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Title: The Boys' Nelson - The Story of Nelson
Author: Wheeler, Harold F. B.
Language: English
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_Uniform with this Volume_


  By HAROLD F. B. WHEELER, F.R.Hist.S. With 16 full-page Illustrations.


  By ERIC WOOD. With 16 full-page Illustrations.


  By E. M. WILMOT-BUXTON, F.R.Hist.S. With 16 full-page Illustrations


  By Mr and Mrs WILLIAM PLATT. With 16 full-page Illustrations by M.

[Illustration: The “Belleisle” went into action at Trafalgar with the
words “Victory or Death” chalked on her guns

Frank Craig, from a sketch by C. W. Cole





    ‘_He is the only man who has ever lived
    who, by universal consent, is without a peer_’



_Printed by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh_




The career of the little one-eyed, one-armed man who frustrated
Napoleon’s ambitious maritime plans for the subjugation of England,
who is to sailors what Napoleon is to soldiers, who represented in
his person all that sea power meant when the very existence of our
forefathers was threatened in the latter days of the eighteenth century
and the first half-decade of its successor, must ever appeal to those
for whom Great Britain means something more than a splash of red on a
coloured map.

I do not wish to suggest that his fame is insular. On the contrary, it
is universal. Other lands and other peoples share in our admiration
of him. We must not forget that it was an American naval officer,
Admiral Mahan, who first gave us a really great book about this truly
great man. In his “Life of Nelson,” we have the hero’s career reviewed
by an expert whose knowledge of tactics has not blinded him to the
more romantic aspects of Nelson’s forty-seven years of life. Before
its appearance readers were dependent upon the facts and fancies of
the biography by Clarke and McArthur, the “Memoirs” of Pettigrew,
or the stirring but often inaccurate pictures of Southey. The seven
substantial tomes of “Nelson’s Letters and Despatches,” edited with
indefatigable industry by Sir Harris Nicolas, were not compiled for the
general public, although they have furnished much material for later
historians and must necessarily be the foundation of every modern book
on Nelson.

On our own side of the Atlantic there is no more eminent authority
than Sir J. Knox Laughton, Litt.D., Professor of Modern History at
King’s College, London. He has not only epitomised Nicolas’s work,
but added to our knowledge by his excellent “Nelson” (English Men of
Action Series), “Nelson and his Companions in Arms,” and “From Howard
to Nelson.” His numerous miscellaneous contributions to the subject are
also of great interest to the serious student.

Although there is no Nelson cult like that which is associated with the
memory of Napoleon, England’s great sailor has inspired a considerable
literature, as even the shelves of my own library bear witness. There
are works on his career as a whole, the campaigns associated with his
name, his relations with Lady Hamilton, and so on. The only excuse I
can offer for adding to the list is, I hope, a valid one. It seems to
me that Nelson’s life, told in his own words as much as possible, would
specially appeal to the young, and there is, so far as I am aware, no
book which does this in the simple manner which I deem to be necessary.
For help in carrying out my plan of writing a volume of the kind
indicated I am particularly indebted to Nicolas’s “Letters” and Prof.
Sir J. Knox Laughton’s edition of them.

For good or evil the name of Emma, Lady Hamilton, is inextricably
associated with that of Nelson. Many and varied have been the attempts
to whitewash the character of her whom he regarded as “one of the
very best women in the world.” While it is difficult to associate the
possessor of the beauty which appealed with such irresistible force to
such painters as Romney, Reynolds, Lawrence, and Madame Vigée Le Brun,
with “a most inherent baseness,” it is an indisputable fact that she
exercised an adverse influence on Nelson’s career. Her humble origin,
her loveliness, her poses, her attempts at statecraft, above all, her
connection with the great sailor, have made her the subject of almost
innumerable volumes. For those who wish to read an impartial study I
would recommend Mr Walter Sichel’s “Emma, Lady Hamilton.”

Nelson’s written communications are not studied literary efforts, but
spontaneous expressions of his inmost thoughts. For these reasons they
are of inestimable value in an attempt to sum up his life and aims.
The kindest of men, he sometimes chose to mix vitriol with his ink. He
wrote what he meant, and it was always very much to the point. Less
eminent folk have sometimes disguised what they thought and written
what they imagined would please. Such was never Nelson’s way.

“This high man with a great thing to pursue,”[1] was never a trifler.
He recognised the importance of a supreme navy and the supreme
importance of its _personnel_. He watched the health of his men as a
loving mother watches that of her children. Proof of this is furnished
in a Report of the Physician to the Fleet, dated the 14th August
1805.[2] In it Dr Leonard Gillespie says that “the high state of
health” was “unexampled perhaps in any fleet or squadron heretofore
employed on a foreign station.” He attributes this to such causes as
the attention paid to the victualling and purveying for the ships;
a sane system of heating and ventilation; lack of idleness and
intemperance, due to “the constant activity and motion in which the
fleet was preserved”; the promotion of cheerfulness by means of music,
dancing, and theatrical amusements; comfortable accommodation of the
sick; and by the serving of Peruvian bark, mixed in wines or spirits,
to men “employed on the service of wooding and watering,” which
obviated any ill effects.

Nelson was quite able to “stand on his dignity,” to use a colloquial
and comprehensive phrase, and several instances will be discovered by
the reader as he peruses the following pages, but it is quite wrong
to think that he was in the least a martinet. For instance, during
the trying period when he was hungering for the French fleet to leave
Toulon, he wrote to an officer: “We must all in our several stations
exert ourselves to the utmost, and not be nonsensical in saying, ‘I
have an order for this, that, or the other,’ if the king’s service
clearly marks what ought to be done.” Everyone has heard how Nelson
referred to his captains and himself as “a band of brothers.” You have
only to turn to the memoirs of these gallant officers to learn the
truthfulness of this remark. They loved him: that is the only term that
exactly meets the case.

What of the humbler men who worked the ships? Read the following,
which was sent home by a rough but large-hearted sailor of the _Royal
Sovereign_, Collingwood’s flagship at Trafalgar, when he heard that the
Master Mariner lay cold in the gloomy cockpit of the _Victory_: “Our
dear Admiral is killed, so we have paid pretty sharply for licking ’em.
I never set eyes on him, for which I am both sorry and glad; for to be
sure I should like to have seen him--but then, all the men in our ship
who have seen him are such soft toads, they have done nothing but blast
their eyes and cry ever since he was killed. God bless you! Chaps that
fought like the Devil sit down and cry like a wench.”

This spontaneous and perhaps unconscious tribute is worth more than the
encomiums of all modern historians and biographers put together.

In studying the life of one who has played a leading rôle on the stage
of history there are always a number of subsidiary authorities which
will repay perusal. The memoirs of the men who were associated with
him, of those of his contemporaries who occupied official or high
social positions, even of much humbler folk who have transferred their
opinions to paper or had it done for them, are oftentimes extremely
important. To print a bibliography of the works of this kind which
I have consulted would be inadvisable in such a volume as this,
necessarily limited as it is to a certain number of pages. I need only
say that the nooks and crannies have been explored besides the main

In the Foreword to my companion volume upon Napoleon, I endeavoured
to show that periods of history are merely make-believe divisions for
purposes of clearness and reference. I wish to still further emphasise
this extremely important point, because I find that one of our most
cherished delusions is that history is largely a matter of dates.
Nothing of the kind! Those who think thus are confusing history with
chronology--in other words, mistaking one of the eyes for the whole
body. Dates are merely useful devices similar to the numerals on the
dial of a clock, which enable us to know the hour of the day without
abstruse calculations. The figures 1805 help us to memorise a certain
concrete event, such as the battle of Trafalgar, but they do not tell
us anything of the origin of that event any more than a clock defines
the meaning of time.

The age in which Nelson lived was not conspicuous for its morals. This
is a factor which must be taken into consideration when we attempt to
sum up his character. The standards of 1911 are scarcely the standards
of over a century ago. The code of virtue varies, although the law does
not. The grave of Nelson’s moral reputation was dug in Sicily, where he
had every provocation, but he certainly never attempted to extricate
himself from the pit into which he had fallen. “_De mortuis nil nisi
bonum_” is a good maxim for the Gospel of Things as they Ought to Be,
but cannot apply to the Testament of Things as they Were. The vanity
of both Nelson and Lady Hamilton contributed to their downfall, the
sordid story of which is necessarily referred to in later pages of this
work. I am of opinion that the lack of sympathy shown to the Admiral,
particularly during Pitt’s administrations, was largely due to Court
influence. George III. was a man of frigid austerity, and Nelson’s
private life was too well known for the King to countenance it by
showing him favours. He recognised the value of the man’s services, but
preferred to take as little notice as possible of the man himself. In
this he was unjust.

Although Nelson hated the French so vehemently, I cannot help thinking,
after a prolonged study of his career, that he had many of their
characteristics. His vivacity, his imagination, his moods tend to
confirm me in this. A less typical specimen of John Bull would be
difficult to find.

A word or two concerning Nelson’s crowning victory and then I must
bring my lengthy introduction to a conclusion. It has a literature all
its own. A wordy warfare, which was indulged in the correspondence
columns of the _Times_ from July to October 1905, made one almost
believe that it is easier to fight a battle than to describe it
accurately. To use Prof. Sir J. Knox Laughton’s terse phrase, “the
difficulty is that the traditional account of the battle differs, in
an important detail, from the prearranged plan.” The late Admiral
Colomb held a brief for the theory that the two columns of the British
fleet moved in line abreast, or in line of bearing, as against the
old supposition of two columns, line ahead. In this contention, he is
supported by Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge, G.C.B., whose ideas are set
forth in a pamphlet issued by the Navy Records Society, an institution
which is doing excellent work in rescuing historical documents relating
to the service from ill-deserved oblivion. To add further to the
discussion would probably serve no useful purpose. The second volume of
“Logs of the Great Sea-fights (1794-1805),” and “Fighting Instructions,
1530-1816,” both published by the Society already mentioned, will be
found extremely useful to those who would pursue the subject in detail.

Tennyson’s “Mighty Seaman” has been apotheosised in poetry as well as
in prose,

   “_For he is Britain’s Admiral
    Till setting of her sun,_”

to quote Meredith’s superb lines. Wordsworth, Scott, Rossetti, Henley,
Swinburne, Newbolt and others have said noble things of the Man of
Duty, while Nelson looms large in Thomas Hardy’s magnificent epic, “The
Dynasts.” No one who has read it is likely to forget:

   “_In the wild October night-time, when the wind raved round the land,
    And the Back-Sea met the Front-Sea, and our doors were blocked with
    And we heard the drub of Deadman’s Bay, where the bones of thousands
    We knew not what the day had done for us at Trafalgar._

                      (ALL) _Had done,
                            Had done,
                            For us at Trafalgar!_

           *       *       *       *       *

    _The victors and the vanquished then the storm it tossed and tore,
    As hard they strove, those worn-out men, upon that surly shore;
    Dead Nelson and his half-dead crew, his foes from near and far,
    Were rolled together on the deep that night at Trafalgar._

                      (ALL) _The deep,
                            The deep,
                            That night at Trafalgar!_”



  FOREWORD                                                             7


      I. BOYHOOD AND FIRST YEARS AT SEA                               19

     II. A HERO IN THE MAKING                                         29


     IV. THE BEGINNING OF THE GREAT WAR                               52

      V. “I WISH TO BE AN ADMIRAL”                                    66



   VIII. IN CHASE OF THE FRENCH FLEET                                 96

     IX. THE BATTLE OF THE NILE                                      102

      X. THE NEAPOLITAN COURT AND LADY HAMILTON                      112


    XII. NELSON IN TEMPORARY COMMAND                                 139

   XIII. DISOBEDIENCE TO ORDERS                                      148

    XIV. THE CAMPAIGN OF THE BALTIC                                  162

     XV. THE BATTLE OF COPENHAGEN                                    171

    XVI. THE THREATENED INVASION OF ENGLAND                          182

   XVII. THE VIGIL OFF TOULON                                        195


    XIX. THE CRISIS                                                  215

     XX. NELSON’S LAST COMMAND                                       225

    XXI. THE ROUT IN TRAFALGAR BAY                                   232



  THE “BELLEISLE” AT TRAFALGAR          (_Frank Craig_)   _Frontispiece_

  NELSON AND THE BEAR                            (_Stephen Reid_)     26

                                                 (_Stephen Reid_)     44


  “I’LL NOT LOSE HARDY!”                (_H. C. Seppings Wright_)     76

  NELSON WOUNDED AT SANTA CRUZ             (_R. Caton Woodville_)     90

  “THE FLAME THAT LIT THE BATTLE’S WRECK”   (_Chas. Dixon, R.I._)    106

  THE EXECUTION OF CARACCIOLO                    (_Stephen Reid_)    136

  LADY HAMILTON                                        (_Romney_)    156

  NELSON LANDING AT YARMOUTH                     (_Stephen Reid_)    160

  “I REALLY DO NOT SEE THE SIGNAL”               (_Stephen Reid_)    172

  LORD NELSON                                                        192

  HOISTING THE FAMOUS SIGNAL                     (_C. M. Padday_)    234

                                        (_H. C. Seppings Wright_)    238

  THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR                (_W. L. Wyllie, A.R.A._)    242

                                             (_Frank Dadd, R.I._)    246

    _For ages past our admirals brave
      Pre-eminent have stood;
    And, spite of all the world, have held
      The mast’ry of the flood,
        Howe, Duncan, Hood,
        And Collingwood,
    Long triumphed o’er the main;
        While Nelson’s name,
        So dear to Fame!--
    We may never see their like again_

[Illustration: The headpiece, a sketch by Mr W. L. Wyllie, R.A., is
printed by permission of the Art Union of London, 112 Strand.]

Chapter I--Boyhood and First Years at Sea (1758-1773)

Thus[3] runs one of the verses of a song dear to the British sailor
for many a long year. Nelson, dead over a century, is still revered in
the King’s Navy. To the landsman there is no more popular hero. The
_Victory_, riding at anchor in the placid waters of the Solent and in
view of the cobble-covered sally port through which the Hero walked
to his barge, still flies an admiral’s flag. One of the most modern
battleships in the service bears his name, the most famous of London’s
many columns is crowned by his effigy. Canvas sails have given place
to steam turbines, the days of oak and hemp are gone, but the memory
of “the greatest sea captain of all time” is at once an incentive and
an inspiration to every true patriot. His ashes lie in the crypt of St
Paul’s Cathedral; his spirit lives in the nation for whom he sacrificed
his life. Perhaps we should not be far wrong in venturing the apparent
paradox that the further we recede from his life and times the more
clearly we understand his consummate genius and appreciate the value
of his achievements. There is no sunset, only an added glory with the
passing of the years.

Horatio Nelson was born in the quaint old parsonage house of Burnham
Thorpe, a Norfolk Sleepy Hollow, on the 29th September 1758. His
father, the Rev. Edmund Nelson, M.A., was rector of the parish, and as
a clergyman was following the profession of his immediate ancestor.
His mother, Catherine Nelson, was the daughter of the Rev. Dr Maurice
Suckling, Rector of Wooton, Norfolk, Prebendary of Westminster, and
grandnephew of Sir John Suckling, whose name is known to all students
of English literature and of history. Galfridus Walpole, another of
Mrs Nelson’s relatives, had displayed considerable bravery in an
engagement with the French in Vado Bay in 1711. It was through Captain
Maurice Suckling, Nelson’s uncle, that the young son of the parsonage
eventually entered the Navy. In addition, his mother was a grandniece
of Sir Robert Walpole, the famous Whig statesman, and could therefore
boast a distinguished lineage.

Horatio was the sixth child of a constantly growing family, and early
caused anxiety owing to his delicate constitution. In later years his
letters and despatches teem with reference to his ill-health, which
was accentuated, of course, by injuries which he received in the
performance of his duty. However, he breathed deeply of the North Sea
air which wafted through his native village, was tenderly cared for
by loving parents, and became sufficiently robust to be sent to the
High School at Norwich. The venerable building, endowed by Edward VI.,
stands within the cathedral precincts. It is now fronted by a statue of
its illustrious scholar. Later he attended a school at North Walsham,
now one of the yachting centres of the Norfolk Broads, where the
curious will find a brick on which the letters H. N. are scratched.

It is somewhat remarkable that so few boys who become great men
ever attract sufficient notice during their early scholastic career
for their comrades to remember anecdotes about them likely to be of
assistance to the biographer. Few anecdotes of Nelson in his younger
days have been handed down to posterity, but the following have
probably some basis of fact.

When quite a small boy he stayed for a time with his grandmother. On
one occasion he did not return at the accustomed dinner-hour, thereby
causing the good dame considerable anxiety, especially as gipsies
were in the neighbourhood and kidnapping was by no means unknown. He
was eventually found seated on the banks of a brook examining with
considerable interest a number of birds’ eggs he had secured in company
with a chum. “I wonder, child, that fear did not drive you home!” the
old lady said when the missing Horatio was restored to her. “Fear,
grandmamma!” he replied in a tone of disgust, “I never saw fear--what
is it?”

There you have the secret of Nelson’s life summed up in a single
pregnant sentence. His total lack of fear carried him through many a
trying ordeal, enabled him at times to defy the command of a senior
officer when he was convinced that his own plan of operations was
better, and helped him to bear the heat and burden of the day when his
physical energy was almost exhausted.

On another occasion he was “dared” by some companions to visit the
graveyard unattended at night. As a token of good faith he was to
bring a twig from a certain yew tree at the south-west corner of All
Saints’ Church. The uncanny task was successfully accomplished. From
thenceforth he was a hero, as he deserved to be.

A further instance of Nelson’s early lack of fear is afforded us. His
master at North Walsham was particularly proud of a certain pear-tree,
and his scholars were equally covetous of the delicious fruit which
it bore. Each preferred the other in the task of picking any of the
pears because of the speedy retribution which they knew would follow.
One night Horatio volunteered the task. His friends tied several sheets
together and lowered him from the dormitory to the garden. He swarmed
up the tree, secured the forbidden and therefore much prized fruit, and
was hauled up again. On distributing the booty, he justified his action
in his own mind by assuring the recipients that he had only taken the
pears “because every other boy was afraid.” Few hours passed before
the schoolmaster found that his tree had been plundered. It redounds
to the credit of the boys that they refused to “split” on their
comrade, although it is said that a tempting reward was offered for the
discovery of the culprit.

One winter morning Horatio and his brother William set out for school
on their ponies. They had not gone very far before they found the snow
so deep as to be almost impassable. They returned to the Parsonage and
told their father of the great drifts. He persuaded them to try again,
adding that he left it to their honour not to turn back unless it was
absolutely necessary.

The snow was falling in heavy flakes when they made their second
attempt. William’s heart soon failed him. He suggested that they had
sufficient reason to return. Horatio was as adamant. “Father left it
to our honour. We must go forward,” he replied, and in due course they
arrived at the school.

William, who was the elder by seventeen months, had the greatest
affection and esteem for his brother. In later years he was his
constant correspondent, and after Horatio’s death he was created Earl
Nelson of Trafalgar. Like his father and grandfather, William became a
clergyman, in which profession he rose to the dignity of Prebendary and
Vice Dean of Canterbury.

It was during the Christmas vacation of 1770 that Nelson casually
picked up a newspaper and read of Captain Maurice Suckling’s
appointment to the _Raisonnable_, a ship of sixty-four guns. The
announcement seems to have had an instant effect upon Horatio. “Oh,
William,” he exclaimed to his brother, who was standing near, “do, _do_
write to father, and tell him that I want to go to sea with uncle!”

The Rev. Edmund Nelson was staying at Bath owing to ill-health. When he
received his son’s letter he was inclined to dismiss the proposition
as a mere boyish whim. On thinking it over a little more carefully he
decided that perhaps the youngster really desired what he asked, and
he accordingly consulted his brother-in-law on the matter. The officer
replied in the easy-going manner of sailors, “Well, let him come and
have his head knocked off by the first cannon-ball--that will provide
for him.” He was afraid Horatio would never be able to stand the
rough-and-ready life, but he had the good sense to know that there is
nothing like putting a theory to a practical test.

The Navy was not then the skilfully-organised machine it has since
become. It was one of the privileges of a captain that he might take
two or three lads to sea with him as midshipmen or to serve in some
subordinate position. Captain Suckling accordingly sent for Horatio,
and we find his name on the ship’s books under date of the 1st January
1771. The _Raisonnable_ was then anchored in the Medway.

The lad’s father accompanied his twelve-year-old son as far as London,
put him into the Chatham stagecoach, and then left him to his own
resources. It was neither a pleasant journey in the rambling old
carriage, nor were the streets of Chatham particularly inviting when
he set foot in them. Nobody met the adventurer, and for some time he
wandered about until he met an officer who directed him to the ship
which was to be his temporary home. When he was safely on board it was
to find that his uncle had not arrived.[4]

The _Raisonnable_ was one of the vessels commissioned when hostilities
between Great Britain and Spain appeared imminent owing to trouble
respecting the Falkland Islands, a group in the South Atlantic. In
1770 Spain had insulted the British colonists there by compelling the
garrison at Fort Egmont to lower their flag. The matter was settled
amicably, for the all-sufficient reason that Spain did not feel strong
enough to come to blows with Great Britain unless she was assisted
by France, and as the support of that Power was not forthcoming, she
climbed down. Consequently Nelson was not introduced to the horrors of
naval warfare at this early stage, and the cannon-ball which his uncle
prophesied would knock off the lad’s head did not leave the cannon’s

When the _Raisonnable_ was paid off Captain Suckling was given command
of the guard-ship _Triumph_ (74), stationed in the Medway, and
recognising that no good could come to his nephew by staying on such a
vessel, he secured a position for him shortly afterwards in a merchant
ship bound for the West Indies. This was not a difficult matter,
because the Master was John Rathbone, who had served with Suckling
on the _Dreadnought_ during part of the Seven Years’ War, that great
struggle in which Louis XV. of France had been forced to cede Canada to
Great Britain.

Nelson seems to have enjoyed the experience. In a sketch of his life,
which he wrote several years later for the _Naval Chronicle_, he says:

“From this voyage I returned to the _Triumph_ at Chatham in July 1772;
and, if I did not improve in my education, I returned a practical
seaman, with a horror of the Royal Navy, and with a saying, then
constant with the seamen, ‘Aft the most honour, forward the better
man!’ It was many weeks before I got in the least reconciled to a
man-of-war, so deep was the prejudice rooted; and what pains were taken
to instil this erroneous principle in a young mind! However, as my
ambition was to be a seaman, it was always held out as a reward, that
if I attended well to my navigation, I should go in the cutter and
decked longboat, which was attached to the commanding officer’s ship
at Chatham. Thus by degrees I became a good pilot, for vessels of that
description, from Chatham to the Tower of London, down the Swin, and to
the North Foreland; and confident of myself amongst rocks and sands,
which has many times since been of the very greatest comfort to me.
In this way I was trained, till the expedition towards the North Pole
was fitted out; when, although no boys were allowed to go in the ships
(as of no use), yet nothing could prevent my using every interest to
go with Captain Lutwidge in the _Carcass_; and, as I fancied I was to
fill a man’s place, I begged I might be his coxswain: which, finding my
ardent desire for going with him, Captain Lutwidge complied with, and
has continued the strictest friendship to this moment. Lord Mulgrave,
who I then first knew, continued his kindest friendship and regard to
the last moment of his life. When the boats were fitted out to quit the
two ships blocked up in the ice, I exerted myself to have the command
of a four-oared cutter raised upon, which was given me, with twelve
men; and I prided myself in fancying I could navigate her better than
any other boat in the ship.”

In this cold, matter-of-fact way, Nelson dismisses a phase of his life
fraught with peril and adventure. When the majority, if not all, of his
former school-fellows were reading of the doings of gallant seamen and
brave soldiers he was undergoing actual experiences. The expedition in
question had been suggested by the Royal Society, and was commanded
by Captain Constantine John Phipps, eldest son of Lord Mulgrave. The
_Racehorse_ and _Carcass_, heavy ships known as bombs because they
mounted one or more mortars for use in bombardments when on ordinary
service, sailed from the Nore on the 4th June 1773. All went well
until the 31st July, when the ice closed upon the vessels, and further
progress became impossible.

[Illustration: Nelson and the Bear

Stephen Reid]

“The following day,” says Colonel J. M. Tucker in his “Life and Naval
Memoirs of Lord Nelson,” “there was not the smallest opening, the
ships were within less than two lengths of each other. The ice, which
the day before had been flat, and almost level with the water’s edge,
was now in many places forced higher than the mainyard by the pieces
squeezing together. A day of thick fog followed; it was succeeded by
clear weather; but the passage by which the ships had entered from
the westward was closed, and no open water was in sight, either in
that or any other quarter. By the pilot’s advice, the men were set to
cut a passage and warp[5] through the small openings to the westward.
They sawed through pieces of ice twelve feet thick; and this labour
continued the whole day, during which their utmost efforts did not move
the ships above three hundred yards, while they were driven together,
with the ice, far to the north-east and east by the current. Sometimes
a field of several acres square would be lifted up between two larger
islands, and incorporated with them; and thus these larger pieces
continued to grow by cohesive aggregation. Another day passed, and
there seemed no probability of getting the ships out, without a strong
east or north-east wind.

“The season was far advanced, and every hour lessened the chance of
extricating themselves. Young as he was, Nelson was appointed to
command one of the boats which were sent out to explore a passage into
the open water. It was the means of saving a boat belonging to the
_Racehorse_ from a singular but imminent danger. Some of the officers
had fired at, and wounded, a walrus.... The wounded animal dived
immediately, and brought up a number of its companions; and they all
joined in an attack upon the boat. They wrested an oar from one of the
men; and it was with the utmost difficulty that the crew could prevent
them from staving or upsetting her, till the _Carcass’s_ boat, under
Nelson, came up. The walrusses, finding their enemies thus reinforced,

“A short time after this occurrence, young Nelson exposed himself
in a more daring manner. One night, during the mid-watch, he stole
from the ship with one of his comrades, taking advantage of a rising
fog, and set out over the ice in pursuit of a bear. Nelson, in high
spirits, led the way over the frightful chasms in the ice, armed with
a rusty musket, as was his companion. It was not, however, long before
the adventurers were missed by those on board; and, as the fog had
much increased, the anxiety of Captain Lutwidge and his officers for
them was very great. Between three and four in the morning, the mist
having nearly dispersed, the hunters were discovered at a considerable
distance, attacking a large bear. The signal for their return was
instantly made; but it was in vain that Nelson’s companion urged him
to obey it. He was at this time divided by a rent in the ice from his
shaggy antagonist, which probably saved his life; for the musket had
flashed in the pan, and their ammunition was expended. ‘Never mind,’
exclaimed Horatio, ‘do but let me get a blow at this devil with the
butt end of my musket, and we shall have him.’ His companion, finding
that entreaty was in vain, left him, and regained the ship. The
Captain, seeing the young adventurer’s danger, ordered a gun to be
fired to terrify the enraged animal; this had the desired effect; but
Nelson was obliged to return without his bear. Captain Lutwidge, though
he could not but admire so daring a disposition, reprimanded him rather
sternly for such rashness, and for conduct so unworthy of the situation
he occupied; and desired to know what motive he could have for hunting
a bear. ‘Sir,’ he replied, pouting his lip, as he was wont to do when
agitated, ‘I wished to kill a bear, that I might carry its skin to my

Towards the middle of August the two ships were able to forge their way
through the ice, although not without considerable difficulty, and duly
sailed for home waters.


A Hero in the Making


  “_True honour, I hope, predominates in my mind far above riches_”

We are fortunate in having an account of Nelson’s early career at sea
penned by himself, otherwise the material at our disposal would be
extremely scanty. The story of the next few years is therefore told
in his own words. What it lacks in picturesqueness is made up for in

“On our arrival in England,” he says, “and paid off, 15 October [1773],
I found that a squadron was fitting out for the East Indies; and
nothing less than such a distant voyage could in the least satisfy my
desire of maritime knowledge: and I was placed in the _Seahorse_ of 20
guns, with Captain Farmer, and watched in the foretop; from whence in
time I was placed on the quarter-deck: having, in the time I was in
this ship, visited almost every part of the East Indies, from Bengal to
Bussorah. Ill-health induced Sir Edward Hughes, who had always shown
me the greatest kindness, to send me to England in the _Dolphin_ of
20 guns, with Captain James Pigot, whose kindness at that time saved
my life. This ship was paid off at Woolwich on 24 September, 1776. On
the 26th I received an order from Sir James Douglas, who commanded
at Portsmouth, to act as lieutenant of the _Worcester_, 64, Captain
Mark Robinson, who was ordered to Gibraltar with a convoy.[6] In this
ship I was at sea with convoys till 2 April, 1777, and in very bad
weather. But although my age might have been a sufficient cause for not
entrusting me with the charge of a watch, yet Captain Robinson used to
say, ‘he felt as easy when I was upon deck, as any officer in the ship.’

“On [the 9th] April, 1777, I passed my examination as a lieutenant;
and received my commission the next day, as second lieutenant of the
_Lowestoffe_ frigate of 32 guns, Captain (now Lieutenant-Governor of
Greenwich Hospital) William Locker. In this ship I went to Jamaica; but
even a frigate was not sufficiently active for my mind, and I got into
a schooner, tender to the _Lowestoffe_. In this vessel I made myself a
complete pilot for all the passages through the (Keys) Islands situated
on the north side [of] Hispaniola. Whilst in this frigate, an event
happened which presaged my character; and, as it conveys no dishonour
to the officer alluded to, I shall relate it.

“Blowing a gale of wind, and very heavy sea, the frigate captured an
American letter of marque.[7] The first lieutenant was ordered to board
her, which he did not, owing to the very high sea. On his return on
board, the captain said, ‘Have I no officer in the ship who can board
the prize?’ On which the master ran to the gangway, to get into the
boat; when I stopped him, saying, ‘It is my turn now; and if I come
back, it is yours.’ This little incident has often occurred to my mind;
and I know it is my disposition, that difficulties and dangers do but
increase my desire of attempting them.

“Sir Peter Parker, soon after his arrival at Jamaica, 1778, took me
into his own flag-ship, the _Bristol_, as third lieutenant; from which
I rose by succession to be first. Nothing particular happened whilst I
was in this ship, which was actively employed off Cape François, being
the commencement of the French war.”

A few words with reference to the hostilities mentioned are needed as
explanation. The war between Great Britain and her colonists in North
America, which culminated in the birth of a new World-Power, now known
as the United States, had broken out in 1775, although the seeds of
dissension had been sown much earlier. This unfortunate and disastrous
quarrel had also embroiled “the mother of nations” in a strife with
France and Spain, whose help the New Englanders secured in 1778 and
1779 respectively. In 1780 Holland became involved. The foolishness of
not having sufficiently watched the doings of a potential enemy now
became apparent. For several years “resolute Choiseul, the abrupt proud
man” of Carlyle, had bent his energies on increasing the French navy,
and when the Brest fleet of thirty-two sail-of-the-line, under Count
D’Orvilliers, met the British fleet of thirty sail, under Vice-Admiral
the Hon. A. Keppel, off Ushant on the 27th July 1778, the action was
indecisive. In American waters Lord Howe hove in sight of the fleet
under D’Estaing, the French commander having better ships and heavier
metal, but while Howe was manœuvring to attack the enemy a storm parted
the would-be contestants. Both suffered considerable damage by wind and
not by shot as had been anticipated. Shortly afterwards Admiral Byron
took over Howe’s command and endeavoured to come up with D’Estaing’s
ships. Unfortunately the Frenchman had sailed to the West Indies, which
“in this protracted contest,” to use the words of Admiral Mahan, was to
be “the chief scene of naval hostilities....” “The West Indies is the
Station for honour,” said Nelson sometime later. Froude, the historian,
predicted that “If ever the naval exploits of this country are done
into an epic poem--and since the _Iliad_ there has been no subject
better fitted for such treatment or better deserving it--the West
Indies will be the scene of the most brilliant cantos.” We shall have
occasion to refer to this great strategic point many times in these
pages, especially in the great game of hide-and-seek between Napoleon’s
captains and Nelson immediately preceding the Trafalgar campaign.[8]
The year 1778 was not a brilliant one in British naval annals, although
it closed by Hotham and Barrington attacking D’Estaing off St Lucia and
preventing him from landing more than half the troops intended for the
subjugation of that island. As a consequence the force under Chevalier
de Michaud surrendered, and St Lucia was won.

“On 8 December, 1778,” Nelson continues, “I was appointed commander
of the _Badger_ brig; and was first sent to protect the Mosquito
shore, and the Bay of Honduras, from the depredations of the American
privateers. Whilst on this service, I gained so much the affections
of the settlers, that they unanimously voted me their thanks, and
expressed their regret on my leaving them; entrusting to me to describe
to Sir Peter Parker and Sir John Dalling their situation, should
a war with Spain break out. Whilst I commanded this brig, H.M.S.
_Glasgow_, Captain Thomas Lloyd, came into Montego Bay, Jamaica, where
the _Badger_ was laying: in two hours afterwards she took fire by a
cask of rum; and Captain Lloyd will tell you, that it was owing to my
exertions, joined to his, that her whole crew were rescued from the

This stirring incident merits a more detailed description than the bare
facts which Nelson chose to set forth. The crew was in a panic when he
and his men set foot on the deck of the doomed vessel, and by almost
superhuman exertions managed to throw all the gunpowder in the magazine
overboard before the flames reached it. He also ordered that the loaded
cannon should be directed upward, so that when they exploded, owing to
the intense heat, no damage would result. Thus early in his career did
Nelson show that he was not at a loss when the unusual and unexpected
happened. In a letter to Captain Locker, who was ill, the young officer
describes the fate of the _Glasgow_ as “a most shocking sight; and had
it happened half an hour later, in all probability a great many people
would have been lost.” He also notes that the company of the derelict
were falling ill very fast owing to the constant tropical rains to
which the men were exposed, there being no room for them on the

“On 11 June, 1779,” Nelson continues, “I was made post into the
_Hinchinbrook_. When, being at sea, and Count d’Estaing arriving at
Hispaniola (Haïti) with a very large fleet and army from Martinique, an
attack on Jamaica was expected. In this critical state, I was by both
admiral and general entrusted with the command of the batteries at Port
Royal; and I need not say, as the defence of this place was the key to
the port of the whole naval force, the town of Kingston, and Spanish
Town, it was the most important post in the whole island.”

D’Estaing’s fleet consisted of twenty-two sail-of-the-line, excluding
transports and privateers which had attached themselves to him, and it
was commonly reported that he had no fewer than 20,000 troops on board.
Nelson, as noted above, was now Post-Captain, and although he had no
occasion to prove his ability as a commander of land batteries, he
seems to have taken kindly to the situation. In a letter to his friend
Captain Parker, dated the 12th August 1779, he states that “Jamaica is
turned upside down since you left it,” and furnishes particulars of the
measures made for the defence of the island. “You must not be surprised
to hear of my learning to speak French,” he remarks as a humorous aside.

To help to achieve the downfall of the wily d’Estaing was not to fall
to Nelson’s lot. That worthy hastened to Savannah, which was attacked
by troops under General Lincoln and himself. They were routed by the
British lines, whereupon d’Estaing sailed away.

Great Britain was now at war with Spain, which had thrown in her lot
with France, and was soon to feel the effects of the Armed Neutrality,
consisting of Russia, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and Prussia. They
resented England’s right to search neutral ships, with the result
that the latter Power could not retain her supremacy at sea, a cause
of Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown and the consequent loss of the
American Colonies. In January 1780 it was resolved to make an attempt
to take the important post of Fort San Juan, on the river of that name.
This would materially aid the British to secure the city of Granada,
on Lake Nicaragua, and to sever the communications of the enemy
between their northern and southern dominions. The idea originated
with Dalling, Governor of Jamaica, to whom history has scarcely done
justice. The naval force was entrusted to Nelson, the command of the
troops to Captain John Polson.

The soldiers at the disposal of the intrepid adventurers were a mere
handful, scarcely 500 in all, but perhaps that fact added the necessary
spice of danger. Nelson left his ship, and “carried troops in boats one
hundred miles up a river, which none but Spaniards since the time of
the buccaneers had ever ascended,” to use his own words. He “boarded”
an outpost of the enemy, situated on an island in the river; “made
batteries, and afterwards fought them, and was a principal cause of
our success.” When the miniature expedition arrived at Fort San Juan
the rainy season had commenced, bringing malaria in its train. Nelson
was all for making an immediate attack, but Polson ruled the slower,
and perhaps surer, method of erecting batteries and so forth, in which
Nelson lent a willing hand. “I want words to express the obligations I
owe to Captain Nelson,” Polson told Governor Dalling. “He was the first
on every service, whether by day or night. There was not a gun fired
but was pointed by him, or by Captain Despard, Chief Engineer.” Fever
played havoc with the men; of the 200 sailors of the _Hinchinbrook_,
no fewer than “eighty-seven took to their beds in one night; and of
the two hundred, one hundred and forty-five were buried in mine and
Captain Collingwood’s[9] time: and I believe very few, not more than
ten, survived of that ship’s crew; a proof how necessary expedition is
in those climates.” Nelson’s own health was undermined by dysentery.
A few hours before the Spanish flag gave place to the Union Jack he
left the region of the fort in order to join the _Janus_ (44 guns), of
which he had been given command. The ship being stationed at Jamaica,
he was taken to Port Royal in a sloop. Here he met with a good and
tender-hearted friend in Lady Parker, the wife of Sir Peter Parker,
Commander-in-Chief at Jamaica, but he gained so little in strength that
he was compelled to ask leave of absence and leave the West Indies for
England. Had he stayed it is improbable that he could have rendered
useful service while in such a low condition. The expedition eventually
ended in failure. He sailed on the 4th September 1780 in the _Lion_,
commanded by Captain the Hon. William Cornwallis, a younger son of
Earl Cornwallis, who acted the part of nurse to the patient’s entire
satisfaction, and cemented a friendship which lasted until Nelson’s

Having to resign the _Janus_ probably caused Nelson more torture than
his physical suffering, for he was intensely ambitious. It is stated
that when he arrived in England he would not proceed to Bath to drink
the waters until he had been conveyed to the Admiralty to beg for
another vessel. “This they readily promised me,” he observed in a
humorous way, “thinking it not possible for me to live.” At Bath he
stayed with Mr Spry, an apothecary, who resided at 2 Pierrepont Street;
his medical adviser was Dr Woodward.

On the 23rd January 1781 Nelson was able to inform Captain Locker that
he was “now upon the mending hand,” although he had been “obliged to
be carried to and from bed, with the most excruciating tortures.” Some
three weeks later further progress was reported; “My health, thank
God, is very near perfectly restored; and I have the perfect use of
all my limbs, except my left arm, which I can hardly tell what is the
matter with it. From the shoulder to my fingers’ ends are as if half
dead; but the surgeon and doctors give me hopes it will all go off. I
most sincerely wish to be employed, and hope it will not be long.”

Again the flicker of ambition is evident, always a good sign in a
patient. “I never was so well in health that I can remember,” he writes
on the 5th March. On Monday of the following week he began his return
journey to London. Unfortunately his progress was intermittent. He had
“good” days and “bad” days. Two months later we find Nelson telling his
beloved brother William that he has entirely lost the use of his left
arm and nearly of his left leg and thigh. However, the surgeon who was
attending him gave him hopes of recovery, “when I will certainly come
into Norfolk, and spend my time there till I am employed.”

At this period Nelson did not have to eat out his heart in chagrin and
disappointment owing to neglect as some of our modern naval officers
have had to do. In August 1781, when his health had improved, he was
given command of the _Albemarle_, a frigate of 28 guns, and on the 23rd
of that month he hoisted his pennant at Woolwich. The appearance of
the little vessel pleased him considerably, his officers and men even
more so, as his letters abundantly testify. “My quarter-deck is filled,
much to my satisfaction, with very genteel young men and seamen”; “I
have an exceeding good ship’s company. Not a man or officer in her I
would wish to change”; “I am perfectly satisfied with both officers
and ship’s company. All my marines are likewise old standers,” are
some of his remarks to correspondents. We must not imagine that Nelson
necessarily had a pattern-ship and a pattern-crew because of the kind
things he said of them. His recent recovery from serious illness has
doubtless to be taken into consideration. We all see the world and its
inhabitants through rose-coloured glasses after an enforced absence
from the ordinary duties and modes of life. A natural sweetness of
disposition may also partly account for his optimism. In later years
Samuel Rogers, the Banker-poet, recorded in his entertaining “Table
Talk” that “Lord Nelson was a remarkably kind-hearted man. I have seen
him spin a teetotum with his _one_ hand, a whole evening, for the
amusement of some children.”

The young captain’s first voyage in the _Albemarle_ was not unattended
by adventures. His reference to his experiences in the Autobiography is
slightly tinged with a semi-humorous cynicism one can readily forgive,
although it contrasts oddly with the remarks just quoted. “In August,
1781,” he writes, “I was commissioned for the _Albemarle_; and, it
would almost be supposed, to try my constitution, was kept the whole
winter in the North Sea.” He cruised to Elsinore, where he found a
number of vessels waiting for convoy to Portsmouth and Plymouth. “We
have not had any success;” he complains, “indeed, there is nothing you
can meet, but what is in force: the Dutch have not a single merchantman
at sea. One privateer was in our fleet, but it was not possible to lay
hold of him. I chased him an hour, and came fast up with him, but was
obliged to return to the fleet. I find since, it was the noted Fall,
the pirate.... What fools the Dutch must have been not to have taken us
into the Texel. Two hundred and sixty sail the convoy consisted of.”

On another occasion the British ships in the Downs mistook Nelson and
his motley collection for a Dutch fleet. Many of the sail-of-the-line
prepared for action and would have chased their friends had not Nelson
sent a cutter to inform the officers of their ludicrous error. In
the early days of 1782 the _Albemarle_ was ordered to Portsmouth to
take in eight months’ provisions, “and I have no doubt was meant to
go to the East Indies with Sir Richard Bickerton,[10] which I should
have liked exceedingly, but alas, how short-sighted are the best of
us.” The young captain then goes on to tell his brother William of
the fate which overtook him. During a fierce gale an East India store
ship collided with the _Albermarle_. “We have lost our foremast, and
bowsprit, mainyard, larboard cathead, and quarter gallery, the ship’s
[figure] head, and stove in two places on the larboard side--all done
in five minutes. What a change! but yet we ought to be thankful we did
not founder. We have been employed since in getting jury-masts, yards,
and bowsprit, and stopping the holes in our sides. What is to become of
us now, I know not. She must go into dock, and I fear must be paid off,
she has received so much damage.”

A letter to the same correspondent, dated the 8th February 1782,
reveals something of Nelson’s philosophy of life. “We all rise by
deaths,” he asserts. “I got my rank by a shot killing a post-captain,
and I most sincerely hope I shall, when I go, go out of [the] world
the same way; then we go all in the line of our profession--a parson
praying, a captain fighting.” He had his wish gratified, as we all
know. There was something more than a suspicion of the Stoic in Nelson,
for while it cannot be said that he was unaffected by passion, he
certainly displayed praiseworthy indifference to creature comforts
when at sea. That he grumbled to the authorities proves nothing to the
contrary. It was usually with reference to half-unseaworthy ships,
which added to the trials and troubles of his men and oftentimes
precluded him from doing himself justice where the enemy was concerned.
His letters prove conclusively that he had the utmost faith in God,
whom he regarded as a powerful Ally.

Shortly afterwards Nelson sailed with a convoy to Newfoundland and
Quebec. The experience was anything but pleasant, and when he returned
to the latter place in the middle of September he was “knocked up
with scurvy,” the old-time sailor’s curse, owing to a diet of salt
beef for eight weeks. “In the end,” he says, “our cruise has been an
unsuccessful one; we have taken, seen, and destroyed more enemies than
is seldom done in the same space of time, but not one arrived in port.
But, however, I do not repine at our loss: we have in other things been
very fortunate, for on 14 August we fell in with, in Boston Bay, four
sail-of-the-line,[11] and the _Iris_, French man-of-war, part of M.
Vaudreuil’s squadron, who gave us a pretty dance for between nine or
ten hours; but we beat all except the frigate, and though we brought
to for her, after we were out of sight of the line-of-battle ships,
she tacked and stood from us. Our escape I think wonderful: they were,
upon the clearing up of a fog, within shot of us, and chased us the
whole time about one point from the wind....” Nelson managed to avoid
the enemy by “running them amongst the shoals of St George’s Bank,”
a manœuvre which caused the larger ships to stop pursuit. When he
prepared for action the commander of the frigate, deeming discretion
the better part of valour, wisely decided to rejoin his comrades.

After taking another convoy from Quebec to New York, Nelson sailed
under the command of Lord Hood for the West Indies, “the grand theatre
of actions.” Here he captured a French vessel attached to Vaudreuil’s
fleet, thereby getting some compensation for the loss of the frigate.
Her cargo consisted of naval material, and as some of the British ships
were urgently in want of topmasts the prize was more than usually

He also attempted to recapture Turk’s Island, which had been taken by
the French. The proceeding was audacious in the extreme, as he had very
few ships at his disposal. An officer was sent on shore, under cover
of a flag of truce, to demand surrender. This proving abortive, a
little band of 167 seamen and marines, under Captain Charles Dixon, was
landed. The _Admiral Barrington_ then came up, and together with the
_Drake_, was about to bombard the town, when a concealed battery opened
upon them. A steady fire was maintained for an hour before Captain
Dixon, who had hoped to reach the enemy’s works while the ships were
engaging some of the French defenders, decided that the experiment was
too dangerous. The enemy’s guns were fought by seamen, the troops had
several field-pieces at their disposal, and two pieces of cannon were
mounted on a hill, consequently continued persistence would have been
foolhardy. “With such a force,” says the instigator of this expedition,
“and their strong position, I did not think anything further could be

Nelson succeeded in making himself thoroughly acquainted with Lord
Hood, who in his turn introduced him to Prince William, then a
midshipman and afterwards William IV., “our Sailor King.” There was
mutual admiration. “He will be, I am certain, an ornament to our
Service,” Nelson tells Locker. “He is a seaman, which you could hardly
suppose. Every other qualification you may expect from him. But he will
be a disciplinarian, and a strong one: he says he is determined every
person shall serve his time before they shall be provided for, as he
is obliged to serve his.” Such is Nelson’s comment. That of the future
monarch was not made at the time, but when Nelson went on board the
_Barfleur_ the incident made such an impression on the Prince that he
was able to paint a graphic word-picture of the event many years after.
Nelson “appeared to be the merest boy of a captain I ever beheld....
He had on a full-laced uniform; his lank, unpowdered hair was tied in
a stiff Hessian tail, of an extraordinary length; the old-fashioned
flaps of his waistcoat added to the general quaintness of his figure,
and produced an appearance which particularly attracted my notice; for
I had never seen anything like it before, nor could I imagine who he
was, nor what he came about. My doubts were, however, removed when Lord
Hood introduced me to him. There was something irresistibly pleasing
in his address and conversation; and an enthusiasm when speaking on
professional subjects that showed he was no common being.... Throughout
the whole of the American War the height of Nelson’s ambition was to
command a line-of-battle ship; as for prize-money, it never entered his
thoughts: he had always in view the character of his maternal uncle.”

