard, and the crushing weight of his failure. That and the terrible loneliness.

He missed Enoch most of all. Enoch had probably just finished polishing up his sermon for tomorrow. He would be delivering it just about the time Nathan was scheduled to die. That thought made Nathan feel a little less lonely. He raised his head. "When will the chaplain see me?" he asked the guard.

"The what?" said the guard sleepily.

"The chaplain! The minister."

The guard yawned. "I'll have to ask the provost marshal." He stumped out. A minute later the wooden door slammed open.

The provost marshal, William Cunningham, staggered in, his thick face red with anger and alcohol. "What do you want, you damned rebel spy?"

Nathan felt his own face darkening with anger. Wasn't it standard procedure to let a dying man see the chaplain? He shouldn't even have to ask. "I want to talk to a minister."

"At this time of night? Are you daft? I ran off the last minister that poked his nose into my prison, and I won't have one here. What's the matter, boy, scared of dying?"

Nathan turned his head in disgust. He was scared, a little. Who wouldn't be? But he wasn't about to let Cunningham see that. "Then at least untie my hands and bring me a Bible. Someone in the camp must have one. And could I have pen and paper, please? I want to write a letter to my family."

Cunningham swung a drunken fist. Nathan saw stars and found himself lying in the dirt. With his hands bound, he couldn't fight back. Cunningham stood over him, his fists on his hips. "What do you think I'm running here, a Sunday School? You'd better not bother me again tonight. The next time you see me, it will mean it's time for you to die." The door slammed.

Nathan sat up. He let his anger flow away. He didn't want to waste his last few hours thinking about Cunningham. Kneeling on the floor once more, he closed his eyes. He didn't really need a Bible. He could see the old familiar words in his mind, on the yellowed pages of the old family Bible at home.

As he knelt in the candlelight, a peace filled him. It wasn't necessarily shameful to die like a criminal. Socrates had done so. Even Christ had spent a night like this, waiting in prison for death in the morning.

The only thing that still troubled him was that his mission had failed. Washington didn't have the information he so desperately needed. Did that mean the war would be lost? There must be something he could do. It was bad enough to have to die, but worse to die without ever having done anything.

Suddenly he knew the answer to his half-formed prayer. There was still something he could do. He couldn't give his information to Washington. But maybe he could give Washington something else he needed, something that would keep his soldiers from deserting, keep them from giving up.

With that thought a golden warmth came over him that was more than peace. It was joy, the old familiar excitement and happiness he always felt when he was planning some useful project. It was almost like being back at Yale again, getting ready for one of the secret meetings, planning his speech. Someone besides Cunningham and the stony guards would be there tomorrow. Crowds always gathered for a hanging. Surely someone would pass his words along to the American soldiers.

He stood up and walked to the glass wall of the greenhouse. The stars burned bright over the East River. As he rehearsed his words, polishing and revising them, the sky slowly lightened to dark blue and then dusky rose and then gold. The river gleamed in the sunrise. Nathan felt calm and peaceful as he watched the gulls skimming over the water, the soldiers mustering on the lawn, the boats sailing past. Away in the city he heard the first church bells ringing. He was ready now.

Cunningham's eyes were bleary as he slammed the door open. Unbelievable, thought Nathan. How could the man be drunk so early in the morning, and on a Sabbath too? But he was determined to pay as little attention to Cunningham as possible.

"All right, rebel, time for you to die," snarled Cunningham.

Nathan marched with his escort of soldiers out into the bright fall day. Along the packed road they went, across the wide lawn where a camp was set up. Tents circled a trampled place on the grass that was the parade ground.

At the edge of the lawn stood an abandoned apple orchard. The trees hung heavy with golden and red apples. Fall colors had just begun to touch the leaves.

The soldiers stopped. Cunningham swayed in front of them. "Bring a ladder, and strip the extra branches from that tree. You two, dig a grave over there."

Nathan hadn't expected this. Why had they brought him out here before they were ready? The minutes dragged by as he stood in the hot sun, watching the soldiers digging his grave. He shouldn't feel impatient. He should welcome the delay. But he'd always hated standing around waiting and doing nothing. He realized how hungry he was; he hadn't eaten since yesterday morning. And he felt scruffy, with his unshaven face and his torn, dirty clothes.

Some of the soldiers from the camp straggled by to watch, along with curious people from the city. One of the soldiers held up a plank that had been carved into human form and painted to look like a soldier. Probably stolen from some garden, Nathan thought. The soldier had tied a rope around its wooden neck. "Know who this is, rebel? It's your General Washington. We're going to hang him beside you."

If he meant to make Nathan angry he failed. "I'm in good company, then," Nathan said. Strangely, the wooden effigy did feel like company. It was like having a friend with him.

"Major Cunningham," said a voice from the side of the road. Nathan recognized the captain who had been so interested in his drawings the night before. "Your preparations seem to be taking a while. Would you allow your prisoner to rest in my tent until you are ready for him?"

Cunningham studied the soldier with one eye. "Who the hell are you?"

"I'm General Howe's aide."

That seemed to impress Cunningham. "Why not?" he said gruffly. "But if he escapes you'll be responsible."

Nathan and his guards followed the captain to his tent. Inside, he found a table and chair and a cot.

"My name is Montresor," said the captain, as he untied Nathan's hands. "I'm an engineer. I was impressed by your drawings. Please, sit down. Would you like something to eat? I don't suppose Cunningham has fed you. I have some bread and cheese left from breakfast."

"Thank you," said Nathan gratefully. The unexpected kindness made him feel almost like crying. He rubbed his raw wrists and ate hungrily.

"Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"Do you have writing materials? I'd like to write to my commanding officer, Colonel Knowlton, to tell him of my capture. And I'd like to write to my brother."

"Didn't the chaplain bring you pen and paper?"

"I wasn't allowed to see him. I wasn't even allowed a Bible."

"That brute Cunningham," muttered Montresor under his breath. He set a pen and paper and jar of ink on the table. Nathan couldn't believe his luck. He knew he couldn't put any of the information he'd gathered into these letters. But he could put his spirit into them. He could let his friends know how much he believed in their cause. This was better than hoping for someone to hear his speech and care enough to tell someone.

"I can't promise you the letters will be delivered," Montresor warned. "They have to go through Cunningham. You're in his custody, unfortunately. But I'll do my best."

Nathan paused in his writing. "There is another favor I'd ask of you then, since you've been so kind already. Are you going to be there?"


Nathan nodded toward the door of the tent. "When I die."

Montresor swallowed. "If you want me to be."

"Will I be allowed to speak?"

"It is customary, yes. Although it is also customary to let a condemned man see a chaplain. Who knows what Cunningham will do?"

Nathan held out the first of his letters, the one to Knowlton. "Will you read my letter, then, in case I'm not allowed to speak? It doesn't say as much as I want to say, but it's a beginning. And promise me you'll find a way to meet with officers from the American army under a flag of truce. Tell them what I said. Will you do that?"

Montresor scanned the letter. He smiled and shook his head. "I shouldn't. They'll take new courage from these words. I'll be hurting my own cause."

Nathan's hopes sank. If Montresor felt that way, what chance was there that Cunningham would deliver his letters? This was his last chance to do something useful before he died. His words were all he had left. They had to get through somehow.

But Montresor wasn't finished. "I will, though. I'll tell them. You're an enemy, but I respect your courage and intelligence. You deserve to be heard."

Nathan's strange joy returned. "Thank you, sir! You have no idea what your kindness means to me. I hope that someday an American soldier will do a kindness for you or someone you care about."

Montresor laughed gently. "I hope it isn't under similar circumstances," he said.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 10 October 1, 1780 Mabie Tavern, Tappan, New York

John sat at the table, doodling. He drew the head of a horse, and a man riding the horse. As the drawing took shape, his mind went back over his trial. Some of the most famous officers in the American army had been his judges: Lafayette and von Steuben and Knox among others. They had found him guilty of spying, and said he should die. Washington wasn't at the trial, but it was he who had set John's execution date for tomorrow at noon.

John hadn't been able to make the judges understand that he wasn't a spy. He was a British officer who had gone to meet Arnold on neutral ground, while openly wearing his uniform. It was only through an unfortunate series of accidents that he found himself behind enemy lines, out of uniform, with the plans for their fort in his boot.

General Clinton and Benedict Arnold had both written to Washington, explaining that John Andre had been under a flag of truce, and demanding that he be set free immediately. But Washington said that a flag of truce didn't cover treachery nor going behind enemy lines in disguise.

John added details to his drawing: trees and bystanders. Since he'd given up hope, he felt only a dull ache that was almost peace. He wasn't afraid or angry anymore, only tired and depressed.

What made his fate bearable was the fact that his enemies felt sorry for him, and treated him with gentle respect. It was Arnold they hated, Arnold they wanted to hang. They would have traded John for Benedict Arnold in a minute, if Clinton would agree. But John knew that Clinton couldn't turn over the only American general who had defected to the British side. If any other officers were thinking of defecting, they had to know they'd be safe. John's life was the sacrifice that made that possible. He knew the sacrifice must be terrible for Clinton.

He finished the drawing. It was of himself, riding with his hands bound, escorted by the three minutemen who had captured him. He held it up to show it to the two young officers who guarded him, Benjamin Tallmadge and Alexander Hamilton. "Quite a comical parade, is it not?" he said, with a rueful laugh.

Tallmadge and Hamilton didn't laugh. Their faces were tight with pity. Tallmadge blinked his eyes as though he were fighting tears. John looked away. If he looked at their woebegone faces any more, he'd start crying himself. He didn't want to break down in front of his enemies, no matter how sympathetic they were.

"I want you both to know how much I appreciate your kindness," he said huskily. "Everyone has treated me with respect, from my judges to the landlady. But you two have been especially kind. I had a prejudice against Americans once. I thought they were all as rude and ignorant as the men who captured me. But my experience over the past few days has erased that impression."

He bit his lip, and then went on. "I have one more kindness to ask of you. General Clinton has been so kind to me. Might I be permitted to write a letter to him? I want to be sure he knows I hold him blameless for my fate. I went against his express orders in every step that brought me here. I would not for the world leave a sting in his mind that would embitter his future days." His grief overflowed then, grief not for himself, but for the man who had been a better father to him than his own father had been. He put his hands over his face and shook with silent sobs. It was the first time he'd cried since he was a boy.

A gentle hand touched his shoulder. "I'll go ask Washington immediately," said Hamilton. "I'm sure he'll give permission."

By the time Hamilton returned, John had regained his composure. "What did he say?"

"He gave his consent readily. He was moved by your request." Hamilton paused, and then said, "You understand why Washington won't see you. He's torn apart by Arnold's betrayal. But he pities you as much as the rest of us do. He's afraid, I think, that if he sees you he won't be able to do what must be done. You understand that, don't you? He's not a cruel man."

