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Nathan Hale is interrogated by General Howe

Keep gathering, Nathan. I'm not sure that was the smartest response.

I know that New York City and New England are a hotbed of Dreamer readers. I hope that everyone is okay! I’ve heard from folks with leaky ceilings, downed trees and no power. I hope everyone is safe, dry, and staying warm. East Coast, if you need anything, let us know! I’m a former relief worker… if you’re new to The Dreamer you probably haven’t been around for one of the breaks I’ve taken to go shovel crap out of someone’s basement after a flood. (In fact, the seeds for The Dreamer were laid while I was on staff at a relief agency in New Orleans post-Katrina.) I know how horrible flood damage is first-hand and my heart goes out to all of you, New Jersey, Maryland Coast, NYC, Connecticut shoreline. You have our love and prayers!

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As for today’s update: Nathan, Why not lie?

It’s hard for our modern minds who have been raised on the likes of James Bond, Jason Bourne, Natasha Romanoff, Michael Weston and Ethan Hunt to think of being a spy as anything less than glamorous.

In the 18th Century, however, it was a rather despicable “profession.” It meant you were a liar, and this was in an age when a man’s reputation was everything. The idea of a duel is old fashioned today but besmearing a man’s honor in the 18th Century was nothing to laugh about. (Just ask our own Mr. Hamilton.)

So scalawags, drunks and other dregs of society were enlisted as spies. But not upstanding, clean-cut, moral Yale graduates and army officers like our friend Nathan Hale. And while he quite likely never said, “Every kind of of service, necessary to the public good, becomes honorable by being necessary,” we know he practiced that principle in his own life by being the only man willing to take on the mission.

So he agreed to spy, why not go ahead and lie?

Nathan Hale’s his real name was on his diploma which he took with him as a part of his alibi, and the ship that brought him to Long Island recorded him in the log as “Nathaniel Hale.” Not a great alias, and more likely it is just one of many such misspellings from records kept in the era.

Nathan took on the mission of a spy, but he wanted to keep his honor. He was an officer in the Continental Army, and though he was out of uniform* he wasn’t about to lie about who he was if caught.

Nathan Hale most likely thought he would be treated as a captured officer, and not a spy, which might also have had something to do with his forthrightness. Unfortunately for him, a fire was destroying New York City and he was a suspicious character arrested on that night.

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*I draw Nathan and Knowlton and the other Rangers officers in fancy-pants Continental uniforms, but this is a bit of an embellishment. At this point in the war, Washington’s army was poorly equipped, much less fitted with fancy uniforms. And though Congress had uniform standards for how the men ought to be clothed, few actually were. The only record we have of Nathan Hale’s uniform is his friend Asher Wright’s recollection of the young captain wearing a white hunting shirt, “made of white linen, & fringed, such as officers used to wear.”

The blue and white New England coat is so much sexier. And a much more iconic symbol of the Revolutionary War. So yes, I used it. But yes, it is not 100% historically accurate in the context of Knowlton’s Rangers, who served in the summer and fall of 1776.

So just sit back and enjoy the Continental eye-candy. You’re welcome.

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Don’t forget I’ll be at CTN November 16-18, Burbank, California!

If you’re looking for me on the show floor I am at Chris Oatley’s table, promoting Paper Wings together.