On the 25th June 1783 Nelson was again at Portsmouth. After seeing to
the well-being of his sailors he travelled on the leisurely stage-coach
to London, where he was presented to the King by Lord Hood. In the
following September hostilities were concluded between Great Britain,
America, France, Spain, and Holland by the signature of the Treaty of
Versailles. The officer, therefore, found no difficulty in obtaining
six months’ leave to visit France. There he realised that perhaps there
might be some truth in the old adage to the effect that Jack has a
sweetheart in every port.


Pleasure in France and Work in the West Indies


    _Admirals all, for England’s sake
      Honour be theirs, and fame;
    And honour, so long as waves shall break,
      To Nelson’s peerless name._

            HENRY NEWBOLT.

Nelson took the greatest possible interest in everything he saw in
France: “Sterne’s ‘Sentimental Journey’ is the best description I can
give of our tour.” He travelled in a chaise without springs, slept on
a straw bed--“O what a transition from happy England!”--but had less
fault to find with the scenery about Montreuil, which he describes as
“the finest corn country that my eyes ever beheld, diversified with
fine woods, sometimes for two miles together through noble forests. The
roads mostly were planted with trees, which made as fine an avenue as
to any gentleman’s country seat.” At St Omer he lodged with “a pleasant
French family,” and incidentally made the acquaintance of “two very
agreeable young ladies, daughters, who honour us with their company
pretty often.... Therefore I must learn French if ’tis only for the
pleasure of talking to them, for they do not speak a word of English.”
Soon all thoughts of study and of the “very agreeable” maidens were
banished from his impressionable mind by his introduction to a Miss
Andrews, the daughter of an English clergyman. The affair rapidly
ripened into something more than friendship.

    _Her faults he knew not, Love is always blind,
    But every charm resolved within his mind._

Nelson’s letters go far to prove the truth of Pope’s couplet. Miss
Andrews was, according to him, “the most accomplished woman my eyes
ever beheld.” Unfortunately marriage is necessarily based on that
mundane and concrete thing, money. When the ardent young officer came
to look into the financial aspect of the matter he found that his
income did not exceed £130 a year. His lady-love’s dowry was “1,000_l._
I understand.” He therefore appealed to his uncle, William Suckling,
to allow him £100 per annum until he could earn that sum for himself.
Failing this source of supply, would his relative “exert” himself “to
get me a guard-ship, or some employment in a public office where the
attendance of the principal is not necessary...? In the India Service I
understand (if it remains under the Directors) their marine force is to
be under the command of a captain in the Royal Navy: that is a station
I should like.” He prays that his uncle and his family “may never know
the pangs which at this instant tear my heart.”

Cupid’s shaft neither proved deadly nor barbed. On his return to
England Nelson dismissed his love affair, and was soon “running at
the ring of pleasure” in London. He visited Lord Howe, First Lord
of the Admiralty, “who asked me if I wished to be employed, which I
told him I did”; dined with Lord Hood, who made him feel quite at
home, and told him “that the oftener I came the happier it would make
him.” In January 1784 he was at Bath, and wrote to his brother that
he thought of paying a second visit to the Continent till autumn and
then spending the winter with him at Burnham Thorpe. “I return to many
charming women, _but no charming woman_ will return with me,” is the
plaint. “I want to be a proficient in the language, which is my only
reason for returning. I hate their country and their manners,” which
hatred, it may be said, increased with the passing of the years. This
pessimistic strain is doubtless due to Nelson’s undesirable position as
a half-pay officer, but in the middle of March his somewhat mercurial
temperament underwent a change to “set fair” on his appointment to the
_Boreas_, a frigate of 28 guns, under orders for the Leeward Islands.
The passengers included Lady Hughes, wife of Rear-Admiral Sir Richard
Hughes, Bart., the Commander-in-Chief, and her daughter, whom he very
ungallantly described as “lumber.” His brother, the Rev. William
Nelson, accompanied him as chaplain of the _Boreas_, but returned on
the last day of September 1784 owing to ill-health.

Before leaving Spithead Nelson had an alarming adventure. He was riding
what he describes as a “_blackguard_ horse” in company with a lady,
when both animals bolted. In order to save his legs from being crushed
in a narrow road blocked by a waggon the young gallant was obliged to
throw himself, and he had the ill-luck to fall upon hard stones, which
injured his back and one of his limbs. His fair companion was only
saved from death by the presence of mind of a passer-by who pluckily
seized the bridle of the terrified animal to which she was frantically

[Illustration: “He had the ill-luck to fall upon hard stones”

Stephen Reid]

The voyage to Antigua was devoid of incident. It was monotonous, and
Nelson hated nothing so much as monotony. Lady Hughes bored him,
although it is only just to add that he does not appear to have let her
know it. The lady herself was certainly impressed with the kindly way
Nelson treated “the young gentlemen who had the happiness of being on
his Quarter-Deck,” to quote a letter written by her in 1806. “It may
reasonably be supposed,” she goes on, “that among the number of thirty,
there must be timid as well as bold: the timid he never rebuked, but
always wished to show them he desired nothing of them that he would
not instantly do himself: and I have known him say--‘Well, sir, I am
going a race to the masthead, and I beg I may meet you there.’ No
denial could be given to such a wish, and the poor fellow instantly
began his march. His Lordship never took the least notice with what
alacrity it was done, but when he met in the top, instantly began
talking in the most cheerful manner, and saying how much a person was
to be pitied that could fancy there was any danger, or even anything
disagreeable, in the attempt.... In like manner he every day went to
the schoolroom and saw them do their nautical business, and at twelve
o’clock he was first upon the deck with his quadrant. No one there
could be behindhand in his business when their Captain set them so
good an example. One other circumstance I must mention which will
close the subject, which was the day we landed at Barbadoes. We were
to dine at the Governor’s. Our dear Captain said, ‘You must permit me,
Lady Hughes, to carry one of my aides-de-camp with me,’ and when he
presented him to the Governor, he said, ‘Your Excellency must excuse
me for bringing one of my midshipmen, as I make it a rule to introduce
them to all the good company I can, they have few to look up to besides
myself during the time they are at sea.’ This kindness and attention
made the young people adore him; and even his wishes, could they have
been known, would have been instantly complied with.”

When Nelson made the acquaintance of Sir Richard Hughes he disliked
him as much as he did her ladyship. Probably the officer’s methods
rather than the man aroused this feeling of antagonism. “The Admiral
and all about him are great ninnies,” he writes, and he soon showed
in no vague way that he refused to support the Commander-in-chief’s
happy-go-lucky policy. Truth to tell, Nelson had no love of authority.
He preferred to be a kind of attached free-lance, although he was a
strict disciplinarian in all relations between his junior officers
and himself. “I begin to be very strict in my Ship,” is an expression
he used while in the _Boreas_. In particular he fell foul of Hughes
in the matter of putting the Navigation Act into force. This law had
been passed by the Rump Parliament in 1651, when the Dutch held the
proud position of the world’s maritime carriers. It was enacted that
only English ships, commanded by an Englishman and manned by a crew
three-fourths of whom were also of the same nationality, should be
allowed to carry the products of Asia, Africa, and America to home
ports. In a similar manner, European manufactures had to be brought in
English vessels or those of the countries which produced the goods. In
the latter case the duties were heavier. It was Protection pure and

The Government of Charles II. and the Scottish Parliament passed
similar Acts in later years, thereby fostering the trading companies
which helped to lay the foundations of our colonial empire. Such
measures were a constant “thorn in the flesh” to foreign statesmen.
Several of the statutes were repealed in 1823, but the Navigation
Act was not entirely abandoned by Great Britain until 1848, after an
existence of nearly two hundred years.

Owing to their separation from the Motherland, the former British
colonists of America were, technically, “foreigners,” and should have
been subject to restrictions in their commercial intercourse with the
West Indies. “I, for one,” Nelson confides to Locker, “am determined
not to suffer the Yankees to come where my Ship is; for I am sure,
if once the Americans are admitted to any kind of intercourse with
these Islands, the views of the Loyalists in settling Nova Scotia are
entirely done away. They will first become the Carriers, and next have
possession of our Islands, are we ever again embroiled in a French
war. The residents of these Islands are Americans by connexion and
by interest, and are inimical to Great Britain. They are as great
rebels as ever were in America, had they the power to show it.... I am
determined to suppress the admission of Foreigners all in my power.”

“The Americans,” Nelson tells us in his Autobiography, “when colonists,
possessed almost all the trade from America to our West India Islands;
and on the return of peace, they forgot, on this occasion, that they
became foreigners, and of course had no right to trade in the British

“Our governors and custom-house officers pretended that by the
Navigation Act they had a right to trade; and all the West Indians
wished what was so much for their interest. Having given governors,
custom-house officers, and Americans, notice of what I would do, I
seized many of their vessels, which brought all parties upon me; and I
was persecuted from one island to another, so that I could not leave
my ship.” In this matter it may be said that Nelson found it necessary
to keep himself “a close prisoner” to avoid being served with writs
which had been issued against him by the owners of certain vessels
which he had taken, and who assessed their damages at several thousands
of pounds. “But conscious rectitude,” he adds, “bore me through it;
and I was supported, when the business came to be understood, from
home; and I proved (and an Act of Parliament has since established it)
that a captain of a man-of-war is in duty bound to support all the
maritime laws, by his Admiralty commission alone, without becoming a
custom-house officer.”

The ardent captain also fell foul of Hughes in another matter. The
commissioner of the dockyard at Antigua was Captain Moutray, a
half-pay officer whom Hughes, going beyond his powers, made commodore.
Nelson refused to recognise him as such. The case was investigated
by the Admiralty at the instigation of both parties, with the result
that Nelson was reprimanded for taking the law into his own hands.
Professor Sir J. Knox Laughton, while admitting that “In both cases
Nelson was right in his contention,” is forced to add that “The first
duty of an officer is to obey orders, to submit his doubts to the
Commander-in-chief, and in a becoming manner to remonstrate against
any order he conceives to be improper; but for an officer to settle
a moot-point himself, and to act in contravention of an order given
under presumably adequate knowledge of the circumstances, is subversive
of the very first principles of discipline. And these were not, it
will be noticed, questions arising out of any sudden and unforeseen
emergency, in providing for which Nelson was forced to depart from his
instructions. Such emergencies do arise in the course of service, and
the decision of the officer may be a fair test of his personal worth;
but neither at St Kitts nor at Antigua was there anything calling for
instant decision, or any question which might not have waited, pending
a reference to the Commander-in-chief or to the Admiralty. And this was
the meaning of the Admiralty minute on Nelson’s conduct at Antigua, a
most gentle admonition for what might have been punished as a grave

It must not be inferred that there was any personal bitterness on
Nelson’s part regarding the Moutray affair. He conceived it to be
a question of principle, of doing right and shunning wrong: “The
character of an Officer is his greatest treasure: to lower that, is to
wound him irreparably.” He was certainly on excellent terms with the
Commissioner’s wife, for whom he cherished the most friendly feelings.
Indeed, in one of his letters he calls her his “dear, sweet friend....
Her equal I never saw in any country, or in any situation.” Let it be
frankly admitted, however, that Nelson sometimes wore his heart on
his sleeve, and readily betrayed a state of feeling approaching deep
affection for any member of the gentler sex who showed by her ready
sympathy that she possessed a kindly disposition. In the communication
in which the above passage occurs he notes that several of his comrades
had similar amorous tendencies. One officer has proposed and been
refused, another is forestalled in proposing to the lady of his choice
by a more venturesome lover, a third is “attached to a lady at Nevis,”
the said lady being a relation of the future Mrs Nelson. He concludes
with a reference to a niece of Governor Parry, who “goes to Nevis in
the _Boreas_; they trust any young lady with me, being an old-fashioned

On the 12th May 1785 Nelson confides to his brother William that he has
made the acquaintance of “a young Widow,” and towards the end of the
following month he tells the same correspondent, “between ourselves,”
that he is likely to become a “_Benedict_.... Do not tell.” The lady
of his choice was Mrs Nisbet, then twenty-seven years of age and the
mother of a boy. We are fortunate in having copies of many of his
letters to her, for there is a wealth of affection--scarcely love--and
much sage philosophy in them. “My greatest wish is to be united to
you;” he writes on the 11th September 1785, “and the foundation of
all conjugal happiness, real love and esteem, is, I trust, what you
believe I possess in the strongest degree towards you.... We know that
riches do not always insure happiness; and the world is convinced that
I am superior to pecuniary considerations in my public and private
life; as in both instances I might have been rich.” “You are too good
and indulgent;” he avers on another occasion, “I both know and feel
it: but my whole life shall ever be devoted to make you completely
happy, whatever whims may sometimes take me. We are none of us perfect,
and myself probably much less so than you deserve.” “Fortune, that
is, money, is the only thing I regret the want of, and that only for
the sake of my affectionate Fanny. But the Almighty, who brings us
together, will, I doubt not, take ample care of us, and prosper all our
undertakings. No dangers shall deter me from pursuing every honourable
means of providing handsomely for you and yours....”

The messages lack the passionate fire of Napoleon’s notes to Josephine,
and on occasion are apt to be rather too business-like for love
letters. The romance did not end like the fairy stories, they did not
live “happily ever after,” but there is no reason to doubt that Nelson
cherished a fond affection for the young widow. “Her sense,” he informs
his brother, “polite manners, and to you I may say, beauty, you will
much admire: and although at present we may not be a rich couple, yet
I have not the least doubt but we shall be a happy pair:--the fault
must be mine if we are not.” Subsequent events proved the truth of the
latter remark.

In due course Sir Richard Hughes was succeeded in the command of the
Leeward Islands by Sir Richard Bickerton. Nelson complains towards the
end of 1786 that “A total stop is put to our carrying on the Navigation
Laws,” thereby showing that the old problem had by no means been solved
so far as he was concerned.

On the 12th March 1787 Nelson and Mrs Nisbet were married at Nevis.
Prince William Henry, then captain of the _Pegasus_ and under Nelson’s
command, gave away the bride. Three months later the newly-wedded
captain was at Spithead, the almost unseaworthy condition of the
_Boreas_ making it impossible for her to stand another hurricane season
in the West Indies.

Nelson was placed on half-pay, a state which he by no means liked. In
May 1788 he had reason to believe that he would be employed again. “I
have invariably laid down,” he tells a friend, “and followed close, a
plan of what ought to be uppermost in the breast of an Officer: that it
is much better to serve an ungrateful Country, than to give up his own
fame. Posterity will do him justice: a uniform conduct of honour and
integrity seldom fails of bringing a man to the goal of Fame at last.”

Nelson visited Plymouth, Bath, and London, and finally settled down at
Burnham Thorpe. His letters reveal the keenness with which he desired
to obtain employment. He applied to both Viscount Howe, First Lord
of the Admiralty, and to Lord Hood, but all his overtures came to
nought. In September 1789 he tells his old friend Locker that “I am
now commencing Farmer, not a very large one, you will conceive, but
enough for amusement. Shoot I cannot, therefore I have not taken out a
license; but notwithstanding the neglect I have met with, I am happy,
and now I see the propriety of not having built my hopes on such sandy
foundations as the friendships of the Great.”

Not until January 1793 were his dearest wishes granted. “After clouds
comes sunshine,” he writes to his wife from London. “The Admiralty
so smile upon me, that really I am as much surprised as when they
frowned. Lord Chatham yesterday made many apologies for not having
given me a Ship before this time, and said, that if I chose to take a
Sixty-four to begin with, I should be appointed to one as soon as she
was ready; and whenever it was in his power, I should be removed into a
Seventy-four. Everything indicates War....”


The Beginning of the Great War


  “_Duty is the great business of a sea officer_”


So far back as 1753 Lord Chesterfield prophesied a revolution in
France. “All the symptoms,” he said, “which I have ever met with in
history, previous to great changes and revolutions in government, now
exist and daily increase in France.” Warning rumbles heralded the
storm, disregarded and thought of no account by some, full of grave
portent to others. It burst in 1789.

At first William Pitt, First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of
the Exchequer, steadily refused to believe that England was menaced by
the Power which Fox had termed “the natural enemy of Great Britain.”
In January 1792 he assured Parliament that “unquestionably there never
was a time in the history of this country when, from the situation
of Europe, we might more reasonably expect fifteen years of peace
than we may at the present moment.” Either he was over anxious to
persuade himself that things were as he would like them to be, or he
was sadly mistaken. Pitt had by no means the pugnacious disposition
of his father, the famous first Earl of Chatham. He thought that
the fire would burn itself out, that it would be of short duration,
whereas it steadily gained strength and eventually involved practically
every country in Europe. Not until he was convinced that war was
inevitable did the youngest Premier who ever handled the reins of a
British government accept the French Revolution as of more than local
consequence. Hitherto domestic and financial questions had occupied his
attention and absorbed his energies. If France ignored the nation which
he represented, if she refrained from poaching on British preserves or
those of her allies, he was quite content to return the compliment.
Then came the decree that the navigation of the river Scheldt should
be thrown open. It had previously been guaranteed to the Dutch by
Great Britain as well as by other Powers, including France. The
execution of Louis XVI. followed, which led to Chauvelin, the French
Ambassador, being given his passports. If Pitt had been slumbering he
had wooed somnolence with one eye open since the annexation of Savoy.
He was now fully awake, calm and self-reliant, for he recognised the
inevitable. It came in a declaration of war by the French Convention
against Holland and Great Britain on the 1st February 1793. Macaulay,
writing from an essentially Whig point of view, states that Pitt’s
military administration “was that of a driveller,” but to the impartial
historian nothing is further from the truth. He abandoned his schemes
of social reform to plunge whole-heartedly into the titanic struggle
which was to cost him his life. That he made mistakes is obvious--what
statesman has not?--but he fell in his country’s cause as nobly as
Nelson at Trafalgar and Moore at Coruña.

When Nelson joined the _Agamemnon_ he was immensely pleased with
her. He describes the vessel as “without exception, the finest 64 in
the service, and has the character of sailing most remarkably well.”
She was a unit of the fleet under Lord Hood, her destination the
Mediterranean. The captain was accompanied by his step-son, Josiah,
whose first experience of life at sea cannot have been pleasant. Off
the Nore the _Agamemnon_ encountered a gale, with the result that
Josiah was “a little sea-sick.” However, “he is a real good boy, and
most affectionately loves me,” as his mother was informed. Off Cadiz
Nelson is able to report, “My Ship is remarkably healthy; myself and
Josiah never better.”

While part of the fleet was watering at Cadiz, Nelson dined on
board the _Concepcion_ (112), a huge Spanish sail-of-the-line. The
experience afforded him food for thought as well as for physical
sustenance. He relates the incident to his wife, criticises the four
Spanish first-rates in commission at the port as “very fine Ships,
but shockingly manned,” and adds that if the crews of the six barges
attached to the British vessels had boarded one of these great vessels
they could have taken her: “The Dons may make fine Ships,--they cannot,
however, make men.” This summing-up of the _morale_ of the Spanish
Navy is particularly valuable. A dozen years later, when Napoleon was
planning his wonderful combinations to elude the prowess of Nelson,
the lack of skill displayed by the Spaniards was a constant source of
annoyance both to the Emperor and his naval officers. Their bravery
in action during the Trafalgar Campaign is not questioned; their
happy-go-lucky code of discipline is on record in documentary evidence.
A bull fight which Nelson saw sickened and disgusted him. “We had what
is called a fine feast, for five horses were killed, and two men very
much hurt: had they been killed, it would have been quite complete.”

The royalists at Toulon had not only openly rebelled against the
National Convention, but had requested the assistance of the British
fleet, then blockading the harbour of the great southern arsenal, under
Hood, who was shortly afterwards joined by Langara in command of a
number of Spanish vessels. Nelson’s _Agamemnon_ was a fast sailer. He
was therefore sent to Naples with despatches to the courts of Turin and
Naples requesting 10,000 troops for the assault of Toulon. The ardent
young officer, proud of the service which had been delegated to him,
was a little too sanguine as to Hood’s triumph, yet his cheery optimism
is tinged with cynicism when he writes to his wife: “I believe the
world is convinced that no conquests of importance can be made without
us; and yet, as soon as we have accomplished the service we are ordered
on, we are neglected. If Parliament does not grant something to this
Fleet, our Jacks will grumble; for here there is no prize-money to
soften their hardships: all we get is honour and salt beef. My poor
fellows have not had a morsel of fresh meat or vegetables for near
nineteen weeks; and in that time I have only had my foot twice on shore
at Cadiz. We are absolutely getting sick from fatigue. No Fleet, I am
certain, ever served their Country with greater zeal than this has
done, from the Admiral to the lowest sailor.”

At Naples Nelson was received by the King “in the handsomest manner,”
and a promise of troops was exacted without delay. He also made the
acquaintance of Lady Hamilton, wife of the British Minister, but the
romantic attachment between them did not begin until several years
later. His Majesty was on the point of visiting the _Agamemnon_ when
the Captain received intelligence from the Prime Minister--Sir John
Acton, an English baronet--that a French sail-of-the-line convoying
three vessels had anchored under Sardinia. Nelson acknowledges to his
brother, on the 27th September 1793, that “Fortune has not crowned my
endeavours with success. The French have either got into Leghorn, or
are housed in some port of Corsica.... I purpose staying three days
in Port, when I shall get to Toulon, for I cannot bear the thought of
being absent from the scene of action.” His unsuccessful search for
the enemy had precluded him from accompanying such Neapolitan troops
as were ready to be sent to the scene of conflict. In addition a large
French frigate had put into the neutral port of Leghorn, which gave
him further anxiety. As her commander did not think it wise to attempt
an issue with the _Agamemnon_ Nelson left him to his own devices. He
anchored off Toulon, on the 5th October, to find Lord Hood “very much
pleased” with him. This must have been particularly gratifying after so
luckless a voyage, but what he most desired was action.

Within a few days of his arrival he received sealed orders from
the Admiral directing him to join Commodore Linzee off Cagliari,
the capital of Sardinia. His longing to get at the enemy was to be
satisfied in an unexpected manner. When he was nearing the island just
before dawn on the morning of the 22nd October, five strange sail made
their appearance. Later they resolved themselves into four of the
enemy’s frigates and a brig. After an engagement which lasted nearly
four hours and was ably contested on both sides, the action terminated
in the French _Melpomène_ being reduced to “a shattered condition,”
and the _Agamemnon_ having her “topmast shot to pieces, main-mast,
mizen-mast, and fore-yard badly wounded”--the last expression is
typically Nelsonian. The Frenchmen did not attempt to renew the fight;
Nelson was prevented from doing so because “The _Agamemnon_ was so cut
to pieces, as to be unable to haul the wind towards them.” The enemy’s
squadron made for Corsica, Nelson for Cagliari, according to orders,
with one man killed and six wounded.

When Nelson joined hands with Linzee he found that the immediate
business in hand was to endeavour to bring the Bey of Tunis to reason,
in other words, to the British side. The Bey was an exceedingly crafty
individual who, believing that the best time for making hay is when
the sun shines, had sided with the French because he saw an immediate
financial return. Another object was to secure a convoy which had put
in at Tunis under a sail-of-the-line, the _Duquesne_ (84) and four
frigates, the force with which Nelson had already dealt. As the Bey had
purchased the cargoes of the merchantmen at a handsome profit, he was
not disposed to change his policy. Nelson hated pacific overtures; he
was all for contest on the open sea. “Thank God,” he is able to write
to William Suckling, his uncle, on the 5th December 1793, “Lord Hood,
whom Linzee sent to for orders how to act, after having negotiated,
ordered me from under his command, and to command a Squadron of
Frigates off Corsica and the Coast of Italy, to protect our trade, and
that of our new Ally, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, and to prevent any
Ship or Vessel, of whatever Nation, from going into the port of Genoa.
I consider this command as a very high compliment,--there being five
older Captains in the Fleet....

“Corsica, December 8th:--I have been in sight of the French Squadron
all day, at anchor; they cannot be induced to come out, notwithstanding
their great superiority....”

On the 19th of the same month Lord Hood vacated Toulon.[12] The
troops of the National Convention, aided by the consummate skill
of Napoleon Bonaparte, a young officer then beginning his amazing
career, had proved too powerful for the British, Spanish, Piedmontese
and Neapolitan forces. The British fleet carried away no fewer than
14,000 fugitives from the doomed city, which for hours afterwards was
given up to pillage. “Everything which domestic Wars produce usually,
is multiplied at Toulon,” Nelson writes to his wife. “Fathers are
here [_i.e._ Leghorn] without their families, families without their
fathers. In short, all is horror.... Lord Hood put himself at the head
of the flying troops, and the admiration of every one; but the torrent
was too strong. Many of our posts were carried without resistance;
at others, which the English occupied, every one perished. I cannot
write all: my mind is deeply impressed with grief. Each teller makes
the scene more horrible. Lord Hood showed himself the same collected
good Officer which he always was.” The siege of Toulon was a qualified
success. The place was lost, but a dozen French ships and the naval
stores were set on fire, and four sail-of-the-line, three frigates,
and several smaller vessels were secured as prizes. To cripple the
French navy was the most desired of all objects.

Meanwhile Nelson’s division was blockading Corsica, which had passed
from the Republic of Genoa into the hands of the French in 1768, to
the disgust of the patriotic party headed by Pascal Paoli. It was
arranged that Hood should assist the latter to rid the island of the
hated “tyrants,” and that in due course it should be ceded to Great
Britain. In the preliminary negotiations Nelson was represented by
Lieutenant George Andrews, brother of the young lady to whom Nelson
had become attached during his visit to France in 1783;[13] the final
arrangements were made by a commission of which the gallant Sir John
Moore was a member. Hood joined Nelson on the 27th January 1794, and
on the following day the fleet encountered “the hardest gale almost
ever remembered here.” The _Agamemnon_ “lost every sail in her,” her
consorts were dispersed “over the face of the waters.” This delayed the
landing of the troops Hood had brought with him, but Nelson had already
made a preliminary skirmish on his own account near San Fiorenzo,
the first object of the admiral’s attack. He landed 120 soldiers and
seamen, emptied a flour storehouse, ruined a water-mill, and returned
without the loss of a man, notwithstanding the efforts of the French
gunboats to annihilate the little force. Similar expeditions were
undertaken at the beginning of February, when four polaccas, loaded
with wine for the enemy’s fleet, were burned, four other vessels set
on fire, a similar number captured, and about 1,000 tuns of wine

On the 7th of the same month the inhabitants of Rogliani showed
National colours, and the Tree of Liberty--the emblem of the French
Revolution--was planted. Nelson struck a flag flying on the old castle
with his own hand, and ordered the tree to be cut down. More craft and
wine were destroyed. Paoli was highly gratified by this performance,
carried out in the true Nelson spirit, and shortly afterwards the
Captain tells his wife with conscious pride, “I have had the pleasure
to fulfil the service I had been employed upon, since leaving Tunis,
neither allowing provisions nor troops to get into Corsica,”--which he
describes later as “a wonderfully fine Island”--“nor the Frigates to
come out.”

Hood now took over the command at San Fiorenzo and sent Nelson to
blockade Bastia. The latter calculated that “it would require 1000
troops, besides seamen, Corsicans, etc., to make any successful
attempt” against the place. Lieutenant-General David Dundas, the
commander of the military forces, refused his aid unless considerable
reinforcements came to hand, although he had at his disposal over
1700 regulars and artillerymen. Hood, relying on Nelson’s statements
to a certain extent, endeavoured to persuade Dundas that the task was
by no means so difficult as he imagined, but the military authority
positively refused to listen to the project. The General entered into
the arrangements for the capture of San Fiorenzo with more goodwill,
for in his opinion it was a less formidable undertaking. Without in
any way disparaging the exertions of the troops it must be admitted
that the gallant conduct of the sailors, who dragged heavy guns up the
heights in order to place them in a position to cannonade the tower of
Mortello, which commanded the situation, contributed largely to the
success of the operation. Dundas and Linzee attacked this formidable
fortification from the bay with a sail-of-the-line and a frigate on
the 8th February with ill success. Its defenders hurled hot shot at
the vessels with such precision that they were obliged to move to a
less dangerous position. The tower was bombarded from the steeps for
two days before its garrison surrendered. Meanwhile Lieutenant-Colonel
John Moore had carried the batteries of Fornelli, which led directly
to the fall of San Fiorenzo on the 17th instant. The French retreated
to Bastia, on the opposite side of the promontory, where Nelson was
exerting himself to the utmost. The British troops marched to within
three miles of the town, as noted below, and were then ordered to
return to San Fiorenzo.

On the 23rd February the _Agamemnon_ and two frigates dislodged the
French from a battery of six guns; “they to a man quitted the works.”
For Lord Hood’s encouragement he sent him word that shot and shells had
been hurled at the vessels “without doing us any damage of consequence:
our guns were so exceedingly well pointed, that not one shot was fired
in vain.... Indeed, my Lord, I wish the troops were here: Bastia, I am
sure, in its present state, would soon fall.”

In describing “our little brush” to his wife, he says it “happened at
the moment when part of our Army made their appearance on the hills
over Bastia, they having marched over land from St Fiorenzo, which is
only twelve miles distant. The General sent an express to Lord Hood
at Fiorenzo to tell him of it. What a noble sight it must have been!
indeed, on board it was the grandest thing I ever saw. If I had carried
with me five hundred troops, to a certainty I should have stormed the
Town, and I believe it might have been carried.... You cannot think how
pleased Lord Hood has been with my attack on Sunday last, or rather my
repelling of an attack which the Enemy made on me.”

Nelson’s ardent temperament, his longing to be up and doing, made him
think bitter things of Dundas. He confides to his Journal on the 3rd
March 1794 that it is his firm opinion that if the _Agamemnon_ and the
attendant frigates could batter down the sea-wall and then land 500
troops they would “to a certainty carry the place.” “God knows what
it all means,” he writes to his wife with reference to the general’s
retreat. “Lord Hood is gone to St Fiorenzo to the Army, to get them
forward again.... My seamen are now what British seamen ought to be,
to you I may say it, almost invincible: they really mind shot no more
than peas.”

The delay was simply playing into the hands of the enemy, who occupied
the time in adding to the defences of the town. One can imagine with
what glee Nelson scribbled in his Journal, under date of the 11th
March, “_Romney_ joined me from Lord Hood: brought me letters to say
that General Dundas was going Home, and that he hoped and trusted the
troops would once more move over the Hill.” The crew of the _Agamemnon_
suffered no little privation. “We are absolutely without water,
provisions, or stores of any kind, not a piece of canvas, rope, twine,
or a nail in the Ship; but we cheerfully submit to it all, if it but
turns out for the advantage and credit of our Country.”

Dundas was succeeded by General Abraham D’Aubant, an appointment
which gave the Captain of the _Agamemnon_ no satisfaction, for he
also thought it improper to attack Bastia. Not to carry to a finish a
project already begun was considered by Nelson “a National disgrace.”
Hood determined to act contrary to the opinions of his military
colleague. “I am to command the Seamen landed from the Fleet,” Nelson
tells his brother. “I feel for the honour of my Country, and had
rather be beat than not make the attack. If we do not try we never
can be successful. I own I have no fears for the final issue: it will
be conquest, certain we will deserve it.” “When was a place ever yet
taken without an attempt?” he asks Sir William Hamilton. “We must
endeavour to deserve success; it is certainly not in our power to
command it.... My dear Sir, when was before the time that 2,000 British
troops, as good as ever marched, were not thought equal to attack 800
French troops, allowing them to be in strong works? What would the
immortal Wolfe have done? as he did, beat the Enemy, if he perished in
the attempt. Our Irregulars are surely as good as the Enemy’s; and in
numbers we far exceed them. I truly feel sorrow, but I have hope and
confidence that all will end well.” Again, “We are but few, but of the
right sort: our General at San Fiorenzo not giving us one of the five
Regiments he has there lying idle.”

On the 4th April 1794 a definite start was made. Some 1400 troops
and sailors, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Villettes and Nelson
respectively, landed at the tower of Miomo, some three miles to the
north of the town. “At noon the Troops encamped about 2,500 yards from
the citadel of Bastia, near a high rock.” The night was employed in
felling trees for the purpose of constructing an abattis, a temporary
defence formed by placing trees with their boughs sharpened to a point
in such a position as to obstruct the enemy and at the same time afford
a certain amount of cover for the riflemen. The getting up of the
guns and ammunition “was performed with an activity and zeal seldom
exceeded.” The French began firing on the night of the 9th and kept it
up until daylight without inflicting injury on a single man, although
the tents were considerably damaged. After sending a flag of truce to
no effect, Hood began the siege in earnest on the 11th. On that day the
frigate _Proselyte_ was set on fire by the enemy’s red-hot shot, and as
her captain could not get her off the shore, he set his ship on fire in
several places and burnt her to the water’s edge so that she might not
fall into the hands of the hated Frenchmen.

“Only recollect that a brave man dies but once, a coward all his
life long,” Nelson writes to his wife at the beginning of May, when
fighting was of daily occurrence and many a brave man fell on either
side. His only fear was that D’Aubant might alter his mind and advance
with his troops “when Bastia is about to surrender, and deprive us
of part of our glory.” This is exactly what happened. On the 19th
May the troops from San Fiorenzo were seen marching over the hills.
Three days later, as the result of negotiations begun by the enemy,
the French colours were struck and the Union Jack hoisted, and on the
24th “the most glorious sight that an Englishman can experience,
and which, I believe, none but an Englishman could bring about, was
exhibited;--4,500 men laying down their arms to less than 1,000 British
soldiers, who were serving as Marines.” Nelson gives the number of
British killed at 19, wounded 37, and of the enemy 203 killed, wounded
540, “most of whom are dead.” He himself received “a sharp cut in the
back.” Not until the end of January 1795 did he confess to his wife
that he had information given to him “of the enormous number of Troops
we had to oppose us; but my own honour, Lord Hood’s honour, and the
honour of our Country, must have all been sacrificed, had I mentioned
what I knew; therefore, you will believe, what must have been my
feelings during the whole Siege, when I had often proposals made to me
by men, now rewarded, to write to Lord Hood to raise the Siege.”

Calvi, in the north-west of Corsica, was next attacked. “Dragging
cannon up steep mountains, and carrying shot and shells, has been our
constant employment”; “I am very busy, yet own I am in all my glory:
except with you, [Mrs Nelson] I would not be any where but where I am,
for the world”; “Hallowell[14] and myself take, each one, twenty-four
hours of duty at the advanced battery,” are extracts from some of
Nelson’s letters and despatches at this period. On the 12th July 1794
he modestly confesses to Hood that “I got a little hurt this morning:
not much, as you may judge by my writing,” but in his Journal he notes,
“at seven o’clock, I was much bruised in the face and eyes by sand from
the works struck by shot.” The “little hurt” proved far otherwise,
and Nelson subsequently became permanently blind in the right eye.
At the moment he attached little or no importance to the injury:
“Hallowell and myself are both well, except my being half blinded by
these fellows, who have given me a smart slap in the face, for which I
am their _debtor_, but hope not to be so long”; “My right eye is cut
entirely down; but the Surgeons flatter me I shall not entirely lose
my sight of that eye. At present I can distinguish light from dark,
but no object: it confined me one day, when, thank God, I was enabled
to attend to my duty. I feel the want of it; but, such is the chance
of War, it was within a hair’s breadth of taking off my head.” To Mrs
Nelson he tones down the news considerably: “Except a very slight
scratch towards my right eye, I have received no hurt whatever: so you
see I am not the worse for Campaigning: but I cannot say I have any
wish to go on with it. This day [4th August 1794] I have been four
months landed, except a few days when we were after the French Fleet,
and I feel almost qualified to pass my examination as a besieging

Nelson not unnaturally felt himself slighted when his name did not
appear in the list of wounded. However, he consoled himself by saying,
“Never mind, I’ll have a _Gazette_ of my own.”

As the result of negotiations between the enemy and General Stuart, the
commander of the 1500 soldiers who had taken part in the siege, the
French garrison marched out with the honours of war on the 10th August,
a proceeding not at all in keeping with Nelson’s ideas. However, it was
not for him to decide, and he had the satisfaction of knowing that he
had materially assisted in the conquest of Corsica. He was specially
delighted with the thought that in future the enemy’s navy would
be deprived of the pine, tar, pitch, and hemp which the island had
formerly sent to Toulon.

[Illustration: 1765-1911

Comparison of the “Victory” with the “Hercules”

=Photo Stephen Cribb, Southsea=]

Nelson now looked forward to reaching the quiet waters of Spithead
before the end of the year. In this he was disappointed. Hood returned
to Toulon, where French naval preparations were going on apace, and
Nelson was sent with the _Agamemnon_ to Leghorn in order that his
ship might refit and his men have a little rest after their arduous
exertions in Corsica. On his own showing, he was “the best in health,
but every other Officer is scarcely able to crawl.” When ready for
further service Nelson joined the admiral off Toulon, from whence he
proceeded to Genoa “to keep peace and harmony” with that Republic by
enforcing its neutrality. This mission was not of long duration, and on
the last day of September 1794 he was directed to proceed off Gourjean
and place himself under the orders of Vice-Admiral Hotham, Hood’s
successor as Commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean.

At this stage of our story it may not be unfitting to study the
accompanying table,[15] which reveals at a glance the active list
of ships, exclusive of harbour and stationary vessels, troop and
storeships, ships building, etc., in the British Navy, at the beginning
of the Great War and in 1805:

Year.  Sail-of-   Total of   Total    Total Naval     Seamen and
       the-line.  Vessels.  tonnage.    Supplies   Marines employed.

1793     113        304     295,409    £4,003,984       45,000
1805     116        534     407,814   £15,035,630      120,000

When we come to compare the Navy of Nelson’s day with that of our
own, the result is astounding. The estimates for 1910-11 amount to
£40,603,700. Of this sum, £13,279,830 is for ships either under
construction or about to be laid down. There are 95 battleships and
first-class cruisers afloat or building, and there is a total strength
of 710 vessels, including torpedo gunboats, destroyers, torpedo boats,
and submarines.[16] The entire _personnel_, exclusive of the reserves,
numbers 131,000.

The accompanying illustration gives an exact idea of the enormous
difference in size between the _Victory_ and the _Hercules_. The
former, launched in 1765, has a gross tonnage of 2,164; the latter--at
the time of writing, the largest British battleship afloat--has a
displacement of 20,250 tons, over nine times that of the _Victory_.
Nelson’s flagship is still afloat, but who can tell when the _Hercules_
will be obsolete? Progress demands many and costly victims.


“I wish to be an Admiral”


  “_A brave man runs no more risk than a coward_”


The French fleet at Toulon mustered fifteen ships; Hotham had fourteen
at his disposal, including one Neapolitan sail-of-the-line. On the
8th March 1795 it was known that the enemy was at sea with the
object of retaking Corsica, but it was not until the morning of the
13th, that the Admiral flew the signal for a general chase. While
this was proceeding the _Ça-Ira_ (84) collided with the _Victorie_,
which precluded her from keeping up with her consorts. Seizing his
opportunity, the captain of the British frigate _Inconstant_ (36)
pounced down upon the huge battleship and immediately brought her to
action. A French frigate, the _Vestale_, then went to the assistance of
the _Ça-Ira_, and took her in tow. Considerable damage had been done
on board the _Inconstant_ owing to the double fire to which she was
subjected. Nelson, keenly alert to the slightest advantage, got abreast
of the two Frenchmen, and continued to wage a gallant fight for nearly
two hours until called off by Hotham because of the near approach
of several of the enemy’s ships. The action was thereby rendered
indecisive. Nelson describes the _Ça-Ira_ as “absolutely large enough
to take _Agamemnon_ in her hold. I never saw such a ship before.”

During the night the _Sans Culottes_ (120) separated from her consorts,
and the _Censeur_ (74), with the damaged _Ça-Ira_ in tow, was also
unable to keep up with the remainder of the French fleet. This enabled
the _Bedford_ (74) and the _Captain_ (74) to attempt to capture them
on the following morning. The British ships, as they bore down on
the enemy, were received by a tremendous fire, which they could not
return. For nearly an hour and a half the fight was sustained until the
_Captain_ was little more than a floating wreck, and the distressed
state of the _Bedford_ made her recall imperative. Eventually the
_Ça-Ira_ and the _Censeur_ surrendered to other vessels of the fleet.
“On the 14th,” Nelson relates with reference to the _Agamemnon_,
“although one of the Van-ships, and in close Action on one side and
distant Action on the other for upwards of three hours, yet our
neighbours suffered most exceedingly, whilst we comparatively suffered
nothing. We had only six men slightly wounded. Our sails were ribbons,
and all our ropes were ends. Had our good Admiral have followed the
blow, we should probably have done more, but the risk was thought too
great.” His ambition is aflame when he considers the possibilities of
the day. “In short, I wish to be an Admiral, and in the command of the
English Fleet; I should very soon either do much, or be ruined. My
disposition cannot bear tame and slow measures.... At one period I am
‘the dear Nelson,’ ‘the amiable Nelson,’ ‘the fiery Nelson’: however
nonsensical these expressions are, they are better than censure, and we
are all subject and open to flattery.”

Several weeks were spent in refitting, a necessary process too slowly
carried out. Meanwhile six French vessels slipped out of Brest
harbour and made their way to Toulon. Then there was delay in sending
reinforcements not at all to Nelson’s liking. He desires “a complete
victory,” and his correspondence betrays his anxiety for the appearance
of Hood, “the best Officer, take him altogether, that England has to
boast of.” His absence was “a great national loss;” Hotham’s continued
appearance, although he did not definitely say so, a calamity.

On the 6th June 1795 Nelson was appointed a Colonel of Marines, the
welcome intelligence being conveyed to him by his father. This meant
an increase of income not to be despised, as well as “an appointment
certainly most flattering to me, as it marks to the world an
approbation of my conduct.”

Nelson, with the _Agamemnon_ and a small squadron of frigates, was now
sent “to co-operate with the Austrian General de Vins, in driving the
French out of the Riviera of Genoa,” and “to put an actual stop to all
trade between Genoa, France, and the places occupied by the armies of
France,” the invasion of Italy then being an object much to be desired
by the Republicans. On the 6th of July he sighted a French fleet of
seventeen sail and six frigates, an overpowering force it would have
been madness to attack had the opportunity been given to him. His
little squadron was chased to San Fiorenzo, where Hotham was stationed
but unable to get out owing to contrary winds. It was not until the
13th that the enemy was again seen. There was a general chase and a
partial action: “Hotham has no head for enterprise, perfectly satisfied
that each month passes without any losses on our side,” is Nelson’s

He still endeavoured to be more or less of a freelance. “I am acting,
not only without the orders of my Commander-in-chief,” he tells his
wife, “but in some measure contrary to them. However, I have not only
the support of his Majesty’s Ministers, both at Turin and Genoa, but a
consciousness that I am doing what is right and proper for the service
of our King and Country. Political courage in an Officer is as highly
necessary as military courage.” His position was difficult in the
extreme, for while Genoa posed as a neutral the French did very much as
they pleased, and the Austrian Army, subsidised by England, was “slow
beyond all description.” He found it impossible to patrol the coast as
he would have done had he been able to procure sufficient cruisers and
transports. However, he managed to secure a convoy of provisions and
ammunition, various attacks were made, and for more than a year his
service was one of continual worry and dissatisfaction.

With the resignation of Hotham and the coming of Sir John Jervis in
November 1795 the naval policy in the Mediterranean underwent a change.
The latter officer believed in watching an enemy’s port at a convenient
distance so as to render pursuit easy if necessary. With the exception
of two or three squadrons on special service the fleet therefore took
up its station off Toulon.

The victory of the French at the battle of Loano, on the 24th November
1795, was followed by their occupation of the Riviera of Genoa as a
matter of course, the Austrians retreating into Piedmont. A certain
amount of blame was laid on Nelson, who, as already noted, was in the
neighbourhood of Genoa in order to see that the pretended neutrality
was observed. Rumour had it that he and his officers had connived at
the landing of supplies for the French army. This drew from him an
indignant letter to Lord Grenville. It was certain that Genoa was a
hot-bed of sedition and French partisanship. An Austrian commissary
had been robbed, and Voltri temporarily captured; it was said that
an insurrection of the peasantry was imminent and that men were
publicly enlisted for service in the French army. The recruits were
to embark in French ships lying in the port of Genoa and in coasters
at Borghetto and to proceed to a landing-place near Voltri. Nelson,
far from sympathising with the malcontents, prevented the sailing of
the expedition by leaving Vado Bay and proceeding to the scene of the
trouble. He placed the _Agamemnon_ across the harbour-mouth and allowed
none of the enemy’s vessels to leave.

It is a mournful letter which he pens to Sir Gilbert Elliot, Viceroy
of Corsica, on the 4th December 1795. “My campaign is closed,” he
begins, “by the defeat of the Austrian Army, and the consequent loss
of Vado and every place in the Riviera of Genoa, and I am on my way to
refit poor _Agamemnon_ and her miserable Ship’s company at Leghorn. We
are, indeed, Sir, worn out; except six days I have never been one hour
off the station.” The despatch is too lengthy to quote in full, but it
is significant that he adds, “My being at Genoa, although contrary to
my inclination, has been the means of saving from 8000 to 10,000 men,
and amongst others, General de Vins himself, who escaped by the road,
which, but for me, the Enemy would have occupied. I must, my dear Sir,
regret not having more force.”

Nelson, who now made the acquaintance of Jervis, early discerned that
his senior officer was a man more after his own heart than either
Hotham or Sir Hyde Parker, who had held the command during the interim.
He was offered either a 90-gun or a 74-gun ship, but preferred to
keep to the well-tried _Agamemnon_, for whose crew he cherished a
fond affection. He was confident that in the succeeding Spring the
victorious French would “make a great exertion to get into Italy.”
This they did, but by land and not by sea as Nelson anticipated. After
refitting Nelson was still kept on the lookout, descents on Italy being
thought not improbable, but in February 1796 he was off Toulon for a
short time to spy on the doings of the French fleet. His health was
by no means good: “I am grown old and battered to pieces, and require
some repairs. However, on the whole, I have stood the fag better than
could be expected.” In the following month Nelson became a Commodore,
hoisting his distinguishing pennant on the _Captain_ (74) a little
later, the condition of the ship which had served him so long and so
well being such that she could no longer be patched up to withstand the
gales without being overhauled in England.

