A letter from Yale friend Benjamin Tallmadge in June 1775 convinced Hale to join the fight for independence.
He accepted a commission as First Lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut Regiment under Colonel Charles Webb of Stamford. His regiment marched from New London on September 23, 1775, to Boston where they were stationed on Winter Hill during the blockade. Hale received a Captain’s commission in Colonel Charles Webb’s 19th Regiment on January 1, 1776. This Regiment soon marched to Manhattan Island to prevent a British invasion there. In September 1776, General Washington formed a new unit under Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton called the Rangers to patrol the New York coast line. Nathan Hale commanded one unit charged with forward reconnaissance for the Continental Army.
Knowlton was asked to find a Ranger volunteer to go under cover as a spy to determine the most probable site for a British invasion. Nathan Hale volunteered for this duty. In disguise as a schoolmaster behind enemy lines, he secured intelligence on British movements which he recorded in Latin and hid in his shoes. He was captured while attempting to leave Long Island on September 21, 1776. Hale’s notes were discovered when he was searched. He provided his name and military rank but because he was not in uniform, he was sentenced to hang as a spy without a trial. Nathan Hale lost his life on September 22, 1776. His remains were buried in an unmarked grave in New York.