The Story of Nathan Hale
(a.k.a. The Execution of Nathan Hale)
CAPTAIN NATHAN HALE
CAPTAIN WILLIAM HULL
LIEUTENANT DREW [BRITISH]
PROVOST MARSHAL CUNNINGHAM
[and various VOICES]
ANNOUNCER: We present here the story of the famous Revolutionary hero and
martyr, Nathan Hale. For the first scene of our sketch, let us go to General
Washington's headquarters in New York City. It is early September of the year
1776. In the Orderly room, outside of General Washington's private office,
sits Captain William Hull, a member of the General's staff. Another officer
comes through the door, Captain Hull glances toward the newcomer, jumps up,
HULL: Nathan Hale! As sure as I'm alive!
HALE: William Hull! Well, well, this is a surprise!
HULL: And you're a Captain! My congratulations, Nathan.
HALE: I might say the same to you, William!
HULL: What regiment are you in?
HALE: Knowlton's Rangers. And you?
HULL: Well, as you see, I'm on the General's staff. I envy you! Knowlton's
Rangers, eh? Ah! There you have some chance for adventure! Some chance to
distinguish yourself, while I--
HALE: Why, what's wrong with a staff appointment? I'd be honored if it were
offered to me.
HULL: Yes, so was I. That's why I'm here. I was a lieutenant of artillery when
General Washington asked me to join his staff. I jumped at the chance--
HALE: Who wouldn't?
HULL: I wouldn't, again! Why, all I've done for two months is write letters,
sit at a desk, answer questions, and run errands! It's no duty for a man who
HALE: Yes, William, you have always been a fire eater.
HULL: Well, I eat no fire here, I can tell you. Now will you trade jobs with
HALE: If General Washington asks me to--I'll do it--though you haven't made it
sound like a very attractive job, William.
HULL: Perhaps I've overdone it, Nathan--
HALE: [_laughing_] No use trying to crawl out of it now, William.
HULL: But you--you're more used to this sort of thing than I am. You're a
schoolmaster--used to books and quills and letter writing.
HALE: That's true enough. You never had much love for books--as I remember it
you were rather a trial to the dominie back home--by the way, what do you hear
from South Coventry?
HULL: Not much--almost every man in the town enlisted.
HALE: Yes, I keep running across South Coventry men everywhere I go. It's a
little town, but it has certainly done its duty well in this war.
HULL: If others had done as well, we wouldn't be in such dire straits now!
HALE: Things do look pretty black for us.
HULL: Black! They couldn't be blacker!
HALE: Have you any idea what the General's next move will be?
HULL: No!--and what's more, I don't think he knows. It all depends on General
Howe's movements, and what those will be nobody knows.
HALE: Is General Washington in his office now?
HULL: Yes. Did you come to see him?
HALE: I was ordered to report to him.
HULL: And here I've been keeping you out here--that shows what a good staff
officer I am! I'll announce you at once. [_knock_]
WASHINGTON: [_off_] Yes, come in.
HULL: Sir, Captain Hale of Knowlton's Rangers awaits your pleasure.
WASHINGTON: [_off_] Ask him to come in at once, Captain.
HULL: Yes, sir. [_closer_] General Washington will see you now, Captain Hale.
HALE: Thank you.
HULL: [_low_] I'll wait out here for you. Come right in here! [_door closes_]
HALE: Captain Hale reports as ordered, sir.
WASHINGTON: Come in, Captain--come in!
HALE: Thank you, sir.
WASHINGTON: Will you sit here?
HALE: Thank you, sir.
WASHINGTON: Colonel Knowlton informs me that you and your company have been
assigned to cover the North Shore line of Long Island Sound.
HALE: Yes, sir!
WASHINGTON: Well, Captain Hale, I am seriously in need of exact information
which you may be able to secure.
HALE: What is that, sir?
WASHINGTON: Lord Howe's plans!
HALE: Yes, sir!
WASHINGTON: Can you get them?
HALE: I can try, sir.
WASHINGTON: You don't seem daunted by the magnitude of the undertaking.
HALE: It is an order, sir.