The war was going from bad to worse so far as the allies were
concerned. The armies of the King of Sardinia and Piedmont and of the
Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire acted in separate bodies, whereas
they would have been superior to the enemy had they concentrated. The
battle of Montenotte, fought on the 12th April 1796, took the Austrians
completely by surprise, and enabled Napoleon to boast that his “title
of nobility” dated from this great victory. Millesimo, Dego, Mondovi,
and Cherasco fell, France and Sardinia made peace, followed by an
armistice between Naples and the Republic which preluded a cessation of
hostilities in the following October.

Although Nelson was gradually rising in the service he was by no means
a wealthy man. “If we have a Spanish war,” he confides to his brother
on the 20th June 1796, “I shall yet hope to make something this war.
At present, I believe I am worse than when I set out--I mean in point
of riches, for if credit and honour in the service are desirable, I
have my full share. Opportunities have been frequently offered me, and
I have never lost one of distinguishing myself, not only as a gallant
man, but as having a head; for, of the numerous plans I have laid, not
one has failed, nor of opinions given, has one been in the event wrong.
It is this latter which has perhaps established my character more than
the others; and I hope to return in as good health as I set out with.”

The French having taken possession of Leghorn, Nelson was ordered to
blockade that important port. At the same time he received intelligence
from Sir Gilbert Elliot that there was a likelihood of the enemy making
an attempt on the fortress of Porto Ferrajo in order that Elba might
be used as a stepping-stone to Corsica. The place was secured by the
British without resort to the sword, the good understanding between
the military and naval forces being in marked contrast to Nelson’s
previous experience at Bastia, “a farther proof of what may be effected
by the hearty co-operation of the two services.” He was soon back at
his former station, carrying out his work efficiently and to Jervis’s
complete satisfaction. The Commodore’s letter to his wife, dated the
2nd August 1796, reflects his high spirits and relates two anecdotes of
more than ordinary interest. After telling Mrs Nelson that “Wherever
there is anything to be done, there Providence is sure to direct my
steps. Credit must be given me in spite of envy,” he proceeds as

“Even the French respect me: their Minister at Genoa, in answering
a Note of mine, when returning some wearing apparel that had been
taken, said, ‘Your Nation, Sir, and mine, are made to show examples of
generosity, as well as of valour, to all the people of the earth.’...

“I will also relate another anecdote, all vanity to myself, but you
will partake of it: A person sent me a letter, and directed as follows,
‘Horatio Nelson, Genoa.’ On being asked how he could direct in such
a manner, his answer, in a large party, was ‘Sir, there is but one
Horatio Nelson in the world.’ The letter certainly came immediately.
At Genoa, where I have stopped all their trade, I am beloved and
respected, both by the Senate and lower Order. If any man is fearful of
his Vessel being stopped, he comes and asks me; if I give him a Paper,
or say, ‘All is right,’ he is contented. I am known throughout Italy;
not a Kingdom, or State, where my name will be forgotten. This is my

Towards the end of September Jervis was directed by the Home
Authorities to assist the Viceroy in the evacuation of Corsica, “and
with the fleet to retreat down the Mediterranean.” This was deemed
advisable by the knowledge that war was likely to be declared against
Great Britain by Spain, that Power having entered into an offensive and
defensive alliance with the ever victorious French Republic on the 12th
September 1796. Nelson, who had but recently assisted at the capture
of the little island of Capraja, which he hoped with some reason would
“give additional security to the Kingdom of Corsica,” was not pleased
when duty called him to undertake the evacuation of the country so
inseparably associated with Napoleon. “God knows what turn the minds of
the Corsicans may take when the measure comes to be known,” he tells
Jervis. Leaving the Mediterranean was a sore trial, “a measure which I
cannot approve. They at home do not know what this Fleet is capable of
performing; anything, and everything. Much as I shall rejoice to see
England”--he was writing to his wife--“I lament our present orders in
sackcloth and ashes, so dishonourable to the dignity of England, whose
Fleets are equal to meet the World in arms; and of all the Fleets I
ever saw, I never beheld one in point of officers and men equal to Sir
John Jervis’s, who is a Commander-in-chief able to lead them to glory.”

The Commodore was next instructed to embark the garrison of Porto
Ferrajo preparatory to the abandonment of Elba. Certain of the troops
were then to be landed at Gibraltar and the remainder at Lisbon: “The
object of our Fleet in future is the defence of Portugal, and keeping
in the Mediterranean the Combined Fleets,” namely those of Spain and
France. While on his way to carry out his important mission Nelson was
to meet with a surprising adventure.


Nelson’s First Great Fight: The Battle of Cape St Vincent


  “_To have had any share in it is honour enough for one man’s life,
  but to have been foremost on such a day could fall to your share


Sir John Jervis had concentrated his fleet in Gibraltar Bay. Nelson
was making his way from thence to Elba in the _Minerve_, accompanied
by the _Blanche_, both 32-gun frigates. All went well until late in
the evening of the 19th December 1796, when they fell in with two
Spanish frigates named the _Santa Sabina_ (40) and the _Ceres_ (40)
off Cartagena. The Commodore at once instructed Captain Cockburn to
bring the _Minerve_ to close action with the former. The struggle which
ensued lasted for nearly three hours. The lengthy resistance of the
enemy is proof that there were still gallant officers in the naval
service of what was once the mightiest Sea Power in the world, now long
since fallen from her high estate. Captain Don Jacobo Stuart fought his
ship with praiseworthy calm and daring. Not until 164 of the 286 men
who comprised the crew of the _Santa Sabina_ had been killed or wounded
did the Don strike his colours. The vessel had then lost both main and
fore-masts, and the deck must have resembled a shambles. The _Blanche_
had also behaved well, although the action was trifling compared with
the determined encounter between the other vessels. The approach of
three additional ships prevented the captain of the _Blanche_ from
following up his advantage and capturing the _Ceres_, which had hauled
down her colours and sustained considerable damage to her sails and

Nelson’s prize was put in charge of Lieutenants Culverhouse and Hardy
and taken in tow by the _Minerve_. They had not proceeded far before a
third Spanish frigate came up and engaged the _Minerve_, necessitating
the casting-off of the _Santa Sabina_, thereby leaving the two young,
but able, junior officers to their own resources. The encounter lasted
a little over half-an-hour, when the frigate having had enough of
Nelson’s pommelling hauled off. The vessels from which Captain D’Arcy
Preston of the _Blanche_ had escaped were now approaching, their
commanders having been attracted by the sound of distant firing.
Dawn revealed them to Nelson as two sail-of-the-line and a frigate.
By hoisting English colours above the Spanish flag on the prize
the enemy’s Admiral was attracted to her, a ruse which enabled the
_Minerve_ and the _Blanche_ to escape, for it would have been foolish
for Nelson to run the risk of sacrificing them because of the prize
crew. Indeed, the situation was so perilous that Nelson afterwards
wrote to Sir Gilbert Elliot, “We very narrowly escaped visiting a
Spanish prison.” Neither before nor since have British Tars behaved in
finer fashion. They sailed the _Santa Sabina_ until she was practically
a hulk, when she was recaptured.

“The merits of every officer and man in the _Minerve_ and her Prize,”
Nelson reports to Jervis, “were eminently conspicuous through the
whole of this arduous day.” He likewise said the kindest things of his
antagonist: “My late prisoner, a descendant from the Duke of Berwick,
son of James II., was my brave opponent; for which I have returned him
his sword, and sent him in a Flag of truce to Spain ... he was reputed
the best Officer in Spain, and his men were worthy of such a Commander;
he was the only surviving Officer.” He reserved more picturesque
details for his brother.

“When I hailed the Don,” he relates, “and told him, ‘This is an English
Frigate,’ and demanded his surrender or I would fire into him, his
answer was noble, and such as became the illustrious family from which
he is descended--‘This is a Spanish Frigate, and you may begin as soon
as you please.’ I have no idea of a closer or sharper battle: the
force to a gun the same, and nearly the same number of men; we having
two hundred and fifty. I asked him several times to surrender during
the Action, but his answer was--‘No, Sir; not whilst I have the means
of fighting left.’ When only himself of all the Officers were left
alive, he hailed, and said he could fight no more, and begged I would
stop firing.” Culverhouse and Hardy, after having been conveyed to
Carthagena, were subsequently exchanged for the unlucky but brave Don,
and returned to the _Minerve_.

[Illustration: “I’ll not lose Hardy!”

H. C. Seppings Wright]

Nelson duly anchored at Porto Ferrajo, and met with a lack of
co-operation on the part of the military authority similar to some of
his previous experiences. Lieutenant-General de Burgh, in command of
the troops, declined to evacuate the town. Nelson, having no other
alternative, removed the naval stores, left a number of sloops and
gunboats for use in emergency, and sailed for Gibraltar, which he
reached on the 9th February 1797, having looked into the enemy’s ports
of Toulon and Cartagena on the way. Two days later the Commodore
again set out in his endeavour to join Jervis, and was chased by two
Spanish ships. It was then that a memorable incident occurred in the
lives of both Nelson and Hardy, names inseparably associated. A man
fell overboard, and Hardy and a crew in the jolly-boat hastened to the
rescue. The current was strong, the poor fellow sank, and the boat
rapidly drifted in the direction of one of the oncoming vessels, so
that Hardy stood a very good chance of again falling into the hands
of the enemy. “I’ll not lose Hardy; back the mizen topsail,” shouted
Nelson without a moment’s hesitation. This was done, and the
lieutenant and his sailors were rescued. The Spaniards were completely
put off their guard. Led to imagine by the peculiar manœuvre of the
_Minerve_ that other British ships had been sighted, they gave up the
chase. No further exciting incidents occurred as the doughty frigate
ploughed the blue waters of the Mediterranean, although the Spanish
fleet was passed at night. On the 13th Nelson joined Jervis, off Cape
St Vincent, and was able to assure him that a battle appeared imminent.
“Every heart warmed to see so brave and fortunate a warrior among us,”
says Lieutenant G. S. Parsons, then not quite thirteen years of age
and a first-class volunteer on board the _Barfleur_ (98). During the
succeeding hours of darkness the low and distant rumble of signal guns
proved the truth of the Commodore’s assertion. The enemy’s fleet of
twenty-seven sail-of-the-line and twelve 34-gun frigates was certainly
hastening in the direction of Jervis. It had sailed from Cadiz for a
very important purpose. After concentrating with the Toulon fleet the
allies were to attempt to raise the English blockade of Brest, thus
releasing the important armament there, gain command of the Channel,
and invade Ireland. We shall have occasion to notice that in later
years Napoleon conceived a similar idea. It is open to question whether
Admiral Don Josef de Cordova would have been quite so eager for the
fray had he known the full British strength. He believed it to be
nine sail-of-the-line, whereas fifteen battleships and seven smaller
vessels were awaiting his coming. When the signal-lieutenant of the
_Barfleur_ exclaimed of the oncoming leeward line of vessels, “They
loom like Beachy Head in a fog! By my soul, they are thumpers, for I
distinctly make out _four_ tier of ports in one of them, bearing an
admiral’s flag,” he expressed plain, honest fact. “Don Cordova, in
the _Santissima Trinidad_,” Jervis correctly surmised, “and I trust
in Providence that we shall reduce this mountain into a mole hill
before sunset.” The Spanish flag-ship was the largest vessel afloat,
and carried 130 guns. She must have towered above the insignificant
_Captain_ (74), to which Nelson had transferred his broad pennant,
much like an elephant over a Shetland pony. Nor was the _Santissima
Trinidad_ the only vessel built on what was then considered to be
colossal lines. No fewer than six of the Spanish three-deckers carried
112 guns each; two of them had 80 guns each, and seventeen were 74-gun
ships. England was represented by two sail-of-the-line of 100 guns
each, two of 98 each, ten of 74 each, and one of 64.

“The British had formed one of the most beautiful and close lines
ever beheld,” Parsons tells us. “The fog drew up like a curtain, and
disclosed the grandest sight I ever witnessed. The Spanish fleet,
close on our weather bow, were making the most awkward attempts to
form their line of battle, and they looked a complete forest huddled
together; their commander-in-chief, covered with signals, and running
free on his leeward line, using his utmost endeavours to get them into
order; but they seemed confusion worse confounded. I was certainly very
young, but felt so elated as to walk on my toes, by way of appearing
taller, as I bore oranges to the admiral and captain, selecting some
for myself, which I stored in a snug corner in the stern-galley, as a
_Corps de réserve_. The breeze was just sufficient to cause all the
sails to sleep, and we were close hauled on the starboard tack, with
royals set, heading up for the Spanish fleet. Our supporting ship, in
the well-formed line, happened to be the _Captain_, and Captain Dacres
hailed to say that he was desired by the vice-admiral to express his
pleasure at being supported by Sir Horatio Nelson.”[17]

Men famous in British naval annals were present at this memorable
contest, fought on St Valentine’s Day, 1797. Jervis was in the
_Victory_ (100), Troubridge in the _Culloden_ (74), Collingwood in the
_Excellent_ (74), and Saumarez in the _Orion_ (74). Twenty-four years
before Troubridge and Nelson had sailed together in the _Seahorse_;
Collingwood was the Commodore’s life-long friend, and Saumarez, whom
the great little man did not like, was to become second in command at
the battle of the Nile eighteen months later.

“England,” the Admiral averred, “was in need of a victory,” and he gave
her one. Jervis was indeed a doughty champion of his country’s rights
at sea. “The British Admiral made the signal to prepare for battle,”
says an eye-witness. “As he walked the quarter-deck the hostile numbers
were reported to him, as they appeared, by signal. ‘There are eight
sail-of-the-line, Sir John.’ ‘Very well, sir.’ ‘There are twenty-five
sail-of-the-line.’ ‘Very well, sir.’ ‘There are twenty-seven sail, Sir
John,’ and this was accompanied by some remark on the great disparity
of the forces. ‘Enough, sir--no more of that: the die is cast; and
if there were fifty sail-of-the-line, I would go through them.’” Sir
Benjamin Hallowell-Carew, then a supernumerary on the quarter-deck
of the _Victory_, disregarding the austerity of naval etiquette and
thinking only of the determined utterance of the grim old veteran, so
far forgot himself as to give the Admiral a hearty slap on the back.

The Spanish fleet was in two divisions of twenty-one and six
sail-of-the-line respectively, separated by a distance of some miles.
Three of the main squadron joined the latter a little later, while one
“sailed away.” Jervis’s fleet, in single column, separated the two
lines. By a skilful manœuvre he held in check the smaller division
and brought his ships to bear on the larger, the _Culloden_ being the
first vessel to attack, which elicited warm praise of Troubridge from
Jervis. The fight at once became general and was waged for some time
without decisive results. Then several of the leading Spanish ships
endeavoured to get round the rear of the British. Had they succeeded
in doing so it would have enabled them to join the detached leeward
division and escape to Cadiz. Nelson at once discerned the project,
and without hesitation placed the _Captain_ in the path of the oncoming
ships. He “dashed in among the Spanish van,” to quote Parsons, “totally
unsupported, leaving a break in the British line--conduct totally
unprecedented, and only to be justified by the most complete success
with which it was crowned....”

The _Captain_, the smallest 74 in the fleet, stood a good chance
of being annihilated by the oncoming squadron of Spanish ships,
which included the _Santissima Trinidad_, a gigantic four-decker.
Lieutenant-Colonel Drinkwater, who was an eye-witness, tells us that
for a considerable time Nelson “had to contend not only with her,
but with her seconds ahead and astern, of three decks each. While he
maintained this unequal combat, which was viewed with admiration, mixed
with anxiety, his friends were flying to his support: and the enemy’s
attention was soon directed to the _Culloden_, Captain Troubridge;
and, in a short time after, to the _Blenheim_, of 90 guns, Captain
Frederick; who, very opportunely, came to his assistance.

“The intrepid conduct of the Commodore staggered the Spanish admiral,
who already appeared to waver in pursuing his intention of joining the
ships cut off by the British fleet; when the _Culloden’s_ arrival,
and Captain Troubridge’s spirited support of the _Captain_, together
with the approach of the _Blenheim_, followed by Rear-Admiral Parker,
with the _Prince George_, _Orion_, _Irresistible_, and _Diadem_, not
far distant, determined the Spanish admiral to change his design
altogether, and to make the signal for the ships of his main body to
haul their wind, and make sail on the larboard tack.

“Advantage was now apparent, in favour of the British squadron, and
not a moment was lost in improving it. As the ships of Rear-Admiral
Parker’s division approached the enemy’s ships, in support of the
_Captain_, and her gallant seconds, the _Blenheim_ and _Culloden_,
the cannonade became more animated and impressive. The superiority
of the British fire over that of the enemy, and its effects on the
enemy’s hulls and sails, were so evident that there was no longer any
hesitation in pronouncing a glorious termination of the contest.

“The British squadron at this time was formed in two divisions, both
on the larboard tack[18]: Rear-Admiral Parker, with the _Blenheim_,
_Culloden_, _Prince George_, _Captain_, _Orion_, and _Irresistible_,
composed one division, which was engaged with the enemy’s rear; Sir
John Jervis, with the other division, consisting of the _Excellent_,
_Victory_, _Barfleur_, _Namur_, _Egmont_, _Goliath_, and _Britannia_,
was pressing forward in support of his advanced squadron, but had not
yet approached the real scene of action.

“While the British advanced squadron warmly pressed the enemy’s centre
and rear, the Admiral meditated, with his division, a co-operation
which must effectually compel some of them to surrender.

“In the confusion of their retreat, several of the enemy’s ships had
doubled on each other; and, in the rear, they were three or four
deep. It was, therefore, the British admiral’s design to reach the
weather-most of these ships; and, then, to bear up, and rake them all
in succession, with the seven ships composing his division. His object,
afterwards, was to pass on to the support of his van division; which,
from the length of time they had been engaged, he judged might be in
want of it. The casual position, however, of the rear ships of his van
division, prevented his executing this plan. The admiral, therefore,
ordered the _Excellent_, the leading ship of his own division, to
bear up; and, with the _Victory_, he himself passed to leeward of the
enemy’s rearmost and leewardmost ships; which, though almost silenced
in their fire, continued obstinately to resist the animated attack of
all their opponents.

“Captain Collingwood, in the _Excellent_, in obedience to the admiral’s
orders, passed between the two rearmost ships of the enemy’s line;
giving to the one most to windward, a 74, so effectual a broadside, in
addition to what had been done before, that her captain was induced to
submit. The _Excellent_ afterwards bore down on the ship to leeward,
a three-decker: but, observing the _Orion_ engaged with her, and the
_Victory_ approaching her, he threw into her only a few discharges of
musquetry, and passed on to the support of the _Captain_, at that time
warmly engaged with a three-decker, carrying a flag. His interference
here was opportune, as the continual and long fire of the _Captain_ had
almost expended the ammunition she had at hand, and the loss of her
fore-topmast, and other injuries she had received in her rigging, had
rendered her nearly ungovernable.

“The Spanish three-decker had lost her mizen-mast; and, before the
_Excellent_ arrived in her proper station to open on this ship, the
three-decker dropped astern aboard of, and became entangled with, a
Spanish two-decker, that was her second. Thus doubled on each other,
the _Excellent_ gave the two ships her fire; and then moved forwards to
assist the headmost ships in their attack on the Spanish admiral, and
the other ships of the enemy’s centre.

“Meanwhile, Sir John Jervis, disappointed in his plan of raking the
enemy’s rear ships, and having directed, as before observed, the
_Excellent_ to bear up, ordered the _Victory_ to be placed on the
lee-quarter of the rearmost ship of the enemy, a three-decker; and
having, by signal, ordered the _Irresistible_ and _Diadem_ to suspend
their firing, threw into the three-decker so powerful a discharge, that
her commander, seeing the _Barfleur_ ... ready to second the _Victory_,
thought proper to strike to the British Commander-in-chief. Two of
the enemy’s ships had now surrendered; and the _Lively_ frigate, and
_Diadem_, had orders to secure the prizes. The next that fell were the
two with which Commodore Nelson was engaged.

“While Captain Collingwood so nobly stepped in to his assistance, as
already mentioned, Captain R. W. Miller, the Commodore’s captain, was
enabled to replenish his lockers with shot, and prepare for a renewal
of the fight. No sooner, therefore, had the _Excellent_ passed on, than
the gallant Commodore renewed the battle.

“The three-decker with which he was before engaged having fallen
aboard her second, that ship, of 84 guns, became now the Commodore’s
opponent. To her, therefore, he directed a vigorous fire; nor was it
feebly returned, as the loss on board the _Captain_ evinced, nearly
twenty men being killed and wounded in a very few minutes. It was now
that the various damages already sustained by that ship, through the
long and arduous conflict which she had maintained, appearing to render
a continuance of the contest in the usual way precarious, or perhaps
impossible, that Commodore Nelson, unable to bear the idea of parting
with an enemy of which he had so thoroughly assured himself, instantly
resolved on a bold and decisive measure; and determined, whatever might
be the event, to attempt his opponent sword in hand. The boarders were
accordingly summoned, and orders given to lay his ship, the _Captain_,
on board the enemy.”

“At this time,” says Nelson, “the _Captain_ having lost her
fore-topmast, not a sail, shroud, or rope left, her wheel shot away,
and incapable of further service in the line, or in chase, I directed
Captain Miller to put the helm a-starboard, and calling for the
Boarders, ordered them to board. The Soldiers of the 69th Regiment,
with an alacrity which will ever do them credit, and Lieutenant Pierson
of the same Regiment, were amongst the foremost on this service.
The first man who jumped into the Enemy’s mizen-chains was Captain
Berry, late my First Lieutenant (Captain Miller was in the very act of
going also, but I directed him to remain); he was supported from our
spritsail-yard, which hooked in the mizzen-rigging. A soldier of the
69th Regiment having broke the upper quarter-gallery window, jumped
in, followed by myself and others as fast as possible. I found the
cabin-doors fastened, and some Spanish Officers fired their pistols;
but having broke open the doors, the soldiers fired, and the Spanish
Brigadier (Commodore with a Distinguishing Pendant) fell, as retreating
to the quarter-deck, on the larboard side, near the wheel. Having
pushed on the quarter-deck, I found Captain Berry in possession of the
poop, and the Spanish ensign hauling down. I passed with my people and
Lieutenant Pierson on the larboard gangway to the forecastle, where
I met two or three Spanish Officers prisoners to my seamen, and they
delivered me their swords.

“At this moment, a fire of pistols or muskets opened from the Admiral’s
stern gallery of the _San Josef_, I directed the soldiers to fire into
her stern; and, calling to Captain Miller, ordered him to send more men
into the _San Nicolas_, and directed my people to board the First-rate,
which was done in an instant, Captain Berry assisting me into the main
chains. At this moment a Spanish Officer looked over the quarter-deck
rail, and said--‘they surrendered;’ from this most welcome intelligence
it was not long before I was on the quarter-deck, when the Spanish
Captain, with a bow, presented me his Sword, and said the Admiral was
dying of his wounds below. I asked him, on his honour, if the Ship were
surrendered? he declared she was; on which I gave him my hand, and
desired him to call to his Officers and Ship’s company, and tell them
of it--which he did; and on the quarter-deck of a Spanish First-rate,
extravagant as the story may seem, did I receive the Swords of
vanquished Spaniards: which, as I received, I gave to William Fearney,
one of my bargemen, who put them with the greatest _sangfroid_ under
his arm.”

Nelson afterwards went on board the _Irresistible_. It was then late
in the afternoon, and he did not think it advisable to take possession
of the _Santissima Trinidad_ because he was convinced that “a night
Action with a still very superior Fleet” must inevitably follow.
Jervis received the Commodore with great affection and was not sparing
with well-deserved praise. The hero of the day was no less generous in
acknowledging the services of Collingwood. He described his conduct
as “noble and gallant.” Nelson had no truer friend than the commander
of the _Excellent_, whose admiration for the Commodore’s genius knew
no bounds. “The highest rewards are due to you and _Culloden_:”
Collingwood replied, “you formed the plan of attack--we were only
accessories to the Dons’ ruin; for had they got on the other tack, they
would have been sooner joined, and the business would have been less

While the interest of the fight centres about the _Captain_, each
ship contributed to the victory. In addition to Nelson’s vessel, the
_Colossus_ and _Culloden_ were badly battered but fortunately the loss
in men was remarkably small. Four prizes fell to the British fleet on
St Valentine’s Day, 1797.

To his wife, Nelson confesses that “the more I think of our late
action, the more I am astonished; it absolutely appears a dream....
The Spanish war will give us a cottage and a piece of ground, which
is all I want. I shall come one day or other laughing back, when we
will retire from the busy scenes of life: I do not, however, mean to
be a hermit; the dons will give us a little money.” This must not be
taken too seriously, for within forty-eight hours of the battle he
had confided to Sir Gilbert Elliot that “to take hereditary Honours
without a fortune to support the Dignity, is to lower that Honour it
would be my pride to support in proper splendour.” He did not wish a
“baronetage,” but on the other hand, “There are Honours, which die
with the possessor, and I should be proud to accept, if my efforts are
thought worthy of the favour of my King.” George III. created him a
Knight of the Bath; Jervis became Earl of St Vincent. Six days after
the battle Nelson was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral of the Blue,
not as a reward for his meritorious conduct but as his due according to

A beautiful gold casket containing the much-coveted Freedom of the
City and a sword of honour was given to Sir Horatio, as we must now
call him, by the Corporation of London, and Norwich, where some of
his school days were spent, likewise conferred its Freedom upon him.
Nelson on his part presented the county town of Norfolk with the sword
of the Spanish Rear-Admiral who had died of his wounds on board the
_San Josef_. Other cities extended “the right hand of friendship” to
the hero, including Bath and Bristol. Nelson’s father was overcome when
he heard of his son’s brilliant success: “The height of glory to which
your professional judgment, united with a proper degree of bravery,
guarded by Providence, has raised you, few sons, my dear child, attain
to, and fewer fathers live to see. Tears of joy have involuntarily
trickled down my furrowed cheek. Who could stand the force of such
general congratulation? The name and services of Nelson have sounded
throughout the City of Bath, from the common ballad-singer to the
public theatre. Joy sparkles in every eye, and desponding Britain draws
back her sable veil, and smiles.”

Although he had clearly disobeyed Jervis’s order for the ships to
attack in succession, the Commodore’s daring action had rendered the
battle decisive. Sir Robert Calder, the Captain of the Fleet, is said
to have protested against Nelson’s conduct, but the Admiral’s reply,
“If you ever commit such a breach of orders I will forgive you,”
was entirely worthy of the stern old disciplinarian. Jervis was not
one of those officers who bestow praise on every possible occasion,
both in and out of season. He was just, and therefore recognised the
extremely valuable service which Nelson had rendered to him. We shall
have occasion to see how Calder himself behaved at a certain critical
period, when a stroke of genius such as had been displayed at St
Vincent would have robbed Nelson of the glory of Trafalgar.[19]


From Triumph to Failure: The Attempt on Santa Cruz


  “_I have had flattery enough to make me vain, and success enough to
  make me confident._”


All hopes on the part of Britain’s enemies for the invasion of the
British Isles were quashed for a time by the victory off Cape St
Vincent. Although the distressed Spanish fleet reached Cadiz safely,
minus four sail-of-the-line which the British had captured, there was
no likelihood at the moment of the ships showing their “noses” out of
port, many of the aforesaid noses being much out of joint. For several
weeks Nelson was engaged in a fruitless search for a treasure-ship,
convoyed by three sail-of-the-line, supposed to be making for Spain;
but in April 1797 he was directed by the Admiral to blockade Cadiz,
a task not altogether devoid of incident if for no other reason than
that no neutral vessel was permitted to enter or leave the port without
his permission. He was particularly concerned as to the welfare of the
garrison at Elba. The Commander-in-Chief believed that the soldiers
were on their way to Gibraltar; Nelson was of opinion that “If the
French get out two sail-of-the-line, which I am confident they may do,
our Troops are lost, and what a triumph would that be to them!” At his
own suggestion he was sent to Porto Ferrajo to make enquiries about
the luckless little army. The convoy had started, and he met it off
the south of Corsica. He learned of Napoleon’s wonderful success in
the subjugation of Italy and the humbling of Austria, admitting that
“there seems no prospect of stopping these extraordinary people,” the
French. Shifting from the _Captain_, which required to be docked, he
hoisted his rear-admiral’s flag on the _Theseus_, and was given command
of the inshore squadron of the fleet blockading the great seaport, “in
sight of the whole Spanish Fleet. I am barely out of shot of a Spanish
Rear-Admiral.” The citizens not unnaturally dreaded a bombardment;
Nelson confessed, “I long to be at them.” At the same time he reverted
to the old idea of a cottage in Norfolk. “The imperious call of honour
to serve my Country,” and a not ignoble desire to add to his prize
money in order to give his wife “those little luxuries which you so
highly merit,” did not, however, permit him to give more than a passing
thought to retirement.

On the night of the 3rd July 1797 all the barges and launches of
the British blockading fleet, carrying carronades, ammunition and
pikes, were placed at Nelson’s disposal by the Earl of St Vincent for
the bombardment of Cadiz. A spirited action took place between the
British and Spanish sailors, the latter using mortar gunboats and
armed launches. The Spanish met with a repulse and three prizes were
taken. Referring to the blockade in his Autobiography, Nelson says:
“It was during this period that perhaps my personal courage was more
conspicuous than at any other part of my life,” the remark obviously
referring to the following incident. The barge of the Commander of the
enemy’s gunboats came up alongside Nelson’s little craft, containing
thirteen persons in all, and a desperate hand-to-hand fight ensued.
The Rear-Admiral would have lost his life had it not been for the good
services of John Sykes, the coxswain, one of those humble heroes of
whom one hears too little, so predominant are the greater figures
of history. The enemy paid dearly for the exploit. Eighteen of the
crew were killed, several wounded, the Commander was taken prisoner,
and the boat captured. On the 5th of the same month Cadiz was again
bombarded, and according to the official despatch, the cannonade
“produced considerable effect in the Town and among the Shipping.” The
Earl of St Vincent now proved how strict a disciplinarian he was. The
crews of some of the ships had shown unmistakable signs of mutiny, and
the Court Martial having passed sentence on four of the ringleaders,
the Commander-in-Chief saw no reason for delaying the execution of
the sentence. He had the men hanged on a Sunday, a few hours after
they had been found guilty. Nelson strongly approved of the execution,
“even although it is _Sunday_. The particular situation of the service
requires extraordinary measures.” It is significant that no signs of
dissatisfaction made themselves felt in any of the Rear-Admiral’s
ships, but Nelson’s words show that he would not have condoned anything
of the kind.

An attack on Santa Cruz, where it was believed that the _Principe
d’Asturias_, a ship of considerable value belonging to the Philippine
Company, had taken shelter, next fell to Nelson’s lot. He had already
hinted to the Admiral that the conquest of Teneriffe was an object
very dear to him, which he was confident “could not fail of success,
would immortalize the undertakers, ruin Spain, and has every prospect
of raising our Country to a higher pitch of wealth than she has ever
yet attained....” His plan was to utilise the 3700 soldiers from
Elba; “I will undertake with a very small Squadron to do the Naval
part.” The scheme fell through, to be revived by the Earl himself,
but it was to be carried out without the assistance of the troops.
Three sail-of-the-line and the same number of frigates were placed at
Nelson’s disposal. Ladders, sledge-hammers, wedges, axes, additional
iron ram-rods, and a sleigh for dragging cannon formed a necessary
part of the equipment. A perusal of the regulations recommended by
the Rear-Admiral shows that he took the most elaborate precautions to
ensure success. Captain Thomas Troubridge, of the _Culloden_, was given
command of the entire force, Captain Oldfield directing the Marines,
Lieutenant Baynes his detachment of the Royal Artillery. The first
attempt was made on the night of the 21st and failed, largely owing to
adverse weather. As a consequence the spot which Nelson had indicated
as most suitable for landing was not reached, and dawn disclosed the
whereabouts of the little expedition to the Spaniards. It was also
found impossible to get the battle-ships close enough to the fort to
create a diversion by bombardment while the storming party attempted to
gain the heights.

Any blame which may have been attributable to Troubridge was minimised
by Nelson in his despatch to the Admiral, “all has hitherto been done
which was possible, without effect.” He therefore decided to command
in person, “and to-morrow my head will probably be crowned with either
laurel or cypress.” Did some premonition of disaster lead him to write
to the Earl of St Vincent to recommend his step-son “to you and my
Country,” and to add that “should I fall in the service of my King and
Country” the Duke of Clarence would “take a lively interest” in Josiah
Nisbet? It was certainly not his way of saying things at this stage
of his career, although we know that in 1805 he avowed that Trafalgar
would be his last battle.

[Illustration: Nelson wounded at Santa Cruz

R. Caton Woodville]

On the 24th Nelson was able to get his ships nearer land than on the
previous occasion. He and nearly a thousand men set out in small boats
at about eleven o’clock at night for the Mole, where they were to
disembark. The oars being muffled and dead silence enjoined, the enemy
did not discover their approach till they were within half gun-shot of
the appointed _rendez-vous_. Immediately thirty or forty cannon blazed
out, the sharp ping of musket shots rent the air, but, says Nelson,
“nothing could stop the intrepidity of the Captains leading the
divisions. Unfortunately, the greatest part of the Boats did not see
the Mole, but went on shore through a raging surf, which stove all the
Boats to the left of it.”

With the companies of four or five boats and two Captains, the
Rear-Admiral stormed the landing-place in the darkness and took
possession of it in the presence of several hundred of the enemy. They
then proceeded to spike the guns, but were driven back by the heavy
fire which seemed to issue from every available point. Scarcely a man
escaped death or a wound. Nelson was shot through the right elbow as
he was stepping from the boat. With rare presence of mind he quietly
transferred the sword he carried to his left hand. This weapon, once
the property of his uncle Maurice Suckling, was treasured by him
almost more than any other possession. He was not going to leave that
of all things on Spanish soil! Young Nisbet happened to be near his
step-father at the moment he received his wound, and placed him in the
bottom of the boat. He then held the arm so as to staunch the blood,
untied the silk handkerchief round his neck and bound up the injury
as best he could. After passing under the enemy’s batteries the few
men who had regained the little craft bent to the oars and eventually
pulled out of range of the guns, but not before some of the crew of the
_Fox_, who had been flung into the sea owing to the sinking of that
cutter, had been rescued by them. Someone suggested that Nelson should
be taken to the nearest vessel for surgical treatment. He would not
hear of this because the captain’s wife happened to be on board and
he had no intelligence of her husband’s fate. Whatever agonies Nelson
suffered, as the sadly denuded crew made their way to the _Theseus_,
were kept to himself; scarcely a groan escaped his lips.

“At two o’clock [A.M.],” says a midshipman who saw the sorrowful
boatload, “Admiral Nelson returned on board, being dreadfully wounded
in the right arm with a grape-shot. I leave you to judge of my
situation, when I beheld our boat approach with him who I may say
has been a second father to me, his right arm dangling by his side,
whilst with the other he helped himself to jump up the Ship’s side,
and with a spirit that astonished every one, told the surgeon to get
his instruments ready, for he knew he must lose his arm, and that the
sooner it was off the better. He underwent the amputation with the same
firmness and courage that have always marked his character.”

Captain Troubridge and his men landed near the citadel after most of
the ammunition had been soaked by the surf, which was so violent that
it filled the boats and stove them against the treacherous rocks. With
a handful of heroes he proceeded to the Square, previously appointed
as the meeting-place of the various parties before the final attack.
The scaling ladders having been lost, and no further men making their
appearance after an hour’s wait, he set out to meet Captains Hood
and Miller, whom he believed had effected a landing elsewhere. “By
day-break,” runs his official report to Nelson, “we had collected about
eighty Marines, eighty Pike-men, and one hundred and eighty small-arm
Seamen. These, I found, were all that were alive that had made good
their landing. With this force, having procured some ammunition from
the Spanish prisoners we had made, we were marching to try what could
be done with the Citadel without ladders; but found the whole of the
streets commanded by field-pieces, and upwards of eight thousand
Spaniards and one hundred French under arms, approaching by every
avenue. As the boats were all stove, and I saw no possibility of
getting more men on shore--the ammunition wet, and no provisions--I
sent Captain Hood with a Flag of Truce to the Governor, to say I was
prepared to burn the Town, which I should immediately put in force
if he approached one inch further; and, at the same time, I desired
Captain Hood to say it would be done with regret, as I had no wish to
injure the inhabitants; that if he would come to my terms, I was ready
to treat, which he readily agreed to....”

The terms were, “That the Troops, etc., belonging to his Britannic
Majesty shall embark with all their arms of every kind, and take their
Boats off, if saved, and be provided with such other as may be wanting;
in consideration of which it is engaged on their part they shall not
molest the Town in any manner by the Ships of the British Squadron now
before it, or any of the Islands in the Canaries; and prisoners shall
be given up on both sides.”

Troubridge’s game of bluff succeeded. His Excellency Don Antonio
Gutierrez, Commandant-General of the Canary Islands, rid himself of the
invaders and was rewarded by Nelson with a cask of English beer and a

It says much for Nelson’s indomitable pluck and recuperative powers,
as well as for his keen interest in the service, that he allowed only
two days to intervene before he penned a letter with his left hand to
the Admiral. That he was depressed is obvious, that he still had a
fund of grim humour is equally evident by the quaint postscript. The
communication runs as follows:

    _Theseus, July 27th, 1797._


  “I am become a burthen to my friends, and useless to my Country;
  but by my letter wrote the 24th,[20] you will perceive my anxiety
  for the promotion of my son-in-law, Josiah Nisbet.[21] When I
  leave your command, I become dead to the World; I go hence, and am
  no more seen. If from poor Bowen’s loss,[22] you think it proper
  to oblige me, I rest confident you will do it; the Boy is under
  obligations to me, but he repaid me by bringing me from the Mole
  of Santa Cruz.

  “I hope you will be able to give me a frigate, to convey the
  remains of my carcase to England. God bless you, my dear Sir, and
  believe me, your most obliged and faithful,

            “HORATIO NELSON.

  “You will excuse my scrawl, considering it is my first attempt.

  “Sir John Jervis, K.Bth.”

In another despatch to his senior officer the leader of the ill-fated
expedition avers that “A left-handed Admiral will never again be
considered as useful, therefore the sooner I get to a very humble
cottage the better, and make room for a better man to serve the
State.” The noble Earl’s reply must have been as healing balm to the
wounded body and depressed spirit of the man whose brilliant success
had been followed so quickly by disastrous failure. “Mortals cannot
command success;” he begins, “you and your Companions have certainly
deserved it, by the greatest degree of heroism and perseverance that
ever was exhibited.” Such praise from St Vincent was praise indeed,
and he whimsically concludes by saying that he will “bow to your stump
to-morrow morning, if you will give me leave.”

On the 20th August 1797, Nelson struck his flag on the _Theseus_ and
hoisted it on the _Seahorse_, in which ship he made “a very miserable
passage home.” He arrived at Spithead on the 1st September and
proceeded to Bath. To his brother he reported that his health “never
was better, and my arm is in the fairest way of soon healing.” He
intended to journey to London, perhaps pay a short visit to Norfolk
“for a few days, especially if a decent house is likely to be met with
near Norwich; but Wroxham very far indeed exceeds my purse. Bath will
be my home till next spring.” On the other hand Lady Nelson wrote on
the same date that her husband suffered “a good deal of pain--the arm
is taken off very high, near the shoulder,” and he only obtained rest
by resorting to opium.

If he never minimised a victory in his communications Nelson certainly
did not remark unduly on his wounds. In writing to the Duke of Clarence
he merely referred to “my accident,” and passed on to assure his royal
friend “that not a scrap of that ardour with which I have hitherto
served our King has been shot away.” It is only right, however, to add
that in communicating with the Comptroller of the Navy he was perhaps
a little unjust to Troubridge in the matter of the initial attempt on
Santa Cruz: “Had I been with the first party, I have reason to believe
complete success would have crowned our endeavours.[23] My pride
suffered; and although I felt the second attack a forlorn hope, yet the
honour of our Country called for the attack, and that I should command
it. I never expected to return, and am thankful.”

On the 27th September, Nelson was invested with the Ensigns of the
Order of the Bath by George III. at St James’s Palace. In addition he
was granted a pension of £1000 a year, having been “engaged against the
Enemy upwards of one hundred and twenty times.” He became a popular
hero, but as he himself said, “Success covers a multitude of blunders,
and the want of it hides the greatest gallantry and good conduct.”
Compared to the victory off Cape St Vincent the Santa Cruz fiasco was
of little moment. Kind-hearted John Bull dismissed the latter incident
and thought only of the former.


In Chase of the French Fleet


  “_No Frigates!--to which has been, and may again, be attributed the
  loss of the French Fleet._”


The year 1797 had been a particularly trying one for Nelson both as
regards health and reputation; the succeeding twelve months were to
test his powers of endurance and his skill even more. The services of
the one-eyed, one-armed little man were not to be dispensed with, as
he had suggested in a moment of despondency. He neither retired to “a
very humble cottage,” although he had purchased a small property known
as Round Wood, near Ipswich, nor made room for “a better man.” Truth
to tell, there was no better man, and for once the Admiralty knew
its business. Nelson hoisted his flag as Rear-Admiral of the Blue on
board the _Vanguard_ (74) at Spithead on the 29th March 1798, sailed
for Lisbon with a convoy on the 10th April, and joined his old fleet
off Cadiz on the last day of that month, the times “big with events.”
Within forty-eight hours he was ordered by St Vincent to ascertain the
destination of an immense armament which was preparing at Toulon and
other ports in the Mediterranean. For this important service a squadron
of three sail-of-the-line, including his own ship, three frigates
and a sloop were placed at his disposal. A small French corvette was
captured, and by closely examining each member of the crew it was
ascertained that although Bonaparte had appeared at the great French
port it was not believed he would embark. The most important point of
all, namely, the destination of the expedition, was not revealed: “all
is secret.”

While off Toulon, Nelson encountered one of the worst gales he
ever experienced. His own account of the fight with this universal
enemy lacks the picturesque details given by Captain Berry, of the
_Vanguard_, and we shall therefore quote from Berry’s letter. Nelson
tells his wife that “it was the Almighty’s goodness, to check my
consummate vanity”; his more matter-of-fact captain sees only a natural
cause. Just before sunset on Sunday, the 20th of May, it became evident
that the spell of fine weather, which had been enjoyed hitherto, was
over. The wind increased in violence so much that it became necessary
to furl all the sails with the exception of a main storm-staysail.
“At about two,” says Berry, “the main-topmast went over the side,
with the top-sailyard full of men. I dreaded the inquiry of who were
killed and drowned; fortunately only one man fell overboard, and
one fell on the booms, and was killed on the spot. At half-past two
the mizen-topmast went over the side; the foremast gave an alarming
crack, and at a quarter past three went by the board with a most
tremendous crash, and, what was very extraordinary, it fell in two
pieces across the forecastle. Our situation was really alarming: the
wreck of the fore-topmast and foremast hanging over the side, and
beating against the Ship’s bottom; the best bower-anchor was flung
out of its place, and was also thumping the bottom; the wreck of the
main topmast swinging violently against the main-rigging, every roll
endangering the loss of the mainmast, which we expected to fall every
moment: thus circumstanced, we endeavoured, though with but little
hopes of success, to wear,[24] having no head-sail, and knowing we
were driving on an Enemy’s shore. Fortunately there was a small rag
of the sprit-sail left, and by watching a favourable moment, we got
her on the other tack. The bowsprit did not go, though it was sprung
in three different places. The Ship rolled and laboured dreadfully,
but did not make any water, more than we shipped over all. We cut the
anchor from the bows, and got clear of the wreck, with the loss of a
boat and top-sailyard, etc., and were not apprehensive of our bottom
being damaged.... For want of masts we rolled dreadfully. The storm
did not abate till Tuesday afternoon, which enabled the _Alexander_ to
take us in tow. Our situation on Tuesday night was the most alarming
I ever experienced....” At one time Nelson was of opinion that both
ships would go down, and wished the _Vanguard_ to be cast off. Captain
Alexander Ball, with whom the Rear-Admiral had struck up a slight
acquaintance at St Omer on the occasion of his visit to France in
1783, would not hear of it, and brought the vessels safely to the
shelter of the islands of San Pietro. After being patched up the three
sail-of-the-line again proceeded on their way to Toulon, minus the
smaller craft which had parted company long since, and eventually
returned to St Vincent’s fleet.

Fortune had played Nelson false. The Toulon fleet had escaped on the
19th May. While the three English battle-ships were riding out the
gale it was making for Genoa, Ajaccio, and Civita Vecchia to rally
transports. The destination of the expedition was Egypt; Malta the
first object of prey. Shortly after the signature of the Treaty of
Campo Formio on the 17th October 1797, which pacified the Continent for
a time, Napoleon had returned in triumph to Paris from his victorious
Italian Campaign. He was then appointed by the French Directory
Commander of the Army of England, so called because the purpose for
which it was brought into being was the subjugation of that country.
Napoleon certainly devoted much of his time to the project, but
soon came to the conclusion that the plan was not practicable at
the moment. He dreamed of Oriental conquest, of occupying Egypt and
invading India: “We may change the face of the world!” How could the
command of the Channel be secured when Admiral Lord Bridport commanded
a formidable fleet in those waters and frequently appeared off Brest,
when Admiral Lord Duncan patrolled the North Sea, and the naval
highways of Spithead, the Downs, the Nore, St George’s Channel, and the
Bay of Biscay were strongly guarded by British fleets or divisions?
The Mediterranean seemed the only vulnerable point, for the Earl of St
Vincent’s fleet was alone stationed within striking distance of that
great inland sea.