John nodded. "I understand. Will you thank him for me?" He took a clean sheet of paper and began to write. When he was finished, he handed the unsealed letter to Hamilton. "Now I am at peace. There's nothing left for me to do. I can die with a clear mind. I only wish--"

"What?" said Hamilton and Tallmadge together. They looked ready to get him anything he asked for.

John sighed. "It's such a small thing. It shouldn't make any difference, but it does. I know I must die, but I wish it could be a different way. A bullet through the heart like a soldier, not hanging like a thief."

Tallmadge and Hamilton glanced at one another. At last Tallmadge said, "You know the rules of war, the penalty for spying--" He stopped and turned his back, as though he were looking out the window.

John knew Tallmadge wasn't looking at the view. "He's thinking of his friend again, isn't he?" he said to Hamilton. He knew he'd asked for something they couldn't give him.

Hamilton came and sat beside him at the table. "Hale?" he said quietly. "Probably. He never mentions him; it's too painful, I think. I'm sure he thinks of him often."

"Did you know Hale too?"

Hamilton shook his head. "Not really. I saw him around camp; saw him kick a football over the tops of the trees once. But I never spoke with him. I never knew much about him until the day the British officer came into our camp under a flag of truce."

John tried to pay attention. He felt so tired and sad. "British officer?"

"He said his name was Montresor. He was an aide to General Howe."

"Montresor!" John exclaimed, really interested now. "I knew him! We served together under General Howe. He was a good friend." He thought of Montresor's fireworks at the farewell party for Howe. What a wonderful time that was!

"He seemed to be a good man," said Hamilton. "I was sent to talk to him about--I don't remember what. An exchange of prisoners of war, I think. What he really wanted to talk about was an American spy they'd caught the day before. Montresor befriended him in the last moments of his life. I've always been grateful for that."

John smiled. " I'd say you've repaid the debt."

"I hope so. Montresor told me of the stirring speech Hale gave. Andre, it--" Hamilton leaned closer. "It is possible for a man to die well, even on the gallows. You have to believe that."

John's stomach hurt. He wished he could believe it.

"Listen," Hamilton went on. "Why don't you write a note to General Washington? Tell him your wish. I'll take it to him."

"Do you think he'll grant it?" It wasn't a small thing after all. John was amazed to feel hope lifting him. He'd thought he had nothing left to hope for.

"I don't know. Legally, he may not have any choice. I think he will grant it if he feels he can."

John took another sheet of paper from the stack they'd given him. "I trust," he wrote, "that the request I make of your Excellency, which is to soften my last moments, will not be rejected. Sympathy towards a soldier will surely induce your Excellency to adapt the mode of my death to the feelings of a man of honor. Let me hope, Sir, that if my misfortune marks me as the victim of policy and not of resentment, I shall be informed that I am not to die on a gibbet." There didn't seem to be much else he could say. He signed his name and gave the note to Hamilton.

Tallmadge came and sat beside him as Hamilton left. They talked about trivial things to pass the time: John's drawing of the landlady, the costumes he'd designed for Howe's party, the plays Tallmadge remembered from Yale.

Then John thought of something that might affect Washington's decision. He hated to upset his new friend again, but he had to ask. "Did Washington know your friend Hale?"

After a long moment Tallmadge nodded. "They met when Washington sent him on his mission, sent him so unprepared. No codes, no invisible ink, just notes in Latin. As though British officers wouldn't be able to read Latin! Washington's always blamed himself for what happened. But we knew so little about spying in those days. We've learned so much since then."

John turned and studied Tallmadge suspiciously. It almost sounded as though Tallmadge had done some spying himself. "Hamilton's right, Andre," Tallmadge went on. "It isn't always dishonorable."

"Spying? A death on a gibbet?" John said bitterly.

Tallmadge gave him a secret smile. "I may have risked it myself a time or two," he said, confirming John's suspicions. "If I were in your place, I should comfort myself with the thought that I was giving my life for my country, and let it go at that. Why make yourself miserable over the details?"

John shook his head. He would never understand this American version of morality. Didn't they understand about a gentleman's honor?

He thought over what Tallmadge had told him about Washington. It might work either way for his own case. If Washington wanted revenge for the way Hale had been treated, he had the power now. But if John reminded Washington of that other unfortunate young man, maybe Washington would pity him enough to grant his request. It wasn't so much to ask, to be shot like a soldier and not hanged like a thief.

At last Hamilton returned, empty-handed. "He didn't give me an answer. I'm sorry."

John blew out a long breath. "He would tell me if he refused my request, would he not?"

Hamilton hesitated. "I--I'm sure he would," he said at last. Tallmadge looked up at him, but didn't say anything.

John nodded, feeling almost happy. "Well, then, he must have decided to grant it. Now I can wait in peace. I was never afraid of death in battle. A firing squad will be much the same thing."

Tallmadge coughed. "Is there anything else we can do for you, Andre, to make this evening pleasant? Shall we send for a minister?"

John laughed. Really, he felt almost cheerful now. "A minister? What for?"

Tallmadge stared at him. "What for?" he repeated.

"Forgive me for laughing. It was kindly offered. But I have no need of a minister. I have no use for churches. I'll meet my Maker standing on my own two feet. I need no minister or church to make the introduction."

Tallmadge looked shocked. "I'11 say a prayer for you anyway, if you don't mind."

"Not at all. I'll tell you what would make this evening most pleasant for me. If you two gentlemen would sit with me through the night, and divert my mind from thoughts of tomorrow. Perhaps I could entertain you by illustrating my adventures. You already have the sketch of my parade with my captors. I'll begin at the beginning, with my boat ride up the Hudson River." He began to draw, and lost himself in his art.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 11 September 22, 1776 New York City, New York

"What the hell is going on in here?" demanded Cunningham, as he stood at the door of the tent.

