For over 230 years, American schoolchildren have been taught about the story of Nathan Hale, or at least a legend of it, and in the process the myth of Hale and his apocryphal final words have immortalized the young man as America's most famous spy, despite his failed mission. After the siege of Boston forced the British to evacuate that city in March 1776, Continental Army commander George Washington suspected that the British would move by sea to New York City, the next logical target in an attempt to end a colonial insurrection. He thus rushed his army south to defend the city. Washington guessed correctly, but it would ultimately be to no avail. Unlike Boston, New York City's terrain featured few defensible positions; the city lacked a high point from which to launch a siege, as the peninsula of Boston was fortunate to have. In the summer of 1776, the British conducted the largest amphibious expedition in North America's history at the time, landing over 20,000 troops on Long Island. Washington's army attempted to fight, but Washington was badly outmaneuvered, and his army was nearly cut off from escape.
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