It is necessary at this point to briefly refer to the naval strength of
Great Britain as compared with that of France. At the beginning of 1798
the Republic possessed fifty-seven sail-of-the-line, forty-six frigates
and seventy-two smaller vessels, to which must be added nine remnants
of the Venetian navy and whatever forces could be commanded from Spain
and Holland. Fourteen sail-of-the-line, seventeen frigates, and three
cutters were on the stocks in French shipyards. During the same year
England had no fewer than one hundred and twenty line-of-battle ships
and over five hundred smaller vessels at her disposal. The recent
mutiny at the Nore had shown that there was some dissatisfaction in
the British naval service, but the ships were not undermanned as in
France, they were in finer condition, and the victories off Cape St
Vincent and Camperdown had acted as a stimulant. If those before the
mast occasionally grumbled, nothing further was heard of organised

The Admiralty had now sent a reinforcement of eight battle-ships
and two fire-ships to the Admiral, who was told “to lose no time
in detaching from your Fleet a Squadron, consisting of twelve
Sail-of-the-line, and a competent number of Frigates, under the
command of some discreet Flag-Officer, into the Mediterranean, with
instructions to him to proceed in quest of the said Armament;[25] and
on falling in with it, or any other Force belonging to the Enemy, to
take or destroy it.” The officer was also “to remain upon this service
so long as the provisions of the said Squadron will last, or as long
as he may be enabled to obtain supplies from any of the ports in the
Mediterranean.” According to later orders supplies were to be exacted
“from the territories of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, the King of the
Two Sicilies, the Ottoman Territory, Malta, and ci-devant Venetian
Dominions now belonging to the Emperor of Germany.” The Dey of Algiers,
the Bey of Tunis, and the Bashaw of Tripoli were also believed to
be friendly. Lord Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, suggested
Nelson as the most likely man for this extremely important service.
Several eminent personages claimed to have aided him in his selection,
including Sir Gilbert Elliot and the King.

Sir Horatio was accordingly given command of a squadron which numbered
thirteen line-of-battle ships, all carrying seventy-four guns, and
one fifty-gun ship, the _Leander_. St Vincent’s selection awoke the
ire of Nelson’s two seniors in the Earl’s fleet, namely, Sir William
Parker and Sir John Orde. As we have seen, the Admiral had scarcely a
voice in the matter, and subsequent events abundantly confirmed the
wisdom of the appointment. Unfortunately there were no frigates, “the
eyes of a fleet.” As to the destination of Napoleon and his army of
adventurers, the Rear-Admiral was not far wrong when he wrote to Lord
Spencer on the 15th June, after interrogating the captain of a Tunisian
cruiser who had seen them on the 4th off Trapani, that “If they pass
Sicily, I shall believe they are going on their scheme of possessing
Alexandria, and getting troops to India--a plan concerted with Tippoo
Saib, by no means so difficult as might at first view be imagined; but
be they bound to the Antipodes, your Lordship may rely that I will not
lose a moment in bringing them to Action, and endeavour to destroy
their Transports.” Off Messina he heard that the French had taken
possession of Malta. After discussing the matter with his captains he
decided to sail for Alexandria, which he reached two days before the
enemy’s arrival. He then “stretched the Fleet over to the Coast of
Asia,” and “passed close to the southern side of Candia, but without
seeing one Vessel in our route.” This was the position on the 12th
July, when he was still “without the smallest information of the French
Fleet since their leaving Malta.” A week later the squadron anchored
in Syracuse harbour to obtain water and provisions, set off again on
the 25th, and on the 28th the important news was obtained that about a
month before the French fleet had been seen sailing in the direction of
the south-east from Candia. To Nelson this intelligence meant but one
destination--Alexandria. His surmise was correct: “I attacked at sunset
on the 1st of August, off the Mouth of the Nile.”


The Battle of the Nile


    _As long as Egypt’s pyramids shall stand,
    Long as the Nile shall fertilize her land;
    So long the voice of never-dying fame
    Shall add to England’s glory Nelson’s name!_

            W. T. FITZGERALD.

It is difficult for a landsman to appreciate the joy with which
Nelson’s captains, his “Band of Brothers,” as he called them, as
well as the men of lower rank, beheld the enemy moored in line of
battle parallel with the shore in Aboukir Bay on what might well be
termed “the glorious first of August.” They had been searching the
Mediterranean for long, weary weeks, anxious to try conclusions with
Napoleon’s fleet, but thwarted at every turn by lack of information. At
last they were face to face, led by an admiral of unequalled resolution
in whom they placed implicit confidence.

“The utmost joy,” says Berry,[26] “seemed to animate every breast on
board the Squadron, at sight of the Enemy; and the pleasure which the
Admiral himself felt, was perhaps more heightened than that of any
other man, as he had now a certainty by which he could regulate his
future operations. The Admiral had, and it appeared most justly, the
highest opinion of, and placed the firmest reliance on, the valour
and conduct of every Captain in his Squadron. It had been his practice
during the whole of the cruize, whenever the weather and circumstances
would permit, to have his Captains on board the _Vanguard_, where he
would fully develop to them his own ideas of the different and best
modes of attack, and such plans as he proposed to execute upon falling
in with the Enemy, whatever their position or situation might be, by
day or by night. There was no possible position in which they could
be found, that he did not take into his calculation, and for the most
advantageous attack of which he had not digested and arranged the
best possible disposition of the force which he commanded. With the
masterly ideas of their Admiral, therefore, on the subject of Naval
tactics, every one of the Captains of his Squadron was most thoroughly
acquainted; and upon surveying the situation of the Enemy, they could
ascertain with precision what were the ideas and intentions of their
Commander, without the aid of any further instructions; by which
means signals became almost unnecessary, much time was saved, and the
attention of every Captain could almost undistractedly be paid to
the conduct of his own particular Ship, a circumstance from which,
upon this occasion, the advantages to the general service were almost

We must now try to understand the strength and position of the French
fleet. It consisted of thirteen line-of-battle ships, three carrying
eighty guns and one one hundred and twenty guns, and four frigates.
Napoleon, who was far away adding triumph to triumph, had left Admiral
Brueys with three alternative plans. He could enter the port of
Alexandria, Aboukir Roads, or sail for Corfu, leaving the transports at
Alexandria. Brueys soon found that the harbour scarcely held sufficient
water for the navigation of his largest ships. Once inside, it would
be next to impossible to get them out in front of a hostile fleet on
account of the narrow exit. He chose Aboukir Bay, in a position some
ten miles from the Rosetta mouth of the Nile. Here he anchored his
thirteen battle-ships, with great gaps between them, in a line roughly
parallel with the shore, and flanked by gunboats and frigates. His van
was placed as close to Aboukir Island as was practicable. Dr Fitchett
has rather overstated the case in saying that “a battery of mortars
on the island guarded, as with a sword of fire, the gap betwixt the
headmost ship and the island.”[27] In another place he also refers
to the head of the French line being “protected by a powerful shore
battery.”[28] There were certainly a few guns, but “a sword of fire”
suggests a heavy armament, and Napoleon had occasion later to severely
criticise the Admiral’s arrangement in this matter.[29] Brueys was ill,
his marines had almost got out of hand, many of the sailors were raw
recruits, and subversive of discipline, and some of the vessels were
scarcely seaworthy. In tonnage and guns the French had the advantage,
in _morale_ and fighting capacity, the British were first.

Nelson determined to sail between Brueys’ line and the shallows. Five
British ships, led by the _Goliath_, crossed the bows of the first ship
of the French van, inshore of the enemy’s line, and anchored abreast of
one of the Frenchmen, while three more, including Nelson’s _Vanguard_,
stationed themselves on the outer side. Some of the captains for
various reasons were unable to take up their correct fighting
positions, the _Culloden_, for instance, struck a shoal and took no
part in the battle. The enemy’s van was surrounded and conquered;
the centre became engaged; the rear alone escaped, Villeneuve, its
commander, making off with two battleships and two frigates without
attempting to fight.

“The actions,” Captain Berry relates, “commenced at sunset, which was
at thirty-one minutes past six, p.m., with an ardour and vigour which
it is impossible to describe. At about seven o’clock total darkness
had come on, but the whole hemisphere was, with intervals, illuminated
by the fire of the hostile Fleets. Our Ships, when darkness came on,
had all hoisted their distinguishing lights, by a signal from the
Admiral. The Van ship of the Enemy, _Le Guerrier_, was dismasted in
less than twelve minutes, and, in ten minutes after, the second ship,
_Le Conquérant_, and the third, _Le Spartiate_, very nearly at the same
moment were almost dismasted. _L’Aquilon_ and _Le Peuple Souverain_,
the fourth and fifth Ships of the Enemy’s line, were taken possession
of by the British at half-past eight in the evening. Captain Berry,
at that hour, sent Lieutenant Galwey, of the _Vanguard_, with a party
of marines, to take possession of _Le Spartiate_, and that officer
returned by the boat, the French Captain’s sword, which Captain
Berry immediately delivered to the Admiral, who was then below, in
consequence of the severe wound which he had received in the head
during the heat of the attack. At this time it appeared that victory
had already declared itself in our favour, for, although _L’Orient_,
_L’Heureux_, and _Tonnant_ were not taken possession of, they were
considered as completely in our power, which pleasing intelligence
Captain Berry had likewise the satisfaction of communicating in person
to the Admiral. At ten minutes after ten, a fire was observed on board
_L’Orient_, the French Admiral’s Ship, which seemed to proceed from
the after part of the cabin, and which increased with great rapidity,
presently involving the whole of the after part of the Ship in flames.
This circumstance Captain Berry immediately communicated to the
Admiral, who, though suffering severely from his wound, came up upon
deck, where the first consideration that struck his mind was concern
for the danger of so many lives, to save as many as possible of whom he
ordered Captain Berry to make every practicable exertion. A boat, the
only one that could swim, was instantly dispatched from the _Vanguard_,
and other Ships that were in a condition to do so, immediately followed
the example; by which means, from the best possible information, the
lives of about seventy Frenchmen were saved.[30] The light thrown by
the fire of _L’Orient_ upon the surrounding objects, enabled us to
perceive with more certainty the situation of the two Fleets, the
colours of both being clearly distinguishable. The cannonading was
partially kept up to leeward of the Centre till about ten o’clock, when
_L’Orient_ blew up with a most tremendous explosion. An awful pause and
death-like silence for about three minutes ensued, when the wreck of
the masts, yards, etc., which had been carried to a vast height, fell
down into the water, and on board the surrounding Ships. A port fire
from _L’Orient_ fell into the main royal of the _Alexander_, the fire
occasioned by which was, however, extinguished in about two minutes, by
the active exertions of Captain Ball.

[Illustration: “The flame that lit the battle’s wreck”

Charles Dixon, R.I., from a sketch by C. W. Cole]

“After this awful scene, the firing was recommenced with the Ships to
leeward of the Centre, till twenty minutes past ten, when there was a
total cessation of firing for about ten minutes; after which it was
revived till about three in the morning, when it again ceased. After
the victory had been secured in the Van, such British ships as were in
a condition to move, had gone down upon the fresh Ships of the Enemy,
which occasioned these renewals of the fight, all of which terminated
with the same happy success in favour of our Flag. At five minutes past
five in the morning, the two Rear ships of the Enemy, _Le Guillaume
Tell_ and _Le Généreux_, were the only French ships of the Line that
had their colours flying. At fifty-four minutes past five, a French
frigate, _L’Artemise_, fired a broadside and struck her colours; but
such was the unwarrantable and infamous conduct of the French Captain,
that after having thus surrendered, he set fire to his Ship, and with
part of his crew, made his escape on shore. Another of the French
frigates, _La Sérieuse_, had been sunk by the fire from some of our
Ships; but as her poop remained above water, her men were saved upon
it, and were taken off by our boats in the morning. The _Bellerophon_,
whose masts and cables had been entirely shot away, could not retain
her situation abreast of _L’Orient_, but had drifted out of the line
to the lee side of the Bay, a little before that Ship blew up. The
_Audacious_ was in the morning detached to her assistance. At eleven
o’clock, _Le Généreux_ and _Guillaume Tell_, with the two frigates, _La
Justice_ and _La Diane_, cut their cables and stood out to sea, pursued
by the _Zealous_, Captain Hood, who, as the Admiral himself has stated,
handsomely endeavoured to prevent their escape; but as there was no
other Ship in a condition to support the _Zealous_, she was recalled.
The whole day of the 2nd was employed in securing the French ships
that had struck, and which were now all completely in our possession,
_Le Tonnant_ and _Timoleon_ excepted; as these were both dismasted,
and consequently could not escape, they were naturally the last of
which we thought of taking possession. On the morning of the third,
the _Timoleon_ was set fire to, and _Le Tonnant_ had cut her cable
and drifted on shore, but that active officer, Captain Miller, of the
_Theseus_, soon got her off again, and secured her in the British line.”

It was a decisive victory, the only kind of victory that appealed to
Nelson, who styled it a “conquest.” Of the thirteen French battleships,
nine were taken, one was blown up, one was burnt, and two escaped;
one frigate sank, another was destroyed by fire, and two got away.
Napoleon had been deprived of his only means of communication with
France. Thus the sea swallowed his triumphs. From a political point
of view the battle of the Nile paved the way for the formation of the
Second Coalition against France, in which six Powers took part, namely,
England, Russia, Austria, Turkey, Naples, and Portugal.

Nelson received his wound by being struck in the forehead by a piece
of iron. The skin was torn so badly that it hung over his face, the
blood streaming down with such profusion that he was afraid his left
eye had gone like the right. “I am killed”; he cried to Captain Berry,
“remember me to my wife.” But the Admiral had been “killed” in battle
before, and the intense pain of the wound sufficiently justified the
exclamation. He was carried to the cockpit, the cut bound up, and
strict quiet enjoined. This was easier said than done with a patient
such as Nelson. His abnormal mentality speedily gained ascendancy over
his physical infirmities. He soon declared that he felt better, and
shortly afterwards had so far recovered as to begin a dictated despatch
to the Admiralty. On the Captain informing him that _L’Orient_ was
ablaze he insisted on clambering to the deck, as we have seen. Berry
gave him his arm, and together they witnessed the disaster. Nelson was
certainly more fortunate than Brueys, who was shot almost in two.

On the 2nd August the Admiral returned Public Thanksgiving on the
_Vanguard_, an example he desired to be followed on every ship “as
soon as convenient.” He also took the opportunity to thank the men of
the squadron for the part they had played in the late action: “It must
strike forcibly every British Seaman, how superior their conduct is,
when in discipline and good order, to the riotous behaviour of lawless

In those days precedent was a fetish. To depart from what had
previously obtained was not to be thought of, much less suggested.
For this reason Nelson was created a Baron, the lowest rank in the
peerage, but the highest that had been conferred “on an officer of your
standing,” as he was informed. In addition he was voted a pension of
£2000 a year, which was also to be paid to his two next heirs.

Mention of the “great and brilliant Victory” was made in the King’s
Speech at the opening of Parliament, its organiser received the thanks
of both Houses, as well as of the Parliament of Ireland, and many
foreign potentates and British Corporations paid him honour. Among
the numerous presents he received were two boxes set with diamonds, a
superb diamond aigrette, a gold-headed cane, pieces of valuable plate,
and a coffin. The latter, made of wood and iron from the ill-fated
_L’Orient_, was sent to him by Captain Hallowell. By a strange
coincidence Thanksgiving services were held in the churches of the
United Kingdom on the 21st October, a date ever associated with Nelson,
because of Trafalgar. It may be thought that there was unnecessary
delay, but it must be remembered that the wonders of telegraphy were
then undreamed of. News of the victory was not received in London
until the fifty-seventh day after the event. “God be praised,” writes
the Earl of St Vincent, “and you and your gallant band rewarded by a
grateful Country, for the greatest Achievement the history of the world
can produce.” Perhaps this noble sentiment from the Commander-in-chief
was valued above the insignificant rewards of the Government.

To “Fighting” Berry Nelson entrusted the charge of his despatches for
the Admiral, for which purpose he was given the _Leander_ (50). With
grim irony Fate played a trick entirely unworthy so gallant an officer.
On the 18th August, off Gozo, near Candia, the _Généreux_, which
it will be remembered escaped from Nelson’s vengeance at the Nile,
appeared on the horizon. The frigate attempted to show “a clean pair of
heels,” but recognising that the enemy was gaining in the race, sail
was shortened and the decks cleared for action. The brave defenders of
the _Leander_ resisted manfully for over six hours until the mastless,
rudderless hulk could be fought no longer. Berry, who was wounded,
together with the officers and crew were landed at Corfu and thence
sent to Trieste, where the officers were released on _parole_, and
the crew kept prisoners. On being exchanged, the captain received the
honour of knighthood, a reward richly deserved and valiantly won. Berry
got even with the French after all, for in 1799 he turned the tables
on the victors by capturing the _Généreux_ with Nelson’s flagship, the

Captain Sir James Saumarez, with twelve ships of the squadron, was
directed to convoy the best of the prizes to Gibraltar, the remainder,
being valueless, were set on fire. Hood was called upon to blockade
Alexandria, and two of the battleships were sent to Naples for very
necessary repairs. To this port the _Vanguard_ laboriously followed.
Nelson was “taken with a fever, which has very near done my business:
for eighteen hours, my life was thought to be past hope; I am now
up, but very weak both in body and mind, from my cough and this
fever.” This was on the 20th September, two days before “the wreck of
_Vanguard_ arrived in the Bay of Naples.” The occasion was one of great
rejoicing on the part of the Sicilian Court. Miss Knight, the daughter
of Rear-Admiral Sir Joseph Knight, who was present, thus records the
events of the 22nd inst.:

“In the evening, went out with Sir William and Lady Hamilton, music,
&c., to meet Admiral Nelson, who in the _Vanguard_, with the _Thalia_
Frigate (Captain Newhouse) was seen coming in. We went on board, about
a league out at sea, and sailed in with him: soon after us, the King
came on board, and staid till the anchor was dropped. He embraced the
Admiral with the greatest warmth, and said he wished he could have
been in the engagement,[31] and served under his orders; and that he
likewise wished he could have been in England, when the news of the
victory arrived there. He went down to see the Ship, and was delighted
to perceive the care taken of a wounded man, who had two to serve
him, and one reading to him. He asked to see the hat which saved the
Admiral’s life, when he was wounded in the head with a splinter. The
Queen was taken with a fit of the ague when she was coming on board
with the Princesses. Commodore Caraccioli came soon after the King, and
many of the Neapolitan nobility, bands of music, &c. It happened to be
the anniversary of our King’s coronation. The Admiral came on shore
with us, and said, it was the first time he had been out of his Ship
for six months, except once on board Lord St Vincent.[32] The Russian
Ambassador and all the Legation came out to meet him. When we landed at
the Health Office, the applauses and the crowd of people were beyond
description. Admiral Nelson is little, and not remarkable in his person
either way; but he has great animation of countenance, and activity
in his appearance: his manners are unaffectedly simple and modest.
He lodges at Sir William Hamilton’s, who has given him the upper
apartment. The whole City is mad with joy.”

There was indeed every reason for this jubilation. A starless night
seemed about to give place to a golden dawn. Towards the end of 1796
Napoleon’s astounding successes had obliged Ferdinand, King of the Two
Sicilies, to agree to terms of peace, especially as the English had
decided to evacuate the Mediterranean.[33] The situation became more
and more ominous. Consequently when Queen Maria Carolina, Ferdinand’s
energetic consort, heard that the King of Spain was about to ally
himself to the hated Republic, she speedily informed Sir William
Hamilton, the English Ambassador.[34] She realised that the hope of the
kingdom depended not in half-measures of friendship towards England,
but in securing her definite assistance and casting off the French
yoke. Hamilton in his turn warned his Government of the proposed
arrangement, which seemed likely to have far-reaching consequences and
to threaten England in the Mediterranean. Her Majesty also kept up
a secret correspondence with London. She was therefore particularly
relieved when information arrived that the protection of the Two
Sicilies against potential French despoilers was to be entrusted to the
Hero of the Nile.


The Neapolitan Court and Lady Hamilton

  “_‘Down, down with the French!’ is my constant prayer._”


Truth has no secrets. It is the duty of the historian to reveal all and
to hide nothing. The archæologist with pick and spade unearths a buried
city, disclosing alike the mansions of the wealthy and the hovels of
the poor. In describing the result of his researches the investigator
would betray his science were he merely to mention the beauties of
the king’s palace, the tesselated pavements, the marble columns. The
hideous back street must also tell its drab story, for aristocrat and
plebeian are alike members of the Commonwealth.

The pen is the scalpel of history. It must neither condone nor
palliate, although justice may be tempered with mercy.

Temptation came to Nelson at Naples, and he fell. Physically frail, he
proved morally frail as well, but we must not unhesitatingly condemn
him. Vanity caused him to stumble, and before he had time to realise
the consequences a woman had sullied his reputation and tarnished his
glory. Probably no reputable biographer of the great Admiral has penned
the chapter dealing with this phase of his life without a wish that he
could be excused from the necessity of doing so.

No sooner do we begin to investigate the relations between Nelson
and Lady Hamilton than we are in a maze of perplexities. He was ill
and she nursed him, he was victorious and she praised him, she was
beautiful and he admired loveliness, she had a warm heart and he was
susceptible, his wife was reserved and his “friend” was vivacious.
The spider and the fly have their counterpart in real life. Once in
the entangled meshes of the web Nelson never found his way out, even
supposing he had wished to do so, which his passionate letters do not
for a moment suggest.

When the _Vanguard_ hove in sight off Naples, King Ferdinand, Sir
William Hamilton, Lady Hamilton, and others went to meet “our
liberator.” In writing to Earl Spencer, Nelson says, “You will not, my
Lord, I trust, think that one spark of vanity induces me to mention
the most distinguished reception that ever, I believe, fell to the
lot of a human being, but that it is a measure of justice due to his
Sicilian Majesty and the Nation. If God knows my heart, it is amongst
the most humble of the creation, full of thankfulness and gratitude!”
No one doubts the latter portion of the remark. Nelson always exhibited
a lively trust in an All-wise Providence. The “one spark of vanity”
was self-deception, although perhaps “pride” would be more correct
than “vanity,” for the vain man usually distrusts his own opinion in
setting great store by himself and wishes it to be confirmed by others.
The Admiral was nothing if not self-reliant. Those who have read his
voluminous correspondence and the memoirs of those with whom he came
in contact cannot be blind to the fault of which he was seemingly in

For instance, the writer of the “Croker Papers” furnishes us with the
following particulars of the one and only occasion on which Nelson and
Wellington had conversation. The latter noted the Admiral’s weak point
at once:

“We were talking of Lord Nelson, and some instances were mentioned
of the egotism and vanity that derogated from his character. ‘Why,’
said the Duke, ‘I am not surprised at such instances, for Lord Nelson
was, in different circumstances, two quite different men, as I myself
can vouch, though I only saw him once in my life, and for, perhaps,
an hour. It was soon after I returned from India.[35] I went to the
Colonial Office in Downing Street, and there I was shown into the
little waiting-room on the right hand, where I found, also waiting
to see the Secretary of State, a gentleman, whom from his likeness
to his pictures and the loss of an arm, I immediately recognised as
Lord Nelson. He could not know who I was, but he entered at once into
conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost
all on his side and all about himself, and in, really, a style so vain
and so silly as to surprise and almost disgust me. I suppose something
that I happened to say may have made him guess that I was _somebody_,
and he went out of the room for a moment, I have no doubt to ask the
office-keeper who I was, for when he came back he was altogether a
different man, both in manner and matter. All that I had thought a
charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of this
country and of the aspect and probabilities of affairs on the Continent
with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad,
that surprised me equally and more agreeably than the first part of our
interview had done; in fact, he talked like an officer and a statesman.
The Secretary of State kept us long waiting, and certainly, for the
last half or three-quarters of an hour, I don’t know that I ever had a
conversation that interested me more. Now, if the Secretary of State
had been punctual, and admitted Lord Nelson in the first quarter of
an hour, I should have had the same impression of a light and trivial
character that other people have had, but luckily I saw enough to be
satisfied that he was really a very superior man; but certainly a more
sudden and complete metamorphosis I never saw.’”

To sum up the whole matter. Pride, or vanity if you prefer it, laid
Nelson open to the great temptation of his life, and it assailed him
at a time when he was ill and suffering. He was by nature sympathetic
and grateful, and could not fail to be impressed by the ministrations
of Lady Hamilton during his sickness, any less than by her flattery--a
hero-worship which may, or may not, have been sincere on her part.

Josceline Percy, who was on the _Victory_ in the trying times of 1803,
has some sage remarks to offer in this matter. Though the Christian
faith “did not keep him from the fatal error of his life,” Percy says,
“it ought to be remembered that few were so strongly tempted, and I
believe it may safely be affirmed that had Nelson’s home been made to
him, what a wife of good temper and judgment would have rendered it,
never would he have forsaken it.”

The candid friend, though seldom loved, is oftentimes the best friend.
Nelson was warned of his mad infatuation for Lady Hamilton by more than
one person who desired to save him from himself, but the fatal spell
which she exerted upon him held him beyond reclamation.

On meeting the Admiral Lady Hamilton fainted away, and we find the hero
writing to his wife that “she is one of the very best women in this
world; she is an honour to her sex. Her kindness, with Sir William’s,
to me, is more than I can express: I am in their house, and I may now
tell you, it required all the kindness of my friends to set me up.” A
week or so later, he says, “The continued kind attention of Sir William
and Lady Hamilton must ever make you and I love them, and they are
deserving the love and admiration of all the world.”

We must now return to the scene of the tragedy. Italy was in a
turmoil. Berthier had appeared before Rome, the aged Pontiff had been
dragged from his palace and sent into Tuscany, a Republic set up, and
an offensive and defensive alliance entered into with Revolutionary
France. By his placing the citadel of Turin in the hands of the
all-conquering nation for “security” the King of Sardinia became a mere
State-prisoner. These events in the North naturally caused trepidation
in the kingdom of Naples, and Ferdinand wisely secured the assistance
of Austria. The news of the French defeat at the Nile, more especially
the presence of the victor, caused the war party--of which Queen Maria
Carolina and Lady Hamilton were the leaders--to forget that mere
enthusiasm, although a valuable asset, was not the sole requisite in
a campaign, especially when the enemy to be met was one so formidable
as the victorious French. Naples was for up and doing, regardless of
the consequences. She sowed the storm and reaped the whirlwind by
reason of her undue haste in taking up arms before everything was
ready for the conflict. There is perhaps some excuse for her Majesty’s
eagerness. Sister of the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, who had perished
on the scaffold, and “truly a daughter of Maria Theresa,”[36] as Nelson
averred, she wished to be avenged. Lady Hamilton on her part had
become the confidential friend of Her Majesty and had rendered certain
services to the Neapolitan and English Courts which she afterwards
grossly exaggerated in an endeavour to secure a competence for herself.
Nelson is not undeserving of censure for having forced the issue. He
quoted Chatham’s dictum, “The boldest measures are the safest,” to
Lady Hamilton, and told her that should “this miserable ruinous system
of procrastination be persisted in, I would recommend that all your
property and persons are ready to embark at a very short notice.”

Nelson’s instructions were to provide for the safety of the Sicilian
kingdom, “the cutting off all communication between France and Egypt,”
and “the co-operating with the Turkish and Russian Squadrons which are
to be sent into the Archipelago.” In addition he was to blockade Malta.
He delegated the last duty to Captain Ball, who, with four ships, was
to cruise off the island in company with a Portuguese squadron under
the Marquis de Niza. Of General Mack, who commanded the Neapolitan
army, Nelson at first entertained a favourable opinion. With delightful
_naïveté_ he informed St Vincent, “I have endeavoured to impress the
General with a favourable impression of me, and I think have succeeded.
He is active and has an intelligent eye, and will do well, I have
no doubt.” But something more than these estimable qualities was
necessary, as the total failure of the campaign was to prove.

Mack was then forty-six years of age, and had served under
Field-Marshal Loudon, the most formidable soldier against whom
Frederick the Great had fought. He was not a brilliant soldier,
although he had acquitted himself with honour in the campaign of
1793. The son of a minor official, Mack had found it difficult to
obtain promotion in a service dominated by the aristocracy, and he
was certainly unpopular, which was not to his advantage in the field.
He had accepted his present service in an army which he called “the
finest in Europe,” but which was scarcely more than a rabble, at the
request of the Empress. Nelson, in a burst of enthusiasm, referred to
it as “composed of 30,000 healthy good-looking troops,” and “as far as
my judgment goes in those matters, I agree, that a finer Army cannot
be.” The optimistic told themselves that Nelson had banished Napoleon
and the finest warriors of France, which was correct, and prophesied
that the scattered Republican army in Italy would be as completely
overwhelmed as was the French fleet in Aboukir Bay. In this they were
grievously mistaken. Instead of concentrating his forces and striking a
decisive blow, the Austrian commander saw fit to divide them, with the
result that although the Eternal City was occupied and Tuscany entered,
the French succeeded in defeating three of the five columns. After
a series of reverses, Mack retreated, Ferdinand fled, and Rome was

Nelson’s part in this unfortunate undertaking was to convey some
5,000 troops to Leghorn and effect a diversion in the rear of the
enemy by taking possession of the aforementioned port. When this was
done, and the cannon and baggage landed, Nelson returned to Naples.
The story of the campaign, which ended in disaster and the creation
of the Parthenopeian Republic[37] at Naples, does not concern us.
Suffice it to say that in the last month of 1798 King Ferdinand and
his Court concluded that they would be safer under Nelson’s protection
than in the Capital. They therefore embarked in the British fleet on
the night of the 21st December, whence they were taken to Palermo.
The circumstances and manner of the enforced retreat are described at
length in the Admiral’s despatch to the Earl of St Vincent, which runs
as follows:--

“... For many days previous to the embarkation it was not difficult
to foresee that such a thing might happen, I therefore sent for the
_Goliath_ from off Malta, and for Captain Troubridge in the _Culloden_,
and his Squadron from the north and west Coast of Italy, the _Vanguard_
being the only Ship in Naples Bay. On the 14th, the Marquis de Niza,
with three of the Portuguese Squadron, arrived from Leghorn, as
did Captain Hope in the _Alcmene_ from Egypt: from this time, the
danger for the personal safety of their Sicilian Majesties was daily
increasing, and new treasons were found out, even to the Minister of
War. The whole correspondence relative to this important business was
carried on with the greatest address by Lady Hamilton and the Queen,
who being constantly in the habits of correspondence, no one could
suspect. It would have been highly imprudent in either Sir William
Hamilton or myself to have gone to Court, as we knew that all our
movements were watched, and even an idea by the Jacobins of arresting
our persons as a hostage (as they foolishly imagined) against the
attack of Naples, should the French get possession of it.

“Lady Hamilton, from this time to the 21st, every night received the
jewels of the Royal Family, &c., &c., and such clothes as might be
necessary for the very large party to embark, to the amount, I am
confident, of full two millions five hundred thousand pounds sterling.
On the 18th, General Mack wrote that he had no prospect of stopping
the progress of the French, and entreated their Majesties to think
of retiring from Naples with their august Family as expeditiously as
possible. All the Neapolitan Navy were now taken out of the Mole,
consisting of three Sail of the Line and three Frigates: the seamen
from the two Sail of the Line in the Bay left their Ships and went
on shore: a party of English seamen with Officers were sent from the
_Vanguard_ to assist in navigating them to a place of safety. From the
18th, various plans were formed for the removal of the Royal Family
from the palace to the water-side; on the 19th, I received a note
from General Acton,[38] saying, that the King approved of my plan for
their embarkation; this day, the 20th and 21st, very large assemblies
of people were in commotion, and several people were killed, and one
dragged by the legs to the palace. The mob by the 20th were very
unruly, and insisted the Royal Family should not leave Naples; however,
they were pacified by the King and Queen speaking to them.

“On the 21st, at half-past 8 P.M., three Barges with myself and Captain
Hope, landed at a corner of the Arsenal. I went into the palace and
brought out the whole Royal Family, put them into the Boats, and at
half-past nine they were all safely on board the _Vanguard_, when I
gave immediate notice to all British Merchants that their persons would
be received on board every and any Ship in the Squadron, their effects
of value being before embarked in the three English transports who were
partly unloaded, and I had directed that all the condemned provisions
should be thrown overboard, in order to make room for their effects.
Sir William Hamilton had also directed two Vessels to be hired for
the accommodation of the French emigrants,[39] and provisions were
supplied from our Victuallers; in short, everything had been done for
the comfort of all persons embarked.

“I did not forget in these important moments that it was my duty not
to leave the chance of any Ships of War falling into the hands of the
French, therefore, every preparation was made for burning them before I
sailed; but the reasons given me by their Sicilian Majesties, induced
me not to burn them till the last moment. I, therefore, directed
the Marquis de Niza to remove all the Neapolitan Ships outside the
Squadron under his command, and if it was possible, to equip some of
them with jury masts and send them to Messina; and whenever the French
advanced near Naples, or the people revolted against their legitimate
Government, immediately to destroy the Ships of War, and to join me
at Palermo, leaving one or two Ships to cruize between Capri and
Ischia in order to prevent the entrance of any English Ship into the
Bay of Naples. On the 23rd, at 7 P.M., the _Vanguard_, _Sannite_, and
_Archimedes_, with about twenty sail of Vessels left the Bay of Naples;
the next day it blew harder than I ever experienced since I have been
at sea. Your Lordship will believe that my anxiety was not lessened by
the great charge that was with me, but not a word of uneasiness escaped
the lips of any of the Royal Family. On the 25th, at 9 A.M., Prince
Albert, their Majesties’ youngest child, having eat a hearty breakfast,
was taken ill, and at 7 P.M. died in the arms of Lady Hamilton; and
here it is my duty to tell your Lordship the obligations which the
whole Royal Family as well as myself are under on this trying occasion
to her Ladyship.... Lady Hamilton provided her own beds, linen, &c.,
and became _their slave_, for except one man, no person belonging
to Royalty assisted the Royal Family, nor did her Ladyship enter a
bed the whole time they were on board. Good Sir William also made
every sacrifice for the comfort of the august Family embarked with
him. I must not omit to state the kindness of Captain Hardy and every
Officer in the _Vanguard_, all of whom readily gave their beds for the
convenience of the numerous persons attending the Royal Family.

“At 3 P.M., being in sight of Palermo, his Sicilian Majesty’s Royal
Standard was hoisted at the main-top gallant-mast head of the
_Vanguard_, which was kept flying there till his Majesty got into the
_Vanguard’s_ barge, when it was struck in the Ship and hoisted in the
Barge, and every proper honour paid to it from the Ship. As soon as
his Majesty set his foot on shore, it was struck from the Barge. The
_Vanguard_ anchored at 2 A.M. of the 26th; at 5, I attended her Majesty
and all the Princesses on shore; her Majesty being so much affected by
the death of Prince Albert that she could not bear to go on shore in a
public manner. At 9 A.M., his Majesty went on shore, and was received
with the loudest acclamations and apparent joy.”

Alas, that one has to admit that while Lady Hamilton was the “slave” of
the Sicilian Royal Family, Nelson was rapidly becoming so infatuated
that the same word might be used to describe his relationship with
“our dear invaluable Lady Hamilton”! He also seems to have had an
exaggerated sense of the importance of the princely personages who
had placed themselves under his protection. In his letters he speaks
of “The good and amiable Queen,” “the great Queen,” and so on. “I am
here,” he writes to Captain Ball, of the _Alexander_, dated Palermo,
January 21st, 1799, “nor will the King or Queen allow me to move. I
have offered to go to Naples, and have wished to go off Malta in case
the Squadron from Brest should get near you, but neither one or the
other can weigh with them.” To Earl Spencer he confides on the 6th
March, “In Calabria the people have cut down the Tree of Liberty; but I
shall never consider any part of the Kingdom of Naples safe, or even
Sicily, until I hear of the Emperor’s entering Italy, when all my Ships
shall go into the Bay of Naples, and I think we can make a Revolution
against the French--at least, my endeavours shall not be wanting. I
hope to go on the service myself, but I have my doubts if the King and
Queen will consent to my leaving them for a moment.” On the 20th of
the same month he tells St Vincent very much the same thing. “If the
Emperor moves, I hope yet to return the Royal Family to Naples. At
present, I cannot move. Would the Court but let me, I should be better,
I believe; for here I am writing from morn to eve: therefore you must
excuse this jumble of a letter.”

And after evening what? Rumour, not altogether devoid of fact, told
strange tales of gambling continued far into the night, of money
made and money lost, of an insidious enchantment which was beginning
to sully the fair soul of Britain’s greatest Admiral. How far the
influence of Lady Hamilton led Nelson to neglect his duty is a
debatable point. Admiral Mahan points out that on the 22nd October
1798, Nelson wrote to Lord St Vincent to the effect that he had given
up his original plan, “which was to have gone to Egypt and attend to
the destruction of the French shipping in that quarter,” owing to the
King’s desire that he should return to Naples, after having arranged
the blockade of Malta. This and similar expressions, says Mahan, “show
the anxiety of his mind acting against his judgment.” The late Judge
O’Connor Morris, commenting on this phase of the Hero’s career, is
most emphatic in his condemnation. His connection with Emma Hamilton
“kept him at Naples when he ought to have been elsewhere; it led him
to disobey a superior’s orders, on one occasion when there was no
excuse; it perhaps prevented him from being present at the siege of
Malta. It exposed him, too, to just censure at home, and gave pain
and offence to his best friends; and the consciousness that he was
acting wrongly soured, in some degree, his nature, and made him morose
and at odds with faithful companions in arms.” For the defence there
are no more able advocates than Professor Sir J. Knox Laughton and Mr
James R. Thursfield, M.A. Nelson, the former asserts, “in becoming
the slave of a beautiful and voluptuous woman, did not cease to be a
great commander. There is a common idea that his passions detained
him at Naples to the neglect of his duty. This is erroneous. He made
Naples his headquarters because he was ordered to do so, to provide
for the safety of the kingdom and to take measures for the reduction
of Malta.” “The point to be observed and insisted on,” Mr Thursfield
says, “is that the whole of this pitiful tragedy belongs only to the
last seven years of Nelson’s life.” He asks, “Why should the seven
years of private lapse be allowed to overshadow the splendid devotion
of a lifetime to public duty?” This authority does not deny that
during the two years following the victory of the Nile Nelson’s genius
“suffered some eclipse,” that his passion for Lady Hamilton was then
“in its first transports, when he seemed tied to the Court of the
Two Sicilies by other bonds than those of duty, when he annulled the
capitulation at Naples and insisted on the trial and execution of
Caracciolo,[40] and when he repeatedly disobeyed the orders of Lord
Keith.” He further points out that the period is the same “during
which his mental balance was more or less disturbed by the wound he
had received at the Nile, and his _amour-propre_ was deeply and justly
mortified by the deplorable blunder of the Admiralty in appointing Lord
Keith to the chief command in succession to Lord St Vincent.” At the
time with which we are now dealing the latter disturbing element was
not present, although he was considerably worried by the appointment
of Captain Sir Sidney Smith as commander of a squadron in the Levant,
“within the district which I had thought under my command.” “The Knight
forgets the respect due to his superior Officer”: Nelson tells Lord
St Vincent, “he has no orders from you to take my Ships away from my
command; but it is all of a piece. Is it to be borne? Pray grant me
your permission to retire, and I hope the _Vanguard_ will be allowed to
convey me and my friends, Sir William and Lady Hamilton, to England.”
Mr Thursfield makes no mention of this vexation, perhaps because the
matter distressed the Admiral less than Lord Keith’s appointment. On
the other hand, Nelson’s correspondence contains frequent reference to
the gratuitous snub, which shows how deeply the iron had entered into
his soul. “_I do feel, for I am a man_, that it is impossible for me to
serve in these seas, with the Squadron under a junior Officer:--could
I have thought it!--and from Earl Spencer!” is a typical instance. In
the opinion of the same biographer, “the influence of Lady Hamilton,
which ceased only with Nelson’s life, cannot have been the sole cause,
even if it was a contributory cause, of an attitude and temper of mind
which lasted only while other causes were in operation and disappeared
with their cessation. The evil spirit which beset him, whatever it may
have been, had been exorcised for ever by the time that he entered the
Sound.[41]... Yet the influence of Lady Hamilton was not less potent
then and afterward than it was during the period of eclipse. There
are no letters in the Morrison Collection more passionate than those
which Nelson wrote to Lady Hamilton at this time, none which show more
clearly that, as regards Lady Hamilton, and yet only in that relation,
his mental balance was still more than infirm, his moral fibre utterly

With this verdict the present writer is in complete accord. Nelson
is to be censured for his moral breach and any neglect of duty which
may be traceable to it, but to condemn him to infamy is to forget his
subsequent career and to consign to the flames many other great figures
of history.


The Neapolitan Rebels and their French Allies


  “_Speedy rewards and quick punishments are the foundation of good


In the middle of March 1799 Troubridge returned from the Levant, his
command there having been given to Sir Sidney Smith. Vexatious as was
the arrangement to both Nelson and Lord St Vincent, it had one point
of importance in its favour--and was to have far-reaching results
later--in that it enabled the Admiral to send the trusted captain with
several vessels to blockade Naples. Troubridge was to “seize and get
possession” of the islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri, to use his
influence with the inhabitants there and elsewhere, “in order to induce
them to return to their allegiance to his Sicilian Majesty, and to
take arms to liberate their Country from French tyranny and oppressive
contributions.” On the 3rd April, Troubridge was able to tell Nelson
that “All the Ponza Islands have the Neapolitan flag flying. Your
Lordship never beheld such loyalty; the people are perfectly mad with
joy, and are asking for their beloved Monarch.” That Nelson’s hands
were “full,” as he wrote to his brother, is sufficiently evident. He
had become “a Councillor and Secretary of State,” to use his own words,
and his public correspondence, “besides the business of sixteen Sail
of the Line, and all our commerce, is with Petersburg, Constantinople,
the Consul at Smyrna, Egypt, the Turkish and Russian Admirals, Trieste,
Vienna, Tuscany, Minorca, Earl St Vincent and Lord Spencer.” Moreover,
he was now Commander-in-Chief of the Neapolitan Navy, and had been
promoted to Rear-Admiral of the Red. His health during this trying
period was far from good. He complained to his friend the Duke of
Clarence of being “seriously unwell,” and he told Lord St Vincent, “I
am almost blind and worn out, and cannot, in my present state, hold out
much longer.” He seemed to be growing more despondent daily, the good
news of the success of the Austrian arms in Italy “does not even cheer

Victory no longer attended the French cause in the northern part of
the peninsula, and the forces of the Republic were to evacuate it and
to join the main French army. On the 7th May, Ferdinand’s kingdom was
relieved of its unwelcome visitors, save only the garrisons which were
left at Capua and Caserta, and at the Castle of St Elmo. The internal
condition of the State, however, was still far from settled. Commodore
Caracciolo, representing the Jacobins, commanded a miniature fleet
in Naples Bay; Cardinal Ruffo led a nondescript band called by the
high-sounding title of “the Christian Army,” against the Neapolitan
republicans, who were in some force. The unhappy position of the Royal
Family at this time is well described by the Queen in a letter to the
Marquise d’Osmond, mother of the Comtesse de Boigne. It is from the
Appendix to the first volume of the “Recollections” of the last-named
that the extract is taken. The communication is dated from Palermo, the
2nd May 1799.

“We continue to live between hope and dread:” she says, “the news
varies every day. We are expecting help from Russia: if it comes
it will be of the greatest service to us. The English render us
the greatest services. Were it not for them both Sicilies would be
democratised, I should be dead of grief or drowned in the sea, or
else, with my dear family, imprisoned in a castle by our rebellious
subjects. You can read in the gazettes, without my naming them to you,
how many ungrateful subjects we have. It suffices to tell you that
in their writings and their ingratitude they have surpassed their
foster-mother France, but with us the classes are different. Here it is
the class which has the most to lose which is the most violent; nobles,
bishops, monks, ordinary lawyers, but not the high magistracy, nor the
people. The latter are loyal, and show it on every occasion.... My dear
children have behaved like angels in all our unfortunate circumstances.
They suffer every kind of privation they did not know before, without
complaining, out of love for me, so that I may notice nothing. They are
always good-humoured, though they have no amusements.”

While Troubridge was clearing the way for the return of the royal
exiles to Naples, Nelson received the startling intelligence that the
Brest fleet of nineteen sail-of-the-line had not only escaped but had
been seen off Oporto making for the Mediterranean. So far as it went,
the news was correct enough, but the French ships numbered twenty-five
instead of nineteen. Nelson’s despondency and ill-health vanished;
he lost not an instant in making his arrangements. Troubridge was
recalled from Naples, and the “band of brothers” were ordered to join
Rear-Admiral Duckworth off Port Mahon, Nelson’s belief being that the
first item on the French naval programme was the recovery of Minorca.
Shortly afterwards he came to think that Sicily was the object of the
enemy, whereupon he cancelled his former instructions and made the
island of Maritimo the _rendez-vous_. This station he reached on the
23rd May with seven ships, which he hoped to bring up to sixteen,
Duckworth having decided to wait for Lord St Vincent and not to
reinforce Nelson. Ball, who had been ordered to abandon the blockade of
Malta, had not arrived, and the delay filled the Admiral with anxiety.
“I can only have two queries about him--either that he has gone round
to Messina, imagining that the French Fleet were close to him, or he is
taken. Thus situated,” he writes to Lord St Vincent, “I have only to
remain on the north side of Maritimo, to keep covering Palermo, which
shall be protected to the last, and to wait intelligence or orders for
regulating my further proceedings.

“Your Lordship,” he adds, “may depend that the Squadron under my
command shall never fall into the hands of the Enemy; and before we are
destroyed, I have little doubt but the Enemy will have their wings so
completely clipped that they may be easily overtaken.”

On the 28th May, Nelson heard from the Commander-in-chief that Bruix
and the French fleet had been sighted off Cadiz on the 4th inst. by
Keith’s blockading squadron, the intention being to form a junction
with the Spanish fleet. In reply to Lord St Vincent’s despatch, Nelson
was able to tell his senior officer that “we are completely on our
guard,” that he had determined to go to Palermo to get provisions and
wine for six months, and to hold his vessels “in momentary readiness
to act as you may order or the circumstances call for. My reason for
remaining in Sicily is the covering the blockade of Naples, and the
certainty of preserving Sicily in case of an attack, for if we were to
withdraw our Ships, it would throw such a damp on the people that I am
sure there would be no resistance. But from the favourable aspect of
affairs in Italy, I am sure no attack will be made here, whilst the
French know we have such a force to act against them. If Captain Ball
has not entirely given up the blockade of Malta, and the poor Islanders
have not given up to the French, I intend to continue the blockade...;
for as the danger from your happy arrival is not so great, I will run
the risk of the Ships for a short time. The Russians will, I am told,
be off there in a week or fortnight. In all this plan I am subject to
your Lordship’s more able judgment. I shall send a Frigate off Cape
Corse, in case the French Fleet should come to be eastward of Corsica,
and if I can find a small craft, one shall be on the west side of
Sardinia, but the Bay of Naples draws me dry.” Two days later, in
writing to the same correspondent to announce the safe arrival of the
_Vanguard_ at Palermo, Nelson makes his usual acknowledgments of the
services of those under his command: “I have our dear Troubridge for
my assistant; in everything we are brothers. Hood and Hallowell are as
active and kind as ever: not that I mean to say any are otherwise; but
you know these are men of resources. Hardy was bred in the old school,
and I can assure you, that I never have been better satisfied with the
real good discipline of a Ship than the _Vanguard’s_. I hope from my
heart that you will meet the Dons alone: if the two Fleets join, I am
ready, and with some of my Ships in as high order as ever went to sea.”