WASHINGTON: Well, my boy, no man knows better than I the impossibility of some
HALE: But, sir--
WASHINGTON: I hope, though, that this is not impossible. I have to have the
information. The safety of my whole army depends upon it. I must know
particularly where General Howe intends to strike next.
HALE: Yes, sir.
WASHINGTON: If he comes across the East River, we can protect ourselves and
keep out of his way. But if he comes across Long Island Sound--do you realize
what that may mean to us?
HALE: Yes, sir. He can cut off our retreat.
WASHINGTON: Exactly! So that's what I must know.
HALE: I'll find out for you, sir.
WASHINGTON: Good! Now, Captain, you may go about your task in any way you see
fit. I suggest two or three alternatives. First, you may tempt one of the
enemy or a Tory who has access to the British lines, with a sum of money. You
may draw on me for whatever is necessary.
HALE: Yes, sir.
WASHINGTON: Or you might make a sally across the Sound, capture a prisoner or
two, and secure bits of information.
HALE: Yes, sir.
WASHINGTON: Or, though I hate to suggest it, you might go yourself in disguise
to the British lines, but that should be only in a last desperate effort.
HALE: I understand, sir.
WASHINGTON: Or if you could get in touch with certain persons on Long Island
who have been of service to us before--let's see--there is a shoemaker in
Jamaica--what is his name--oh, here it is--Simon Carter.
HALE: Simon Carter. Yes, sir.
WASHINGTON: If you can find any way to get in touch with him--
HALE: I'll find a way, sir.
WASHINGTON: The password is "Liberty" used twice in your first sentence to
HALE: Yes, sir.
WASHINGTON: I don't know what he can do for you, but he is trustworthy and he
may have some information.
HALE: I'll see him, sir.
WASHINGTON: Now, Captain, I don't want you to go yourself unless it is
absolutely necessary. But I must have General Howe's plans as soon as
HALE: Yes, sir. I understand. I'll see that you get them, sir.
WASHINGTON: Good! I believe you will, Captain. Good day.
HALE: Good day, sir. [_door closes_]
HULL: [_coming in_] Well, Nathan, what news?
HALE: I've got a job.
HULL: On the staff?
HALE: No. I'm afraid it's more hazardous than that.
HULL: You're lucky! A hazardous job! Say, what I wouldn't give to be in your
shoes! What is it? Are you at liberty to tell?
HALE: Of course I'll tell you, William. I'm to discover General Howe's plan of
HULL: [_whistles_] I should say you had drawn a hazardous assignment! I'd call
it a labor of Hercules!
HULL: How are you going about it?
HALE: There's only one sure way of doing it.
HULL: Yes--and what's that?
HALE: I'll go myself into the enemy lines.
HULL: In disguise?
HALE: Of course.
HULL: That may involve serious consequences, Nathan.
HALE: I know it, but I think it's my duty.
HULL: Listen, Nathan. Let me go instead. It's more in my line.
HALE: No, William. The General has assigned me to the duty.
HULL: But he didn't order you to act the spy, did he?
HULL: And he doesn't expect you to.
HALE: He expects me to get Howe's plans.
HULL: Look here--if I get permission to leave here, won't you let me go in
HALE: I'm afraid not, William.
HULL: Listen to reason! You have a father and mother; you're engaged to be
married. If by chance you were captured--well, I hate to think of it. But I'm
alone in the world, it wouldn't make any difference what happened to me. Let
HALE: It's no use, William. I appreciate your sentiment; but General
Washington has given me a duty to perform, and I'd be a poor kind of soldier
if I turned it over to anyone else simply because it involved danger.
HULL: Let me go with you, at least!
HALE: Well, if you can get permission, I'd be glad to have you go part of the
way with me--though I must go into the enemy lines alone!
HALE: I insist on that! There is added risk in two of us trying to work under
HULL: Oh, very well. Have it your way. When do we start?
HALE: Early tomorrow morning.
HULL: I'll get permission to accompany you at once.
* * * * * *
ANNOUNCER: So early the next morning Hull and Hale started out together. They
went into Connecticut and began looking for some means of crossing the Sound
to the North Shore of Long Island. When they arrived near Norwalk they heard
that an American gunboat was lying offshore. They determined to row out to it
as soon as night came.