"I gave him writing materials to write letters," said Montresor. "I know they can't be sent without your leave."

"Letters!" Cunningham snatched Nathan's letter to Enoch from under Nathan's quill pen, leaving a long black mark like a wound down the page. He frowned as he read. "'Glorious cause'," he muttered. "'If I had a thousand lives', 'Any death is honorable'." His red face grew darker as he crumpled the letter into a smudged ball and jammed it into his pocket. He took the other letter from Montresor's hands and crumpled it up too.

Nathan felt sick, though he'd half expected this. Would Enoch ever be able to believe that what was about to happen was no different than dying in battle? He wished Enoch could have the comfort of his letter.

"Major Cunningham," protested Montresor, "was that necessary?"

"What do you think?" snarled Cunningham. "You want the rebels to know they've got a man that can die with such firmness? Better they never find out. Get up, rebel."

Nathan stood. As Cunningham bound his hands again, Nathan looked over his shoulder at Montresor. Montresor read the look in his eyes and nodded. He remembered what Nathan had written.

Out on the parade ground, the crowd had grown larger. There were a few women, the wives of soldiers, probably, and come curious civilians who looked like they might be on their way into town to go to church, if any churches had escaped the fire. There was one farmer who stood by a wagon, watching with pain in his eyes. Nathan wondered whether he and his wagon might have been forced into service by the British army. Such forced service was no better than slavery. The thought gave Nathan new strength. It was for people like that farmer that he was dying.

Most of the onlookers wore the red coats of British soldiers. One of them pointed to the apple tree. "This is a fine death for a soldier," he drawled. The other soldiers laughed.

Nathan saw the ladder standing under the stripped branch, the rope looping down. For a moment shame burned in his face. He saw the painted wooden soldier already hanging from the same branch. The word "Washington" was scrawled across its breast in rough black letters. Its painted face was as cheerful and unconcerned as it had always been. It did look like Washington, a little. "Don't be afraid," it seemed to say.

"It is a fine death," he shot back. "I'm dying for the sake of freedom, and any death is made noble by such a cause." It felt better just to have said that much, even if they didn't let him say any more. Hull was right; he was a terrible actor. If he was going to play this part, he was going to have to try to believe it with his whole heart.

The crowd was suddenly still. They stared at him. They'd come for a spectacle. Well, he'd give them something to talk about. The more they talked about it later, the better.

Two of the women in the crowd began to sob. They looked like a mother and daughter, dressed alike in homespun brown linen. The older one reminded Nathan of his Grandmother Strong, who had been both mother and grandmother to him after his mother had died.

Cunningham turned on them. "What's that caterwauling?" he demanded. "Sorry to see a rebel die? You're a couple of damned rebels yourselves, I see. Shut up your noise, or you'll be next."

The women gasped and put their hands over their mouths, but stood their ground.

Their sympathy made Nathan's eyes sting. "Let them alone, Cunningham," he said sharply. "Your business is with me."

"So it is." Cunningham gave him a shove between the shoulderblades. "Up the ladder, rebel. I've wasted enough time on you this morning."

"Major Cunningham," said a low, reasonable voice from the edge of the crowd. It was Montresor. "I believe it is customary to request a few words from the prisoner at this time."

"Don't tell me my job, you popinjay," snarled Cunningham.

"Come on, Cunningham," called the redcoat who had brought the wooden effigy. "We came to see a proper hanging. Don't leave anything out."

"Don't spoil the fun," called another. "There's no hurry."

Their laughter seemed to appeal to Cunningham. If they meant to mock the prisoner, he'd play along. He turned to Nathan. "All right, rebel," he said with a mocking politeness, "Let's hear your dying speech. Confess your crimes now for these good people."

Nathan almost laughed in his triumph. Cunningham had just handed him the victory. He looked around at the small crowd, the leering soldiers, the townspeople curious and silent, a few with tears in their eyes. They all waited, scarcely breathing, to hear what he was going to say.

"My name is Nathan Hale, and I'm a captain in the American army," he began. "You call us rebels, as though we had no right to stand up against tyranny. But when I see farmers taken from their fields and pressed into service with no more choice than slaves, when I see women bullied and threatened for no greater crime than showing simple human pity, then I know that the cause I'm serving is just. It is you who are shedding the blood of the innocent by waging war against us. It's justice I'm fighting for, and freedom, not only for my family and neighbors, but for the millions who will come after us.

"I've been asked why a man of my education should undertake so shameful a business as spying. My answer is that I thought it no shame to obey my commander's wishes. If such a task was necessary in the fight for freedom, then I saw it as an honorable one. My present plight does not change my opinion. Death may come to any of us unexpectedly. We must be ready to face it in whatever form it comes."

The crowd leaned forward with open mouths. Nathan had acted and given speeches often enough to know when he had an audience captured. He had this one now. He addressed his next words to the Americans in the crowd, the farmer whose leathery cheeks were wet with tears, the women in homespun.

"In a few minutes, I'll be free. If you want freedom, you'll have to continue the struggle. I wish I could do more to help you. I've done all I can. My only regret now is that I have but one life to lose for my country."

Cunningham's face was such a dark red it seemed ready to explode. "That's enough, rebel! Up the ladder, and no more stalling."

Yes, it was enough. He'd prepared more words, written fancier words in his letters. But he had the feeling that his short, simple speech was more eloquent than a longer, flowerier one would have been. He'd done all he could.