As it happened, Keith was able to prevent the junction of the enemy’s
fleets. His position was between them--between “the devil and the deep
sea,” as he termed it. When the look-out frigates of the French fleet
were sighted between Corsica and Genoa, orders were received from Lord
St Vincent for Keith to return to Port Mahon, which the former thought
might be the object of attack. Further despatches came to hand a little
later, urging Keith to proceed to Minorca. The Commander-in-chief and
Keith were really playing at cross-purposes, for while St Vincent was
acting only on supposition, Keith was in touch with the enemy. It is
probable in such a case that Nelson would have led his squadron into
action, but Keith was not the type of man to risk acting on his own
initiative to any great extent, and left the Frenchmen to proceed to

On the 8th June, Nelson vacated the _Vanguard_, hoisted his flag on
the _Foudroyant_ (80), and was strengthened by the arrival of two
ships from Lord St Vincent’s fleet. He also heard of the impending
resignation of the Commander-in-chief, his indifferent health making
him “literally incapable of any service,” as he afterwards wrote to
Nelson. The unexpected news considerably distressed the Admiral. He
felt sincere admiration and regard for the gallant old sailor, who had
served his King so long and so faithfully, sentiments recorded in a
letter dated from Palermo, the 10th June 1799, as follows:--

  “We have a report that you are going home. This distresses us most
  exceedingly, and myself in particular; so much so, that I have
  serious thoughts of returning, if that event should take place.
  But for the sake of our Country, do not quit us at this serious
  moment. I wish not to detract from the merit of whoever may be
  your successor; but it must take a length of time, which I hope
  the war will not give, to be in any manner a St Vincent. We look
  up to you, as we have always found you, as to our Father, under
  whose fostering care we have been led to fame. If, my dear Lord, I
  have any weight in your friendship, let me entreat you to rouse the
  sleeping lion. Give not up a particle of your authority to any one;
  be again our St Vincent, and we shall be happy. Your affectionate


To the Admiral’s supreme disgust his own claims to the appointment were
disregarded. Lord St Vincent’s command was given to Lord Keith, who
had the additional good fortune to find that the French fleet was in
Vado Bay. Nelson, urged on by Ferdinand and perhaps by Lady Hamilton,
was on his voyage to Naples with a body of troops to render assistance
to the royalists, when two British sail-of-the-line hove in sight. One
of them bore an important despatch from Keith, to the effect that not
only was the enemy at sea but likely to be bound towards Nelson. The
latter immediately returned to Palermo, disembarked the soldiers and
their munitions, and cruised off Maritimo. Here he hoped to be joined
by the _Alexander_ and _Goliath_, which he had ordered to proceed
from Malta some days before. Provided they arrived his force would
be raised to eighteen battleships, including three Portuguese--four
less than the enemy. “I shall wait off Maritimo,” he says, in reply
to Keith, “anxiously expecting such a reinforcement as may enable me
to go in search of the Enemy’s fleet, when not one moment shall be
lost in bringing them to battle; for I consider the best defence for
his Sicilian Majesty’s Dominions, is to place myself alongside the
French.” No further ships arrived, and Nelson therefore returned to
Palermo. Keith’s neglect aroused Nelson’s wrath to such an extent, that
while he was at sea he sent a copy of the above letter to the Earl
of St Vincent, complaining that the Commander-in-chief had not sent
him “a force fit to face the Enemy: but, as we are, I shall not get
out of their way; although, as I am, I cannot think myself justified
in exposing the world (I may almost say), to be plundered by these
miscreants. I trust your Lordship will not think me wrong in the
painful determination I conceived myself forced to make, for agonized
indeed was the mind of your Lordship’s faithful and affectionate

Mahan remarks that Nelson’s station off Maritimo was strategically
sound, enabling him to intercept the approach of the enemy “to either
Naples or Sicily,” and it was while he was cruising here that he
received a despatch from his former Commander-in-chief to the effect
that Keith was searching for the French, and that reinforcements were
making their way to Port Mahon. Nelson was convinced that the enemy was
steering for Naples. After a brief visit to the King at Palermo and
receiving Sir William and Lady Hamilton on board the _Foudroyant_, he
sailed for the capital.

On Troubridge’s withdrawal from Naples, the blockade had been placed in
the hands of Captain Foote of the _Seahorse_, a frigate of thirty-eight
guns, who concerted with Ruffo and his Russian and Turkish allies
to rid the city of the insurgents. Fort St Elmo, garrisoned by the
few remaining French, and the castles of Uovo and Nuovo, held by
the rebels, alone held out. The Cardinal arranged an armistice with
the insurgents, and although there was further trouble, the matter
was patched up and negotiations were again begun. Subsequently a
capitulation was signed on the 23rd June. Nelson received the news
before his squadron anchored in the Bay of Naples on the following
day, and, not knowing the exact terms on which it had been granted,
characterised them as “infamous.”

The main conditions were that the forts Nuovo and Uovo should be
delivered up with their effects; that the troops should keep possession
of the places until the ships which were to be provided for those who
wished to proceed to Toulon were ready to sail; that the garrisons
should march out with the honours of war; that “Persons and Property,
both movable and immovable, of every individual of the two Garrisons,
shall be respected and guaranteed,” a clause applicable also to
prisoners which the allies had made during the blockade of the forts;
and that “All the other hostages and State prisoners, confined in the
two Forts, shall be set at liberty, immediately after the present
Capitulation is signed.” Nelson at once ordered Foote to haul down
the flag of truce flying from the _Seahorse_. Sufficient of his story
has been told to show that the Admiral had little or no pity for
rebels. So far back as the 6th June, he had written to Foote that the
intelligence sent to him by that officer of the hanging of thirteen
Jacobins “gave us great pleasure,” and he also expressed the hope
that three priests who had been condemned would “dangle on the tree
best adapted to their weight of sins.” Without further ado he sent a
declaration to “the Rebellious Subjects” in the two forts that “They
must surrender themselves to His Majesty’s Royal mercy,” and addressed
a summons to the Commanding Officer of the French at the Castle of St
Elmo, that he must either accede to the terms made by Ruffo and the
Russian Commander, or “take the consequences, as I shall not agree
to any other.” A paper signed by Nelson and explained to Ruffo, but
rejected by him, announced that “the British Admiral proposes to the
Cardinal to send, in their joint names, to the French and Rebels,
that the arrival of the British fleet has completely destroyed the
compact, as would that of the French if they had had the power (which,
thank God, they have not) to come to Naples.... That as to Rebels and
Traitors, no power on earth has a right to stand between their gracious
King and them: they must instantly throw themselves on the clemency of
their Sovereign, for no other terms will be allowed them; nor will the
French be allowed even to name them in any capitulation. If these terms
are not complied with, in the time ... viz., two hours for the French,
and instant submission on the part of the Rebels--such very favourable
conditions will never be again offered.”

Nelson knew the man with whom he was dealing, and as the following
characteristic letter to Rear-Admiral Duckworth shows, he was quite
prepared for any eventuality. With insurgents on land and the
possibility of a French fleet at sea in the near vicinity, it was
incumbent on the British Admiral not to run unnecessary risks:--

“As you will believe, the Cardinal and myself have begun our career by
a complete difference of opinion. He will send the Rebels to Toulon,--I
say they shall not go. He thinks one house in Naples more to be prized
than his Sovereign’s honour. Troubridge and Ball are gone to the
Cardinal, for him to read my declaration to the French and Rebels, whom
he persists in calling patriots--what a prostitution of the word! I
shall send Foote to get the Gun-boats from Procida. I wish the Fleet
not to be more than two-thirds of a cable from each other. I shall send
you a sketch of the anchorage, in forty fathom water. The _Foudroyant_
to be the Van-ship. If the French fleet should favour us with a visit,
I can easily take my station in the centre.”

The Cardinal positively refused to entertain Nelson’s opinions, but
after some hesitation decided to discuss affairs with him on the
_Foudroyant_. The interview, which was stormy on both sides and
somewhat protracted, owing to the necessity of employing Lord and Lady
Hamilton as interpreters, took place on the afternoon of the 25th. Both
of them held steadfastly to his own point of view. Nelson therefore
wrote that “in his opinion” the Treaty with the rebels “cannot be
carried into execution, without the approbation of his Sicilian

Uovo and Nuovo were taken possession of by British seamen under
Troubridge on the evening of the 26th inst., and on the following day,
Nelson communicated the fact to the Admiralty, adding: “This morning I
am going to send a detachment under Captain Troubridge, to cut down the
dangerous Tree of Anarchy, and to burn it before the King’s palace. The
moment I can find the City a little quieted, guns shall be got against
St Elmo, when, I am sure, the French will be glad to surrender.... In
my present position, I have not the smallest alarm should the Enemy
favour us with a visit, inferior as my force is to oppose them.” The
castle capitulated on the 12th July 1799, to Nelson’s “brave friend”
Troubridge, whose “great character,” “ability and resources” were duly
detailed to Lord Keith, while the Admiral told Earl Spencer that,
“On land the captain of the _Culloden_ is a first-rate general!”
Troubridge’s reward was a baronetcy, to which no one ever had a clearer

Was Nelson justified in cancelling the agreement entered into by Ruffo
and his allies and the enemy? The question has been discussed with
great vehemence and at prodigious length. Mahan’s opinion is that “his
conduct throughout was open and consistent.” He is convinced that the
Admiral acted up to his firm belief “that he not only had a right to
suspend the Capitulation, because, though signed, it had not been
executed, but that it was his bounden duty so to do; having both legal
power and adequate force to prevent its execution.” Nelson “regarded
himself as, and for the time being actually was, the representative of
the King of the Two Sicilies, as well as the admiral of the British
fleet. As representative, he was charged with the interests and honour
of the Sovereign and had authority over all Neapolitan officials;
as admiral, he wielded power to enforce obedience, if refused.
Considering the terms of the Capitulation to be contrary to the
interests and the honour of the Kingdom, he was under an obligation to
prevent their going into effect, until the King’s decision, becoming
known, should supersede his own discretion.”

Laughton, whose biography of Nelson is much shorter than Mahan’s, and
is therefore not so comprehensive, dismisses the matter by saying,
“it is perfectly well established as the usage of civilised war that
terms granted by a military officer are conditional on the approval
of his superiors, unless he has distinct authority to negotiate, or
the capitulation has been effected wholly or in part. In the present
instance Cardinal Ruffo had not only no authority to negotiate, but
he had express orders from the King not to do so.” By the fourth
Article of the “Instructions to the troops of his Majesty, ordered to
repair to the Bay of Naples,” dated Palermo, June 10th, 1799, “All the
military and political operations shall be agreed upon by the Prince
Royal and Admiral Lord Nelson. The opinion of this latter always to
have a preponderance, on account of the respect due to his experience,
as well as to the forces under his command, which will determine the
operations; and also because we are so deeply indebted to him for the
zeal and attachment of which he has given so many proofs.” By the tenth
Article, “The acts of clemency concerning the noted offenders, and
the pardoning of the same, are reserved for the King, excepting those
stipulated in the articles of capitulation.”

[Illustration: The Execution of Caracciolo

Stephen Reid]

About seventy Jacobins were executed for their misdeeds, but Nelson
was only concerned in the death of one of them. Commodore Francesco
Caracciolo, the commander of the Republican Navy, had previously
accompanied the Sicilian Court to Palermo, but when an edict was issued
by the French that the property of all absentees would be confiscated,
he had obtained King Ferdinand’s permission to return. Marshal
Macdonald, then Commander-in-chief of the French Army of Naples, refers
to the matter in his “Recollections.” “I had resolved,” he writes,
“to induce Admiral Caracciolo to take service in the new fleet; he
equipped a flotilla which secured respect for the port and coasts of
Naples, frequently threatened by attempts of the English, who occupied
the islands and were stationed in the roads.”[42] When Caracciolo’s
position on sea became untenable, he sought a safer asylum in one of
the forts, whence he eventually fled to the mountains disguised as a
peasant. Here he was discovered and captured. The refugee was brought
on board the _Foudroyant_ on the morning of the 29th June. Nelson at
once instructed Count Thurn, Commander of the Sicilian frigate _La
Minerva_, who had been in action with Caracciolo, to assemble five of
the senior officers under his command to inquire if the prisoner were
guilty of rebellion against his lawful Sovereign, and having fired at
his Sicilian Majesty’s colours on board _La Minerva_. The trial duly
took place; the sentence was death. This was to be carried out “by
hanging him at the fore yard-arm of His Sicilian Majesty’s Frigate _La
Minerva_, under your command, at five o’clock this evening; and to
cause him to hang there until sunset, when you will have his body cut
down, and thrown into the sea.” Such were Nelson’s instructions, which
were obeyed. Parsons, who had charge of Caracciolo, describes him as “a
short, thick-set man, of apparent strength, but haggard with misery and
want; his clothing in wretched condition, but his countenance denoting
stern resolution to endure that misery like a man.” The sympathetic
narrator persists in calling him “veteran” and “old man.” The Commodore
was only forty-seven years of age, although his wan appearance may have
made him look considerably older. “At two o’clock in the afternoon,”
Parsons adds, “the veteran, with a firm step, walked into Lord Nelson’s
barge, and with a party of thirty of our seamen, under one of our
lieutenants, was taken to his [Count Thurn’s] flagship, the gun fired,
and the brave old man launched into eternity at the expiration of
the two hours from the time the sentence had passed. The seamen of our
fleet, who clustered on the rigging like bees, consoled themselves that
it was only an Italian prince, and the admiral of Naples, that was
hanging--a person of very light estimation compared with the lowest
man in a British ship. His Majesty of Naples, the Prime Minister, Sir
John Acton, and many of the foreign ambassadors, joined and took up
their quarters in the _Foudroyant_ two days after the execution; and
my Lord Nelson removed to the first lieutenant’s cabin as his sleeping
apartment, giving his cabin to the king’s use, and the larboard side of
the maindeck for his cooks, who condescended to officiate as ours; and
never did midshipmen fare so sumptuously as during the king’s long stay
on board the _Foudroyant_. The day was passed in administering justice
(Italian fashion) to the wretches who fell into the grasp of Cardinal
Ruffo’s lambs, enlivened by the bombardment of St Elmo, which we were
battering in breach. At noon, dinner was served to the royal party and
their guests on the quarter-deck; Lady Hamilton’s graceful form bending
over her harp, and her heavenly music gave a gusto to the dessert. As
the sun went down, the opera singers, in a large, decked galley, came
alongside, and all that could delight the ear or please the eye was
there to fascinate and charm.”

There is more than a suspicion of irony in the above passage. It is
useful because one can readily believe that it was the point of view
of the majority of the British petty officers and seamen. They failed
to understand why so much deference should be shown to King Ferdinand
and his Queen, who doubtless in their opinion would have shown more
royal qualifications had they remained in their capital instead of
making a hasty flight to Palermo. This is not the place to discuss the
merits and demerits of monarchy and republic, both of which have their
advantages. Certainly the foreign policy of Great Britain at the end of
the eighteenth century did not allow an ally to be dethroned without
making an effort on his behalf.

Southey, when dealing with the execution of Caracciolo, has seen fit to
introduce Nelson’s relations with Lady Hamilton into the matter, which
may be forgiven a man who published his narrative in 1813, when current
scandal and gossip were often the chief “authorities” of the historian.
“Doubtless” he remarks, “the British Admiral seemed to himself to be
acting under a rigid sense of justice, but to all other persons it
was obvious that he was influenced by an infatuated attachment--a
baneful passion, which destroyed his domestic happiness, and now, in
a second instance, stained ineffaceably his public character.” Now
Lady Hamilton, as a matter of actual fact, had nothing whatever to do
with the hanging of the traitor and did not converse with the Admiral
during Caracciolo’s detention. The rebel was tried by those of his own
nationality, and according to Mahan, “there is no ground for doubting
that he (Nelson) had authority to order a court-martial, and to carry
its sentence into execution, nor that Caracciolo came within the
jurisdiction of a court-martial properly constituted.” It is only just
to add, however, that in the opinion of the same eminent authority
there was no real necessity for such undue haste on Nelson’s part. “He
should have remembered that the act would appear to the world, not as
that of the Neapolitan plenipotentiary, but of the British officer,
and that his nation, while liable like others to bursts of unreasoning
savagery, in its normal moods delights to see justice clothed in
orderly forms, unstained by precipitation or suspicion of perversion,
advancing to its ends with the majesty of law, without unseemly haste,
providing things honest in the sight of all men. That he did not do
so, when he could have done so, has been intuitively felt; and to the
instinctive resentment thus aroused among his countrymen has been due
the facility with which the worst has been too easily believed.”


Nelson in Temporary Command


  “_The great object of the war is_--Down, down with the French.”


King Ferdinand was again on board the _Foudroyant_, holding his Levées
on the quarter-deck, and making himself as affable as was possible to
a man of his morose temperament. Nelson’s infatuation for the welfare
of his Majesty and his kingdom seemed growing. The castle of St Elmo
had fallen, thereby completing the conquest of Naples, but the Admiral
saw fit to order Troubridge to march against Capua, thereby denuding
the fleet of a thousand men, who were to act in concert with four times
that number of troops. This was done after the receipt of a warning
from Keith that it might be necessary to withdraw the squadron for the
protection of Minorca.

“Should such an order come at this moment,” Nelson writes to Earl
Spencer, “it would be a cause for some consideration whether Minorca
is to be risked, or the two Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily? I rather
think my decision would be to risk the former.” In other words,
Nelson placed the interests of an allied Power before those of his
own country, although of course his services to the Sicilies were of
importance to the latter. One cannot help thinking that there is more
than a suspicion of ulterior motives in what was to lead to a flagrant
disobedience of orders. The letter concludes with the most affectionate
references to Sir William and Lady Hamilton, who were assuredly his
evil genii at the moment. According to Nelson they were with him to
his “great comfort,” without them “it would have been impossible I
could have rendered half the service to his Majesty which I have now
done: their heads and their hearts are equally great and good.” Writing
to Keith on the same day--13th July 1799--he refers solely to King
Ferdinand: “It has been and is my study to treat his Majesty with all
the respect due to so great a personage, and I have the pleasure to
believe that my humble endeavours have met with the Royal approbation.”

After penning this communication the Admiral received a despatch from
Keith, dated the 27th June, implicitly requiring him “to send such
Ships as you can possibly spare off the Island of Minorca to wait my
orders.” This he acknowledged by saying that “as soon as the safety of
His Sicilian Majesty’s Kingdoms is secured, I shall not lose one moment
in making the detachment you are pleased to order. At present, under
God’s Providence, the safety of His Sicilian Majesty, and his speedy
restoration to his Kingdom, depends on this Fleet, and the confidence
inspired even by the appearance of our Ships before the City is beyond
all belief; and I have no scruple in declaring my opinion that should
any event draw us from the Kingdom, that if the French remain in any
part of it, disturbances will again arise, for all order having been
completely overturned, it must take a thorough cleansing, and some
little time, to restore tranquillity.” In order to justify his conduct,
Nelson next sent a second note to Earl Spencer. After referring to his
previous letter, which showed that he was prepared for Keith’s order,
he adds, “more than ever is my mind made up, that, at this moment, I
will not part with a single Ship, as I cannot do that without drawing a
hundred and twenty men from each Ship now at the Siege of Capua, where
an Army is gone this day. I am fully aware of the act I have committed;
but, sensible of my loyal intentions, I am prepared for any fate which
may await my disobedience. Capua and Gaeta will soon fall; and the
moment the scoundrels of French are out of this Kingdom, I shall send
eight or nine Ships of the Line to Minorca. I have done what I thought
right; others may think differently; but it will be my consolation
that I have gained a Kingdom, seated a faithful Ally of his Majesty
firmly on his throne, and restored happiness to millions. Do not think,
my dear Lord, that my opinion is formed from the arrangements of any
one. _No_; be it good, or be it bad, it is all my own.” The writer
concludes with an appeal for Earl Spencer’s interest with the Board
of the Admiralty, which was not vouchsafed. His having proceeded to
the Bay of Naples and of the operations against the castle of St Elmo
were approved, but not of the land warfare carried on by the seamen
against Capua. Their Lordships did not see “sufficient reason to
justify your having disobeyed the orders you had received from your
Commanding-Officer, or having left Minorca exposed to the risk of being
attacked, without having any Naval force to protect it.”

On the 19th July, Nelson was handed a second urgent despatch from
Keith, ordering him either to leave Sicily and repair to Minorca with
his whole force or to detach the greater part of his squadron and
place it under Duckworth. Keith’s “repeated information” led him to
believe that the enemy was not making for Sicily or Egypt, as had
been thought probable, but for Ireland. Nelson again refused to obey
his Commander-in-chief. Not until the 22nd inst., when Keith informed
Nelson that the French fleet was off Cape Tres Forcas, did he see fit
to dispatch Duckworth with four vessels to Minorca.

The Frenchmen succeeded in joining their Spanish allies at Cartagena
and arriving safely at Brest, from which port they did not issue
for some months, an event which does not therefore concern us at
the moment. Capua and Gaeta eventually surrendered, the articles of
capitulation being signed by Acton and Nelson on behalf of King
Ferdinand on the 31st July 1799, thus liberating “the Kingdom of Naples
from a band of robbers,” as the Admiral informed Keith.

So far this portion of the narrative has been necessarily confined
to cold, matter-of-fact details. Mention must now be made of the
celebrations held on the first anniversary of the battle of the
Nile. Well might Nelson be fêted on such an occasion; he had served
their Sicilian Majesties all too faithfully. He thus describes the
picturesque scene for the benefit of his wife:--

“Thank God all goes well in Italy, and the Kingdom of Naples is
liberated from thieves and murderers. But still, it has so overthrown
the fabric of a regular Government, that much time and great care are
necessary to keep the Country quiet. The 1st of August was celebrated
here with as much respect as our situation would admit. The King
dined with me; and, when His Majesty drank my health, a Royal salute
of twenty-one guns was fired from all his Sicilian Majesty’s Ships
of War, and from all the Castles. In the evening there was a general
illumination. Amongst other representations, a large Vessel was fitted
out like a Roman galley; on its oars were fixed lamps, and in the
centre was erected a rostral column with my name: at the stern were
elevated two angels supporting my picture. In short, my dear Fanny,
the beauty of the whole is beyond my powers of description. More than
2000 variegated lamps were suspended round the Vessel. An orchestra
was fitted up, and filled with the very best musicians and singers.
The piece of music was in a great measure to celebrate my praise,
describing their previous distress, ‘but Nelson came, the invincible
Nelson, and they were preserved, and again made happy.’ This must
not make you think me vain; no, far, very far from it, I relate it
more from gratitude than vanity. I return to Palermo with the King

It was characteristic of Nelson’s fond regard for his father that when
King Ferdinand created him Duke of Bronté, which he believed would
mean an increase of some £3000 a year to his income, he taxed the
estate to the extent of £500 per annum on behalf of the Rev. Edmund
Nelson as “a mark of gratitude to the best of parents.”

Keith being on the look-out for the forty ships of the allied
fleets--for Bruix had been joined by the Spanish fleet at Cartagena
as previously mentioned--the chief command devolved upon Nelson.
Unfortunately Keith was unable to come up with the enemy, who entered
Brest without being brought to battle. He then returned to England.
Nelson hoped that the Lords of the Admiralty would make his temporary
command permanent. Why they failed to do so is not quite clear. Keith
was sent back, and resumed command in the following January. The
situation was a most difficult one for Nelson, especially as the King
of the Two Sicilies invariably showed the white feather when Nelson
wished to conduct him to Naples: “nothing can move him.” The Admiral’s
health was still unsatisfactory. “I am almost blind, and truly very
unwell.” He was worried because the naval force had been withdrawn
from the coast of Italy, worried about the siege of Malta, and worried
by the stupidity of his Russian and Turkish allies. But he maintained
a bold front, and never let the respective commanders know what he
thought of them. Instead, he wrote the most reassuring messages to
everybody, knowing and appreciating full well the value of optimism.

In September 1799, we find his squadron disposed at six different
points, namely off Alexandria and the coast of Egypt, under Sir Sidney
Smith; off Malta, under the Portuguese Rear-Admiral the Marquis de
Niza; at Palermo; on the coast of Naples and the Roman coast, under
Troubridge; on the north coast of Italy; and blockading Cadiz and
protecting the Straits of Gibraltar, Minorca, etc., which is sufficient
to show that his task was an arduous one. He endeavoured to stir up
enthusiasm in the land forces on behalf of Malta, Civita Vecchia,
and Rome. To Sir James Erskine, at Port Mahon, he wrote with all the
eloquence he could command to incite him to effort: “The field of glory
is a large one, and was never more open to any one than at this moment
to you. Rome would throw open her gates and receive you as a deliverer;
and the Pope[44] would owe his restoration to the Papal Chair to an
_heretic_. This is the first great object, as it would not only be the
complete deliverance of Italy, but restore peace and tranquillity to
the torn-to-pieces Kingdom of Naples.... The next great object is the
reduction of Malta, and in any other moment than the present, it would
be a most important one.... To return to the first object, I can take
upon me to say, that our King would be much gratified that _Britain_
not _Austria_ should re-instate the Pope. You are at perfect liberty to
say this from me; for the world sees the ambition of Austria, and her
eagle wants to extend her wings from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean.
I will not say more, but that I will support you to the utmost of my
abilities.” Succour did not come from Erskine but from a division of
troops sent by the veteran Russian commander Suwarrow, and, on the
1st October, Nelson was able to inform the Admiralty of the terms
entered into with the French by Troubridge for the evacuation of Rome
and Civita Vecchia, “on which event I sincerely congratulate their

On the 15th of the same month Nelson sent the “Sketch of my Life,”
already remarked upon,[45] to Mr John McArthur of the “Naval
Chronicle,” in which he says that when the terms of capitulation were
signed on board the _Culloden_, “a prophecy, made to me on my arrival
at Naples, was fulfilled, viz., ‘_that I should take Rome with my

“Thus,” he concludes, “may be exemplified by my Life that perseverance
in my profession will most probably meet its reward. Without having any
inheritance, or being fortunate in prize money, I have received all
the honours of my profession, been created a Peer of Great Britain, and
I may say to thee, reader:

  “‘_Go thou and do likewise._’”

Nelson’s enthusiasm in the matter of Italy was due partly to the
magnificent series of victories which the armies of the coalition had
won. Alessandria and Mantua had fallen, Moreau had retreated near Novi,
and Tortona had surrendered. So far everything seemed to be pitched
in a major key, but the minor element entered when the Russians were
sent into Switzerland instead of being allowed to finish their task
in Italy. Masséna won the battle of Zurich, thereby severing the
communications between the Austro-Russian forces in Switzerland and in
Italy. In October the intrepid Suwarrow, crossing the Alps, withdrew
his forces to Bavaria for the purpose of taking up winter quarters,
declining to further expose his worn-out troops.

In the same month another and more important event happened, which was
to be far-reaching in its results. On the 9th of that month Napoleon,
having been fortunate enough to escape the vigilance of British
cruisers during his long and tedious voyage from Alexandria, landed
in France. Nelson did not hear the news until the 24th, when he told
Sir Sidney Smith, “I have just got a report that appears to have some
foundation, that Buonaparte has passed Corsica in a Bombard, steering
for France. No Crusader ever returned with more humility--contrast
his going in _L’Orient_, &c., &c.” Nelson was not on intimate terms
with Smith, and was therefore not likely to relieve his mind “against
French villany” as he did to Earl Spencer: “The great object of the war
is--_Down, down with the French!_” “If I could have any Cruisers,” he
said in another letter, “as was my plan, off Cape Bon, in Africa, and
between Corsica and Toulon, Mr Buonaparte could not probably have got
to France; but if it bring on a confusion at Paris, I hope it will be
for the best.” “I have regretted sincerely the escape of Buonaparte”;
he tells the Earl of Elgin, British ambassador at Constantinople; “but
those Ships which were destined by me for the two places where he would
certainly have been intercepted, were, from the Admiralty thinking,
doubtless, that the Russians would do something at sea, obliged to be
at Malta, and other services which I thought the Russian Admiral would
have assisted me in--therefore, no blame lays at my door.” Again, “Our
news here is of a civil war in France--Buonaparte against Barras. May
God increase their confusion.”

While Sir Sidney Smith had been eminently successful at the siege of
Acre, which made Napoleon miss his “destiny” and precluded him from
changing “the face of the world,” as he himself stated, the defeat of
the Turks after their disembarkation at Aboukir in July considerably
altered the condition of affairs. Smith and the Turkish Government
were for allowing the French to return to their native country, an
arrangement not at all in accord with Nelson’s wishes. “I own my hope
yet is,” he confesses to the Earl of Elgin, “that the Sublime Porte
will never permit a single Frenchman to quit Egypt; and I own myself
wicked enough to wish them all to die in that Country they chose to
invade. We have scoundrels of French enough in Europe without them....
I again take the liberty of repeating that it is contrary to my
opinion, allowing a single Frenchman from Egypt to return during the
war to France. It would [be a] paper I never would subscribe to; but I
submit to the better judgment of men.” To Spencer Smith, Secretary of
Embassy, Constantinople, he says much the same thing: “I cannot bring
myself to believe they would entirely quit Egypt; and, if they would, I
never would consent to one of them returning to the Continent of Europe
during the war. I wish them to _perish_ in Egypt, and give a great
lesson to the world of the justice of the ALMIGHTY.” “I would have kept
up a more constant communication with Egypt;” he tells Keith on the
7th January 1800, “but I have never had the benefit of small Vessels.”
When the Admiral heard of the Convention of El Arish, concluded by
Smith and Kléber--Napoleon’s successor in Egypt--Nelson was furious.
By its terms the army and its munitions were to be allowed to return
to France. Had Nelson been Commander-in-chief, he would have refused
“to ratify any consent or approbation of Sir Sidney Smith,” and would
never “for a moment have forgot my text--that at all risks of giving
offence, _not one Frenchman should be allowed to quit Egypt_.” Keith
showed a firm hand when the intelligence reached him. He would consent
to “no Capitulation with the French Army in Egypt, except as prisoners
of war,” and he insisted on the abandoning of all ships and munitions.
Moreover, no troops were to return until they were exchanged. In due
course the British Government consented to the terms which had been
made, although it disapproved of Sir Sidney Smith’s high-handed policy.
On Kléber being informed of the conditions imposed on him by Keith,
he refused to entertain them. Hostilities were renewed before the
receipt of the Order from England confirming the capitulation, and the
negotiations came to nothing.


Disobedience to Orders

  “Pray God we may get alongside of them, the event I leave to


Malta was in a pitiful, half-starved condition. Nelson urged Sir
James Erskine at Mahon, and Brigadier-General Graham at Messina,
to send troops to its relief. They were as adamant and refused. He
was therefore kept “in desperation about Malta” until General Fox
arrived at Minorca and released the garrison there for the more urgent
necessities of the unhappy island. The Russians upon whom the Admiral
had also depended were sent elsewhere in pursuance of the Czar’s plan
to withdraw from the enfeebled coalition.

The Portuguese having withdrawn their ships from the blockade, it
was eminently necessary to fill their place, especially as it was
understood that a French squadron was likely to be sent to the relief
of the beleaguered. Keith was back at his post in January 1800, and was
off Leghorn with Nelson on the 20th of that month. After proceeding to
Palermo they both went to Malta, where the exciting news was received
that the enemy had not only left port but had been seen off the west
end of Sicily.

The Commander-in-chief remained at Malta ready to give the Frenchmen a
warm welcome should they come his way; Nelson was dispatched to capture
the Republican squadron. This consisted of the famous _Généreux_,
the 74-gun ship, which had escaped after the battle of the Nile,
three corvettes, and an armed store-ship. The Admiral had three
sail-of-the-line at his service, when he came up with Rear-Admiral
Perrée on the 18th February 1800, but the chase had already been
started by the _Alexander_, which happened to be cruising near. The
French store-ship struck her tricoloured ensign after a few shots had
been fired, and was promptly secured. The _Généreux_ was then raked
with several broadsides by the _Success_ frigate, a compliment returned
by the Frenchman to the disadvantage of the British crew, of which
one man was killed and the Master and seven men wounded. When the
_Foudroyant_ and the _Northumberland_ approached, and began to fight in
real earnest, the enemy’s flagship fired her broadside and surrendered.
The corvettes made good their escape. Perrée died of his wounds on the
following day. His flag was sent by the Admiral to Leopold, Prince of
Salerno, through Sir John Acton, who described King Ferdinand’s son as
being “in raptures” at the present.

On the 24th, the blockade of Malta was entrusted to Nelson by Keith,
the Commander-in-chief sailing for Genoa to assist the Austrians in
the siege of that place, which eventually fell in the first week of
the following June. The position was an ignominious one from Nelson’s
point of view, as his letters testify. He told his superior that
“Without some rest, I am gone,” and that he was “absolutely exhausted.”
In referring to Keith in a note to Lord Minto he underlines “_my
Commander-in-chief_,” for a reason which is fairly obvious. “Ought I to
trust Dame Fortune any more?” he asks, “her daughter may wish to step
in and tear the mother from me. I have in truth serious thoughts of
giving up active service--Greenwich Hospital seems a fit retreat for me
after being _evidently_ thought unfit to command in the Mediterranean.”
“_We of the Nile_ are not equal to Lord Keith in his (Acton’s)
estimation, and ought to think it an honour to serve under such a
_clever_ man,” he tells Troubridge. “I can say little good of myself:
I am far from well”; “My state of health is very precarious. Two days
ago I dropped with a pain in my heart, and I am always in a fever”;
“my very ill state of health”; “I believe I am almost finished,” are
passages to be found in his correspondence at this period. He informed
Keith that his health was “so very indifferent,” that he was obliged
“in justice to myself, to retire to Palermo for a few weeks, and to
direct Troubridge to carry on the service during my necessary absence.
I shall quit this station when matters are all put in a right way.”

Troubridge heard of Nelson’s decision with unfeigned sorrow. “I beseech
you,” he says in a note of such sincere regard and affection that it
is worthy of place in any “Life of Nelson,” “hear the entreaties of a
sincere friend, and do not go to Sicily for the present.”

Nelson paid no heed to the warning, and proceeded to Palermo. While
returning to Malta the _Foudroyant_ was able to render assistance
to the _Penelope_ (36) frigate, which was following the _Guillaume
Tell_ (86) in much the same way as a sturdy little terrier sometimes
follows a much larger dog. After some hours the _Lion_ (64) came up,
followed by the _Foudroyant_. The _Guillaume Tell_--the sole remaining
sail-of-the-line which had escaped at the Nile--was endeavouring to
break the blockade of Valetta, but the time had come for her last fight
with the undaunted foe. She surrendered after a splendid resistance
on Sunday morning, the 30th March, and was towed in a very crippled
and dismasted state to Syracuse. In due course she was refitted and
rendered good service in the British navy as the _Malta_. Rear-Admiral
Decrès was wounded and taken prisoner, and some 200 of the 1220 men on
his flagship were either killed or rendered _hors de combat_.

Sir Edward Berry, who commanded the _Foudroyant_, wrote a hasty letter
giving Nelson a few particulars. “I had but one wish this morning--it
was for you,” is the opening sentence, “How we prayed for you, God
knows, and your sincere and faithful friend,” are the concluding
words. Could better evidence be produced of the love which animated
Nelson and his “band of brothers”? “My task is done, my health is
lost, and the orders of the great Earl of St Vincent are completely
fulfilled--thanks, ten thousand thanks, to my brave friends!” Thus he
wrote to Berry on the 5th April 1800, and on the following day he made
similar remarks to Lord Minto: “Our dear great Earl of St Vincent’s
orders to me were to follow the French Mediterranean fleet, and to
annihilate them: it has been done, thanks to the zeal and bravery of
my gallant friends! My task is done, my health lost, and I have wrote
to Lord Keith for my retreat. May all orders be as punctually obeyed,
but never again an Officer at the close, of what I must, without
being thought vain, (for such I am represented by my enemies,) call a
glorious career, be so treated! I go with our dear friends Sir William
and Lady Hamilton; but whether by water or land depends on the will
of Lord Keith.” Again and again Nelson refers to the prowess of his
comrades in arms. “The happy capture of the _William Tell_,” he writes
to the Capitan Pacha, “is the finish to the whole French fleet, which
my Royal Master desired me to destroy. Having, by the bravery of the
Officers and Men under my command, accomplished my task, I am going to
England for the benefit of my health; but I can assure you, and beg of
your Excellency to assure the Grand Signior of the same, that should
the Enemy again send a Naval force to attack his Dominions, I shall
hold myself ready to come forth again for their destruction.” To the
Caimakan Pacha he says, “It was my orders, in May 1798, to destroy the
French Mediterranean fleet. By the happy capture of the _Généreux_ and
_William Tell_, (the last on the 30th March,) thanks to the Almighty,
and the bravery of the Officers and Men under my command, _all_, _all_,
are taken, burnt, or sunk. Of the thirteen Sail of the Line, not one
remains; and I trust that very soon the same may be told of their Army,
who dared to land on the Territory of the Sublime Porte. Perish all the
enemies of his Imperial Majesty the Grand Signior! Having completely
obeyed my orders, with great injury to my health, I am going to England
for the benefit of it.” He adds that he will not fail his ally, should
another French fleet menace the Turkish dominions. “I shall hold
myself ready, if I am thought fit for such a service, to come forth,
and be the instrument of God’s vengeance on such miscreant infernal
scoundrels.” He writes to Earl Spencer, enclosing Berry’s account
of the capture of the French battleship, and assures himself that
his Lordship “will not be sparing of promotion to the deserving. My
friends wished me to be present. I have no such wish; for a something
might have been given me, which now cannot. Not for all the world
would I rob any man of a sprig of laurel--much less my children of the
_Foudroyant_! I love her as a fond father, a darling child, and glory
in her deeds. I am vain enough to feel the effects of my school. Lord
Keith sending me nothing, I have not, of course, a free communication.
I have wrote to him for permission to return to England, when you
will see a broken-hearted man.... My complaint, which is principally
a swelling of the heart, is at times alarming to my friends....”
“My mind is fixed for retreat at this moment,” he informs “fighting
Berry.” “Assure all the Foudroyants of my sincere regard and affection
for them. _They may depend upon me._” “I glory in them, my darling
children, served in my school, and all of us caught our professional
zeal and fire from the great and good Earl of St Vincent”--thus he
writes to Keith. None of his hundreds of letters more fully reveals the
charming nature of the man, than those quoted above. While Nelson was
fond enough of glory for himself, he was too large-hearted to deprive
others of it.

We have now to return to his unhappy and miscalculated transactions
with the people whom he served not wisely but too well, to show him
again “a vehement partisan of the Court of Naples,” as Judge O’Connor
Morris expresses it. “I purpose going in the _Foudroyant_,” he tells
Keith, on the 12th May, “in a few days, to Palermo, as I am under
an old promise to her Sicilian Majesty, that whenever she returned
to the Continent, I would escort her over. Her Majesty has now made
application to me for that purpose; and, as it may be necessary to
take another Ship for the escort, I purpose taking the _Alexander_
with me.” It is clear that Nelson had no right to enter into any such
arrangement, especially as there were too few rather than too many
ships for the blockade of Malta. Before Keith’s despatch was received
forbidding Nelson to use the vessels, the Admiral had left Malta for
Palermo, which he reached on the 31st May. But he _did_ get a despatch
ordering him to take the ships then at Leghorn to Spezia, which Nelson
only partly obeyed, and stationed himself at the former port to await
the convenience of the Queen and family. There he was met on the 24th
June by his Commander-in-chief, whose feelings may be gauged by his
letter to the Hon. A. Paget, Sir William Hamilton’s successor as Envoy
Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the King of the Two
Sicilies. It was written at Leghorn on the 16th July, two days after
the disastrous defeat of the Austrians by Napoleon at Marengo.

He says: “I was so displeased by the withdrawing of the Ships from
before Malta, and with other proceedings that Her Majesty did not
take any notice of me latterally which had no effect on my attention
to Her Rank, what a Clamour to letting in the Ships to Malta will
occasion I assure you nothing has given me more real concern it was
so near exhausted.”[46] “The Paget Papers” make it quite clear that
Queen Caroline did not go out of her way to impress Keith, but rather
exhibited a fondness for snubbing him. He writes to Paget on another
occasion to the effect that “the Queen expected the Whole Squadron to
attend on Her Court which was impossible a Riot happened in the Square
the Queen desired I would go to the people, I declined having no
Authority to do so and disapproving of all tumults on every pretence
in short Her Majesty took leave of Every one in Public but me....”
An extremely important letter[47] will also be found in the same
collection of documents which sheds much light on the personalities
of the Royal folk with whom Nelson had so much to do in this phase of
his career. Paget is writing to Lord Grenville, Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs:

“The King, whose real character has from circumstances shown itself
during and since the revolution more than at any former period, is
timid and bigoted and, as is often the case in the same disposition,
cruel and revengeful. He has no natural turn for, nor do his habits
allow him to attend to business. He has no guide for his Conduct but
that of private consideration, and to take the present Instance,
whatever plea he may set forth for delaying his return to Naples, I am
in my own mind convinced, and I should not utter these opinions but
upon the surest grounds, that His Sicilian Majesty labours under the
strongest apprehensions for his own personal safety.

“The Queen’s character generally is too well known to Your Lordship to
require any comment upon it from me. I have every reason to suppose
that not from principles but from pique, Her Sicilian Majesty has
been very violent in opposing the King’s return since my arrival. She
had been taught to believe that I was sent here to Dictate and to use
haughty language upon the Subject, at which idea I know from _undoubted
authority_ she was most violently irritated.... But I have reason to
think that She has entirely lost her Influence, though she meddles as
much as ever in business. She assists at every Council that is held....

“The King and Queen of Naples are, as I have already mentioned,
upon the worst terms.... His Sicilian Majesty considers the former
intrigues of the Queen as the principal cause of the misfortunes that
have befallen Him. He has made a solemn vow not to return with Her
to Naples, on which account he is anxious that she should take this
Journey to Vienna.” He adds that he has been led to suppose that Queen
Caroline’s visit to Vienna “is to endeavour to produce a change in the
disposition of that Court which is thought to be extremely unfriendly,”
and that her Majesty’s uneasiness was due to a suspicion that the
Emperor might be led to take advantage of the defenceless state of the
Sicilian dominions. In a “Private and Confidential” note to Grenville
of the same date dealing with the intrigues of Lady Hamilton who,
according to Paget, had represented him as a Jacobin and coxcomb, he
mentions Nelson’s health as “I fear sadly impaired, & I am assured
that his fortune is fallen into the same state in consequence of great
losses which both His Lordship & Lady Hamilton have sustained at Faro &
other Games of Hazard. They are expected back from Malta every day, &
are then I understand to proceed by Sea to England.”

The Earl of Dundonald affords us an intimate glimpse of Nelson at this
time in his “Autobiography.” He was then serving under Keith, and had
several conversations with the great sailor during the visit of the
Commander-in-chief to Palermo. “From one of his frequent injunctions,
‘Never mind manœuvres, always go at them,’ I subsequently had reason,”
he says, “to consider myself indebted for successful attacks under
apparently difficult circumstances.

“The impression left on my mind during these opportunities of
association with Nelson was that of his being an embodiment of dashing
courage, which would not take much trouble to circumvent an enemy, but
being confronted with one would regard victory so much a matter of
course as hardly to deem the chance of defeat worth consideration.”

Permission for Nelson’s return home, either by land or sea, was
duly granted by the Admiralty. Earl Spencer took occasion to mildly
rebuke the Admiral in a private letter, stating that in his opinion
it appears “more advisable for you to come home at once, than to be
obliged to remain inactive at Palermo, while active service was going
on in other parts of the station. I should still much prefer your
remaining to complete the reduction of Malta, which I flatter myself
cannot be very far distant.” At the time of writing, news of the
capture of the _Guillaume Tell_ had not been received. After hoping
that she might strike to Nelson’s flag, Spencer adds: “I am quite
clear, and I believe I am joined in opinion by all our friends here,
that you will be more likely to recover your health and strength in
England than in an inactive situation at a Foreign Court, however
pleasing the respect and gratitude shown to you for your services may
be, and no testimonies of respect and gratitude from that Court to you
can be, I am convinced, too great for the very essential services you
have rendered it.”

[Illustration: Lady Hamilton


=Photo W. A. Mansell & Co.=]

Nelson struck his flag on the 11th July, and proceeded to England by
way of Florence, Ancona, Trieste, and Vienna. The journey was made by
land so far as Ancona, where the Queen, Nelson, Lord and Lady Hamilton,
and Miss Knight were taken on board a Russian vessel and landed at
Trieste on the 2nd August. The last-mentioned lady, to whom we have
been introduced on a previous page, was intimately acquainted with her
more eminent companions. The journey was of a very adventurous nature,
as the following extracts from her letters to “fighting Berry,” printed
by Nicolas, will prove:--

“July 16th.-- ... Lord Nelson is going on an expedition he disapproves,
and against his own convictions, because he has promised the Queen, and
that others advise her. I pity the Queen. Prince Belmonte directs the
march; and Lady Hamilton, though she does not like him, seconds his
proposals, because she hates the sea, and wishes to visit the different
Courts of Germany. Sir William says _he_ shall die by the way, and he
looks so ill, that I should not be surprised if he did. I am astonished
that the Queen, who is a sensible woman,[48] should consent to
run so great a risk; but I can assure you, that neither she nor the
Princesses forget their great obligations to you....

