What did Philip Nolan in "The Man Without a Country" do when his ship was attacked?

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jmj616 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's always a pleasure to answer a question about one of my favorite stories.

Edward Everett Hale's "The Man Without a Country" is about Philip Nolan, a young American army officer who is accused of treason.  When he is declared guilty by a military tribunal, Nolan shouts:

"D----n the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!"

The shocked judge decides to give Nolan a punishment that will fit the crime:

"Prisoner, hear the sentence of the Court! The Court decides, subject to the approval of the President, that you never hear the name of the United States again."

Nolan spends the rest of his life on navy ships at sea, on which all hands are under orders never to discuss or mention the United States within his hearing.

On one of his journeys, Nolan's ship is attacked by an English ship.  A cannon-shot from the British kills the American officer who was managing his ship's cannon, together with most of his crew.  At this point, Nolan appears and takes charge of the situation.  He supervises the removal of the injured and dead, and then proceeds to take command of the firing of the cannon, all at great personal risk. 

All of this is beyond the call of duty for Nolan, who has no official duties aboard ship.  He could easily avoid serving the country that has punished him so harshly; instead, he has learned from his punishment and has developed a deep love for the U.S.A.