It was awkward climbing the ladder with his hands bound. A cart would have been easier, but it seemed Cunningham was doing everything he could to rob him of his dignity. It didn't matter.

The hangman climbed the opposite side of the ladder. He put a hand on Nathan's shoulder to steady him. Looking into the man's dark, impassive eyes, Nathan suddenly remembered one of the late-night debates at Yale: "Whether it is right to enslave the Africans." If America won her freedom, would that mean freedom for them too? He'd never know. But he knew that the thought of living as the slave of a man like Cunningham made his own fate seem easy by comparison. What was it Addison had said? "An hour of freedom is worth more than a lifetime in chains." His life would be short, but he'd had his hour of freedom, and it was sweet.

Slowly he turned on the ladder to face the crowd. He saw Montresor looking up at him. Once again Montresor nodded, and Nathan knew the promise was sealed.

He felt the rope drop over his head, felt the knot tighten behind his ear. The last thing he saw, before the hangman scrambled down the ladder and pulled it away, was the wooden soldier hanging beside him. As though it really were Washington, it seemed to speak to him. "You're not much of a spy, you know, Captain Hale, but you're a fine speaker. You gave me what I needed. Thank you."

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 12 October 2, 1780 Tappan, New York

John dressed himself carefully in the uniform his servant Peter had brought for him from New York. He had no powder for his hair, but he tied it back carefully with a black ribbon, and comforted himself that its glossy blackness contrasted nicely with his white linen and his scarlet coat with its green facings.

Looking out the window, he could see that thousands of people were filling the streets, leaning from windows and watching from the rooftops. It was him they had come to see. He was the center of a compelling drama, and his sense of theater would get him through his last day. This would be the greatest performance of his life.

He pictured it in his mind. He would walk calmly along the street, while the spectators stood amazed at his courage. At last he would come to the fatal wall, or perhaps a field on the edge of town. He would stand tall, like a soldier, brave and stoic as a Roman. The roar of gunfire would be the last thing he would ever hear.

There was a knock on the door. Tallmadge and Hamilton had been called away late the evening before. His new guards, Hughes and Bowman, opened the door.

"I am Colonel Scammell, General Washington's adjutant," said the man who entered. "I have been sent to inform you, Major Andre, that the time of your execution has been finalized. It is set for noon today. An escort will call for you then."

Peter sat in a chair and sobbed loudly, covering his face with his hands. "Peter!" John said sharply. "Leave me until you can show yourself more manly!" John had nearly broken down again in the dark hours of the night. He was only with difficulty holding himself together now. The one thing that was the most dangerous for him was seeing the grief of people who loved him. Peter dried his eyes and apologized.

John had two hours left to live. There was nothing to do now but wait. He sat at the table and studied himself in the mirror. Yes, he looked the part of a soldier. He took a piece of paper and a pen and began to draw. He drew himself sitting at the table. One hand rested on the table, the other elbow leaned on the back of his chair. His legs were crossed, his face sad and resigned.

The town clock struck eleven, then the quarter hour, the half hour, the three-quarters. John turned to his guards. "I thank you, gentlemen, for your services. I am ready at any moment to wait upon you."

He heard the sound of fife and drum coming up the street. A moment later Captain Van Dyke, the leader of his escort, opened the door. John smiled faintly and linked arms with Hughes and Bowman. He pulled them down the steps as the fifes played the Dead March. John turned to Van Dyke. "I am surprised to find your troops under so good a discipline. And your music is excellent."

It was just as he had imagined. The crowds watched silently, respectfully, as he passed. He felt a little faint; he knew his face was white. Yet he managed to smile. Now and then he saw someone he recognized in the crowd. He acknowledged each one with a courtly bow.

The column of soldiers with John at its center climbed a long hill toward a field. So it was to be in a field then. As they rounded the crest of the hill, John saw something black standing stark against the bright blue sky, two posts standing upright with a third across the top, and a rope dangling from the crossbar. A gallows.

He closed his eyes, weak and dizzy, and stumbled backward. Van Dyke took his elbow and steadied him. "Why this sudden emotion, sir? You knew you were to die."

John could hardly breathe. "I expected a different method," he said, panting, trying to regain his courage. "I thought my request had been granted. Must I then die in this manner?"

"I'm afraid it is unavoidable, sir," said Van Dyke.

Slowly John found his breath. "I am reconciled to my death, but not to the mode." He took another deep breath, and stood tall. The script had changed, but he would still play the part of a brave soldier. He walked forward.

A wagon stood under the scaffold, holding a long black coffin. An open grave had been dug nearby. His judges sat on horseback in a row; John bowed and smiled to each one. Next he passed the three militiamen who had captured him. They smirked at him. He acknowledge them with an ironic bow.

He passed by Peter, who was sobbing like a child. John blinked back his tears. Peter had promised to take his uniform to Clinton.

Then John caught sight of Tallmadge. They were separated by two rows of soldiers. "Major Tallmadge," he called, "will you come here for a moment?"

Tallmadge walked through the rows of soldiers and caught John's hand in both his own. "I'm sorry, Andre," he said, his voice husky. "I'm glad to have had the chance to know you. I'll always cherish your memory."

"You've been a good friend to me, Tallmadge. Thank you for all your kindnesses."

Tallmadge walked away, his shoulders shaking.

Now John stood at the foot of the gallows. Colonel Scammell read the death sentence. John listened, trying to keep his face impassive. But he rolled a loose pebble under his foot nervously, and choked a little as he thought of the shame of what was to come. He glanced upward at the noose. How long would it take him to die? How much would it hurt?

"Take your place in the wagon, Major Andre," said Scammell.