“ANCONA, _24th July_, 1800.--As I find delays succeed each other, and
England still recedes from us, I will not omit, at least, informing you
of our adventures. We left Leghorn the day after I wrote to you, ...
and owing more to good fortune than to prudence, arrived in twenty-six
hours at Florence, after passing within _two miles_ of the French
advanced posts. After a short stay, we proceeded on our way to this
place. At Castel San Giovanni, the coach, in which were Lord Nelson,
and Sir William and Lady Hamilton, was overturned; Sir William and Lady
Hamilton were hurt, but not dangerously. The wheel was repaired, but
broke again at Arezzo--the Queen two days’ journey before them, and
news of the French Army advancing rapidly, it was therefore decided
that they should proceed, and Mrs Cadogan[49] and I remain with the
broken carriage, as it was of less consequence we should be left
behind, or taken, than they.... Just as we were going to set off, we
received accounts of the French being very near the road where we had
to pass, and of its being also infested with Neapolitan deserters;
but at the same moment arrived a party of Austrians, and the Officers
gave us two soldiers as a guard. We travelled night and day; the roads
are almost destroyed, and the misery of the inhabitants is beyond
description. At length, however, we arrived at Ancona, and found that
the Queen had given up the idea of going in the _Bellona_, an Austrian
Frigate, fitted up with silk hangings, carpets, and eighty beds for
her reception, and now meant to go with a Russian Squadron of three
Frigates and a Brig. I believe she judged rightly; for there had been a
mutiny on board the _Bellona_, and, for the sake of accommodation, she
had reduced her guns to twenty-four, while the French, in possession
of the Coast, arm Trabaccoli, and other light Vessels, that could
easily surround and take her. This Russian Squadron is commanded by
Count Voinovitsch, a Dalmatian, who having seen his people ill-treated,
and their colours destroyed by the Germans last year at the Siege of
Ancona, made a vow never to come ashore, and keeps it religiously,
for he has not returned the Queen’s visit.... Lord Nelson talks often
of the _Foudroyant_, whatever is done to turn off the conversation;
and last night he was talking with Captain Messer of the manœuvres he
intended to make in case he accepted of another command. In short,
I perceive that his thoughts turn towards England, and I hope, and
believe he will be happy there.... Lord Nelson has been received with
acclamations in all the towns of the Pope’s States....

“TRIESTE, _9th of August_, 1800.--... I told you we were become humble
enough to rejoice at a Russian Squadron conveying us across the
Adriatic; but had we sailed, as was first intended, in the Imperial
Frigate, we should have been taken by eight Trabaccoli, which the
French armed on purpose at Pisaro. Sir William and Lady Hamilton, and
Lord Nelson, give a miserable account of their sufferings on board
the Commodore’s Ship, (Count Voinovitsch).[50] He was ill in his cot;
but his First Lieutenant, a Neapolitan, named Capaci, was, it seems,
the most insolent and ignorant of beings. Think what Lord Nelson must
have felt! He says a gale of wind would have sunk the Ship.... Poor
Sir William Hamilton has been so ill, that the physicians had almost
given him up: he is now better, and I hope we shall be able to set off
to-morrow night for Vienna. The Queen and thirty-four of her suite have
had fevers: you can form no idea of the _helplessness_ of the party.
How we shall proceed on our long journey, is to me a problem; but we
shall certainly get on as fast as we can; for the very precarious state
of Sir William’s health has convinced everybody that it is necessary he
should arrange his affairs.... Poor Lord Nelson, whose only comfort
was in talking of ships and harbours with Captain Messer, has had a bad
cold; but is almost well, and, I think, anxious to be in England. He is
followed by thousands when he goes out, and for the illumination that
is to take place this evening, there are many _Viva Nelsons_, prepared.
He seems affected whenever he speaks of _you_, and often sighs out,
‘Where is the _Foudroyant_?’”

The party arrived at Vienna in the third week of August 1800. Nelson
became the hero of the hour. He was entertained in the most sumptuous
way. The composer Haydn played to him while the Admiral--played
at cards! Nelson was surfeited by attentions for a month, before
proceeding to Prague and Dresden. The beautiful and clever Mrs St
George, who afterwards changed her name a second time and became Mrs
Trench, and the mother of a celebrated Archbishop of Dublin, happened
to be at the latter Court during the visit, and she confides to her
Diary many interesting little happenings connected with Nelson and Lady
Hamilton. The picture she paints of Sir William’s wife is by no means
so prepossessing as others, but at a certain dinner she was _vis-a-vis_
“with only the Nelson party,” which gives her a right to speak.

“It is plain,” she writes, “that Lord Nelson thinks of nothing but
Lady Hamilton, who is totally occupied by the same object. She is
bold, forward, coarse, assuming, and vain. Her figure is colossal,
but, excepting her feet, which are hideous, well-shaped. Her bones are
large, and she is exceedingly _embonpoint_. She resembles the bust of
Ariadne; the shape of all her features is fine, as is the form of her
head, and particularly her ears; her teeth are a little irregular, but
tolerably white; her eyes light blue, with a brown spot in one, which,
though a defect, takes nothing away from her beauty or expression.
Her eyebrows and her hair are dark, and her complexion coarse. Her
expression is strongly marked, variable, and interesting; her movements
in common life ungraceful; her voice loud, yet not disagreeable. Lord
Nelson is a little man, without any dignity, who, I suppose, must
resemble what Suwarrow was in his youth, as he is like all the pictures
I have seen of that General. Lady Hamilton takes possession of him, and
he is a willing captive, the most submissive and devoted I have seen.
Sir William is old, infirm, and all admiration of his wife, and never
spoke to-day but to applaud her. Miss Cornelia Knight seems the decided
flatterer of the two, and never opens her mouth but to show forth their
praise; and Mrs Cadogan, Lady Hamilton’s mother, is--what one might
expect. After dinner we had several songs in honour of Nelson, written
by Miss Knight, and sung by Lady Hamilton. She puffs the incense full
in his face, but he receives it with pleasure, and snuffs it up very

In another passage Mrs Trench refers to Lady Hamilton’s representations
of statues and paintings which Romney painted so delightfully. “She
assumes their attitude, expression, and drapery with great facility,
swiftness, and accuracy.” When she sang she was frequently out of tune,
and her voice had “no sweetness.” Mrs Trench sums up the character of
her subject as “bold, daring, vain even to folly, and stamped with the
manners of her first situation[51] much more strongly than one would
suppose, after having represented Majesty, and lived in good company
fifteen years. Her ruling passions seem to me vanity, avarice, and
love for the pleasures of the table. She showed a great avidity for
presents, and has actually obtained some at Dresden by the common
artifice of admiring and longing.”

[Illustration: Nelson landing at Yarmouth

Stephen Reid]

It is not a pleasant picture, and is perhaps a little overdrawn, but
even allowing a certain amount of latitude for the severity of a woman
criticising a member of her sex with whom she has little in common, it
must be confessed that contemporary opinion is very largely on the
side of the young and beautiful widow who thus confided her opinion so
emphatically in the pages of her private journal.

Hamburg was reached on the 21st of October. Here Nelson met Dumouriez,
the veteran hero of the battle of Jemappes, and according to Miss
Cornelia Knight, “the two distinguished men took a great fancy to one
another.... Dumouriez at that time maintained himself by his writings,
and Lord Nelson forced him to accept a hundred pounds, telling him he
had used his sword too well to live only by his pen.” Ten days after
the arrival of the party at Hamburg they embarked for England. When
Nelson stepped on shore at Yarmouth on the 6th November 1800, the
crowd which had assembled greeted him with all the enthusiasm of such
gatherings when a great and popular man is in their midst. Some of the
more boisterous spirits unharnessed the horses of the carriage awaiting
the Admiral and his friends and drew them to their destination, a
certain well-known hostelry in the town.

Thus England welcomed back the hero of the Nile and a pillar of the
Sicilian Kingdom after an absence of nearly three years, every day of
which had been lived to the full.


The Campaign of the Baltic


  “_The service of my King and Country is the object nearest my


Ostensibly Nelson had come back to England because of illness. That
his health was improved by the prolonged journey home via the overland
route is quite possible. The relief from worry as to the Mediterranean
in general and to Keith in particular no doubt conduced largely to so
desirable a result. It is evident that he had returned to a normal
condition of mind and of body; otherwise we should not find him writing
to the Secretary of the Admiralty on the day of his arrival in England
that his health was “perfectly re-established” and that he wished “to
serve immediately.”

Nelson did not have to wait long for his wishes to be fulfilled. On
the first day of the new year he was made a Vice-Admiral of the Blue,
not as a reward for his services but in a general promotion. A little
over a fortnight later he hoisted his flag on the _San Josef_ (112),
one of the prizes of the battle off Cape St Vincent, commanded by
the devoted Hardy. Nelson then made the request, apparently on the
principle of “nothing venture nothing have,” that the Lords of the
Admiralty would not consider his “necessary coming from Italy as a
dereliction of the service, but only a remove from the Mediterranean to
the Channel.” Although he was a favourite of the rank and file of the
Navy, he was certainly not esteemed so highly by “the powers that be.”
No doubt he was himself partly responsible. His friend Collingwood’s
“Correspondence” at the time affords a little sidelight on the matter.
“We are at present lying completely ready,” he writes on the 25th
January, “and, on the least motion made by the enemy, should sail;
so you may conceive what an anxious time I have of it. Lord Nelson
is here; and I think he will probably come and live with me when the
weather will allow him; but he does not get in and out of ships well
with one arm. He gave me an account of his reception at Court, which
was not very flattering, after having been the admiration of that of
Naples. His Majesty merely asked him if he had recovered his health;
and then, without waiting for an answer, turned to General ----, and
talked to him near half an hour in great good humour. It could not be
about his successes.”

The early days of the nineteenth century were overshadowed by a
storm-cloud which burst with sudden fury and dispersed almost as
rapidly, giving place to a short-lived peace followed by twelve years
of incessant tempest. So far back as 1780 Russia, Sweden and Denmark
had entered into a league of Armed Neutrality by which, in the terse
summing-up of Laughton, they had “bound themselves to resist the right
of ‘visit and search’ claimed by the belligerents, and to enforce
the acceptance of certain principles of so-called international law;
among others, the security of a belligerent’s property under a neutral
flag,--‘a free ship makes free goods’; that a blockade to be binding
must be maintained by an adequate force; and that ‘contraband of war’
must be distinctly defined beforehand. As these principles, if admitted
by England, amounted to the import by France of naval stores,--masts,
hemp, tar--from the Baltic, to be paid for by French exports, the
English Government was resolved to contest them.” From 1793 to 1800
Sweden and Denmark were neutral, but Great Britain, secure in her
maritime supremacy, had continued to search merchant-ships, whether
convoyed by a vessel of war or not. Matters were brought to a crisis
by the capture of the Danish frigate _Freya_ on the 25th July 1800,
and the subsequent passage of the Sound by a British squadron. At the
moment Denmark was not prepared for hostilities, and entered into a
convention with Great Britain, which admitted the right of search.

When, a little later, the half-crazy Czar, Paul I., dissatisfied
with England as an ally, and led on by specious promises on the part
of Napoleon, definitely renewed the League, the two Baltic Powers
willingly joined him. He laid an embargo on all British ships in
Russian ports, and generally showed that it was a case of “off with the
old love and on with the new.”

It was thought in England that negotiations, backed by a strong fleet,
would be sufficient to sever Denmark from the alliance. With this
object in view fifteen sail-of-the-line[52] having a considerable
number of soldiers on board for use if necessary, and attended by a
collection of smaller vessels, sailed early in March. When Nelson heard
of Sir Hyde Parker’s appointment as Commander-in-chief, he was no more
pleased than when Keith had returned to his former station in the
previous year, but he wisely smothered his disappointment. His “sole
object,” he informs Lord St Vincent, “and to which all my exertions and
abilities tend, is to bring this long war to an honourable termination;
to accomplish which, we must all pull in the collar, and, as we have
got such a driver who will make the lazy ones pull as much as the
willing, I doubt not but we shall get safely, speedily, and honourably
to our journey’s end.” This is Nelson at his best, the Nelson who
could sacrifice himself for King and Country. It was not until the
17th February that he received definite instructions to “put himself
under the command” of Parker. Shortly afterwards he changed his ship
for the _St George_ (98). “The _St George_ will stamp an additional
ray of glory to England’s fame, if Nelson survives;” he writes to Lady
Hamilton, “and that Almighty Providence, who has hitherto protected
me in all dangers, and covered my head in the day of battle, will
still, if it be his pleasure, support and assist me.” To his old friend
Berry he says, “I hope we shall be able as usual to get so close to
our Enemies that our shot cannot miss their object, and that we shall
again give our Northern Enemies that hail-storm of bullets which is so
emphatically described in the ‘Naval Chronicle,’ and which gives our
dear Country the Dominion of the Seas. We have it, and all the Devils
in Hell cannot take it from us, if our Wooden walls have fair play.”
As this letter was penned on the 9th March, before the armament left
Yarmouth, it is clear that the Admiral did not set much store by the
proposed negotiations, for which purpose Mr Vansittart,[53] reputed to
be a skilful diplomatist, sailed with the fleet when it weighed anchor
three days later.

The first general rendezvous was the Skaw, which was made on the 19th.
A period of heavy weather--bad winds, sleet, snow, frost, and rain--had
set in. Believers in omens not unnaturally predicted the ill-success of
the expedition, which was intensified by the loss of the _Invincible_
(74) with some 400 souls. She struck a sandbank, floated off into deep
water, and then went down. Nelson’s own ship was not in the best of
condition; she was both leaky and uncomfortable. However, a vessel
is but a means to an end, and so long as the _St George_ could float
and her men could fire a broadside Nelson was content. In his eager,
passionate way, the Admiral strongly disapproved of what he had been
able to ascertain of Parker’s plans: “honour may arise from them, good
cannot. I hear we are likely to anchor outside Cronenburg Castle,
instead of Copenhagen, which would give weight to our negotiation: a
Danish Minister would think twice before he would put his name to war
with England, when the next moment he would probably see his Master’s
Fleet in flames, and his Capital in ruins; but ‘out of sight out of
mind,’ is an old saying. The Dane should see our Flag waving every
moment he lifted up his head.”

A council of war was held on the 23rd. On the following day Nelson
wrote a lengthy letter to the Commander-in-chief detailing his opinion
of what should be done, Vansittart’s latest report being to the effect
that the Danish Government was hostile “in the greatest possible
degree.” He urged that not a moment should be lost in attacking the
enemy. He brings all the persuasiveness of which he was capable to bear
on Parker. “Here you are,” he says, “with almost the safety, certainly
with the honour of England more intrusted to you, than ever yet fell
to the lot of any British Officer.” This is exaggerating somewhat, but
doubtless the writer felt deeply the urgency of the matter. “On your
decision depends,” he adds with nearer approach to truth, “whether
our Country shall be degraded in the eyes of Europe, or whether she
shall rear her head higher than ever: again do I repeat, never did our
Country depend so much on the success of any Fleet as on this.” He then
proceeds to sketch a plan of campaign, starting with the supposition
that the fleet enters by the Passage of the Sound. He allows for a
certain amount of damage “amongst our masts and yards” taking place
before Cronenburg is reached. There the ships and Crown Island are
attacked, “Ships crippled, and perhaps one or two lost.” This mode
Nelson calls “taking the bull by the horns,” and does not prevent the
ships from Revel, or the Swedish squadron, from joining their allies.
He therefore proposes passing Cronenburg, “taking the risk of damage,”
to “pass up the deepest and straightest Channel above the Middle
Grounds; and coming down the Garbar or King’s Channel, to attack their
Floating batteries, &c., &c., as we find it convenient. It must have
the effect of preventing a junction between the Russians, Swedes, and
Danes, and may give us an opportunity of bombarding Copenhagen.” He
also suggests a passage to the northward of Southolm. An alternative
mode of attack is by the passage of the Belt, an attack on Draco, thus
preventing the junction of the Russians, and “with every probability of
success against the Danish Floating batteries.” His concluding words
are in the true Nelson spirit: “Supposing us through the Belt with
the wind first westerly, would it not be possible to either go with
the Fleet, or detach ten Ships of three and two decks, with one Bomb
and two Fire-Ships, to Revel, to destroy the Russian Squadron at that
place? I do not see the great risk of such a detachment, and with the
remainder to attempt the business at Copenhagen. The measure may be
thought bold, but I am of opinion the boldest measures are the safest;
and our Country demands a most vigorous exertion of her force, directed
with judgment.” Nelson concludes with the assurance that “no exertion
of head or heart” shall be wanting on his part.

The proposed terms were definitely refused by Denmark, but Nelson’s
“bold measure” of detaching part of the British fleet to attack the
Russian squadron at Revel while the other attacked the Capital did not
appeal to the unimaginative Parker. Copenhagen must first be overcome.
The pilots also assured the Commander-in-chief that the passage of the
Belt was the safest, which drew from Nelson the abrupt but thoroughly
characteristic reply, “Let it be by the Sound, by the Belt, or any how,
only lose not an hour!” Eventually the Sound was chosen.

Having shifted his flag from the _St George_ to the _Elephant_ (74),
a more serviceable ship for the difficult passage, the British fleet,
in order of battle, slowly threaded its way through the shoals on the
30th March, Nelson commanding the van, Parker the centre, and Graves
the rear. The guns of Cronenburg Castle, dominating the Sound, blazed
away, as did those on the armed hulks with which the Danes had hoped
to defend the narrow channel, but the Swedish guns maintained a stolid
silence. The fleet then anchored a few miles below Copenhagen. Parker,
Nelson, and several other officers boarded a lugger to reconnoitre the
enemy’s defences. Various soundings were made to the accompaniment of
gun-firing, and it was found that the enemy had placed a formidable
flotilla, including two 70-gun ships, a frigate, and two dismasted
64-gun ships, in the front of the harbour and arsenal. The Trekroner
Battery had also been strengthened. A second council of war was held
on the 31st, some interesting particulars of which are furnished by
Colonel William Stewart, who was in command of some of the troops.
After some difficulties had been stated anent “the three Powers we
should either have to engage, in succession or united, in those seas,”
Stewart tells us that “Lord Nelson kept pacing the cabin, mortified
at everything that savoured either of alarm or irresolution. When the
above remark was applied to the Swedes, he sharply observed, ‘The more
numerous the better’; and when to the Russians, he repeatedly said,
‘So much the better, I wish they were twice as many, the easier the
victory, depend on it.’”

“At the battle of Copenhagen,” writes Mr Ferguson, surgeon of the
_Elephant_, “I was amongst the companions of the hero. The attempt was
arduous in the extreme: no common mind would have dared to conceive it;
but it was suited to the exalted enterprise of Lord Nelson. As _his_
was the invigorating spirit of the council that planned the attack, so
in the execution _he_ only could have commanded success. During the
interval that preceded the battle, I could only silently admire when
I saw the first man in all the world spend the hours of the day and
night in boats, amid floating ice, and in the severest weather; and
wonder when the light shewed me a path marked by buoys, which had been
trackless the preceding evening.

“On the first day of April, in the afternoon, we took our departure
with twelve sail-of-the-line, and a proportionate number of smaller
vessels, from the main body of the fleet, then lying about four miles
below Copenhagen; and coasted along the outer edge of the shoal called
the middle ground, until we doubled its farthest extremities, when the
fleet cast anchor. This shoal, of the same extent as the sea front of
the town, lies exactly before it, at about three-quarters of a mile in
distance; the interval between it and the shore had deep water, and is
called the King’s Channel.

“In this channel the Danes had arranged their defence, as near the town
as possible. It consisted of nineteen ships and floating batteries,
flanked at the town’s extremity by two artificial islands at the mouth
of the harbour, called the Crown batteries, and extending for a mile
along the whole front of the town, leaving intervals for the batteries
on shore to play.

“As our anchor dropped at eight in the evening, Nelson emphatically
called out, ‘I will fight them the moment I have a fair wind.’ He spent
the whole night in consultation.

“About half-past nine a.m. of the 2nd of April, the signals of the
different ships having been made, repeated, and answered, we had the
mortification to see the _Agamemnon_ get upon the shoal on the first
attempt to leave her anchorage, where she remained immovable. A similar
misfortune followed in succession to the _Russell_ and _Polyphemus_;
and in addition to all this, the _Jamaica_ frigate, with a convoy of
gunboats and the small craft having fallen in with the counter current,
and being unable to stem it, made the signal of inability to proceed. A
mind less invincible than Nelson’s might have been discouraged: though
the battle had not commenced, yet he had approached the enemy; and he
felt that he could not retreat or wait for reinforcements, without
compromising the glory of his country. The signal to bear down was
still kept flying. His agitation during these moments was extreme; I
shall never forget the impression it made on me. It was not, however,
the agitation of indecision, but of ardent animated patriotism, panting
for glory, which had appeared within his reach, and was vanishing from
his grasp.”


The Battle of Copenhagen


  “_I have a right to be blind sometimes._”


Admiral Mahan, the most scientific of biographical historians, assures
us that the fullest and most interesting account of the Battle of
Copenhagen is that of Colonel William Stewart, an eye-witness of the
thrilling scene and “a very fine gallant man” according to Nelson.
The following particulars are therefore extracted from his graphic

“The Action began at five minutes past ten. In about half an hour
afterwards, the first half of our Fleet was engaged, and before
half-past eleven, the Battle became general. The _Elephant’s_ station
was in the centre, opposite to the Danish Commodore.... The judgment
with which each Ship calculated her station in that intricate Channel,
was admirable throughout. The failure of the three Ships that were
aground, and whose force was to have been opposed to the Trekroner
battery, left this day, as glorious for seamanship as for courage,
incomplete.... The gallant Riou, perceiving the blank in the original
plan for the attack of the Crown Battery, proceeded down the Line with
his Squadron of Frigates, and attempted, but in vain, to fulfil the
duty of the absent Ships of the Line. His force was unequal to it; and
the general signal of recall, which was made about mid-action by the
Commander-in-Chief, had the good effect of, at least, saving Riou’s
Squadron from destruction.

“About one P.M., few if any of the Enemy’s heavy Ships and Praams had
ceased to fire. The _Isis_ had greatly suffered by the superior weight
of the _Provestein’s_ fire; and if it had not been for the judicious
diversion of it by the _Desirée_, Captain Inman, who raked her, and
for other assistance from the _Polyphemus_, the _Isis_ would have been
destroyed. Both the _Isis_ and _Bellona_ had received serious injury by
the bursting of some of their guns. The _Monarch_ was also suffering
severely under the united fire of the _Holstein_ and _Zealand_; and
only two of our Bomb-vessels could get to their station on the Middle
Ground, and open their mortars on the Arsenal, directing their shells
over both Fleets. Our Squadron of Gun-brigs, impeded by currents,
could not, with the exception of one, although commanded by Captain
Rose in the _Jamaica_, weather the eastern end of the Middle Ground,
or come into Action. The Division of the Commander-in-chief acted
according to the preconcerted plan; but could only menace the entrance
of the Harbour. The _Elephant_ was warmly engaged by the _Dannebrog_,
and by two heavy Praams on her bow and quarter. Signals of distress
were on board the _Bellona_ and _Russell_, and of inability from the
_Agamemnon_. The contest, in general, although from the relaxed state
of the Enemy’s fire, it might not have given much room for apprehension
as to the result, had certainly, at one P.M., not declared itself in
favour of either side. About this juncture, and in this posture of
affairs, the signal was thrown out on board the _London_,[54] for the
Action to cease.

[Illustration: “I really do not see the signal”

Stephen Reid]

“Lord Nelson was at this time, as he had been during the whole Action,
walking the starboard side of the quarter-deck; sometimes much
animated, and at others heroically fine in his observations. A shot
through the mainmast knocked a few splinters about us. He observed to
me, with a smile, ‘It is warm work, and this day may be the last
to any of us at a moment’; and then stopping short at the gangway, he
used an expression never to be erased from my memory, and said with
emotion, ‘but mark you, I would not be elsewhere for thousands.’ When
the signal, No. 39, [to discontinue the engagement], was made, the
Signal Lieutenant reported it to him. He continued his walk, and did
not appear to take notice of it. The Lieutenant meeting his Lordship
at the next turn asked, ‘whether he should repeat it?’ Lord Nelson
answered, ‘No, acknowledge it.’ On the Officer returning to the poop,
his Lordship called after him, ‘Is No. 16 [for close action] still
hoisted?’ the Lieutenant answering in the affirmative, Lord Nelson
said, ‘Mind you keep it so.’ He now walked the deck considerably
agitated, which was always known by his moving the stump of his right
arm. After a turn or two, he said to me, in a quick manner, ‘Do you
know what’s shown on board of the Commander-in-chief, No. 39?’ On
asking him what that meant, he answered, ‘Why, to leave off Action.’
‘Leave off Action!’ he repeated, and then added, with a shrug, ‘Now,
---- me if I do.’ He also observed, I believe, to Captain Foley,
‘You know, Foley, I have only one eye--I have a right to be blind
sometimes’; and then with an archness peculiar to his character,
putting the glass to his blind eye, he exclaimed, ‘I really do not
see the signal.’[55] This remarkable signal was, therefore, only
acknowledged on board the _Elephant_, not repeated. Admiral Graves did
the latter, not being able to distinguish the _Elephant’s_ conduct:
either by a fortunate accident, or intentionally, No. 16 was not
displaced. The Squadron of Frigates obeyed the signal, and hauled
off. That brave Officer, Captain Riou, was killed by a raking shot,
when the _Amazon_ showed her stern to the Trekroner. He was sitting
on a gun, was encouraging his men, and had been wounded in the head
by a splinter. He had expressed himself grieved at being thus obliged
to retreat, and nobly observed, ‘What will Nelson think of us?’ His
Clerk was killed by his side; and by another shot, several of the
Marines, while hauling on the main-brace, shared the same fate. Riou
then exclaimed, ‘Come then, my boys, let us die all together!’ The
words were scarcely uttered, when the fatal shot severed him in two.
Thus, and in an instant, was the British service deprived of one of
its greatest ornaments, and society of a character of singular worth,
resembling the heroes of romance.

“The Action now continued with unabated vigour. About two P.M., the
greater part of the Danish Line had ceased to fire: some of the
lighter Ships were adrift, and the carnage on board of the Enemy,
who reinforced their crews from the Shore, was dreadful. The taking
possession of such Ships as had struck, was, however, attended with
difficulty; partly by reason of the batteries on Amak Island protecting
them, and partly because an irregular fire was made on our Boats, as
they approached, from the Ships themselves. The _Dannebrog_ acted
in this manner, and fired at our boat, although that Ship was not
only on fire and had struck, but the Commodore, Fischer, had removed
his Pendant, and had deserted her. A renewed attack on her by the
_Elephant_ and _Glatton_, for a quarter of an hour, not only completely
silenced and disabled the _Dannebrog_, but, by the use of grape,
nearly killed every man who was in the Praams, ahead and astern of
that unfortunate Ship. On our smoke clearing away, the _Dannebrog_
was found to be drifting in flames before the wind, spreading terror
throughout the Enemy’s Line. The usual lamentable scene then ensued;
and our Boats rowed in every direction, to save the crew, who were
throwing themselves from her at every port-hole; few, however, were
left unwounded in her after our last broadsides, or could be saved.
She drifted to leeward, and about half-past three blew up. The time
of half-past two, brings me to a most important part of Lord Nelson’s
conduct on this day, and about which so much discussion has arisen:
his sending a Flag of Truce on shore. To the best of my recollection,
the facts were as follow. After the _Dannebrog_ was adrift, and had
ceased to fire, the Action was found to be over, along the whole of
the Line astern of us; but not so with the Ships ahead and with the
Crown batteries. Whether from ignorance of the custom of war, or from
confusion on board the Prizes, our Boats were, as before mentioned,
repulsed from the Ships themselves, or fired at from Amak Island. Lord
Nelson naturally lost temper at this, and observed, ‘That he must
either send on shore, and stop this irregular proceeding, or send
in our Fire-ships and burn them.’ He accordingly retired into the
stern gallery, and wrote, with great dispatch, that well-known Letter
addressed to the Crown Prince,[56] with the address, ‘To the Brothers
of Englishmen, the brave Danes, &c.’:[57] and this Letter was conveyed
on shore through the contending Fleets by Captain Sir Frederick
Thesiger, who acted as his Lordship’s Aid-de-camp; and found the Prince
near the Sally-port, animating his people in a spirited manner.

“Whether we were actually firing at that time in the _Elephant_ or
not, I am unable to recollect; it could only have been partially, at
such of the farther Ships as had not struck. The three Ships ahead
of us were, however, engaged; and from the superiority of the force
opposed to them, it was by no means improbable that Lord Nelson’s
observing eye pointed out to him the expediency of a prudent conduct.
Whether this suggested to him the policy of a Flag of Truce or not, two
solid reasons were apparent, and were such as to justify the measure:
viz., the necessity of stopping the irregular fire from the Ships which
had surrendered--and the singular opportunity that was thus given, of
sounding the feelings of an Enemy, who had reluctantly entered into
the war, and who must feel the generosity of the first offer of amity
coming from a conquering foe. If there were a third reason for the
conduct of the noble Admiral, and some of his own Officers assert this,
it was unnecessary that it should have been expressed; it was certainly
not avowed, and will for ever remain a matter of conjecture.[58]
While the Boat was absent, the animated fire of the Ships ahead of
us, and the approach of two of the Commander-in-chief’s division,
the _Ramilies_ and _Defence_, caused the remainder of the Enemy’s
Line to the eastward of the Trekroner to strike: that formidable Work
continued its fire, but fortunately at too long a range to do serious
damage to any one except the _Monarch_, whose loss in men, this day,
exceeded that of any Line-of-Battle Ship during the war. From the
uninjured state of this Outwork, which had been manned at the close of
the Action with nearly 1500 men, it was deemed impracticable to carry
into execution the projected plan for storming it; the Boats for this
service had been on the starboard side of each Ship during the Action.
The firing from the Crown Battery and from our leading Ships did not
cease until past three o’clock, when the Danish Adjutant-General,
Lindholm, returning with a Flag of Truce, directed the fire of the
battery to be suspended. The signal for doing the same, on our part,
was then made from our Ship to those engaged. The Action closed after
five hours’ duration, four of which were warmly contested.

“The answer from the Prince Regent was to inquire more minutely into
the purport of the message. I should here observe, that previous to
the Boat’s getting on board, Lord Nelson had taken the opinion of his
valuable friends, Fremantle and Foley, the former of whom had been
sent for from the _Ganges_, as to the practicability of advancing with
the Ships which were least damaged, upon that part of the Danish Line
of Defence yet uninjured. Their opinions were averse from it; and,
on the other hand, decided in favour of removing our Fleet, whilst
the wind yet held fair, from their present intricate Channel. Lord
Nelson was now prepared how to act when Mr Lindholm came on board, and
the following answer was returned to the Crown Prince by Captain Sir
Frederick Thesiger: ‘Lord Nelson’s object in sending the Flag of Truce
was humanity’; etc.[59] His Lordship, having finished this letter,
referred the Adjutant-General to the Commander-in-chief, who was at
anchor at least four miles off, for a conference on the important
points which the latter portion of the message had alluded to; and to
this General Lindholm did not object, but proceeded to the _London_.
Lord Nelson wisely foresaw, that, exclusive of the valuable opportunity
that now offered itself for a renewal of Peace, time would be gained
by this long row out to sea, for our leading Ships, which were much
crippled, to clear the shoals, and whose course was under the immediate
fire of the Trekroner. The Adjutant-General was no sooner gone to the
_London_, and Captain Thesiger despatched on shore than the signal
was made for the _Glatton_, _Elephant_, _Ganges_, _Defiance_, and
_Monarch_, to weigh in succession. The intricacy of the Channel now
showed the great utility of what had been done; the _Monarch_, as
first Ship, immediately hit on a shoal, but was pushed over it by the
_Ganges_ taking her amid-ships. The _Glatton_ went clear, but the
_Defiance_ and _Elephant_ ran aground, leaving the Crown Battery at
a mile distance; and there they remained fixed, the former until ten
o’clock that night, and the latter until night, notwithstanding every
exertion which their fatigued crews could make to relieve them. Had
there been no cessation of hostilities, their situation would certainly
have been perilous; but it should be observed, on the other hand, that
measures would in that case have been adopted, and they were within our
power, for destroying this formidable Work.

“The _Elephant_ being aground, Lord Nelson followed the
Adjutant-General, about four o’clock, to the _London_, where that
negotiation first began, which terminated in an honourable Peace.
He was low in spirits at the surrounding scene of devastation, and
particularly felt for the blowing up of the _Dannebrog_. ‘Well!’ he
exclaimed, ‘I have fought contrary to orders, and I shall perhaps be
hanged: never mind, let them.’ Lindholm returned to Copenhagen the same
evening, when it was agreed that all Prizes should be surrendered, and
the suspension of hostilities continue for twenty-four hours; the whole
of the Danish wounded were to be received on shore. Lord Nelson then
repaired on board the _St George_, and the night was actively passed
by the Boats of the Division which had not been engaged, in getting
afloat the Ships that were ashore, and in bringing out the Prizes. The
_Desirée_ frigate, towards the close of the Action, going to the aid of
the _Bellona_, became fast on the same shoal; but neither these Ships,
nor the _Russell_, were in any danger from the Enemy’s batteries, as
the world has frequently since been led to suppose.”

In sending a copy of Nelson’s Report to the Admiralty, Sir Hyde Parker
paid a worthy tribute to the conduct of his second-in-command and of
his “entire acquiescence and testimony of the bravery and intrepidity
with which the Action was supported throughout the Line. Was it
possible,” he continues, “for me to add anything to the well-earned
renown of Lord Nelson, it would be by asserting, that his exertions,
great as they have heretofore been, never were carried to a higher
pitch of zeal for his Country’s service.

“I have only to lament that the sort of attack, confined within an
intricate and narrow passage, excluded the Ships particularly under my
command from the opportunity of exhibiting their valour; but I can with
great truth assert, that the same spirit and zeal animated the whole of
the Fleet; and I trust that the contest in which we were engaged, will
on some future day afford them an occasion of showing that the whole
were inspired with the same spirit, had the field been sufficiently
extensive to have brought it into action.”

Sentiments so ably expressed are delightful reading. Nelson, if less
dignified in his language, never failed to show his warm appreciation
of those who worked under him. Caring little for literary form, he
invariably blurted out the naked truth. His despatches were marked
by the same forcible characteristics exhibited in his conduct when
engaging the enemy. “The spirit and zeal of the Navy,” he tells a
correspondent who had congratulated him on the victory, “I never saw
higher than in this Fleet, and if England is true to herself, she may
bid defiance to Europe. The French have always, in ridicule, called us
a Nation of shopkeepers--_so_, I hope, we shall always remain, and,
like other shopkeepers, if our goods are better than those of any other
Country, and we can afford to sell them cheaper, we must depend on our
shop being well resorted to.”

An armistice for a term of fourteen weeks was agreed upon on the 9th
April 1801. This period would allow Nelson to settle with the Russian
fleet and return to Copenhagen, as he himself bluntly admitted during
the negotiations. Unused to such “straight talk” in diplomatic
overtures, one of the Danish Commissioners began to speak of a renewal
of hostilities. It merely added fuel to Nelson’s fire, and drew from
him the comment, made to one of his friends who was standing near,
“Renew hostilities! Tell him we are ready at a moment; ready to bombard
this very night.” The remark was quite sufficient to silence the man
who talked thus lightly of war.

An opportunity to teach the Russians a lesson did not come in Nelson’s
way. Scarcely more than a week passed from the time the signatures
had dried on the parchment when to Parker was sent news of the murder
of Paul I. With the death of the monarch Russian policy underwent a
complete change so far as Great Britain was concerned. The castles in
the air for the overthrow of the British rule in India, which the Czar
and Napoleon had hoped to place on solid foundations, melted away as
mist before the sun. Paul’s successor, Alexander I., knowing full well
the enormous importance of the British market for Russian goods, lost
no time in coming to terms with England. Shortly afterwards Sweden,
Denmark, and Prussia followed his example. The much-boasted Maritime
Confederacy was quietly relegated to the limbo of defeated schemes for
the downfall of the great Sea Power.

Meanwhile Sir Hyde Parker had been recalled from the Baltic, and had
placed his command in the hands of Nelson on the 5th May. The latter
proceeded from Kiöge Bay, his station since the birth of amicable
arrangements with the Danes, to Revel, where he hoped to meet the
Russian squadron he had been so anxious to annihilate before the battle
of Copenhagen.

“My object was to get to Revel before the frost broke up at Cronstadt,
that the twelve Sail of the Line might be destroyed,” he writes to
Addington, Pitt’s successor as Prime Minister, on the 5th May. “I shall
now go there as a friend, but the two Fleets shall not form a junction,
if not already accomplished, unless my orders permit it.” “My little
trip into the Gulf of Finland,” he tells Lord St Vincent, “will be, I
trust, of National benefit, and I shall be kind or otherwise, as I find
the folks.” Revel harbour was bare when he entered it, the squadron
having sailed for Cronstadt a few days before. However, on the 17th
May, he was able to inform Vansittart, “I left Revel this morning
where everybody has been kind to us.” He eventually returned to Kiöge
Bay, where he remained until he was relieved at his own request owing
to ill-health. “I have been even at _Death’s_ door, apparently in a
consumption,” he tells Ball, probably with a touch of exaggeration.
On the 19th June he set sail in a brig for home, arriving at Yarmouth
on the first day of the following month. His last act before he
quitted the fleet was to congratulate the men on the work they had
accomplished; his first act when he stepped on shore was to visit the
hospitals to which the wounded had been conveyed after the battle of
Copenhagen. As for his own reward, the King had seen fit to create him
Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe.

   “_Let us think of them that sleep
    Full many a fathom deep
    By thy wild and stormy deep


The Threatened Invasion of England


  “_Our Country looks to its Sea defence, and let it not be


However much Nelson may have appreciated the visits to London, Box
Hill, and Staines, which he now made in the company of Sir William and
Lady Hamilton, it was soon evident that his stay on shore would be
short. No home ties were severed when he was appointed to a special
service on the 24th July 1801, for he had finally separated from his
wife six months before. It was a mistaken match in every way. Although
it is often said that people of opposite temperaments make the best
partners in marriage, it certainly was not so in the case of Nelson and
Mrs Nisbet. Some of the reasons for the unhappiness of both have been
given in a previous chapter, the prime cause was Lady Hamilton, for
whom Nelson continued to entertain a mad infatuation until the day he
died. Quite naturally and legitimately Lady Nelson resented the conduct
of her husband. Any woman would have done the same. Angry words were
spoken on both sides, leading to the final and irrevocable breach,
but it is characteristic of Nelson’s generous nature that on their
last interview he said: “I call God to witness there is nothing in
you or your conduct I wish otherwise.” He was no less generous in the
allowance which he made to her.

For some months Napoleon had been intent on the building of a
flotilla for the invasion of England. All manner of wild rumours
had spread throughout the country as to the imminent peril of the
United Kingdom, but we now know that the First Consul’s scheme was
comparatively insignificant when compared to his enormous ship-building
programme of 1803-5 for the same purpose.[60] Indeed, a month before
Lord St Vincent, then First Lord of the Admiralty, communicated to
Admiral Lutwidge, the Commander-in-chief in the Downs, that his
command would be impinged upon to some extent by Nelson’s new post,
and that the enemy’s preparations were “beginning to wear a very
serious appearance,” Napoleon had already postponed his plan. This is
made abundantly clear by the First Consul’s order of the 23rd June
to Augereau, in command of the Army of Batavia: “You will receive
instructions for the formation at Flushing of five divisions of
gunboats, which, added to the sixteen divisions in Channel ports, will
impose on England.” Napoleon perfectly understood that the moment for
“leaping the ditch” had not yet arrived. Of the Navy proper at the
beginning of 1801 Great Britain had no fewer than 127 sail-of-the-line
in commission; France had forty-nine, many in an almost unseaworthy
condition. The Admiralty was not to know of the letter to Augereau or
of the exact state of the French marine. Boulogne, Calais, and Dunkirk,
the ports of concentration, sheltered some 150 boats of various
descriptions for the purpose of the projected expedition, and England
could afford to run no risks.

Nelson’s command extended from Orfordness, in Suffolk, to Beachy
Head, in Sussex. The specific purpose of his squadron was to defend
the mouths of the Thames and Medway, and of the coasts of Sussex,
Kent, and Essex. He speedily grasped the situation, and surmising
that London _ought_ to be the enemy’s object, informed the Admiralty
that not only should “A great number of Deal and Dover Boats” be
available off Boulogne to “give notice of the direction taken by the
enemy,” but that gunboats and flat boats should be kept near Margate
and Ramsgate, between Orfordness and the North Foreland, and in
Hollesley Bay, these to be aided by floating batteries. “If it is calm
when the Enemy row out, all our Vessels and Boats appointed to watch
them, must get into the Channel, and meet them as soon as possible:
if not strong enough for the attack, they must watch, and keep them
company till a favourable opportunity offers. If a breeze springs up,”
he goes on, “our Ships are to deal _destruction_; no delicacy can be
observed on this great occasion. But should it remain calm, and our
Flotilla not fancy itself strong enough to attack the Enemy on their
passage, the moment that they begin to touch our shore, strong or weak,
our Flotilla of Boats must attack as much of the Enemy’s Flotilla as
they are able--say only one half or two-thirds; it will create a most
powerful diversion, for the bows of our Flotilla will be opposed to
their unarmed sterns, and the courage of Britons will never, I believe,
allow one Frenchman to leave the Beach.” When the enemy comes in sight
the various divisions of the flotilla “are to unite, but not intermix.”
“_Never fear the event._” These notions, embodied in a lengthy
Memorandum to the Admiralty, are remarkable because Nelson prophesies
“a powerful diversion by the sailing of the Combined Fleet,” a plan
developed by Napoleon in the later phase of his gigantic preparations
for the invasion of our country. Whatever may have been in his mind in
1801 regarding this scheme he certainly did not confide to any of his
admirals or military commanders.

Nelson hoisted his flag on the _Unité_ frigate at Sheerness on the 27th
July. Additional evidence of the humorous turn of his mind is afforded
in a note bearing the same date addressed to Lady Hamilton. “To-day,”
he writes, “I dined with Admiral Græme, who has also lost his right
arm, and as the Commander of the Troops has lost his leg, I expect
we shall be caricatured as the _lame_ defenders of England.” Most
people who have the misfortune to lose a limb are inclined to resent
any reference to the fact on the part of another and to rigidly ignore
the misfortune in their own remarks, but Nelson rather gloried in his
dismembered state than otherwise. It was visible proof of his service
to his country.

Lord St Vincent did not altogether agree with Nelson’s plans. In his
opinion, “Our great reliance is on the vigilance and activity of our
cruisers at sea.” When Nelson urged upon the Sea Fencibles[61] to man
the coast-defence vessels he was speedily disillusioned. Of the 2600
men enrolled on that part of the coast under his jurisdiction only
385 offered themselves for active service. However, he determined
to do his best with the raw material at hand, and went so far as to
tell the First Lord of the Admiralty that: “Our force will, by your
great exertions, soon get so formidable, that the Enemy will hardly
venture out.” A week after he had assumed command, he says: “It is
perfectly right to be prepared against a mad Government; but with the
active force your Lordship has given me, I may pronounce it almost

On the 2nd August Nelson was off the coast of France, “looking at
Boulogne,” and observed the soldiers erecting guns and mortars “as if
fearful of an attack.” Forty-eight hours later a number of bomb-vessels
were anchored abreast of the port, and the shipping was fired on
without much loss on either side, although several French gunboats were
destroyed. He himself admitted: “The whole of this business is of no
further moment than to show the Enemy, that, with impunity, they cannot
come outside their Ports. I see nothing but a desire on the part of
our Officers and men to get at them.” A vast crowd of people collected
on the cliffs at Dover and watched the spectacle. The _Moniteur_, the
official organ of the French Government, reported the occurrence as

“At dawn Nelson with thirty vessels of all sizes appeared before
Boulogne. A division of our flotilla was at anchor slightly in front
of the harbour. Their bomb-ketches opened fire and ours returned it.
Several times the enemy’s line tried to advance and our soldiers asked
to be allowed to board, but the flotilla’s fire prevented the forward
movement and ultimately compelled the enemy to retire. Nine hundred
bombs were fired during the day without killing or wounding any one.
Two gun-sloops were slightly damaged but returned to service without
loss of time.... This is the first fight in sight of _both_ shores.”
Nelson reported that three of the flat-bottom boats and a brig were
sunk, and that six went on shore “evidently much damaged,” of which
five were eventually salved. A captain of the Royal Artillery and three
British seamen were wounded.

Having had the opportunity to see the preparations of the enemy Nelson
was inclined to believe that Napoleon really meant business. “There can
be no doubt of the intention of the French to attempt the Invasion of
our Country,” he tells four of the captains under his command. “I have
now more than ever reason to believe,” he confides to Lord St Vincent,
“that the Ports of Flushing and Flanders are much more likely places
to embark men from, than Calais, Boulogne, or Dieppe; for in Flanders
we cannot tell by our eyes what means they have collected for carrying
an Army.” “My Flotilla, I hope, will be finished by Wednesday,” he
writes to the worthy Sea Lord, under date of the 7th August, “and I
am vain enough to expect a great deal of mischief to the Enemy from
it. I am sure that the French are trying to get from Boulogne; yet the
least wind at W.N.W. and they are lost. I pronounce that no embarkation
can take place at Boulogne; whenever it comes forth, it will be from
Flanders, and what a forlorn undertaking! consider cross tides, etc.,
etc. As for rowing, that is impossible.” This communication was shortly
followed by another: “We are so prepared at this moment, on the Enemy’s
Coasts, that I do not believe they could get three miles from their
own shore.” Again, “Our active force is perfect, and possesses so much
zeal, that I only wish to catch that Buonaparte on the water, either
with the _Amazon_ or _Medusa_; but himself he will never trust.” The
Admiral was far from enjoying his new post. He was “half sea-sick,”
and his one desire was “to get at a proper time clear of my present
command, in which I am sure of diminishing my little fortune, which
at this moment does not reach 10,000 _l._; and never had I an idea of
gaining money by accepting it.” It would be wrong to infer from this
isolated passage that Nelson was particularly fond of money. He was
not, and the present writer is convinced that whenever he grumbled
about financial matters he thought considerably more of justice than
lucre. He could not bear to think he was being “done.” In the present
instance it is clear that he found his command trivial and unprofitable
from a national point of view. Nelson was essentially the man for a
big theatre of action; if he did not actually despise a confined stage
he hated it as paltry and beneath him. He gloried in a battle, not in
a sham-fight; as he himself complained, “there is nothing to be done
on the great Scale.” He appeals pathetically to Lord St Vincent in the
letter from which the above extract is taken: “Do you still think of
sending me to the Mediterranean? If not, I am ready to go, for the spur
of the occasion, on the Expedition which is in embryo, but to return
the moment it is over, for I am afraid of my strength. I am always
ready, as far as I am able.” “As far as September 14th, I am at the
Admiralty’s disposal;” he tells Lady Hamilton, “but, if Mr Buonaparte
does not choose to send his miscreants before that time, my health will
not bear me through equinoctial gales.” The Admiral is just a little
uncertain as to the fate of Napoleon’s flotilla. “I do not believe
they could get three miles from their own shore,” he says on the 9th
August; on the 10th his “well-grounded hope” is that the enemy will be
“annihilated before they get ten miles from their own shores.”

