American Hero’s Last Words and Execution on The U.E.S.

Rebecca Schiffman with Nathan Hale plaque

I’ve been watching the John Adams HBO series starring Paul Giamatti and feeling a little patriotic so today my friend Mike and I walked around looking for a plaque commemorating the execution site of an American Revolutionary War Hero, Nathan Hale, and eventually we found it on the side of a Banana Republic.

Nathan Hale Plaque with pants sign

According to a NY Historical Society plaque on the West side of Third Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets, Nathan Hale, the American Revolutionary war hero, was hanged by the British, “probably within a hundred yards of here.”

The hanging site of Nathan Hale is significant because it is where he uttered his famous last words (there are many conflicting accounts of these words, but all accounts give the same general sentiment which boil down to what follows),

“I only regret that I have but one life to give my country.”

Really quick summary: Nathan Hale was born in Connecticut and attended Yale before becoming a schoolteacher.  In 1776 he was a 21-year old captain in the Continental Army.  He volunteered to gather evidence behind enemy lines but was somehow found out by the British. He was questioned by British commander General William Howe who was headquartered in the Beekman Mansion (near 51st St and 1st Ave, then a rural area.) Howe ordered Hale’s execution which took place the morning of September 22, 1776.

Two other sites purport to be that of Nathan Hale’s execution- one at City Hall Park and one at 44th Street and Vanderbilt near Grand Central Terminal.

One account (sorry, no reference) which supports the Upper East Side location states that on the morning of September 22, 1776, Hale was marched up the Post Road to Park of Artillery next to a Pub called The Dove Tavern which is known to have been near 66th Street and 3rd Avenue.

Nathan Hale
Image via The C.I.A.

Nathan Hale
Image via Corbis

In 1985 the state of Connecticut named Hale its the official state hero.

Nathan Hale at

Nathan Hale on Wikipedia
Simplified Summary on America’s Library


Author: rebs


3 thoughts on “American Hero’s Last Words and Execution on The U.E.S.”

  1. You were watching “John Adams” on HBO? My condolences. In and around John Adams’ constant weeping, and his wife’s preternatural scientific knowledge which placed her centuries ahead of her time (portraying her as a woman of her time would have made her less than — human) there really wasn’t much there, eh? Thomas Jefferson was pretty good.

  2. I had a crush on the Thomas Jefferson! Yes, it was a depressing series. Too much frowning. I actually never made it through the last few.

  3. Thanks for putting this page up.

    I saw this commemorative plaque one morning while walking down Third Ave, but I could not find out any further information.

    New York City is just overflowing with interesting history.

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