The Myth: Nathan Hale, an American soldier during the Revolutionary War, was captured by the British and sentenced to hang. When the Redcoats asked if he had any last words, he replied defiantly: "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
The Truth: He never said that—or anything close to it. According to the diary of a British soldier who was there, Captain Frederick MacKenzie, Hale's last words were brave, but not very inspiring. They were: "It is the duty of every good officer to obey the orders given him by his commander-in-chief."
The Myth: Abraham Lincoln hurriedly composed his most famous speech—the Gettysburg Address—on the back of an envelope while riding on a train from Washington, D.C. to the site of the speech in Gettysburg.
Background: The story apparently originated with Lincoln's son, Robert, who first created it in a letter he wrote after his father was assassinated.
The Truth: Lincoln actually started writing the speech two weeks before the event, and wrote at least five drafts before even leaving Washington for Gettysburg. He wasn't particularly keen on speaking spontaneously—in fact, he even refused to say anything to the crowd that met him at the Gettysburg train station because he was afraid he might say something foolish.
The Myth: The Liberty Bell got its name when it was rung on July 4, 1776 to commemorate declaring independence.
Background: This tale was invented by writer George Lippard in his 1847 book, Legends of the American Revolution.
The Truth: The Liberty Bell was installed in Philadelphia in 1753—23 years before the colonists rebelled—and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Revolution. Its nickname, "Liberty Bell," was coined by abolitionists in 1839. They were referring to the end of slavery in America, not freedom from England.