Nelson considered Flushing as his “grand object” of attack, but
hesitated to venture before consulting the Admiralty because “the
risk is so great of the loss of some Vessels.” It would be “a week’s
Expedition for 4000 or 5000 troops.” To aid his own arguments he
appeals to history: “To crush the Enemy at home was the favourite plan
of Lord Chatham, and I am sure you think it the wisest measure to
carry the war from our own doors.... I own, my dear Lord, that this
Boat warfare is not exactly congenial to my feelings, and I find I get
laughed at for my puny mode of attack. I shall be happy to lead the way
into Helvoet or Flushing, if Government will turn their thoughts to
it: whilst I serve, I will do it actively, and to the very best of my
abilities. I have all night had a fever, which is very little abated
this morning; my mind carries me beyond my strength, and will do me up;
but such is my nature. I have serious doubt whether I shall be able,
from my present feelings, to go to the Mediterranean; but I will do
what I can--I require nursing like a child. Pray God we may have peace,
and with honour, and then let us start fair with the rest of Europe.”
To other correspondents he says, “I am very much fagged”; “I am still
very unwell, and my head is swelled.”

Notwithstanding the weighty arguments brought forward by Nelson to
support his projected attempt on Flushing, the Lords of the Admiralty
could not see their way to grant the requisite permission. Nelson was
so confident in his belief that he appealed to the Prime Minister.
“Lord St Vincent,” he writes, “tells me he hates Councils, so do I
between Military men; for if a man consults whether he is to fight,
when he has the power in his own hands, _it is certain that his
opinion is against fighting_; but that is not the case at present, and
I own I do want good council. Lord St Vincent is for keeping the Enemy
closely blockaded; but I see that they get along shore inside their
Sandbanks, and under their guns, which line the Coast of France. Lord
Hood is for keeping our Squadrons of Defence stationary on our own
shore, (except light Cutters, to give information of every movement of
the Enemy;) for the time is approaching when a gale of westerly wind
will disperse our light Squadrons.... When men of such good sense,
such great Sea Officers, differ so widely, is it not natural that I
should wish the mode of defence to be well arranged by the mature
considerations of men of judgment? I mean not to detract from my
judgment; even as it is, it is well known: but I boast of nothing but
my zeal; in that I will give way to no man upon earth.”

On the night of the 15th August Nelson renewed his attempt on the
Boulogne flotilla. His plan of attack shows that he took elaborate
precautions to preclude the possibility of failure. La Touche Tréville,
in command at Boulogne, had also profited by his recent experience with
the British, and had fitted out additional bomb-ketches and placed
mortars on smacks for the purpose of defence. Nelson arranged that
four divisions of ships’ boats should be employed, each accompanied
by one or two flat boats armed with either an 8-inch howitzer or a
24-pound carronade. Two boats of each division were to be prepared for
cutting the enemy’s cable and sternfast and to be provided with stout
hook-ropes for the purpose of towing the prizes. “When any Boats have
taken one Vessel, the business is not to be considered as finished;
but a sufficient number being left to guard the Prize, the others are
immediately to pursue the object, by proceeding on to the next, and so
on, until the whole Flotilla be either taken, or totally annihilated;
for there must not be the smallest cessation until their destruction is
completely finished.”

Pikes, cutlasses, tomahawks, axes, and all the paraphernalia of war
were to be placed on the boats. Fast-sailing cutters were to keep
close in shore so as to be ready to tow out any vessels which might be
captured. “The greatest silence is to be observed by all the people in
the Boats, and the oars to be muffled.” The watchword was “Nelson,” the
answer “Bronté.”

The attack was a failure. The brave fellows found the vessels not only
full of soldiers but defended by sharp spikes of iron and netting
placed round the hulls in a similar manner to the torpedo netting of
modern naval warfare. It was said by the attacking party that the
French boats were secured to the shore by stout cables, a belief
entertained by Nelson, but La Touche Tréville indignantly denied the
accusation in his official report. The British seamen went into a
veritable halo of fire, the soldiers on the boats being assisted by
comrades stationed on the heights. It was an unequal contest in every
way, and when the second division of boats, under Captain Parker,
closed with the enemy, it is stated that the French commander plainly
said so. “You can do nothing here,” he shouted, “and it is only useless
shedding the blood of brave men to make the attempt.”[62] Parker’s
thigh was shattered while attempting to board the French Commodore’s
boat, another officer was shot through the leg, and the killed and
wounded were numbered at 172. Officially the French casualties were
returned at ten killed and thirty wounded, probably a low estimate. “No
person can be blamed for sending them to the attack but myself;” the
Commander-in-chief writes to Lord St Vincent, “I knew the difficulty
of the undertaking, therefore I ventured to ask your opinion.” He
attributed the failure to the divisions not having arrived “at the
same happy moment with Captain Parker.” “More determined, persevering
courage, I never witnessed.” “I long to pay them, for their tricks
t’other day,” he writes to Lady Hamilton, “the debt of a drubbing,
which, surely, I’ll pay: but _when, where, or how_, it is impossible,
your own good sense must tell you, for me or mortal man to say.”

Nelson was deeply attached to Captain Parker, whom he calls “my
child, for I found him in distress.” His correspondence at this time
is replete with references to the condition of the patient. “Would I
could be useful,” he tells the doctor, “I would come on shore and nurse
him.” When the gallant officer died at Deal on the 28th September,
the Admiral begged that his friend’s hair might be cut off; “it shall
remain and be buried with me.” Again we see the wistful, woman-like
emotionalism of Nelson’s nature. He calls it “a happy release,” and
says in the same sentence, “but I cannot bring myself to say I am glad
he is gone; it would be a lie, for I am grieved almost to death.” When
“the cleverest and quickest man and the most zealous in the world”
was buried at Deal, Nelson attended the ceremony. It is recorded that
the man who could stare Death in the face without flinching, who was
“in perils oft” and enjoyed the experience, was visibly affected.
The Admiral’s grief was expressed in a practical way. Finding that
the deceased Captain had left his finances in a most unsatisfactory
condition he paid the creditors in full.

The war with France had lasted eight weary years. Great Britain had
more than maintained her own on the sea; Napoleon had proved his
consummate skill in the manipulation of land forces. Overtures for
peace were mooted, then definitely made through M. Otto, a French
agent in London for the exchange of prisoners. The cessation of
hostilities became the topic of the hour. After innumerable delays the
preliminaries were signed in London on the 1st October 1801, to the joy
of the populace on both sides of the Channel. Nelson was not convinced
as to Napoleon’s _bonâ fides_. He loathed the French and took no pains
to disguise the fact. In writing to a friend a fortnight or so before
he received news of the event mentioned above, he admits, “I pray God
we may have Peace, when it can be had with honour; but I fear that the
scoundrel Buonaparte wants to humble us, as he has done the rest of
Europe--to degrade us in our own eyes, by making us give up all our
conquests, as proof of our sincerity for making a Peace, and then he
will condescend to treat with us.” The Admiral was not far wrong, as
subsequent events proved. In a letter dated the 14th September, two
days later than the one from which the above quotation is made, he
looks forward “with hope but will not be too sanguine. I yet hope the
negotiation is not broken entirely off, for we can never alter the
situation of France or the Continent, and ours will become a War of
defence; but I hope they will do for the best.” Three days after the
signature of the preliminaries of peace he warns the commanders of the
various squadrons that they are to be “very vigilant in watching the
Enemy, and, on no account to suffer them to put into the Channel, as
hostilities have not yet ceased.” Napoleon confirmed the treaty on the
5th October, the ratifications were exchanged on the 10th,

   “_And London, tho’ so ill repaid,
    Illuminations grand display’d_,”

as a poetaster sang in a contemporary periodical. Nelson referred to it
as “good news,” but received a note from Addington warning him that his
flag must be kept flying until the Definitive Treaty had been signed.

[Illustration: Lord Nelson]

When he heard that the mob had unharnessed the horses and drawn the
carriage of General Lauriston, Napoleon’s first _aide-de-camp_ who had
brought the document to London, the Admiral was furious. “Can you cure
madness?” he asks Dr Baird, “for I am mad to read that ... scoundrels
dragged a Frenchman’s carriage. I am ashamed for my Country.” On the
14th October he formally asked the Admiralty to give him permission
to go on shore. He was then suffering from “a complaint in my stomach
and bowels,” probably caused by sea-sickness and cold. This request
was not immediately complied with, but towards the end of the month
he was released, and wrote to Lady Hamilton, “I believe I leave this
little Squadron with sincere regret, and with the good wishes of every
creature in it.” One wonders whether there could be a more restless
nature than Nelson’s, which made him yearn for the land when at sea,
and for the sea when on land.

He retired to Merton Place, a little estate in Surrey and “exactly one
hour’s drive from Hyde Park.” This had been purchased on his behalf by
Lady Hamilton, who took up her quarters there with her husband. The
first mention of it in Nelson’s “Dispatches and Letters,” as edited by
Sir Harris Nicolas, is in a note to his friend Alexander Davison of
Morpeth, on the last day of August 1801. “So far from making money,
I am spending the little I have,” he tells him. “I am after buying
a little Farm at Merton--the price £9000; I hope to be able to get
through it. If I cannot, after all my labours for the Country, get such
a place as this, I am resolved to give it all up, and retire for life.”
In thanking Mr Davison for his offer of assistance in purchasing “the
Farm,” Nelson goes a little deeper into the question of his personal
expenditure. It will “take every farthing I have in the world,” and
leave him in debt. “The Baltic expedition cost me full £2000. Since
I left London it has cost me, for Nelson cannot be like others, near
£1000 in six weeks. If I am continued here (_i.e._ in the Downs) ruin
to my finances must be the consequence, for everybody knows that Lord
Nelson _is amazingly rich_!”

The Admiral took his seat in the House of Lords as a Viscount on the
29th October, and made his maiden speech in the upper chamber on the
following day. Appropriately enough it was to second the motion “That
the Thanks of this House be given to Rear-Admiral Sir James Saumarez,
K.B., for his gallant and distinguished conduct in the Action with the
Combined Fleet of the Enemy, off Algeziras, on the 12th and 13th of
July last.” The battle was fought with a French and Spanish squadron
in the Gut of Gibraltar, details of which were entered into by Nelson,
doubtless to the considerable enlightenment of the House. During the
following month he was also able to pay a similar tribute to Keith
and his officers for their services in Egypt. With characteristic
thoroughness he also remarked on the part the Army had played in the
defeat of Napoleon’s expedition.

He was feasted and feted for his own splendid work, but he fell foul of
the Corporation of the City of London, because that body had seen fit
to withhold its thanks for the victory of Copenhagen, conduct which he
deemed “incomprehensible.” He certainly never forgave the Government
for refusing to grant medals for the same battle. Nelson brought up the
question before the authorities with pugnacious persistence, and some
of the officers renewed their application over a quarter of a century
later, but the Copenhagen medal still remains to be struck. “I am fixed
never to abandon the fair fame of my Companions in dangers,” he avers.
“I may offend and suffer; but I had rather suffer from that, than my
own feelings.” He fought for pensions and appointments for all manner
of officers and men, watched the list of vacancies and appealed that
they might be filled by those who deserved well of their country.


The Vigil off Toulon


  “_I shall follow them to the Antipodes._”


For over a year Nelson spent the greater part of his time at Merton
Place or at 23 Piccadilly, Sir William Hamilton’s town house. Any
monotony there may have been was relieved by a tour of beautiful Wales,
made in the months of July and August 1802, when Nelson’s spirits had
recovered somewhat from the news of his father’s death at Bath on the
26th of the previous April. The old clergyman’s distinguished son was
ill at the time and did not attend the last sad ceremony in the quiet
churchyard of Burnham Thorpe, where Nelson said he hoped his bones
would eventually be laid to rest, a wish never to be fulfilled. His
father, who called Merton “the Mansion of Peace,” had entertained the
idea of becoming “one of its inhabitants,” and rooms had been prepared
for him. “Sir William and myself are both old men, and we will witness
the hero’s felicity in retirement.” Such was his desire.

On their journey to the Principality Nelson was presented with
the freedom of Oxford, and both Sir William and the Admiral had
the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws conferred upon them by the
University. A visit was also paid to Blenheim, the ancestral seat of
the Dukes of Marlborough. Gloucester, Ross, Monmouth, Brecon, Milford,
Haverfordwest, Swansea, Worcester, Birmingham, Warwick and other
provincial cities and towns each accorded its distinguished visitor a
most enthusiastic welcome. He afterwards drew up an elaborate report on
the Forest of Dean for Mr Addington’s inspection. Properly cultivated
it would, in Nelson’s opinion, “produce about 9200 loads of timber,
fit for building Ships-of-the-line, every year.” Collingwood, it may
be added, was also deeply interested in afforestation. During the rare
occasions he was on shore he would walk about his estate and stealthily
take an acorn from his pocket and drop it in the earth for later
service in his Majesty’s Navy.

On his return to Surrey Nelson vegetated. “I am really so very little
in the world,” he tells Davison in October, “that I know little, if
anything, beyond [what] Newspaper reports say respecting our conduct
on the affairs of the Continent. It is true, I have seen Mr Addington
and Lord St Vincent several times; but our conversations were like
Swift’s and Lord Oxford’s. Yet it was not difficult to discover, that
_we_ felt our importance in the scale of Europe degraded, if Buonaparte
was allowed to act as he has lately done; and that it was necessary for
us to speak a dignified language.... By the meeting of Parliament many
things must come forth.”

The Hamilton-Nelson family forsook Merton for Piccadilly at the
beginning of 1803, and there Sir William died on the 6th April, after
having been tenderly nursed by his wife and her more than intimate
friend. It is impossible to think that the Admiral had any heartfelt
sorrow when the former Ambassador breathed his last, but his emotional
nature led him to write the kindest things of the dead man. “The world
never, never lost a more upright and accomplished gentleman” is one of
his expressions at the event.

The Truce of Amiens, for it was nothing more, was described by George
III. as “an experimental peace.” Neither side kept strictly to the
letter of the Treaty. Before the brilliant illuminations on both
sides of the Channel had been entirely forgotten statesmen began to
shake their heads and to prophecy the withdrawing of the sword from
the scabbard. Napoleon’s continued aggressions on the Continent, his
great colonial schemes, his restless activity in matters which did not
directly concern him, his threat to invade England showed how unreal
were his wishes for a settled understanding. Great Britain declared
war on the 16th May 1803, thus ending a peace which had lasted one
year and sixteen days. An embargo was immediately laid on French ships
and those of her allies in British ports or on the sea; Napoleon had
been forestalled, an unusual occurrence. He had admitted to Decaen,
who had been sent to India to sum up the political situation and
to ascertain the number of troops necessary for the subjugation of
England’s oriental Empire, that he anticipated war would not break out
before September 1804. He was annoyed, intensely annoyed, and ordered
the seizure of every Briton in France on the pretext that two merchant
vessels had been captured by English frigates before the declaration of
war. This was a gross misrepresentation of facts; the ships mentioned
were taken on the 18th May, the day Nelson hoisted his flag on the
_Victory_ at Portsmouth as Commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean.
Within forty-eight hours he was at sea. His was a tremendous programme,
and it is only possible to give an epitome of it here. He was to
proceed to Malta, where he would probably find Rear-Admiral Sir Richard
Bickerton and his squadron, which were to join him. After having made
arrangements with Sir Alexander Ball for the protection and security of
the island, Nelson was to take up such a position off Toulon as would
enable him to destroy the enemy’s vessels and to detain those belonging
to the allied Batavian Republic. Particular attention was to be paid
to the proceedings of the French at Genoa, Leghorn, and other ports of
western Italy, “for the purpose of gaining the most early information
of any armaments that may be formed there, either with a view to an
attack upon Egypt or any other port of the Turkish dominions, or
against the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, or the islands of Corfu.”
Should such a plan be in contemplation Nelson was to do his best to
counteract it, “as well as to afford to the Sublime Porte, and his
Sicilian Majesty and their subjects, any protection or assistance which
may be in your power, consistently with a due attention to the other
important objects entrusted to your care.”

There were good reasons for watching the conduct of Spain, which
purported to be a neutral. The Admiral was therefore to watch for any
sign of naval preparations by that Power in the Mediterranean and at
Cadiz. No Spanish ships were to be allowed to form a junction with
those of France or Batavia. As certain French sail-of-the-line recently
employed in conveying troops to San Domingo might attempt to make for a
southern port, Nelson was to detach part of his squadron to intercept

We must now turn our attention for a moment to the other admirals who
watched the movements of the enemy’s squadrons, or guarded our shores.
Cornwallis was off Ushant, where he could mask the Brest fleet, Keith
was in the Downs, Lord Gardner was at Portsmouth, Admiral George
Montagu--shortly afterwards succeeded by Admiral Sir John Colpoys--was
at Plymouth. Squadrons were detached from these fleets to watch off
such important harbours as Ferrol and Rochefort, and also off the
coast of Holland. The British colonies were not neglected. “Floating
bulwarks” guarded them, for there was no knowing what deep-laid
manœuvres Napoleon might evolve when once his super-active brain was
bent on the problem of how to checkmate England on her own native

Meanwhile Nelson had reached Ushant and was searching for Cornwallis,
with whom he was to leave the _Victory_, should the former think an
additional sail-of-the-line necessary. As he did not find the Admiral
he left the ship, shifted his flag to the _Amphion_ frigate, called
at Malta, and joined the fleet off Toulon on the 8th July. “With
the casual absence of one or two ships, we shall be always seven
sail-of-the-line,” a none too formidable force to watch the “goings on”
in the great southern arsenal, but he stuck to it with grim tenacity
in fair weather and foul. He soon found that to all appearances from
seven to nine French battle-ships and a considerable number of frigates
and corvettes were sheltered in the harbour. Unfortunately Nelson’s
vessels were far from being in the best of condition; several of them
were scarcely water-tight. His correspondence teems with reference to
their bad state, as, for instance: “It is not a store-ship a week which
could keep them in repair”; they had “crazy masts”; “their hulls want
docking”; “I never saw a fleet altogether so well officered and manned.
Would to God the ships were half as good, but they are what we call
crazy”; “I do not believe that Lord St Vincent would have kept the sea
with such ships,” and so on.

With the _personnel_ of the fleet Nelson had little fault to find,
although he had occasion to issue a General Memorandum respecting the
desertion of certain seamen or marines to the service of Spain. In his
eyes nothing could atone for such conduct: “A Briton to put himself
under the lash of a Frenchman or Spaniard must be more degrading to any
man of spirit than any punishment I could inflict on their bodies.”
With this exception all was well. While “miserably short of men,” he
was able to declare, towards the end of September 1803: “We are at
this moment the healthiest squadron I ever served in, for the fact is
we have no sick, and are all in good humour,” moreover they were “in
fine order to give the French a dressing.” Again: “The squadron has
health beyond what I have almost ever seen, except our going to the
Nile; and I hope, if the French will give us the opportunity, that
our beef and pudding will be as well applied.” No Admiral, before or
since, has ever paid more attention to the health and comfort of the
men who served under him. In the Memorandum to which we have just
referred he contrasts the “one shilling per day, and plenty of the
very best provisions, with every comfort that can be thought of,”
with the “twopence a day, black bread, horse-beans, and stinking oil”
allotted to those in the service of the enemy. Scurvy was rife when he
joined the fleet, but Nelson obtained onions and lemons, recognised
aids to the cure of the disorder, “and a sight of the French squadron
twenty leagues at sea will cure all our complaints.” Writing in August
to his friend Dr Baird he seeks to entertain the physician by relating
particulars of his treatment for scurvy. “I am now at work in Spain,”
he remarks, “and have procured some bullocks and a good supply of
onions--the latter we have found the greatest advantage from.” He
adds: “The health of our seamen is invaluable; and to purchase that,
no expense ought to be spared.” He even managed to secure cattle and
vegetables from France. The fleet was watered at the Madalena Islands.

At the end of July the _Victory_, having been returned to the fleet
by Cornwallis, again became Nelson’s flagship. As to the ultimate
destination of the Toulon fleet Nelson was in doubt; that it was to
sail before long he felt convinced owing to the activity manifest in
the harbours. He rightly judged Napoleon’s character: “We know he
is not very scrupulous in the honourable means of accomplishing his
darling object.... My firm opinion is, that the Mediterranean will
again be an active scene; and if Ministers do not look out, I shall
have the Brest fleet to pay me a visit; for as the army can only be
moved by the protection of a superior fleet, that fleet they will try
to have, and a month’s start of us would do all the mischief.” At that
time (July) he believed that Napoleon would make an attempt on the
Morea, perhaps in concert with Russia, the downfall of the Turkish
Empire in Europe would follow, and “Candia and Egypt would, of course,
if this plan is followed, be given to the French, when, sooner or
later, farewell India!” Of the enormous flotilla which Napoleon was
building at Boulogne and elsewhere, Nelson thought little, if at all.
“What! he begins to find excuses!” he writes to Ball. “I thought he
would invade England in the face of the sun! Now he wants a three-days’
fog, that never yet happened! and if it did, how are his craft to be
kept together? He will soon find more excuses or there will be an end
of Bonaparte, and may the devil take him!” He was more concerned, and
with reason, as to the whereabouts of the fleet returning from San
Domingo, which he thought would “come to the Mediterranean--perhaps,
first to Cadiz, to get the Spaniards to escort them. If so, I may have
two fleets to fight; but if I have the ships, the more the merrier.”
In August the Admiral tells Addington: “I am looking out for the
French squadron--perhaps you may think impatiently; but I have made up
my mind never to go into port till after the battle, if they make me
wait a year, provided the Admiralty change the ships, who cannot keep
the sea in the winter, except _Victory_, _Canopus_, _Donegal_, and
_Belleisle_.” The fitting out of an expedition at Marseilles led Nelson
to think that the invasion of Sardinia was contemplated. He therefore
detached the only two frigates he had with him at the moment to cruise
off Ajaccio to endeavour to intercept the enemy should they come that
way. “Of course they will say that we have broken the neutrality if
we attack them in the ports of Sardinia before their conquest, and if
we do not I shall be laughed at for a fool. Prevention is better than
cure.... My station to the westward of Toulon, an unusual one, has been
taken upon an idea that the French fleet is bound out of the Straits,
and probably to Ireland. It is said 10,000 men are collecting at
Toulon. I shall follow them to the Antipodes.”

To Sir Richard Strachan he thus sums up the situation on the 26th
August: “The French fleet being perfectly ready for sea, seven of the
line, six frigates, and some corvettes--two sail-of-the-line are now
rigging in the arsenal--I think it more than probable that they are
bound to the westward, out of the Mediterranean. Therefore, as I am
determined to follow them, go where they may, I wish you, in case they
escape me, to send a frigate or sloop after them to find out their
route, giving her a station where I may find her, and keep yourself
either at the mouth of the Straits or off Europa Point, for I certainly
shall not anchor at Gibraltar.” In the middle of October he is still
as uncertain as ever as to the destination of the French. Some folk
favoured the Morea, others Egypt, “and they may be bound outside the
Mediterranean.” “Is it Ireland or the Levant?” he asks Ball in the
early days of dreary November.

Think for one moment, as you sit reading this book in a comfortable
room or on a little hillock in the open country, of the ceaseless vigil
of Nelson as his weather-beaten vessels lay off Toulon. When a sea fog
obscured his quarry he was in a fever of anxiety. “It was thick for two
days,” he tells his brother William on one occasion, “and our frigates
could not look into Toulon; however, I was relieved, for the first time
in my life, by being informed the French were still in port.” Then
there was always the possibility that the Brest fleet might escape and
make its appearance at an awkward moment, and the likelihood of a visit
from the returning squadron from the West Indies. He early discerned
the outbreak of war with Spain. Pretending to be a neutral, that Power
most assuredly exhibited the most flagrant favouritism for France. We
have noted that Nelson anticipated the aid of the Dons to the French
in the matter of the ships from San Domingo, help that was readily
given when the vessels, evading Rear-admiral Campbell, stole into
Coruña. This, of course, necessitated a strict blockade of the port,
and Pellew was sent there instead of stationing himself off Rochefort
as had been originally intended. References to them are frequent in his
correspondence. Writing to the British Consul at Barcelona under date
of the 13th September Nelson claimed “every indulgence which is shown
to the ships of our enemies. The French squadron at Coruña are acting
almost as they please; the _Aigle_ French ship of war is not turned
out of Cadiz,[63] the French frigate _Revenge_ is permitted to go out
of that port, cruise, and return with prizes, and sell them. I will
not state that every Spanish port is a home for French privateers, for
this is well known; and I am informed that even at Barcelona English
vessels captured by the French have been sold there. You will acquaint
his Excellency [the Captain-general] that I claim for every British
ship, or squadron, the right of lying as long as I please in the ports
of Spain, whilst it is allowed to other powers; that I claim the rights
of hospitality and civility, and every other right which the harmony
subsisting between our sovereigns entitles us to.” This communication
was followed thirteen days later by a despatch to Strachan in which
Nelson is not only prophetic, but exhibits a cautious mood not usually
associated with “the Nelson whom Britons love.” In this respect he has
been much maligned. In battle his genius enabled him to see a little
ahead of more ordinary men, but he never overstepped the bounds of
prudence. “The occurrences which pass every day in Spain forebode, I
fancy, a speedy war with England; therefore it becomes proper for me
to put you upon your guard, and advise you how to act under particular
circumstances. By looking at the former line of conduct on the part of
Spain, which she followed just before the commencement of the last war,
we may naturally expect the same events to happen. The French Admiral
Richery was in Cadiz, blocked up by Admiral Man: on 22 August they
came to sea attended by the Spanish fleet, which saw the French safe
beyond St Vincent, and returned into Cadiz. Admiral Man very properly
did not choose to attack Admiral Richery under such an escort. This is
a prelude to what I must request your strict attention to; at the same
time, I am fully aware that you must be guided, in some measure, by
actual circumstances.

“I think it very probable, even before Spain breaks with us, that
they may send a ship or two of the line to see _l’Aigle_ round Cape
St Vincent; and that if you attack her in their presence, they may
attack you; and giving them possession of the _Donegal_ would be more
than either you or I should wish, therefore I am certain it must be
very comfortable for you to know my sentiments. From what you hear
in Cadiz, you will judge how far you may venture yourself in company
with a Spanish squadron; but if you are of opinion that you may trust
yourself near them, keeping certainly out of gun-shot, send your boat
with a letter to the Spanish commodore, and desire to know whether he
means to defend the French ships; and get his answer in writing, and
have it as plain as possible. If it be ‘yes, that he will fire at you
if you attack the French under his protection,’ then, if you have force
enough, make your attack on the whole body, and take them all if you
can, for I should consider such an answer as a perfect declaration of
war. If you are too weak for such an attack, you must desist; but you
certainly are fully authorised to take the ships of Spain whenever
you meet them. Should the answer be ambiguous, you must then act as
your judgment may direct you, and I am sure that will be very proper.
Only recollect, that it would be much better to let the French ships
escape, than to run too great a risk of losing the _Donegal_, yourself,
and ship’s company.” To Addington he states that “The Spaniards are
now so very uncivil to our ships, that I suppose we shall not be much
longer friends.” To John Hookham Frere, _Chargé d’Affaires_ at Madrid,
he admits, “We have given up French vessels taken within gun-shot of
the Spanish shore, and yet French vessels are permitted to attack our
ships from the Spanish shore. Your Excellency may assure the Spanish
Government, that in whatever place the Spaniards allow the French to
attack us, in that place I shall order the French to be attacked. The
old order of 1771, now put in force against us, is infamous; and I
trust your Excellency will take proper steps that the present mode of
enforcing it be done away. It is gross partiality, and not neutrality.”

There is a pathetic letter dated the 12th December 1803 in which
Nelson confides to his old friend Davison some of the perils which he
encountered daily. “My crazy fleet,” he writes, “are getting in a very
indifferent state, and others will soon follow. The finest ships in the
service will soon be destroyed. I know well enough that if I was to go
into Malta, I should save the ships during this bad season. But if I
am to watch the French, I must be at sea, and if at sea, must have bad
weather; and if the ships are not fit to stand bad weather, they are
useless.... But my time of service is nearly over. A natural anxiety,
of course, must attend my station; but, my dear friend, my eyesight
fails me most dreadfully. I firmly believe that, in a very few years, I
shall be stone-blind. It is this only, of all my maladies, that makes
me unhappy; but God’s will be done.”

Nelson had taken up his station “to the westward of Sicie,” a
position enabling him “to prevent the junction of a Spanish fleet
from the westward,” and also “to take shelter in a few hours either
under the Hières Islands or Cape St Sebastian; and I have hitherto
found the advantage of the position. Now Spain, having settled her
neutrality”--he is writing on the 12th December to Lord St Vincent--“I
am taking my winter’s station under St Sebastian, to avoid the heavy
seas in the gulf, and keep frigates off Toulon. From September we have
experienced such a series of bad weather that is rarely met with, and
I am sorry to say that all the ships which have been from England in
the late war severely feel it.... I know no way of watching the enemy
but to be at sea, and therefore good ships are necessary.” On the same
day he informs a third correspondent that the enemy at Toulon “are
perfectly ready to put to sea, and they must soon come out, but who
shall [say] where they are bound? My opinion is, certainly out of the

“We have had a most terrible winter: it has almost knocked me up,” he
tells Elliot within a few days of the close of this anxious year. “I
have been very ill, and am now far from recovered, but I hope to hold
out till the battle is over, when I must recruit myself for some future

An Indomitable Spirit this, the greatest sailor of all time!


Twelve weary Months in the Mediterranean


  “_My wish is to make a grand_ coup.”


A new year had dawned. “The storm is brewing,” Nelson wrote, and he
thought Sardinia “one of the objects of its violence.” If that island
were captured or ceded to the enemy, “Sicily, Malta, Egypt, &c., &c.,
is lost, sooner or later.” The Madalena Islands, to the north of
Sardinia, not only afforded the ships a safe anchorage but ensured
plenty of fresh water and provisions: “Sardinia is the most important
post in the Mediterranean. It covers Naples, Sicily, Malta, Egypt,
and all the Turkish dominions; it blockades Toulon; the wind which
would carry a French fleet to the westward is fair from Sardinia; and
Madalena is the most important station in this most important island. I
am told that the revenues, after paying the expenses of the island, do
not give the king 5000 _l._ sterling a year. If it is so, I would give
him 500,000 _l._ to cede it, which would give him 25,000 _l._ a year
for ever. This is only my conversation, and not to be noticed--but the
king cannot long hold Sardinia.” On the 11th February 1804 he assures
“my dear friend” Ball that “we are ... on the eve of great events; the
sooner they come the better.” Private letters led him to believe that
the squadrons at Brest and Ferrol were to form a junction with that at
Toulon. Should his surmise prove correct he inferred an invasion of
both the Morea and Egypt, a belief fostered by the wily Napoleon by
means of a camp under General St Cyr at Taranto, in the heel of Italy.

Nelson communicated his notions to the Grand Vizier. “Your Highness,”
he adds, “knows them too well to put any confidence in what they say.
Bonaparte’s tongue is that of a serpent oiled. Nothing shall be wanting
on my part to frustrate the designs of this common disturber of the
human race.”

He pens a little grumble to Dr Moseley in March, complaining that the
Mediterranean fleet seems “forgotten by the great folks at home,” but
adding with pardonable pride that although the vessels have been at sea
a week short of ten months, “not a ship has been refitted or recruited,
excepting what has been done at sea. You will readily believe that all
this must have shaken me. My sight is getting very bad, but _I_ must
not be sick until after the French fleet is taken.” He includes some
facts regarding his manifold interests as Commander-in-chief. He always
had good mutton for invalids, gave half the allowance of grog instead
of all wine in winter, changed the cruising ground so as not to allow
“the sameness of prospect to satiate the mind,” obtained onions, “the
best thing that can be given to seamen,” by sending a ship for them to
Corsica, and always had “plenty of fresh water.” In the stirring days
of the first decade of the nineteenth century a British Admiral was in
very truth “shepherd of his flock.” He thought for the men and their
officers, saw to their creature comforts, even provided amusement for
them. Moreover, he had to be a diplomatist, something of a soldier,
and a man of resource and reliance. The sailors of England alone
made invasion impossible and nullified the superhuman efforts of the
greatest soldier of recorded history to subjugate the Island Kingdom.
Unpreparedness is peculiarly characteristic of British policy. It
will not surprise students to be told at the beginning of 1804 there
were ten fewer sail-of-the-line than had been available before the
Peace of Amiens. Weight of brain has won more battles than weight of
metal, although it is safer and wiser to have a preponderating supply
of both. We shall see what a dearth of frigates, which are “the eyes of
a fleet,” to use Nelson’s apt expression, meant to the Admiral in the
prelude to the Trafalgar campaign. He was already complaining of their

La Touche Tréville was now in command at Toulon. Nelson disliked the
man as sincerely as he loathed the nation whom he represented; he
could “never trust a Corsican or a Frenchman.” La Touche Tréville had
been commodore, it will be remembered, of the Boulogne flotilla when
Nelson had made his abortive attacks on it. These were lauded all over
France as “glorious contests.” Nelson was what is usually called, by
a strange misnomer, “a good hater.” Thus to duty was added a personal
rivalry that filled him with an ardent longing to “get even” with his

Napoleon had now a sufficient number of small boats at Boulogne and
neighbouring ports for the conveyance of his 130,000 troops to England.
He had abandoned his original plan and was determined that the Navy
proper should play an important part in the perilous project. The
Toulon fleet, after releasing the French _l’Aigle_ at Cadiz, was to be
joined by five ships off Rochefort under Villeneuve, and then hasten
to Boulogne to convoy the flotilla. The rôle of the squadron at Brest
was to be passive, although reports were spread far and wide that the
ships there were to take an army to Ireland. This was done so that
Cornwallis, blockading that port, might not form a junction with the
squadron in the Downs for the purpose of opposing the crossing of the
vast armament from the northern seaport. If all these combinations were
successfully carried out Napoleon would have sixteen sail-of-the-line
ready for the master-stroke. Everything depended on whether the English
blockading squadrons off Toulon, Cadiz, Rochefort, and in the Downs
could be eluded.

On the 8th April Nelson again wrote, “We are on the eve of
great events,” and proceeded to tell his correspondent that two
sail-of-the-line had “put their heads outside Toulon,” and a little
later “they all came out. We have had a gale of wind and calm since;
therefore I do not know whether they are returned to port or have kept
the sea. I have only to wish to get alongside of them with the present
fleet under my command; so highly officered and manned, the event ought
not to be doubted.”

“If we go on playing out and in, we shall some day get at them,” he
tells Frere.

Monsieur La Touche was merely exercising his ships; the time for the
grand coup was not yet come. Nelson’s opinion now was that the Brest
fleet and a squadron he does not name, but probably that at Rochefort,
were destined for the Mediterranean “either before or after they may
have thrown their cargo of troops on shore in Ireland. Egypt and the
Morea supposed to be their next object after their English and Irish
schemes.” On the 24th May the French made a further excursion, five
sail-of-the-line, three frigates, and several smaller vessels came
out of the harbour, which was being watched by a small squadron under
Rear-Admiral Campbell. Nelson did not believe in showing the whole of
his available resources to the enemy. By being out of sight he hoped
to entice the enemy to leave their safe anchorage: “My system is the
very contrary of blockading.” He was delighted that Campbell did not
allow the French to bring him to action with the small resources at
his disposal, which is another example of Nelson’s cautious methods.
He thanked the admiral by letter, and concluded by saying, “I have no
doubt but an opportunity will offer of giving them fair battle.”

Nelson continued to complain of ill health. “A sort of rheumatic
fever,” “blood gushing up the left side of my head, and the moment it
covers the brain, I am fast asleep,” a “violent pain in my side, and
night-sweats”--this is his condition as he diagnosed it to Dr Baird
on the 30th May. A week later he is buoyant at the thought of battle:
“Some happy day I expect to see his (La Touche Tréville’s) eight sail,
which are in the outer road, come out; and if he will get abreast of
Porquerolle, I will try what stuff he is made of; therefore you see I
have no occasion to be fretful; on the contrary, I am full of hopes,
and command a fleet which never gives me an uneasy moment.”

Eight French sail-of-the-line, accompanied by half a dozen frigates,
made an excursion on the 14th June, and Campbell was again chased. The
latter sailed towards the main fleet, but La Touche Tréville was by
no means anxious to try conclusions with his old enemy. After sailing
about four leagues, he crept back to safer quarters. The British
Admiral afterwards referred to this little excursion as a “caper.” “I
was off with five ships-of-the-line,” he adds, “and brought to for his
attack, although I did not believe that anything was meant serious, but
merely a gasconade.” With this conclusion La Touche Tréville begged
to differ. He saw in the “caper” a bold manœuvre and an excellent
opportunity for currying favour in the eyes of his exacting chief,
who by no means overrated the commander’s abilities. His despatch to
Napoleon runs as follows:[64]

“I have the honour to give you an account of the _sortie_ of the whole
of the squadron under my orders. Having been advised that several
English privateers were infesting the coast and the Islands of Hyères,
I gave orders, three days ago, to the frigates _Incorruptible_ and
_Siren_ and the brig _Ferret_ to proceed to the Bay of Hyères. The
Easterly wind being against them they anchored under the Castle
of Porqueroles. Yesterday morning the enemy became aware of their
presence. Towards noon they detached two frigates and another vessel,
which entered by the broad passage with the intention of cutting off
the retreat of our frigates. As soon as I saw this manœuvre I signalled
to the whole squadron to make sail, and this was done. In fourteen
minutes all were under sail and I made for the enemy in order to cut
him off from the narrow passage and to follow him up if he attempted
it. But the English Admiral soon gave up his design, recalled his
vessel and his two frigates engaged amongst the Islands and took to
flight. I pursued him till nightfall; he was heading for the S.E. At
daybreak I had lost sight of him.”

When Nelson heard of this communication he was furious. “You will
have seen his letter of how he chased me and how I ran,” he tells his
brother, the Rev. W. Nelson. “I keep it; and, by ----, if I take him he
shall eat it!”

Nelson continued to fear the loss of Sardinia, which “will be great
indeed.” In this matter he was wrong, for Napoleon entertained no idea
of conquest in that direction. There was every indication, on the other
hand, that he might do so, and the Admiral is not to be blamed but
praised for his zeal in behalf of the island which meant so much to the
fleet under his command. When he heard that Vice-Admiral Ganteaume had
hoisted his flag at Brest he was sure that an attempt would be made to
reach the Mediterranean. “The French navy is daily increasing, both
at Toulon and Brest, whilst ours is as clearly going down-hill,” is
Nelson’s summing-up of the situation in the early days of July 1804.
He then pours out the vials of his wrath on Addington’s administration
because it had not taken sufficiently to heart the old adage, “in times
of peace prepare for war”: “We made use of the peace, not to recruit
our navy, but to be the cause of its ruin. Nothing but a speedy battle,
a complete annihilation of the enemy’s fleets, and a seven years’
peace, can get our fleet in the order it ought to be; therefore I,
for one, do not wish to be shackled with allies. I am for assisting
Europe to the utmost of my power, but no treaties, which England only
keeps.” This was with reference to a suggested treaty with Russia:
“Such alliances have never benefited our country.” Europe, he says, is
“degenerate.” A month later he refers to his “shattered carcase,” which
“requires rest.” Then he bows to Fate, says he submits, and states that
all his wishes “now rest that I may meet Monsieur La Touche before
October is over.”

La Touche Tréville died on the 18th August 1804. He was buried on Cape
Sepet, his successor, Villeneuve, making a funeral oration. Unaware
that his enemy was vanquished, we find Nelson writing on the 19th that
“Such a liar is below my notice, except to thrash him, which will be
done,” if in his power. “I never heard of his acting otherwise than
as a poltroon and a liar,” is another of his remarks, which scarcely
soften when he heard the “miscreant” was in his coffin: “La Touche has
given me the slip--he died of the colic; perhaps Bonaparte’s, for they
say he was a rank republican.” With misplaced humour the French press
asserted that the Admiral had died of over-exertion due to “walking so
often up to the signal-post upon Sepet to watch the British fleet.”

War with Spain, which Nelson had predicted, was formally declared by
that Power on the 12th December 1804. Napoleon had already exacted
a handsome annual sum from her treasury, a matter overlooked by
the British Government for reasons of policy. When he secured the
assistance of the Spanish navy, Pitt, who was again in office, refused
to be hoodwinked, and warned the traitorous neutrals. As this was
unheeded, four frigates, two of which belonged to Nelson’s fleet, were
sent to intercept four treasure ships from South America off Cadiz.
The two forces came in sight on the 5th October. Although the Spanish
vessels were not prepared to fight, an action took place consequent on
the commander refusing to surrender. The Spanish _Mercedes_ blew up,
and the others were seized as prizes. A declaration of war, prompted by
Napoleon, was the result. The ruler of France was playing into his own
hands with his usual unscrupulous skill.

The command off Cadiz had now been given to Sir John Orde. Nelson,
quite naturally, did not approve this apportioning out of what he
regarded as his own preserves. “I almost begin to think,” he says,
with reference to Orde, “that he is sent off Cadiz to reap the golden
harvest, as Campbell was sent off Cadiz by Cornwallis (by orders from
England) to reap my sugar harvest. It’s very odd, two Admiralties to
treat me so: surely I have dreamt that I have ‘done the State some
service.’ But never mind; I am superior to those who could treat me so.
When am I to be relieved?”

Not yet! There was much to do and darker days to be lived through
before the Master Mariner could sleep peacefully ashore.


The Crisis


  “_We know the success of a man’s measures is the criterion by which
  we judge of the wisdom or folly of his measures. I have done my


Napoleon had now completed further plans. These he fondly hoped
would lead to the downfall of British rule in the United Kingdom and
the eventual dismemberment of the Empire. His strategy, if somewhat
involved, was deeply laid. Instead of concentrating his fleet in
European waters, that very essential part of the programme was to be
undertaken in the Atlantic. By means of feints and false intelligence
it was anticipated that Nelson would again suppose that the East
was the destination of the French armament. Again much depended on
whether Napoleon’s commanders at Rochefort and Toulon would prove
sufficiently clever to elude the blockading squadrons and to carry out
the subsequent junction. The former was to make for Martinique, the
latter for Cayenne. Having spread ruin and disaster in the British West
Indies, they were to unite, release the squadron at Ferrol, and return
to Rochefort to threaten Cornwallis, who would thus be precluded from
lending assistance elsewhere. Ganteaume at Brest was to play the chief
part. He was to make a descent on Ireland while his colleagues were
crossing the Atlantic and then cover the invading army from Boulogne.

On the 11th January 1805 Missiessy, in command at Rochefort, made good
his escape, and eventually reached the West Indies. A week after his
colleague had left port Villeneuve was also at sea. The great war game
had begun. “Our frigates saw part of them all day, and were chased by
some of the ships,” Nelson informs Sir John Acton. The Admiral received
the report of the enemy’s sailing at Madalena at 3 P.M. on the 19th.
Three hours later “the whole fleet was at sea,” steering for the south
end of Sardinia, “where I could have little fear but that I should meet
them; for, from all I have heard from the captains of the frigates,
the enemy must be bound round the south end of Sardinia, but whether
to Cagliari, Sicily, the Morea, or Egypt, I am most completely in
ignorance.” He warns Acton to be on his guard for Sicily and to send
information to Naples. On the 21st a French frigate was discerned off
the south end of Sardinia, but became lost in the fog, and a little
later Nelson heard that one of the French sail-of-the-line had put in
at Ajaccio in a distressed condition. On the 27th he was off Palermo.
“One of two things must have happened,” he conjectures, “that either
the French fleet must have put back crippled, or that they are gone
to the eastward, probably to Egypt, therefore I find no difficulty in
pursuing the line of conduct I have adopted. If the enemy have put back
crippled, I could never overtake them, and therefore I can do no harm
in going to the eastward; and if the enemy are gone to the eastward, I
am right.” He sent vessels to call at Elba, San Fiorenzo, Malta, Tunis,
Pantellaria, Toro and other places to obtain information. He believed
that eleven sail-of-the-line and nine smaller vessels were at sea. “I
shall only hope to fall in with them.”

On the 11th February Nelson was still in “total ignorance” regarding
the whereabouts of the French fleet, but was more than ever confirmed
in his opinion that Egypt was its destination. He had set off for the
Morea, and then proceeded to Egypt, but the enemy had eluded him.
It was not until he arrived off Malta on the 19th that he received
authentic information that the Toulon fleet had put back to port “in a
very crippled state.” He himself was able to report that the health of
his men was excellent, and “although we have experienced a great deal
of bad weather, have received no damage, and not a yard or mast sprung
or crippled, or scarcely a sail split.” “I have consulted no man,” he
had written to Lord Melville on the anniversary of the battle of Cape
St Vincent, “therefore the whole blame in forming my judgment must rest
with me. I would allow no man to take from me an atom of my glory had I
fallen in with the French fleet, nor do I desire any man to partake of
any of the responsibility--all is mine, right or wrong.”

Misfortune had dogged Villeneuve almost from the moment he had left
Toulon. After encountering a gale in the Gulf of Lyons his ships were
in such a pitiful state that there was no alternative but to return.
He complained bitterly, and not without reason, to the Minister of
Marine about the wretched condition of the fleet at his disposal. The
vessels, according to his report, were built of superannuated or bad
materials, and lost masts or sails “at every puff of wind.” In addition
they were short-handed, the sailors were inexperienced, and the decks
were encumbered with troops. Napoleon, who never appreciated the many
difficulties of navigation, let alone of naval warfare, entertained the
notion that the Navy could be run with practically as much precision as
the Army; conditions of weather he almost contemptuously dismissed as
of little account. He abruptly tells Villeneuve the plain unvarnished
truth, namely that the great evil of the service “is that the men who
command it are unused to all the risks of command.” Almost in despair
he asks, “What is to be done with admirals who allow their spirits
to sink, and determine to hasten home at the first damage they may

Villeneuve was not a courageous commander. He hated taking risks. It
may be that he realised his own personal limitations to some extent; it
is certain that he fully appreciated those of his men and of his ships.
The only training-place for sailors is the sea, and such excursions as
had been made were as nothing compared to the daily encounters with
storm, wind and tide which fell to the lot of the blockading squadron
below the horizon.