John put his hands on the tailboard and tried to jump up. He felt weak and dizzy. He couldn't make it. Gritting his teeth, he tried again.

A filthy hangman waited on the wagon. He'd smeared his face and hands with soot, an effort, John supposed, to avoid being recognized. The man held out a sooty hand to help John up. John waved him away. He got a knee on the tailboard and hoisted himself up. They could at least have provided him with a step stool. All he had left was his dignity, and it was becoming difficult to hold on to that.

He stepped up onto the coffin. He took off his hat and laid it at his feet. Then he untied his neckcloth and tucked it into his pocket. He turned back his shirt collar to expose his neck. "It will be but a momentary pang," he said out loud. The pain wouldn't last long.

The hangman stepped up with the noose in his filthy hands. John snatched it away and put it over his own head. He couldn't bear those dirty, disgraceful hangman's hands touching him. He tightened the knot under his ear. He wasn't going to die like a slaughtered calf. He wanted to show these people that he could take his own fate in his hands, like one of the old Romans who took their own lives rather than submit to their enemies. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it over his own eyes.

"Major Andre," said Scammell's unsteady voice, "if you have anything to say, you can speak, for you have but a short time to live."

What was left to say? He hadn't prepared a speech. He hadn't expected this at all. He'd pictured himself stoic and silent as the rifles roared. He raised the blindfold. He saw the huge crowed waiting, weeping, straining to hear his words. "I have nothing more than this," he said, "that I would have you gentlemen bear me witness that I die like a brave man." The crowd broke into sobs. There was some satisfaction in that.

John pulled the blindfold back down over his face. He heard Scammell say, "His hands must be tied." John sighed. This was the most disorganized affair imaginable. He pulled another handkerchief from his pocket and held it out distastefully, knowing the filthy hangman would have to touch him now.

He stood motionless, waiting in the dark as his hands were bound with the handkerchief. His heart jumped as a whip cracked, almost like the rifle shot he wanted to hear. A horse whinnied, and the wagon lumbered out from beneath his feet.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Chapter 13 September 22, 1776 Harlem Heights, New York

William Hull lay on his cot with his hands behind his head, feeling grim and discouraged. The late afternoon sun made dappled shadows on the tent above him. He wondered where his friend Hale Second was, what he was doing. Wherever he was, the information he'd been sent to gather would come too late. The British had swept through New York City like the fire that had gone before them. The Americans had managed to hold Harlem Heights, but hundreds of soldiers were killed or missing, including some of Will's friends. Colonel Knowlton had been killed in the battle, along with several of his Rangers. Things looked bleak for Washington's army. It wasn't strong enough; America would never win independence.

"I'm looking for Captain William Hull," said a voice outside his tent.

"This is his tent, sir," said another voice.

The tent flap opened, and a young captain peeked in. He looked scarcely old enough to shave. "Captain Hull? My name is Alexander Hamilton. May I come in?"

Will sat up and nodded, beckoning with his hand. The boy came in and sat on the camp stool. There was a strange, fierce light in his eyes. "I was part of a delegation sent to meet with a British delegation. They came into camp under a flag of truce to discuss the exchange of prisoners taken in the battle. I've just returned from the meeting."

Will was puzzled. "What does that have to do with me? Do you have news of someone I know?"

The boy nodded. "You were a close friend of Captain Nathan Hale, I understand."

Will caught the "were". "He's dead, isn't he?" he said dully.

Again Hamilton nodded, more slowly. ""Yes, sir. I'm sorry."

Death had been all around Will for the past week, men screaming as musket balls or bayonets tore into them. He'd been raised on stories of heroes dying in battle, but the stories never told him what an awful business it really was. And yet despite the horror there was a certain glory about it. He had the sick feeling that what he was about to hear was going to be different. "How?" he said.

Hamilton's face was a mixture of reluctance, rage, and suppressed excitement. "He was hanged as a spy at eleven o'clock this morning. One of the officers in the British delegation was present. He told me how your friend bore himself, what he said--"

Will winced. It was the news he'd been expecting. The only thing that surprised him was how quickly it had reached him. He closed his eyes and Hale Second bounded, laughing, into his mind. Will saw him kicking a football in the yard at Yale, gesturing on the stage in one of their comedies, debating late at night in the dorm rooms in favor of education for girls, against slavery, and whether the situation in America was like that of the Romans in the time of Cato. He saw him giving his earnest valedictory address. Despite himself, Will couldn't help wondering what Hale Second had said in his last valediction, five hours ago. He opened his eyes. "Is the delegation still here?"

"They've gone for now, but we're to meet with them again tomorrow. Would you like to come with us?"

Will hesitated. Did he want to add to those bright memories the grim picture the officer was sure to paint?

Hamilton leaned forward. His eyes still shone with that strange, fierce light. "If I may say so, sir, I think you should come."


The next day Will joined the American delegation that walked through British lines with a flag of truce. He listened without much interest as the names of the prisoners were read. Then one caught his ear: John Wyllys. Wyllys had been one of Hale Second's good friends at Yale. Could they have seen each other two nights ago in the provost jail?

At last the official business was concluded. The British officers returned to their duties. But one remained behind, a captain twice Will's age, with an intelligent, kindly face.

"This is Captain Hull," said Hamilton to the British captain in a low voice. "He was a good friend of Captain Hale's. I hoped you would tell him what you told me, and answer his questions."