Our next scene is just after dark. Nathan Hale has put on his disguise, while
William Hull has found a rowboat, and now draws up to the shore where Nathan
is waiting for him.
HALE: Hello, William, that you?
HULL: It's me, right enough. Come on, climb in.
HALE: All right. Hold her there while I get aboard.
HULL: Easy, you'll have to jump for it! This is as close as I can come with
this old tub.
HALE: Steady now! Here I come--all right! I didn't even get my feet wet!
HULL: Let me take a good look at your disguise. Hm--brown homespun suit--yes--
that's a poor enough fit even for a penniless schoolmaster. And that hat! Yes,
it'll disguise you all right.
HALE: I hope so. Give me an oar, I'll help you pull to the gunboat.
HULL: Here you are. [_rattle of oar in oarlock_] All ready?
HALE: Pull away, [_noise of regular rattle of oars in the lock and the swish
of water continuing_]
HULL: Where are you going first, Nathan?
HALE: I don't know. I'll have to let circumstances direct me.
HULL: Are you going directly to that shoemaker the General referred you to?
HALE: No, not directly. I'll see what I can do without any help at first.
HULL: You better change your mind and let me go with you.
HALE: It's no use, William. I won't change my mind.
HULL: You always were stubborn, Nathan.
HALE: Perhaps. There's the gunboat, William!
HULL: Sure that's it?
HALE: No doubt of it.
HULL: Shall I hail them?
HALE: Let's pull in a little closer.
HULL: All right, pull away. There's no light aboard.
HALE: No--there wouldn't be. These waters are alive with British boats.
HULL: There! That's close enough! Give 'em a call now!
HALE: Ahoy, there!
BOS'N: [_distance_] Ahoy! Look sharp there! Don't come any closer! Who are
you, and what do you want?
HALE: I want to speak to your Captain.
BOS'N: Who are you?
HALE: An officer of the Continental army!
BOS'N: Stand by--I'll report you.
HALE: [_low_] All right, William, as soon as I go aboard, row back to shore,
and wait ten days for me. If I've not returned by then, go back and report me
HULL: Now, listen, Nathan! I've come this far with you, let me go--
HALE: We've settled all that, William, not once but several times.
HULL: Oh, all right.
POND: [_distance_] Ahoy, there! What's wanted?
HALE: I wish to come aboard, sir, with your permission.
POND: Hello, there, your voice sounds familiar. You don't by any chance happen
to be Captain Hale?
HALE: Yes, indeed. I'm Captain Hale. But you have the advantage of me, sir--
POND: Come aboard, come aboard, Captain. Don't you remember Lieutenant Pond? I
was in your regiment at the siege of Boston.
HALE: Of course, I do, Pond. I'm glad to hear your voice.
POND: Come aboard, Captain, I'll lower a ladder for you.
HALE: Thank you.
BOS'N: Aye, aye, sir!
POND: Lower the ladder for Captain Hale!
BOS'N: Aye, aye, sir! [_gives orders for lowering ladder_]
HALE: [_during the confusion_] Good-by, William. I'll try to be back in a
HULL: Good luck to you, Nathan.
HALE: If by any chance I fail to return, will you see that my uniform and
other effects are sent to my family?
HULL: Of course I will, Nathan.
POND: Come aboard, Captain Hale! [_coming in_] Here you are, careful now! Give
me your hand and watch yourself--there!
HALE: Thank you.
POND: What kind of an outfit do you call that you've got on! I'd never have
known you if I hadn't heard your voice.
HALE: That's good, Pond!
POND: Good, why?
HALE: Because I'm bound for the enemy lines.
POND: What? Not on spy duty, I hope?
HALE: Exactly. Will you give me passage to Long Island, and land me in some
POND: Why--yes--if you wish it.
HALE: You can do it without endangering yourself or your boat?
POND: There'll be no difficulty about landing you. There is, however, a
British man-of-war, the _Halifax_, in these waters. We have to watch out for
her. But it's dark enough tonight to be perfectly safe.
HALE: Good! Can we go at once?
POND: Yes, sir. [_calling_] Bos'n!
