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Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy
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Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  104 ratings  ·  21 reviews
The first biography in nearly a century of the legendary Revolutionary War patriot and our country’s first spy.
Few Americans know much more about Nathan Hale than his famous last words: “I only regret that I have one life left to give for my country.” But who was the real Nathan Hale?
M. William Phelps charts the life of this famed patriot and Connecticut’s state hero, fol
ebook, 320 pages
Published September 16th 2008 by Thomas Dunne Books
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The only reason this book received two stars from me was because in the end, it did have some information in it that I didn't previously know. Otherwise, the book was poorly researched (he quotes more historians than primary sources it seems) and poorly written. Full names were used over and over again (Washington is well known enough to go by his last name), and extensive background was given for even the most minor of characters. Every British soldier was apparently a terrible, godless person, ...more
I only got half way through this book before I needed to give it back to the library, but it was really good. I really liked the use of religion, and other references in this book. I find it the best biography of Nathan Hale at least that I've read, but I have a sneeking suspision that it's the best anywhere.
I read this to prepare for the upcoming Nathan Hale symposium... I was expecting much more. Hale's story is fascinating, and certainly deserves a decent contemporary biography. Phelps' book misses the mark by a wide margin. Phelps did a decent job of summarizing and rehashing others' work on Hale, but Phelps is certainly no historian. His books biggest failings come when trying to impart the larger situation of Revolutionary New England, and the time period in general. Some of his most egregious ...more

M. William Phelps provides an updated biography on the life of Nathan Hale America's first spy to be executed. Washington was well known for his desire to gather intelligence on the enemy and set up several spy rings throughout the revolution (See Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring for that history). Nathan Hale was the first attempt at spying on the British in the days leading up to the invasion of New York. Nathan was not a successful spy and was caught and hung by one o
Kathleen Hagen
Nathan Hale: The First American Spy, by M. William Phelps, narrated by Phil Gigante, produced by Brilliance Audio, downloaded from

A very interesting brief book.
Publisher’s note:
Few Americans know much more about Nathan Hale than his famous last words: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." But who was
the real Nathan Hale?M. William Phelps charts the life of this famed patriot and Connecticut's state hero, following Hale's rural childhood, his education
at Ya
A good story worth about half the pages in the book. Somewhat meandering and unfocused, not sure what the author was attempting to do. With that said, I learned much more than the minimal, inaccurate phrase, "I regret that I have but one life to give for my country."

Spies were considered the lowest of the low, and summarily executed by most countries in hostilities. So there was some interesting conjecture and discussion of what effort Nathan Hale had to work through to leave a respected, patrio
J M Padoc
I struggled with this book. It wasn't a hard read--the language was accessible and clear. It's a short book, so it's really kind of surprising that I struggled to read it. The narrative was a bit unfocused, but I suspect that's a symptom of the subject matter rather than the author's ability. The truth is that there's just not enough of a life to tell a book-length story here. Not to diminish the contribution Hale made to the revolution or to diminish his life in general--indeed, he seems to hav ...more
A well researched book. Phelps avoids passing off legend as fact as much as possible, which I am grateful for.
Nathan Hale went to Yale. He became a school teacher. When the Revolutionary War began, he joined the Continental army. He eventually volunteered to go on a mission of espionage. He was close to finishing his mission when he was captured, and hung as a spy. But wild folk tales fly around, such as he was turned in by a relative, Samuel Hale.
Phelps goes on fact and establishes the truth
Poorly written, meandering, and I'm almost certain the author thought he was getting paid by the word, considering how many odd and drawn out quotes were included. I'm sure Nathan wasn't as idiotic as he seemed once we got to the spying bits, but holy hell, he really deserved to get caught and hung.

I was honestly cheering for the British by the end. This book was so bad that it overcame years of being indoctrinated into the glorious patriotism of the American Revolution.
Lora Innes
I just cannot get into this book. I cannot make it past the first few chapters. I have been "reading" it since it came out and yet I can't get interested in it enough to ever pick it up. Having done more than a little research on Hale myself, I didn't like Phelps's interpretation/depiction of events. As for the Hale scholars I know, they say the same thing. I think it's a shame that the only recent biography to come out on Nathan Hale isn't highly recommended by the researchers who know most abo ...more
James Stevens
An interesting story of a man whose short life had significant impact in the battle for New York in 1776. Phelps reveals much about the character of the man who understood the risks of his passion for liberty.
Titanic Buff
Enjoyed this book, but I think I would have liked it better had Phelps not included so much other info on the American Revolution. Much of it is relevant, in a way, to Hale's life, but I could have done without it. Phelps draws from Hale's correspondence, army journal and other sources. When it comes to Hale's discovery as a spy, Phelps draws mainly from a journal kept by a Tory to tell Hale's tale. Overall a good read.
I learned so much from this book. Nathan Hale is a true hero.
Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America's First Spy is a fascinating read, although some of the ends were certainly not tied together. I personally think it was good read, but not as good as George D. Seymour's. I think it would be more legit if it had Nathans letters, his diary, etc, that Seymour's does.
This books lays out the events that lead up to the mission and the despise of the brave Nathan Hale. He was a pious, loyal man. Apparently his famous last words were not really his words. But he said something longer and equally as moving.
Nicely researched book. It adds some good info into the personality of a legendary figure. There are also interesting details about the beginnings of the Revolution in New England and New York. It was very intersting.
Enjoyed this short little book about the equally short life of Nathan Hale. The author tries to tell the true story of Nathan from letters, diaries, etc. and clear up the myth aspect.
I gave up reading this - it was interesting at times, but took forever getting to the point.
Extremely well-written, interesting historical piece of a young man with firm ideals.
a new bio of Nathan Hale, the first in several decades.
Stephanie marked it as to-read
Dec 12, 2014
Robert Mcfarland
Robert Mcfarland marked it as to-read
Dec 11, 2014
Cindy marked it as to-read
Nov 28, 2014
Lady Nefertankh
Lady Nefertankh marked it as to-read
Nov 16, 2014
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M. William Phelps lives in Connecticut with his wife and three children.

He is the author of 14 true crime books.
More about M. William Phelps...
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