Today is the 237th anniversary of the execution of Nathan Hale, which took place on September 22, 1776. (The photo above, from Wikipedia, shows the Nathan Hale statue in City Hall Park in New York.)
I really enjoyed the bit in AN ECHO IN THE BONE where William encounters Nathan Hale, and I think the scene where he witnesses Hale's execution was very effective precisely because Diana didn't show him saying the famous line, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." (There's some dispute among historians as to whether or not Hale actually said that, in any case.)
[William] tightened the muscles of his throat and concentrated again on Hale’s hands. The fingers were twisting, helplessly, though the man’s face was calm. They were leaving faint damp marks on the skirt of his coat.The image of Hale with his tongue protruding, etc., is one that I don't think I'll ever forget!
A grunt of effort and a grating noise; the ladder was pulled away, and there was a startled whoof! from Hale as he dropped. Whether it was the newness of the rope or something else, his neck did not break cleanly.
He’d refused the hood, and so the spectators were obliged to watch his face for the quarter of an hour it took him to die. William stifled a horrific urge to laugh from pure nerves, seeing the pale blue eyes bulge to bursting point, the tongue thrust out. So surprised. He looked so surprised.
(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 20, "I Regret". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about Nathan Hale, look here.