BOS'N: Aye, aye, sir!
POND: Get the ship under way for Long Island! Bring her into that secluded
cove near Huntington! You know the place.
BOS'N: Aye, aye, sir! [_calling_] All hands on deck! Man the windlass! Weigh
anchor! [_etc._] [_mob, setting sails, etc._]
POND: Well, Captain Hale. This is new business for you, isn't it?
HALE: Yes, I've been transferred to Knowlton's Rangers. Our business is to get
information. And I am under orders to secure some information that I can get
in no other way.
POND: Hm. It's not a sweet business.
HALE: It's in my country's service! It seems that you, too, Lieutenant Pond,
are in a new business. How long have you been in the navy?
POND: Two weeks.
HALE: I'm glad I found you here--I might have had some difficulty in
convincing a stranger that I was really an officer in the Continental army.
POND: That's true enough. You look--well--more like a country schoolmaster
than anything else.
HALE: That's what I hope to pass for.
POND: How long will you be on Long Island?
HALE: I shall try to be through my business in a week. I wonder if you would
meet me at the same place you are going to leave me--say, a week from tonight?
POND: I'll send a small boat ashore for you, soon after dark a week from
HALE: Good! I'll be there--unless--
HALE: Unless I am unexpectedly detained.
POND: Oh, sir--we won't even think of that!
* * * * * *
ANNOUNCER: Our next scene is several days later, at the little shop of the
shoemaker, Simon Carter, in Jamaica. Simon is sitting on his stool, hammering
away at a half-finished boot, when he hears a knock at his door. [_knock_]
SIMON: Come in, come in, the door ain't locked! Come on in!
HALE: Is this the shop of Simon Carter, the shoemaker?
SIMON: It is, no less!
HALE: Are you at liberty today--at liberty to do a little work for me?
SIMON: Close the door!
HALE: There. [_door closes_]
SIMON: [_low_] Now--sir--I'll do what I can fer ye--in the cause of liberty.
What is it?
HALE: [_low_] Have you any information for the General?
SIMON: Aye--a plenty!
HALE: Can you give it to me?
SIMON: It's all written out--careful.
HALE: Good! Give it to me.
SIMON: Jest a minute. Don't them boots of yours need new soles?
HALE: Why, I don't know. I think they'll do.
SIMON: Never! Ye must have new soles!
SIMON: See here? This here sole?
SIMON: Well, listen--come close--
SIMON: The sole is split--the notes are inside it!
HALE: Good! That's an excellent idea!
SIMON: Slickest thing ye ever see. And it's my own idea!
HALE: I wonder if you could hide some notes I've gathered in the same way?
SIMON: O' course I could. I'll resole both boots. Give me yer notes.
HALE: Here they are. [_rattle of paper_]
SIMON: Pshaw, now--what kind o' writin' is this?
HALE: It's Latin. I thought if they were discovered on me--
SIMON: O' course--no soldier--that is, no redcoat could read that furrin
writin'. Well, I'll put it where they'll never find it. Here--right in this
sole. Now sit down there and pull yer boots off an' I'll fix 'em up fer ye.
HALE: Good! It's an excellent hiding place. Here you are.
SIMON: Yer a schoolmaster, I take it from the looks o' ye?
HALE: That's what I've been passing for.
SIMON: Now, where's that awl? Oh, here it is. And what name be ye usin'
HALE: Call me Master Nathan. [_knock_]
SIMON: Oh, someone at the door.
HALE: Had I better hide?
SIMON: No, no! 'tis better that ye sit right over there in the dark corner. Ye
look innocent enough. Come in!
DREW: [_coming in_] Good morning, Simon.
SIMON: Good morrow to ye, Lieutenant Drew! I've got yer boots all finished fer
DREW: Right! You're hard at work, I see.
SIMON: Always hard at work, Lieutenant. Here are yer boots. I'll wrap them up
DREW: [_low_] Who's that gentleman over there?
SIMON: [_low_] A customer--I'm fixin' his boots.
DREW: Know him?
SIMON: Never set eyes on him before.
DREW: Unless I'm much mistaken, I've seen him before--but I can't place him.