The redcoat nodded. "I made a promise yesterday, and I'm glad to find an opportunity to keep it so soon. My name is Montresor, Captain Hull. Two nights ago, I was attending Sir William Howe when a prisoner was brought before him. Plans of our fortifications and the numbers and positions of our troops were found concealed in the prisoner's shoes. He admitted freely then that he was a spy, and told his name and rank. I was surprised that he had the bearing of a gentleman. Not what I would have expected from a spy."

Will listened, heartsick, as the officer told how Hale had been condemned without a trial, how he had been refused a minister and a Bible. Montresor explained that he had invited the young prisoner into his tent while preparations were being made for the execution. "He was calm, and bore himself with gentle dignity, in the consciousness of high intentions. He asked for writing materials, which I supplied, and wrote two letters, one to his brother, and one to his commanding officer. The Provost Marshal destroyed them afterward, I understand. But--" He leaned forward, and whispered, "but I read them. And I heard him speak, a few minutes later. I promised him I would tell you what he said."

Will looked at the seasoned redcoat in surprise. The man seemed moved by what he was saying. Why should he care what an enemy prisoner said? Why should he make such a promise?

Montresor told them how the soldiers had taunted the prisoner, and how he had replied that dying for the sake of freedom made any death noble. He told them how Hale had accused them of shedding innocent blood, had defended the rebels' right to stand up against tyranny, had said he was fighting for freedom for the millions who would come afterward. Will smiled despite his pain. Yes, that sounded like Hale Second.

"He urged the spectators to be ready to face death in whatever form it might come. And then he concluded by saying that you must continue the struggle without him, for he'd done all he could. He said his only regret was that he had but one life to lose for his country."

Will stared at the officer's fatherly face and then at Hamilton's shining eyes. Did Montresor know what he was doing?

Montresor saw his surprise. "Powerful words, I know. You wonder why I should tell you. Cunningham didn't dare. If I thought there was any chance you might win this conflict, I wouldn't either. But of course there isn't. Your cause is hopeless; you know that as well as I do. I tell you because your friend asked me to, and I thought it a proper request for one gentleman to make of another."

Will questioned Montresor for another half hour, finding out every detail he could. Then he thanked the British captain, and walked back toward camp with Hamilton.

So Montresor thought their cause was hopeless. Then what was that light shining in Hamilton's eyes? Hale Second hadn't given up hope, even at the end. Even if he hadn't said anything, that would have been enough. But he'd desperately wanted his words to be heard. William Hull wouldn't let him down. By nightfall, every soldier in the American army on Harlem Heights would know what Nathan Hale had said.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Conclusion--What Happened Later Enoch Hale probably found out what Nathan had written to him, because one of Nathan's friends, John Wyllys, was a prisoner of war in the provost jail. Cunningham showed Wyllys Nathan's letters and diploma to taunt him. When Wyllys was released, he went to Enoch and told him about it.

Enoch lived a long happy life as a minister. His grandson, Edward Everett Hale, was also a minister, and a chaplain of the United States Senate. Edward Everett Hale is best known as the author of the story "The Man Without a Country". Benjamin Tallmadge was an important part of the American spy network in the later part of the Revolutionary War. He devised many clever codes, including one in which a woman spy hung her laundry on the line in a way that told him what British troops she could see from her house. Once, when he was meeting with another woman spy, British soldiers broke into the house. Tallmadge and the woman ran out the back, he pulled her onto his horse, and they galloped away.

After the war, Tallmadge served in the US Congress. He donated money for the founding of the town in Ohio which bears his name: Tallmadge, Ohio. For the rest of his life, Tallmadge could not speak about John Andre without weeping. It is not recorded that he ever mentioned Nathan Hale to anyone except Andre. John Montresor retired from the British army in 1778 and returned to England with his family. He was frustrated by the fact that though he was the Chief Engineer in America, he was only given the rank of captain after thirty-four years of service. He is remembered primarily for his journals, which were published by the New York Historical Society in 1881. Unfortunately, some of his journals were burned in the fire that burned New York the night Hale was captured. His surviving journals make no mention of either Hale or Andre, though he does mention the party that Andre organized for Howe. After the war, in 1786, he made a bitter list of reasons the British lost the war, including "Not but 1/4 as many Engineers as the Enemy", "A String of Blunders" and, surprisingly, "Not executing spies". I think the fact that he was such a seasoned professional soldier makes his kindness to Hale all the more moving. Thomas Knowlton, the leader of the Rangers, was killed in the Battle of Harlem Heights when Nathan Hale was still on Long Island. If Hale hadn't gone on his mission, there's a good chance he might have been killed in the same battle. William Cunningham, the provost-marshal of New York, was infamous for his brutality. He was said to have starved prisoners, and stolen the money given for their food. After the war, he returned to England. There he was tried for his crimes, and hanged. Benedict Arnold went to England with his young wife Peggy, who was probably also in on the plot. (She was a Tory who had once been courted by Andre.) He expected to be welcomed there, but the British blamed him for John Andre's death, and shunned him. His name became famous in America as a synonym for "traitor." John Paulding, Isaac Van Wart and David Williams were the the militiamen who captured Andre. Their account of the capture was considerably different than Andre's. They claimed to have stopped him out of patriotism, not because they wanted to rob him. Tallmadge thought they should have been arrested for robbery, but Congress awarded them each a medal. Whatever their motives were, they probably saved the United States from defeat by exposing Arnold's plot. William Hull published Hale's famous last words in a newspaper article in 1781. He also quoted them in his memoirs, which were published by his son in 1848. His memoirs also describe the conversation in which he tried to talk Hale out of going on his mission. After the war, Hull became governor of Michigan Territory. He served as a brigadier general in the war of 1812. He surrendered the city of Detroit to the British, and was tried for treason because he made no effort to resist. He was condemned to death, but president James Madison pardoned him in recognition for his bravery in the Revolutionary War. Alexander Hamilton helped to write the Constitution of the United States. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury of the new country. In 1804, he was killed in a duel with one of his political enemies, Aaron Burr.