SIMON: Eh? Here's yer boots, Lieutenant. An' come around again when ye have
need of a good shoemaker.
DREW: Thank you. I'm going to speak to him. [_louder_] Good morning, sir.
HALE: Good morning, sir.
DREW: Haven't we met somewhere?
HALE: I think you're mistaken, Mr.--
DREW: Drew--Drew--Lieutenant on His Majesty's gunboat, the _Halifax_. Are you
a stranger hereabouts?
HALE: Yes, sir.
DREW: Do you live on the Island?
HALE: Why--ah--yes, sir.
DREW: Ah yes--well, no doubt I've seen you over there. I'm often at
HALE: Yes, sir, no doubt.
DREW: [_jovially_] Perhaps you know that delightfully charming lady who keeps
the tavern--Mrs. Chichester?
HALE: Slightly--only slightly.
DREW: Hm! You should know her--a delightful soul. Well, good day--good day,
SIMON: Good day, Lieutenant. [_door closes_]
HALE: Now, where have I met that man?
SIMON: Then ye _have_ met him? He wasn't mistaken?
HALE: I've seen him somewhere--but I can't place him.
SIMON: Well--as long as he can't place you, yer safe, but git out o' this town
as soon as ye can.
HALE: I will.
SIMON: Are ye from Huntington?
HALE: Never there in my life, except late at night when I landed on the
SIMON: Well, I'll git the boots fixed for ye--then git out fast! No use
runnin' any risks.
HALE: You're right, Simon. I shall take every care not to run into that man
* * * * * *
ANNOUNCER: Our next scene is a few days later. It is evening. Darkness is just
falling. Mrs. Chichester, the keeper of the Huntington Tavern, is bustling
about her kitchen, when Lieutenant Drew enters the back door.
DREW: Good evening, Mrs. Chichester.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Good evenin' to ye, Lieutenant Drew. And what are ye doin'
comin' into my kitchen, I'd like to know?
DREW: Your tavern room's crowded, and I thought perhaps you'd serve me here.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Indeed, I'll do nothing of the kind. There's room enough in
the tavern room.
DREW: But I'll have no chance to talk to you out there. And I'd as soon not
eat as be deprived of your company.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Go along with ye! Come on out here into the tavern room or
ye'll not git a bite to eat.
DREW: Your word is law--I can only obey.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Through this door--here.
DREW: Oh, very well--wait--
MRS. CHICHESTER: Now what's the matter?
DREW: Close the door, Mrs. Chichester! Did you take particular notice of the
man sitting alone in the corner?
MRS. CHICHESTER: The nice-lookin' young feller in the brown suit?
DREW: That's the one. Do you know him?
MRS. CHICHESTER: Never set eyes on him before.
DREW: Then he's not from Huntington.
MRS. CHICHESTER: He is not! I know every young blood hereabouts. An' he's not
a native here, I kin warrant ye that.
DREW: I have it!
MRS. CHICHESTER: What--don't scare a body to death! What have ye got?
DREW: I know where I've seen him! He's a rebel.
MRS. CHICHESTER: A rebel! Indeed! In my tavern? I'll go throw him out!
DREW: No! No! We must make certain first. But I think he's an officer in the
rebel army. Some months ago I was captured near Boston. I escaped later. But
while I was a prisoner, I saw this fellow--unless I'm much mistaken. I saw him
again the other day in Jamaica, at the shoemaker's; and now--look at him--here
through the crack in the door!
MRS. CHICHESTER: He's lookin' fer somethin'--out the winder.
DREW: He's watching the shore of the cove!
MRS. CHICHESTER: Lookin' fer a boat to fetch him away, I'll warrant ye!
DREW: Exactly! Now, Mrs. Chichester, let's set a trap for him. Will you help
MRS. CHICHESTER: I will that! A rebel--and like as not a spy--in my tavern!
DREW: Go in to him, engage him in conversation, then look out the window and
remark that you see a small boat landing.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Aye, I'll do it.
DREW: If he starts up, I'll know he's my man.
MRS. CHICHESTER: And then?
DREW: Tell him you're mistaken. The darkness deluded you.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Yes?
DREW: A small boat from my ship, the _Halifax_, is waiting for me round the
point. I'll bring it around with my crew and we'll apprehend him.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Good. Wait here--I'll go in now. [_door opens, laughter and
talk swell up_]
MRS. CHICHESTER: I hope, sir, ye found the roast beef to yer liking.
HALE: Yes, thank you, madam.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Can I help ye to anything else, sir?
HALE: I think not, thank you.
MRS. CHICHESTER: I'm sorry we have such poor fare, sir, but the times are
hard, what with the comin' and goin' of the troops; and the rebels cleaned out
the place when they were here.
HALE: I've fared very well, Madam.
MRS. CHICHESTER: Oh look--there in the cove! D'ye see a small boat comin' into
shore? I wonder what it can be doin' here?
HALE: Oh, indeed! I'm afraid I'll have to go, Madam! Let me pay my reckoning.
MRS. CHICHESTER: There--I guess my eyes deceived me. It's not a boat at all.
MRS. CHICHESTER: What was that you said? Your reckoning? But sir, you've had
no sweetmeat. Come, sit down, I'll bring ye a bit o' pastry.
MRS. CHICHESTER: I'll take it much amiss if ye refuse me.
HALE: Thank you, Madam--I'll wait--bring your sweetmeat.
* * * * * *
ANNOUNCER: As soon as Hale finished his meal at the tavern, he went to the
shore of the cove to await the boat that he expected. After some time he heard
the splash of oars. So sure was he that this was his boat that he stood up and
HALE: Hello, Pond, here I am! Right here!
DREW: Stand fast, put your hands up!
HALE: What--what's the meaning of this? Sir, I am a peaceable schoolmaster,
you have no cause to apprehend me!
DREW: We'll soon see. Strike a light! Search him!
VOICE: Aye, aye, sir--here's your light.
DREW: Well, sir, I thought I'd seen you before. Now I know I have! I've placed
you at last! You are an officer in the rebel army!
HALE: I tell you, sir, I am a poor schoolmaster!
DREW: We'll soon see. Find anything in his pockets?
VOICE: Not a thing, sir.
DREW: Rip his jacket to pieces, look in the lining and the seams!
VOICE: Yes, sir. [_sound of tearing cloth_]
HALE: Why am I suffering this indignity?
DREW: Anything there?
VOICE: Not a thing, sir.
DREW: Strip him--tear every piece of clothing to pieces!
VOICE: Aye, aye, sir.
HALE: I trust this is giving you some pleasure.
DREW: We're enjoying ourselves, aren't we, boys?
ALL Aye, aye, sir.
VOICE: Here, sir--a piece o' paper.
DREW: Let's see it--ha--receipt for lodgings. Is that the best you can do?
VOICE: That's all there is, sir.
HALE: Perhaps, sir, now that you have ruined my clothes, you'll let me go.
DREW: I will not! I'll find where you've hidden your notes if I have to rip
your skin off!
HALE: I am helpless, sir. But you must be satisfied that I have nothing on me.
Can't you conclude your sport and let me go?
DREW: Look here, men--what about his boots?
VOICE: Nothing in them, sir.
DREW: He was having them resoled the other day! Ho, I'll wager that's where
they are! Give me your knife, Bos'n!
VOICE: Here you are, sir.
DREW: Hm! There--ah, ha! I thought so! Papers--papers--I thought as much--
bring the light nearer! Hm--what's this? Some foreign tongue--Ah! Latin. Who
would have expected a rebel to know Latin?
HALE: I am a schoolmaster, sir.
DREW: Aye, and a spy as well--as these notes prove.
HALE: Can you read them?
DREW: My Latin is a little rusty, but I can make out the tenor of them. Hm--
disposition of troops--probable movements of army--yes, that will do! What
have you to say to that, my fine rebel?
DREW: You don't need to. We've evidence enough to hang you as it is. Bring him
along, men! [_mob noise_]
* * * * * *
ANNOUNCER: So Hale was taken aboard the _Halifax_ and delivered late the same
night to General Howe, who, without the formality of a trial, turned him over
to the Provost Marshal, William Cunningham, for execution the next day.
Our next scene is in the apple orchard of the Beekman estate on Manhattan.