* John Andre was buried at Tappan, New York. In 1821 his body was moved to Westminster Abbey in England. The king had put up a monument to him there, and made Andre's younger brother a knight to help erase the stain on the family name. Monuments were also put up in America: one at Tarrytown where Andre was captured, and one in Tappan where he was hanged. In 1885, the monument in Tappan was damaged by dynamite, and the indignant vandals left an American flag at the site.

One of Andre's friends, Anna Seward, was an English poet. She published a long poem about Andre in 1781. Her poem caught the imagination of both the English and the Americans. In her poem she said that Washington was cruel. After the war, Washington sent a friend of his to tell her that he was mortified by her words, and that he'd done all he could to save Andre. He also sent her records of the trial. Anna Seward said she had misjudged Washington, and she was sorry she'd spoken so harshly about him in her poem. Nathan Hale was left hanging for several days, and buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in New York City. Soldiers sang ballads about him around their campfires. His father put up a headstone for him, and a nephew planted twenty-one maple trees, one for each year of his life.

After the war, though, Nathan Hale was almost forgotten. When Andre's body was moved to England, Hale's friends began a campaign to revive his memory. They put on plays to raise money for a monument. In 1846 a monument to him was built in Coventry, Connecticut, where he had grown up. In 1885 a statue was put up in New York City. Another one soon followed at Yale. Today Nathan Hale's name appears on schools, parks, battleships, and forts. And yet, ironically, if it weren't for Andre, he might not be remembered at all.





While the details of John Andre’s capture and execution are well-documented, we don’t really know much about Nathan Hale’s last few days. The stories that come down to us are garbled, second-hand accounts told years later when his friends were old. However, in 2003, a manuscript by a Tory named Considy came to light. It tells of Hale’s capture by the British Major Robert Roberts. I have used that account in this book, updating the version that I had on my website.

The story about Hale hiding his papers in his shoes come from his childhood friend Asher Wright. It’s entirely possible that Wright had heard about Andre hiding his papers in his boots, and used that story to add interesting detail to his friend’s story. But it’s also possible that it is one of the coincidences in the lives of Hale and Andre.

No one knows where he spent his last night. Legend says it was in the greenhouse, but it may have been in the provost jail. No one knows where he was hanged. If he spent the night in the greenhouse, the execution was probably somewhere nearby. But it may have been near the jail. That's where the statue is.

No one knows for sure what he said in his last speech. Some of his friends said they'd been told one thing, some another. I tried to weave the quotes I found into a coherent speech. Almost all the details I used in chapter 11, the wooden effigy of Washington, the sneering soldier, the farmer with the wagon, Cunningham threatening the women, come from second-hand accounts.

One major disagreement I found about Hale's life was whether he was engaged to his step-sister Alice Ripley. Many authors like to think he was, and her granddaughters claimed that he was. But his sister said he wasn't. There are no letters from Nathan to Alice, though she kept several from Enoch, who courted her after Nathan's death. I decided not to bring her into this story, because there's so much doubt.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Bibliography Addison, Joseph. “Cato”, Eighteenth Century Plays. New York, 1952 Bailey, Anthony. “Major Andre”. New York, 1987 Brown, Marion Marsh. “Young Nathan”. Philadelphia, 1949 Circian (Andrea Sinclaire). “The Quintumviri” Darrow, Jane. “Nathan Hale: A Story of Loyalties”. New York and London, 1932 Flexner, Thomas James. “The Traitor and the Spy: Benedict Arnold and John Andre”. New York, 1953. Hatch, Robert McConnell. “Major John Andre: A Gallant in Spy’s Clothing”. Boston, 1986 Hutson, James. “Nathan Hale Revisited”. 2003 Lossing, Benson J. “The Two Spies: Nathan Hale and John Andre”. New York and London, 1910 Monjo, F. N. “A Namesake for Nathan”. New York, 1977 Montresor, John. “The Montresor Journals”, New-York Historical Society Collections 1881. New York, 1881 Newton, Caroline Clifford. “Once Upon a Time in Connecticut”. 1916 Seymour, George Dudley. “Documentary Life of Nathan Hale”. New Haven, Connecticut, 1941 Stuart, I. W. “Life of Captain Nathan Hale, the Martyr-Spy of the American Revolution”. Hartford, Connecticut, 1856 Voight, Virginia Frances. “Nathan Hale”. New York, 1965 Wheeler, Richard. “Voices of 1776”. Greenwich, Connecticut, 1972

A personal note: I first became interested in Nathan Hale when I saw a TV show in 1970 about him. It was an episode of the weekly show "The Young Rebels", and starred Brandon de Wilde as Hale. The actor was tragically killed in a car wreck a couple of years later. If you enjoyed my story, you may enjoy a transcript I made of the episode, which includes a link to some screenshots: Young Rebels: To Hang a Hero The TV show had some inaccuracies, such as placing Hale's family in Haddam instead of Coventry, and allowing one of the regular characters to visit him in the guise of a minister. It mostly emphasized the story that Samuel Hale, Nathan's cousin, had betrayed him, something on which historians do not agree. But despite its faults, I found it a very moving story.

copyright 2001 by Karen Deal Robinson
return to table of contents

Home Poems Stories Novels Yule Carols Games How to... Prayer Beads Doodle Deck Sundials Contact Me