Hale has been marched out for his execution. He is standing under guard, near
the tent of Captain John Montressor, who, as our scene opens, comes out of his
tent, sees Hale, and speaks to him.
MONTRESSOR: Sir, I regret to see such a fine appearing young man in this
HALE: You are kind to say so, sir.
MONTRESSOR: May I ask your name and rank?
HALE: I am Captain Nathan Hale, of the Colonial army.
MONTRESSOR: May I introduce myself? I am Captain John Montressor. Can I be of
any assistance to you?
HALE: I should be deeply grateful, sir, if I could write a few lines to
friends and relatives before I meet my fate.
MONTRESSOR: Will you come into my tent?
HALE: If my guard--
MONTRESSOR: I'll tend to the guard.
HALE: Thank you.
MONTRESSOR: You'll find quills, ink, and paper on my field desk.
HALE: [_going_] Thank you, sir.
VOICE: I say, halt there--where are you going?
MONTRESSOR: Never mind, Corporal! I'll be responsible for the prisoner.
VOICE: Very good, Captain, but the Provost Marshal won't like it! I can tell
MONTRESSOR: I'll take all the blame. The Provost Marshal never likes anything,
so that's no matter. Here, put this crown in your pocket.
VOICE: Right enough, sir. Thank you.
MONTRESSOR: Do you know anything about the prisoner?
VOICE: No, sir. Ah, sir! Here comes the Provost Marshal!
MONTRESSOR: Let me talk to him.
CUNNINGHAM: [_coming up_] Where's the prisoner? Guard! Where's the prisoner?
MONTRESSOR: Just at this moment, sir, he is writing a few notes in my tent.
CUNNINGHAM: Bring him out here!
MONTRESSOR: I'll get him, sir, if I may be allowed.
CUNNINGHAM: Go ahead, get him.
MONTRESSOR: [_off_] I'm sorry, Captain Hale, but the Marshal is waiting for
you--have you finished your letters?
HALE: [_off_] Not quite, sir.
MONTRESSOR: [_calling_] He hasn't finished his letters, sir.
CUNNINGHAM: Fetch him along--he's written enough.
MONTRESSOR: I'm sorry, Captain.
HALE: Of course I'll come. May I ask you to deliver these letters at your
CUNNINGHAM: Guard, fall in around the prisoner.
VOICE: Guard, fall in--'ten--_shun_! Quick step--march! [_marching_]
CUNNINGHAM: Halt under the tree!
VOICE: Guard, halt!
CUNNINGHAM: Put the prisoner on the ladder!
HALE: It isn't necessary, sir--I can climb the ladder.
CUNNINGHAM: All right then, get up there. Put the halter around his neck, and
HALE: I can do that, too, sir.
CUNNINGHAM: All right, then, do it! And if you have any further statement or
confession to make, now is the time to do it.
HALE: I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.
CUNNINGHAM: Humph! Now, guard, when I give the word, kick the ladder and let
the rebel swing. Are you ready?
CUNNINGHAM: Steady--now! [_noise of ladder, gasp, etc._] [_pause_] So let all
spies, rebels, and traitors swing! March the guard off!
VOICE: Guard--fall in! Quick step--[_etc._]
MONTRESSOR: [_to himself_] Poor fellow--and he's hardly more than a boy.
CUNNINGHAM: And now, Captain Montressor, I'll trouble you for those letters.
MONTRESSOR: Here they are, Marshal.
CUNNINGHAM: Ah-- [_sound of tearing paper_]
MONTRESSOR: What are you doing, sir? Stop it! Don't tear those letters up!
CUNNINGHAM: I've already done it, Captain.
MONTRESSOR: What did you do that for? They were intrusted to me for delivery.
CUNNINGHAM: Well--they won't be delivered! The rebels shall never know they
had a man who could die with such firmness!
* * * * * *
ANNOUNCER: The next day, however, Captain Montressor carried the news to the
American lines under a white flag and repeated to Hale's companions those
words--which have come down to us: "I only regret that I have but one life to
lose for my country!"
* * * * * *
Originally broadcast 20 September 1927
on NBC's dramatic anthology series
"Great Moments in History"