Such obvious facts appealed to that sense of grim humour which is
so essentially characteristic of Nelson. He thoroughly enjoyed his
adversary’s discomfiture, and poked fun at Napoleon, his men and
his methods, on every possible occasion. “Bonaparte,” he writes to
Collingwood on the 13th March, “has often made his brags that our fleet
would be worn out by keeping the sea; that his was kept in order and
increasing by staying in port; but he now finds, I fancy, if _Emperors_
hear truth, that his fleet suffers more in one night than ours in a

Napoleon, now the Imperial Incarnation of the Revolution, for he had
crowned himself Emperor of the French on the 2nd December 1804, was
not to be thwarted because his subordinates had failed to bring his
giant schemes to a successful issue on two distinct occasions. He was
obsessed by a desire to “leap the ditch.” To humble that Island Power
which was ever in his way, to strike at the very heart of that England
whose wealth was lavished in fostering coalition after coalition, were
now his fondest hopes. He thought, talked, and wrote of little else.

While his third plan was more involved than the others, it had the
advantage of calling a greater number of ships into service. Villeneuve
was to start from Toulon with eleven ships, release the Spanish
squadron of six sail-of-the-line under the command of Admiral Gravina,
and one French ship, at Cadiz, and then make for Martinique, where he
would find Missiessy’s squadron of five sail. In a similar manner the
twenty-one ships of Ganteaume’s fleet at Brest were to rally Gourdon’s
fifteen vessels at Ferrol and also proceed to the West Indies. Thus
no fewer than fifty-nine sail and many smaller vessels would be
congregated for the final effort. While Nelson was searching for them,
this immense armament, with Ganteaume in supreme command, would recross
the Atlantic, appear off Boulogne, and convoy the flotilla to England.
It is unnecessary to give the alternative plans furnished to the
admirals. To do so would only tend to involve the broad outline of the
manœuvre as detailed above and serve no essential purpose.

Spurred on by Napoleon’s displeasure, Villeneuve put to sea on the
night of the 30th March 1805, and was sighted “with all sail set” by
two British frigates on the following morning. It was not until the
4th April that Nelson, then off Toro, received this useful if vague
intelligence, for the frigate which had followed in the tracks of
the Toulon fleet had lost sight of the enemy. Her captain “thinks
they either bore away to the eastward or steered S.S.W., as they were
going when first seen,” Nelson informs the Admiralty. He “covered
the Channel from Barbary to Toro with frigates and the fleet” in the
hope of discovering them or obtaining reliable information as to
their whereabouts. On the 18th April he says, “I am going out of the
Mediterranean after the French fleet. It may be thought that I have
protected too well Sardinia, Naples, Sicily, the Morea, and Egypt, from
the French; but I feel I have done right, and am therefore easy about
any fate which may await me for having missed the French fleet. I have
left five frigates, besides the sloops, &c., stationed at Malta for the
present service of the Mediterranean, and with the Neapolitan squadron
will, of course, be fully able to prevent any force the French have
left to convoy troops to Sicily.”

Nelson only succeeded in making sixty-five leagues in nine days “owing
to very bad weather.” It was not until the 18th April, when Villeneuve
had been at sea nearly three weeks, that he had news of the enemy
having passed through the Straits on the 8th. “I am proceeding with the
fleet under my command as expeditiously as possible to the westward in
pursuit of them.” Sir John Orde had so far forgotten or neglected his
duty that when Villeneuve made his appearance at Cadiz the commander of
the blockading squadron made off without either sending word to Nelson
or leaving a frigate to keep in touch with the enemy. Consequently
Nelson was still uncertain as to their destination. “The circumstance
of their having taken the Spanish ships which were [ready] for sea
from Cadiz, satisfies my mind that they are not bound to the West
Indies (nor probably the Brazils); but intend forming a junction with
the squadron at Ferrol, and pushing direct for Ireland or Brest, as I
believe the French have troops on board.” When off Tetuan on the 4th
May he rightly observes, “I cannot very properly run to the West Indies
without something beyond mere surmise; and if I defer my departure,
Jamaica may be lost. Indeed, as they have a month’s start of me, I see
no prospect of getting out time enough to prevent much mischief from
being done.” Gibraltar Bay was reached on the 6th May, and at 6 P.M.,
Nelson was making his way through the Gut owing to there being “every
appearance of a Levanter coming on.” Off Cape St Vincent he hoped to be
met by a frigate from Orde with intelligence of the enemy’s route and
also by a frigate from Lisbon. “If nothing is heard of them from Lisbon
or from the frigates I may find off Cape St Vincent, I shall probably
think the rumours which are spread are true, that their destination
is the West Indies, and in that case think it my duty to follow them,
or to the Antipodes, should I believe that to be their destination. I
shall detach a sloop of war to England from off the Cape, when my mind
is made up from either information or the want of it.”

Nelson’s idea as to the destination of the allied fleet was
corroborated by Commodore Donald Campbell, a Scotsman who had entered
the Portuguese navy. After clearing transports and taking on board
sufficient provisions for five months, he set out from Lagos Bay with
ten sail-of-the-line and a number of smaller craft on his long chase.
“My lot is cast,” he hurriedly informs Ball, “and I am going to the
West Indies, where, although I am late, yet chance may have given them
a bad passage and me a good one. I must hope the best.”

Many minds, many opinions. What had become of the Allied fleet? Even
more important, what had it accomplished? Such questions must have been
ever present in the mind of Nelson and his officers. Everything about
the enemy was so vague as almost to suggest a phantom fleet. “I still
think Jamaica is their object,” is Nelson’s comment on the 27th of May
when making for Barbadoes, “but many think Surinam or Trinidad; and
Bayntun, that they will land their troops at the city of San Domingo.
In short, everyone has an opinion, but it will soon be beyond doubt.
Our passage, although not very quick, has been far from a bad one. They
started from Cadiz thirty-one days before we did from St Vincent, and I
think we shall gain fourteen days upon them in the passage; therefore
they will only arrive seventeen days before us at Martinique, for I
suppose them bound there. I shall not anchor at Barbadoes.... I have
prayed Lord Seaforth to lay an embargo, that the French may not know of
my approach, and thus again elude our vigilance. My mind is not altered
that Egypt was their destination last January.” Eight days later,
when the fleet was in Carlisle Bay, Barbadoes, and Nelson’s force had
been augmented by the addition of two battleships under Cochrane, we
are informed that “There is not a doubt in any of the admirals’ or
generals’ minds, but that Tobago and Trinidad are the enemy’s objects;
and although I am anxious in the extreme to get at their eighteen
sail-of-the-line, yet, as Sir William Myers has offered to embark
himself with 2000 troops, I cannot refuse such a handsome offer; and,
with the blessing of God on a just cause, I see no cause to doubt of
the annihilation of both the enemy’s fleet and army.”

It happened that the general had received a letter on the previous
night from Brigadier-General Brereton, stationed at St Lucia, informing
him that the enemy’s fleet, “steering to the southward,” had been
reported as passing that island during the late hours of the 28th May.
According to Brereton’s supposition its destination “must be either
Barbadoes or Trinidad.”

Knowing full well that if the intelligence proved false it would lose
him the French fleet, but having no alternative, Nelson set off for
Tobago, where he learnt from the captain of an American vessel that
his ship had been boarded by a French sail-of-the-line the day before.
Then he received a signal from a passing ship that the enemy was at
Trinidad, where he anchored on the 7th June. Another report came to
land that on the 4th the enemy had been at Fort Royal and was likely
to sail during the night for the attack of Grenada. He was at the
latter island on the 9th, and heard that the enemy had not only passed
Dominica three days before, “standing to the northward,” but had been
lucky enough to capture a convoy of ships laden with sugar. Nelson
peeped in at Montserrat on the 11th; on the 13th the troops were being
disembarked at St John’s, Antigua, at which place the fleet had arrived
the previous evening. “At noon I sailed in my pursuit of the enemy;
and I do not yet despair of getting up with them before they arrive at
Cadiz or Toulon, to which ports I think they are bound, or at least
in time to prevent them from having a moment’s superiority. I have no
reason to blame Dame Fortune. If either General Brereton could not have
wrote, or his look-out man had been blind, nothing could have prevented
my fighting them on 6 June; but such information, and from such a
quarter, close to the enemy, could not be doubted.” He had already
sent a fast-sailing brig with despatches to the Admiralty informing
them of the probable return of the combined fleet to Europe, although
so late as the 18th July he was not sure that the enemy had not tricked
him and gone to Jamaica. With commendable alacrity Admiral Stirling was
told to form a junction with Sir Robert Calder off Ferrol, and to await
the enemy, for the commander of the brig has sighted the quarry and
was of opinion from the course they were making that the neighbourhood
of Cape Finisterre was their desired haven. It has remained for two
modern historians to point out that Nelson had discerned the likelihood
of Ferrol as an anchorage for Villeneuve’s fleet, and had forwarded a
warning to the Admiral stationed off that port.[65]

On the date just mentioned Nelson joined Collingwood off Cadiz, but
no accurate news awaited him. Indeed, the former pinned his faith
to an attack on Ireland as the grand _finale_ of Napoleon’s naval
manœuvres. At Gibraltar the Admiral went on shore for the first time
since the 16th June, 1803--over two years. From thence he proceeded to
Cornwallis’s station off Ushant, and received orders from the Admiral
to sail with the _Victory_ and the _Superb_ for Spithead. He struck his
flag on the 19th August 1805 and set off for Merton.

To what extent had Napoleon’s plans succeeded? Villeneuve had reached
Martinique on the 14th May, only to find that Missiessy had not awaited
his coming according to instructions. Ganteaume was also unable to
carry out his part of the plan, consequently Villeneuve was alone in
the West Indies and might become Nelson’s prey at any moment. The
prospect did not please him. When he heard that the great British
commander had not only arrived at Barbadoes but had been reinforced
by Cochrane he set the bows of his ships in the direction of home,
contrary to the Emperor’s orders to wait for a stated period for
Ganteaume’s arrival. So far from raiding the British West Indies,
Villeneuve only succeeded in capturing the Diamond Rock at Martinique
and Missiessy in taking Dominica, although the latter had reinforced
the French colonies.

After a perilous voyage Villeneuve was approaching Ferrol in thick
weather on the 22nd July when he came face to face with the squadron of
fifteen battleships and four smaller vessels which had been sent by the
Admiralty to await his coming. The action which followed was anything
but decisive. The fleet Nelson had longed to annihilate was allowed to
escape by Calder, whose only prizes were the Spanish _San Rafael_ (84)
and _El Firme_ (74). After leaving three of his less seaworthy ships at
Vigo, the French commander eventually reached Coruña.

Another Act of the great Atlantic Drama was over.


Nelson’s Last Command


  “_May the God of Battles crown my endeavours with success._”


In the previous chapter we left Nelson at Portsmouth after having
chased the enemy nearly seven thousand miles, and been absent from
home twenty-seven months. When “England’s darling” set foot on the
landing-stage he received an immense ovation from the crowds of people
who had assembled to show their appreciation of his services. “It is
really quite affecting to see the wonder and admiration and love and
respect of the whole world,” writes Lord Minto, referring to a mob in
Piccadilly a little later, “and the general expression of all these
sentiments at once, from gentle and simple, the moment he is seen. It
is beyond anything represented in a play or poem.”

It was characteristic of the man that, before leaving his ship,
he communicated with the Admiralty regarding the companies of the
_Victory_ and the _Superb_. He said they were in “most perfect health,
and only require some vegetables and other refreshments to remove the
scurvy.” Nelson at once proceeded to Merton, where he lived in quiet
retirement with Lady Hamilton, playing with their beloved Horatia, or
having a mental tussle with the French as he walked the garden-paths
for hours without noticing either the passing of time or the presence
of fatigue. Perhaps he pondered over the irony of Fate in giving
the allied fleet into the hands of Calder, who had let the golden
opportunity slip by him so easily, but more probably he wondered if the
fickle goddess would yet allow him to break the yoke of Napoleon on the

The Emperor had made a final effort to unite his scattered ships.
When the combined fleet was on its way to Europe the blockades of
Rochefort and Ferrol had been abandoned so that Calder might intercept
the enemy. He was but partially successful, as already explained. The
squadron of five sail-of-the-line at Rochefort, commanded by Allemand,
Missiessy’s successor, had taken advantage of the temporary absence
of the British squadron and was making its way to Vigo, where there
were three sail.[66] Villeneuve had put into Coruña with fifteen
battle-ships, and found fourteen Spanish and French sail-of-the-line
awaiting him. This brought the total of his available resources to
thirty-four sail, provided all were united. If Villeneuve were able to
join Ganteaume at Brest the number would be fifty-five. Cornwallis,
with either thirty-four or thirty-five, was a dangerous menace, but
when that commander detached eighteen sail to blockade Ferrol it did
not seem insurmountable, even supposing that the five ships under
Calder, then stationed off Rochefort, joined him, which they did on the
14th August. After considerable delay Villeneuve weighed anchor on the
13th August 1805, and hoped to reach Brest. He encountered bad weather,
mistook Allemand’s ships for the enemy’s vessels, and, to make matters
worse, was informed that a large British fleet was on the alert. With
this he altered his course and put in at Cadiz a week later. Here he
was watched by Collingwood with three sail-of-the-line and two smaller
vessels, until the latter was reinforced by twenty-two battleships,
four of which were under Sir Richard Bickerton and the remainder under
Calder. When Napoleon heard of Villeneuve’s retirement to Cadiz he knew
that his gigantic exertions for the invasion of the United Kingdom
had been completely shattered. With marvellous facility he shifted his
horizon from the white cliffs of England to the wooded banks of the
Danube. The so-called Army of England was marched from Boulogne to win
fresh conquests in the Austerlitz Campaign and to crush yet another

At five o’clock on the morning of the 2nd September 1805, Captain
Blackwood presented himself at Merton. “I am sure you bring me news
of the French and Spanish fleets,” Nelson exclaimed in his eager,
boyish way, “and I think I shall yet have to beat them.” Blackwood
was the bearer of the important intelligence that Villeneuve, largely
augmented, was at Cadiz. For a time it would appear as if Nelson
hesitated, not on his own account but because of those whom he loved.
His health was bad, he felt the country very restful after his trying
cruise, and he disliked to give Lady Hamilton cause for further
anxiety. He walked the “quarter-deck” in his garden weighing the pros
with the cons, then set off for the Admiralty in Whitehall.

“I think I shall yet have to beat them.” His mistress was apparently no
less valiant, at least in her conversation. “Nelson,” she is stated to
have said, “however we may lament your absence, offer your services;
they will be accepted, and you will gain a quiet heart by it; you will
have a glorious victory, and then you may return here, and be happy.”

Eleven days after Captain Blackwood’s call Nelson left Merton for ever.
It was a fearful wrench, but he was prepared to sacrifice everything
to his King and his country. The following night he wrote in his
Diary, little thinking that the outpourings of his spirit would ever
be revealed in the lurid light of publicity, a prayer which shows very
clearly that he had a premonition he would never open its pages again
under the roof of Merton Place:

“May the great God, whom I adore, enable me to fulfil the expectations
of my Country; and if it is His good pleasure that I should return, my
thanks will never cease being offered up to the Throne of His Mercy.
If it is His good Providence to cut short my days upon earth, I bow
with the greatest submission, relying that He will protect those so
dear to me, that I may leave behind. His will be done. Amen, Amen,

The _Victory_, on which he hoisted his flag, had been hastily patched
up and put in fighting trim. As her escort went the _Euryalus_ frigate,
joined later by the _Ajax_ and _Thunderer_.

Collingwood and Calder “sat tight” outside Cadiz harbour with one eye
on the enemy and the other searching for signs of the British ships,
for they had heard that Nelson would be with them ere long. Later,
“my dear Coll” received further tidings by the _Euryalus_ requesting
that “not only no salute may take place, but also that no colours may
be hoisted: for it is as well not to proclaim to the enemy every ship
which may join the fleet.” The supreme modesty of Nelson stands out
clearly in the last words of the note: “I would not have any salute,
even if you are out of sight of land.”

The day before his forty-seventh birthday, Nelson hove in sight
of Cadiz and assumed command. On the 29th the officers came to
congratulate him. “The reception I met with on joining the fleet,”
he declares, “caused the sweetest sensation of my life. The
officers who came on board to welcome my return, forgot my rank as
Commander-in-chief in the enthusiasm with which they greeted me. As
soon as these emotions were past, I laid before them the plan I had
previously arranged for attacking the enemy; and it was not only my
pleasure to find it generally approved, but clearly perceived and
understood.” Again: “Some shed tears, all approved,” he writes, “it
was new, it was singular, it was simple; and from Admirals downwards
it was repeated, ‘It must succeed if ever they will allow us to get at
them! You are, my Lord, surrounded by friends whom you inspire with
confidence.’”[67] In due course the complete plan of attack was issued.

On October 19th the signal, “The enemy are coming out of port,” flew
from the mastheads of the frigates stationed to watch the goings-on in
the harbour. Thirty-three ships-of-the-line, with five frigates and
two brigs, had passed out by the following day. They were certainly
“painted ships,” with their vividly-coloured hulls of red and black,
yellow and black, and black and white. Their mission was to support
Napoleon’s army in the south of Italy.

Once at sea the combined fleet sailed in two divisions, as had been
agreed upon by Villeneuve and Gravina, the commander of the Spanish
vessels. The French Admiral’s own squadron, the _Corps de bataille_,
was made up of twenty-one sail-of-the-line, the centre under Villeneuve
himself, the van under Alava, and the rear under Dumanoir. The _Corps
de réserve_, or Squadron of Observation, consisted of twelve ships
divided into two squadrons of equal strength, each commanded by Gravina
and Magon respectively. The duty of the _Corps de réserve_ was to watch
the battle and to reinforce any weak point as opportunity occurred.

Nelson’s force consisted of twenty-seven men-o’-war, four frigates,
a schooner, and a cutter. The enemy, therefore, had the advantage
as regards heavy ships, of six sail-of-the-line. In armament the
combatants were nearly equal,[68] as in bravery and daring, but very
inferior in seamanship and general _morale_. It was very necessary to
prevent the enemy from entering the Mediterranean, as Napoleon’s orders
strictly enjoined them to do, therefore the signal was made for a
“general chase S.E.,” namely, towards the Straits of Gibraltar.

Napoleon had resolved to supersede Villeneuve by Rosily. This decision
probably carried more weight with the French Admiral than any other,
and had determined his course of action, although at a council of war,
held before anchors were weighed, a resolution was passed to avoid an
engagement with the British if possible. Of personal courage he had no
lack, for he wrote to Decrès, the Minister of Marine, “if the French
navy has been deficient in nothing but courage, as it is alleged,
the Emperor shall soon be satisfied, and he may reckon upon the most
splendid success.” His great hope was that he might elude detection and
land the troops he had on board at Naples. He was without faith in his

Having seen that his orders were carried out, Nelson went to his cabin
and began the last letter he was destined to write to Lady Hamilton.
Here it is in full:

          “_Victory_, October 19th 1805.  Noon.
            “CADIZ, E.S.E. 16 Leagues.

  has been made that the Enemy’s Combined Fleet are coming out of
  Port. We have very little wind, so that I have no hopes of seeing
  them before to-morrow. May the God of Battles crown my endeavours
  with success; at all events, I will take care that my name shall
  ever be most dear to you and Horatia, both of whom I love as much
  as my own life. And as my last writing before the Battle will be to
  you, so I hope in God that I shall live to finish my letter after
  the Battle. May Heaven bless you, prays your

            “NELSON AND BRONTÉ.

  “October 20th.--In the morning, we were close to the Mouth of the
  Straits, but the wind had not come far enough to the Westward to
  allow the Combined Fleets to weather the Shoals of Trafalgar; but
  they were counted as far as forty Sail of Ships of War, which I
  suppose to be thirty-four of the Line, and six Frigates. A group
  of them was seen off the Lighthouse of Cadiz this morning, but it
  blows so very fresh and thick weather, that I rather believe they
  will go into the Harbour before night. May God Almighty give us
  success over these fellows, and enable us to get a Peace.”

After Trafalgar had been fought and won, the above letter was found
open on Nelson’s desk.

The 20th was cold, damp, and miserable, but the fleet had made good
speed and was between Capes Trafalgar and Spartel. By noon the
_Victory_ was within eight or nine leagues of Cadiz.

Dr Beatty, surgeon of Nelson’s flagship, thus records how the day was

“At 8 o’clock in the morning of the 20th, the _Victory_ hove to, and
Admiral Collingwood, with the captains of the _Mars_, _Colossus_, and
_Defence_, came on board to receive instructions from his Lordship:
at eleven minutes past nine they returned to their respective ships,
and the fleet made sail again to the Northward. In the afternoon the
wind increased, and blew fresh from the S.W., which excited much
apprehension on board the _Victory_, lest the enemy might be forced to
return to port. The look-out ships, however, made several signals for
seeing them, and to report their force and bearings. His Lordship was
at that time on the poop; and turning round, and observing a group of
midshipmen assembled together, he said to them with a smile, ‘This day,
or to-morrow, will be a fortunate one for you, young men,’ alluding to
their being promoted in the event of a victory. A little before sunset
the _Euryalus_ communicated intelligence by telegraph[69] that ‘the
enemy appeared determined to go to the Westward.’ His Lordship, upon
this, ordered it to be signified to Captain Blackwood by signal, that
‘he depended on the _Euryalus_ for keeping sight of the enemy during
the night.’ The night signals were so clearly and distinctly arranged
by his Lordship, and so well understood by the respective Captains,
that the enemy’s motions continued to be known to him with the greatest
facility throughout the night: a certain number of guns with false
fires and blue lights, announcing their course, wearing and making or
shortening sail; and signals communicating such changes were repeated
by the look-out ships, from the _Euryalus_ to the _Victory_.”


The Rout in Trafalgar Bay


  “_Thank God, I have done my duty._”


The 21st October 1805 is a red-letter day in the history of England.
Dawn had scarcely succeeded night ere Nelson was up and doing. He wore
his Admiral’s frock-coat, the only decoration being four stars of
different Orders which were pinned on his left breast. “In honour I
gained them,” he said, “and in honour I will die with them.” He had not
buckled on his sword, and this is the only action he fought without it.

The previous night Villeneuve had signalled for the columns of his
fighting squadron to form in close line of battle without regard
to priority of place, his former intention having been to give the
three-deckers the more important positions. Captain Lucas of the
_Redoutable_ states that the ships “were all widely scattered” in
consequence of this order. “The ships of the battle squadron and
those of the squadron of observation were all mixed up,” although
the commanders of the latter did their best to get into something
approaching order.

Early the following morning--the glorious 21st--the French Admiral
signalled to “clear for action!” and in response to the _Hermione’s_
message, “The enemy number twenty-seven sail-of-the-line,” he ordered
each ship to leave but one cable’s length between its immediate
neighbour. They were now on the starboard tack. Almost before these
instructions had been completely carried out Villeneuve decided to
alter their position, signalling them to form in line of battle on the
port tack. The manœuvre was not easily effected. The wind was light,
with a heavy swell, many ships missed their station, and there were
several gaps and groups of ships along the line instead of vessels
at regular intervals. The newly-formed line was consequently very
irregular and almost crescent-shaped. Villeneuve, prudent to a fault,
wished to have Cadiz harbour under his lee; he was apparently already
lending his mind to thoughts of disaster.

Gravina, with the twelve reserve ships, seems to have pursued his own
tactics. Instead of keeping to windward of the line, so that he might
bring succour to Villeneuve if need should arise, the Vice-Admiral
“moved to the rear to prolong the line”--now extending some five
miles--“without having been signalled to do so.” Whether Villeneuve
took particular notice of this false move at the time is uncertain,
but later, on his attempt to get his colleague to take up the position
previously arranged for him and which would have enabled Gravina “to
reinforce the centre of the line against the attack of the enemy,” no
attention was paid to the command. Never was there a more fatal error
of policy. Had the Spanish Admiral been able to bring twelve ships to
bear upon the battle when it was at its height he might have rendered
valuable assistance.

Scarcely less reprehensible was the behaviour of Rear-Admiral Dumanoir
Le Pelley, who with ten ships fell to leeward and formed a rear
squadron.[70] Not until it was too late did he attempt to take any part
in the battle.

The British fleet was formed into two columns, eleven ships following
the _Victory_ (100), and fourteen in the rear of the _Royal Sovereign_
(100), under Collingwood. Nelson’s idea was to bear down upon the
enemy with these two divisions and break the centre of the combined
fleet in two places at once, Nelson leading the weather line, and
Collingwood the lee. While Villeneuve was issuing his last order before
the struggle, “Every ship which is not in action is not at its post,”
the British Commander-in-chief was committing to paper the following

“May the great God whom I worship grant to my country and for the
benefit of Europe in general a great and glorious victory, and may no
misconduct in anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the
predominant feature in the British fleet! For myself individually, I
commit my life to Him that made me, and may His blessing alight on my
endeavours for serving my country faithfully. To Him I resign myself
and the just cause which is entrusted me to defend.”

Nelson also made his will, heading it, “October 21st 1805, then in
sight of the Combined Fleets of France and Spain, distant about ten
miles.” Blackwood and Hardy attached their signatures as witnesses. He
left Emma, Lady Hamilton, “a legacy to my King and country, that they
will give her an ample provision to maintain her rank in life. I also
leave to the beneficence of my country my adopted daughter, Horatia
Nelson Thompson; and I desire she will use in future the name of Nelson

[Illustration: Hoisting the Famous Signal

C. M. Padday]

Blackwood had gone on board the flag-ship at six o’clock in the
morning, and found the admiral “in good, but very calm spirits.” He
tells us in his “Memoirs” that “during the five hours and a half that
I remained on board the _Victory_, in which I was not ten minutes from
his side, he frequently asked me, ‘What I should consider a victory?’
the certainty of which he never for an instant seemed to doubt,
although, from the situation of the land, he questioned the possibility
of the subsequent preservation of the prizes. My answer was, that
considering the handsome way in which battle was offered by the enemy,
their apparent determination for a fair trial of strength, and the
proximity of the land, I thought if fourteen ships were captured, it
would be a glorious result; to which he always replied, ‘I shall not,
Blackwood, be satisfied with anything short of twenty.’ A telegraphic
signal had been made by him to denote, ‘that he intended to break
through the rear of the enemy’s line, to prevent them getting into
Cadiz.’ I was walking with him on the poop, when he said, ‘I’ll now
amuse the fleet with a signal;’ and he asked me ‘if I did not think
there was one yet wanting?’ I answered, that I thought the whole of
the fleet seemed very clearly to understand what they were about, and
to vie with each other who should first get nearest to the _Victory_
or _Royal Sovereign_. These words were scarcely uttered, when his last
well-known signal was made, ‘ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS
DUTY.’ The shout with which it was received throughout the fleet was
truly sublime. ‘Now,’ said Lord Nelson, ‘I can do no more. We must
trust to the Great Disposer of all events, and justice of our cause. I
thank God for this great opportunity of doing my duty.’”

It has been pointed out that Blackwood is wrong in the matter of
the cheer “throughout the fleet,” for several of the crews were not
informed as to the purport of the signal. The Admiral’s first idea was
to flag “Nelson confides that every man will do his duty.” Captain
Blackwood suggested “England” in place of “Nelson,” which the Admiral
told Pasco, the signal officer, to hoist, adding that he “must be
quick” as he had “one more signal to make, which is for close action.”

“Then, your Lordship,” ventured Pasco, “if you will permit me to
substitute ‘expects’ for ‘confides’ the signal can be more quickly
completed, because we have ‘expects’ in the vocabulary, while
‘confides’ must be spelled.” The code-book therefore won the day, and
a message which has inspired the Navy for over a century was soon
floating on the breeze.

In this connection there is a tradition that a Scottish sailor
complained to a fellow-countryman: “Not a word o’ puir auld Scotland.”
“Hoots, Sandy,” answered his comrade, “the Admiral kens that every
Scotsman will do his duty. He’s just giving the Englishers a hint.”

To continue Blackwood’s narrative: “The wind was light from the S.W.,
and a long swell was setting into the Bay of Cadiz, so that our ships,
like sovereigns of the ocean, moved majestically before it; every one
crowding all the sail that was possible, and falling into her station
according to her rate of going. The enemy wore at about seven o’clock,
and then stood in a close line on the larboard tack towards Cadiz. At
that time the sun shone bright on their sails; and from the number of
three-deckers amongst them, they made a most formidable appearance;
but this, so far from appalling our brave countrymen, induced them to
observe to each other, ‘what a fine sight those ships would make at
Spithead.’[71] About ten o’clock, Lord Nelson’s anxiety to close with
the enemy became very apparent. He frequently remarked to me, that they
put a good face upon it; but always quickly added, ‘I’ll give them such
a dressing as they never had before,’ regretting at the same time the
vicinity of the land. At that critical moment I ventured to represent
to his lordship the value of such a life as his, and particularly in
the present battle; and I proposed hoisting his flag in the _Euryalus_,
whence he could better see what was going on, as well as what to order
in case of necessity. But he would not hear of it, and gave as his
reason the force of example; and probably he was right.”

A sailor who rejoiced in the nickname of Jack Nasty-Face gives us an
excellent view of the proceedings as the sail-of-the-line were got
ready for action: “During this time each ship was making the usual
preparations, such as breaking away the captain and officers’ cabins,
and sending the lumber below--the doctors, parson, purser, and loblolly
men were also busy, getting the medicine chests and bandages and sails
prepared for the wounded to be placed on, that they might be dressed
in rotation as they were taken down to the after-cockpit. In such
bustling, and, it may be said, trying as well as serious time, it is
curious to notice the different dispositions of the British sailor.
Some would be offering a guinea for a glass of grog, while others
were making a sort of mutual verbal will--such as, if one of Johnny
Crapeau’s shots (a term given to the French) knocks my head off, you
will take all my effects; and if you are killed, and I am not, why, I
will have yours; and this is generally agreed to....”

Another intimate word-picture of what happened just before the contest
of giants began is furnished by General Sir S. B. Ellis, K.C.B., who
was a second lieutenant of Marines in the _Ajax_. “I was sent below
with orders,” he writes, “and was much struck with the preparations
made by the bluejackets, the majority of whom were stripped to the
waist; a handkerchief was tightly bound round their heads and over the
eyes, to deaden the noise of the cannon, many men being deaf for days
after an action. The men were variously occupied; some were sharpening
their cutlasses, others polishing the guns, as though an inspection
were about to take place instead of a mortal combat, whilst three or
four, as if in mere bravado, were dancing a hornpipe; but all seemed
deeply anxious to come to close quarters with the enemy. Occasionally
they would look out of the ports, and speculate as to the various ships
of the enemy, many of which had been on former occasions engaged by our

At about noon the first shot was fired. It came from the _Fougueux_, a
French ship of 74 guns, under the command of Captain Louis Baudoin.

The _Royal Sovereign_, with the _Belleisle_ (74), _Mars_ (74), and
_Tonnant_ (80) just behind her, forged ahead. Nelson had signalled
Collingwood to break the enemy’s line at the twelfth ship from the
rear, but on seeing that she was only a two-decker Collingwood changed
his course and steered straight for the _Santa Ana_, a huge Spanish
ship of 112 guns, commanded by Vice-Admiral Alava. The _Fougueux_
(74) then came up and endeavoured to prevent Collingwood from getting
through the line. This caused the English Admiral to order his captain
to make a target of the bowsprit of the Frenchman and steer straight
for it. Fortunately for the enemy she altered her course, but although
she saved herself she did not prevent the _Royal Sovereign_ from
breaking the line.

Collingwood was in his element; his usual silent ways gave place to
enthusiasm. “What would Nelson give to be here!” he observed, the
while his double-shotted guns were hurling death into the hold of his
adversary and raking her fore and aft. A broadside and a half tore down
the huge stern gallery of the _Santa Ana_ (112), and killed and wounded
a number of her crew, all of whom showed by deed and daring that they
were worthy of their famous ancestors.

Both ships were soon in a pitiable condition, but they hugged each
other in a last desperate struggle. A terrific cannonade ensued, the
_Fougueux_ and the _San Leandro_ (64) raking the _Royal Sovereign_, and
the _San Justo_ (74) and _Indomptable_ (80) lending their assistance
some distance away, although it was difficult for them to distinguish
between the two chief contestants, so dense was the smoke from the
guns. Some fifteen or twenty minutes after Collingwood had maintained
the unequal contest alone, several British ships came up and paid
attention to those of the enemy which had gone to Alava’s assistance.
At about a quarter past two the mammoth _Santa Ana_ struck her flag.
On the captain delivering up his sword as deputy for the Vice-Admiral,
who lay dreadfully wounded, he remarked that he thought the conquering
vessel should be called the _Royal Devil_!

[Illustration: Nelson and Collingwood cutting the Enemy’s Lines at

H. C. Seppings Wright]

Nelson, steering two points more to the north than Collingwood,
so as to cut off the enemy’s way of retreat to Cadiz, came up about
half an hour after the latter had begun his engagement. As the stately
flagship entered the zone of fire a number of Villeneuve’s vessels
poured a perfect avalanche of shot upon her decks. Down went a score
or more of brave fellows, the wheel was smashed, necessitating the
ship being steered in the gun-room, and a topmast dropped on the deck
from aloft. A shot struck one of the launches, a splinter tearing a
buckle from one of the shoes of either Nelson or Hardy, which is not
quite clear. “They both,” writes Doctor Beatty, in his “Narrative,”
“instantly stopped, and were observed by the officers on deck to
survey each other with inquiring looks, each supposing the other to be
wounded. His Lordship then smiled and said, ‘This is too warm work,
Hardy, to last long’; and declared that, through all the battles he had
been in, he had never witnessed more cool courage than was displayed by
the _Victory’s_ crew on this occasion.”

Steering for the _Santissima Trinidad_ (130), at that time the biggest
floating arsenal ever built in Europe, Nelson sought to engage her,
but an alteration in position precluded this, and he tackled the
_Bucentaure_ (80), Villeneuve’s flagship. The French Admiral was at
last face to face with the man whose spirit had haunted him since he
assumed command.

Crash went the 68-pounder carronade into the 80-gun Frenchman, and down
came the greater part of the _Bucentaure’s_ stern. The _Victory_ then
grappled with the _Redoutable_, at the same time receiving a hurricane
of fire from the French _Neptuno_ (80).

Up in the fighting-tops of the _Redoutable_ (74) were riflemen trying
to pick off the officers of the _Victory_. One marksman, a little
keener sighted or more fortunately placed than the others, saw Nelson
walking up and down with Hardy. There was a flash of fire, a sharp
crack as the bullet sped through the air, and the master mariner of
England, of the world, of all time, fell in a heap upon the deck.

The fatal ball entered his left shoulder by the edge of the epaulet,
cut through the spine, and finally buried itself in the muscles of the

Three fellows rushed forward to his assistance.

“They have done for me at last, Hardy,” he murmured, as they carried
him below.

“I hope not,” was the Captain’s reply, not knowing the extent of
Nelson’s injuries, and probably thinking that it might be possible to
remove the missile.

“Yes, my backbone is shot through,” and then Nelson placed a
handkerchief over his face that the crew might not know who formed the
central figure of the solemn little procession. Some sailors on the
_Santissima Trinidad_, however, could see from the stars on his coat
that an important officer had fallen, and cheered.

They laid him in a midshipman’s berth in the dimly-lit cockpit. He
looked into the face of Death as he had looked into the face of the
enemy, without flinching but not without hope. Sometimes a sentence
would escape his lips. “Ah, Mr Beatty,” he said to the surgeon, “you
can do nothing for me; my back is shot through,” and to Dr Scott, the
chaplain, “Doctor, I am gone: I have to leave Lady Hamilton and my
daughter Horatia as a legacy to my country.”

Very little relief could be afforded him. He sipped lemonade
frequently, his breast was rubbed, and constant fanning helped to
soothe his agonies a little. Nelson sent for Hardy, whom he valued as
an able officer and friend, but as the Captain could not leave his post
at once the dying man feared for his safety. “Will no one bring Hardy
to me? He must be killed! He is surely dead!”

The cheers of the British tars were borne down to the cockpit as often
as an enemy’s ship struck her flag, and a smile played over the pallid
features. At last Hardy appeared and took his chief’s hand. “How goes
the day with us?” was the eager question.

“Very well, my Lord. We have taken twelve or fourteen ships; but five
of their van have tacked and mean to bear down on us; but I have called
two or three of our fresh ships round, and have no doubt of giving them
a drubbing.”

“I hope none of _our_ ships have struck?” Nelson hastened to ask,
seeing that Hardy was anxious to return to his post.

“There is no fear of that,” was the reassuring answer.

Hardy, unable to restrain his tears, ascended the companion ladder. As
the guns were fired into the passing squadron of Rear-Admiral Dumanoir,
the ship shook violently, thereby causing the dying man intense agony.
“Oh, _Victory_, _Victory_,” he cried, “how you distract my poor brain,”
followed by “how dear is life to all men.” Then his wandering thoughts
turned homeward, and the memory of happy hours at Merton made him add,
“Yet one would like to live a little longer, too.” Hardy again entered
the cockpit with the good news that fourteen or fifteen ships had
struck. “That is well,” Nelson breathed, “but I bargained for twenty.
Anchor, Hardy, anchor.” The Captain then asked whether Collingwood
should not take the post of Commander-in-chief. The Admiral answered
with all the force he could muster, “Not whilst I live, Hardy--no other
man shall command whilst I live. Anchor, Hardy, anchor; if I live I’ll

Nelson was sinking: the moment for taking his long farewell of his
Captain had come. “Don’t throw me overboard, Hardy. Take care of my
dear Lady Hamilton; take care of poor Lady Hamilton. Kiss me, Hardy.”
As the sorrowful officer bent over him consciousness began to fade.
“Who is that?” he asked. On being told that it was Hardy, he whispered,
“God bless you, Hardy.”

His life flickered like the candle fixed on the beam above, and then
slowly went out. He murmured that he wished he had not left the deck,
that he had _not_ been a _great_ sinner, and said with deliberation,
“Thank God, I have done my duty.” “God and my country” were the last
words heard by the sorrowful little group gathered round their beloved
master. In the arms of Mr Walter Burke, the purser of the ship, Nelson
lay dead.

And above, the heavy guns thundered a funeral dirge.

As we have already seen, the _Victory_ was engaged in a duel with the
_Redoutable_ when Nelson received his death wound. For a short period
the Frenchman did not return the fire, and thinking that Captain Lucas
was about to surrender, the _Victory’s_ guns also kept silence. But
the interval had been used for another purpose. The French crew were
swarming over the bulwarks of the British flagship, climbing chains,
and even clambering over the anchor in their attempt to get on board. A
desperate resistance was offered, Captain Adair was killed by a musket
ball, as well as eighteen marines and twenty seamen.

Help came from a sister ship. The _Téméraire_ (98)--the fighting
_Téméraire_ of Turner’s glorious picture--was now astern of the
_Redoutable_. Had she possessed the machine guns of to-day she could
hardly have swept the decks of the enemy with more deadly effect. The
men who were attempting to board went down like ninepins. The carnage
was awful; the sight sickening. When the smoke cleared, little heaps of
corpses were seen piled up on the decks, while the bodies of other poor
fellows floated on the sea, now tinged with the blood of victor and
vanquished. Five hundred and twenty-two of the _Redoutable’s_ crew fell
that day before she struck her colours.

[Illustration: The Battle of Trafalgar (the “Victory” in centre of

W. L. Wyllie, A.R.A.

=By permission of the Art Union of London, 112 Strand, Publishers of
the Etching=]

The _Bucentaure_ and the _Santissima Trinidad_ were together throughout
the battle and received a succession of attacks from various ships
until they surrendered. Both of them were then little more than
dismasted hulks. Villeneuve fought with the strength of despair,
but the case was hopeless, and resistance only prolonged the agony.
No assistance came to him despite his frantic efforts to attract
attention. “My part in the _Bucentaure_ is finished!” he cried at last,
and so the gallant but weak-willed officer was taken.

In appearance Villeneuve was “a tallish, thin man, a very tranquil,
placid, English-looking Frenchman; he wore a long-tailed uniform coat,
high and flat collar, corduroy pantaloons of a greenish colour, with
stripes two inches wide, half-boots with sharp toes, and a watch-chain
with long gold links.”[72]

Other ships surrendered as the day wore on, the _Algéçiras_ (74) to
the _Tonnant_ (80), the _Swiftsure_ (74) and the _Bahama_ (74) to the
_Colossus_ (74), the _San Juan Nepomuceno_ (74) to the _Dreadnought_
(98). Eighteen ships of the Allied Fleet were captured; one, the
_Achille_ (74), blew up with a terrific explosion.

The _Victory_ had been roughly handled by her adversaries. In Hardy’s
report of the 5th December 1805, he says:

“The hull is much damaged by shot in a number of different places,
particularly in the wales, strings, and spurketing, and some between
wind and water. Several beams, knees, and riders, shot through and
broke; the starboard cathead shot away; the rails and timbers of the
head and stem cut by shot, and the falling of the mizen-mast; the
principal part of the bulkheads, halfports, and portsashes thrown
overboard in clearing ship for action.

“The mizen-mast shot away about 9 feet above the deck; the main-mast
shot through and sprung; the main-yard gone; the main-topmast and cap
shot in different places and reefed; the main-topsail yard shot away;
the foremast shot through in a number of different places, and is at
present supported by a topmast, and a part of the topsail and crossjack
yards; the fore-yard shot away; the bowsprit jibboom and cap shot, and
the spritsail and spritsail topsail yards, and flying jibboom gone;
the fore and main-tops damaged; the whole of the spare topmast yards,
handmast, and fishes in different places, and converted into jury geer.

“The ship makes in bad weather 12 inches water an hour.”[73]

At five o’clock Gravina made the signal for retreat. What a sorry lot
they were, those eleven ships--six Spanish and five French--which with
their consorts had attempted to dethrone the Mistress of the Seas.
Another four under the command of Dumanoir had also made good their
escape, but only to be captured off Cape Ortegal on November 4th, by
Sir Richard Strachan.

An eye-witness on board the _Belleisle_ graphically describes the
scene after the last shot had been fired: “The view of the fleet at
this period was highly interesting, and would have formed a beautiful
subject for a painter. Just under the setting rays were five or six
dismantled prizes; on one hand lay the _Victory_ with part of our fleet
and prizes, and on the left hand the _Royal Sovereign_ and a similar
cluster of ships. To the northward, the remnant of the combined fleets
was making for Cadiz. The _Achille_, with the tricoloured ensign still
displayed, had burnt to the water’s edge about a mile from us, and our
tenders and boats were using every effort to save the brave fellows who
had so gloriously defended her; but only two hundred and fifty were
rescued, and she blew up with a tremendous explosion.”

The battle was over, but much yet remained to be done. Eighteen
sail-of-the-line of the Allied Fleet had struck their flag, and it
was Collingwood’s difficult task to secure the prizes. “A continued
series of misfortunes,” to use the Admiral’s own words, “... of a kind
that human prudence could not possibly provide against, or my skill
prevent,” alone precluded him from keeping more than four trophies of

“On the 22nd, in the morning,” he states in a despatch to the
Admiralty, “a strong southerly wind blew, with squally weather, which,
however, did not prevent the activity of the officers and seamen of
such ships as were manageable from getting hold of many of the prizes
(thirteen or fourteen), and towing them off to the westward, where I
ordered them to rendezvous round the _Royal Sovereign_, in tow by the
_Neptune_. But on the 23rd the gale increased, and the sea ran so high
that many of them broke the tow-rope, and drifted far to leeward before
they were got hold of again; and some of them, taking advantage of
the dark and boisterous night, got before the wind, and have perhaps
drifted upon the shore and sunk. On the afternoon of that day, the
remnant of the combined fleet, ten sail of ships,[74] which had not
been much engaged, stood up to leeward of my shattered and straggling
charge, as if meaning to attack them, which obliged me to collect a
force out of the least injured ships, and form to leeward for their
defence. All this retarded the progress of the hulks; and the bad
weather continuing, determined me to destroy all the leewardmost that
could be cleared of the men, considering that keeping possession of the
ships was a matter of little consequence, compared with the chance of
their falling again into the hands of the enemy; but even this was an
arduous task in the high sea which was running. I hope, however, it has
been accomplished to a considerable extent. I intrusted it to skilful
officers, who would spare no pains to execute what was possible. The
Captains of the _Prince_ and _Neptune_ cleared the _Trinidad_, and sunk
her. Captains Hope, Bayntun, and Malcolm, who joined the fleet this
morning, from Gibraltar, had the charge of destroying four others. The
_Redoutable_ sunk astern of the _Swiftsure_, while in tow. The _Santa
Ana_ I have no doubt is sunk, as her side is almost entirely beat in;
and such is the shattered condition of the whole of them, that, unless
the weather moderates, I doubt whether I shall be able to carry a ship
of them into port....”

In a later letter Collingwood says, “There never was such a combat
since England had a fleet.” Three of the prizes, the _Santa Ana_, the
_Neptuno_, and the _Algéçiras_ escaped in the gale and entered Cadiz
harbour, the former two having been retaken by Cosmao Kerjulien, who
lost three ships over the transaction. The _Swiftsure_ (French), the
_San Ildefonso_, the _San Juan Nepomuceno_, and the _Bahama_ were the
only Trafalgar prizes saved; these were taken to Gibraltar.

Villeneuve was sent to England and afterwards exchanged, Alava was
fortunate enough to reach Cadiz on board the shattered _Santa Ana_.
Although severely wounded, he recovered and lived for many years.
Cisneros, after a gallant resistance, also escaped, and was promoted
Vice-Admiral in return for his distinguished services, later taking
up the important positions of Captain-General and Minister of Marine.
Magon, who fought his flagship the _Algéçiras_ until he was struck dead
after receiving several wounds, is one of the most glorious names in
the naval annals of France. Three officers in turn were dangerously
wounded before the tattered flag of the battered hulk was finally
lowered. Of the other admirals, Cosmao retook the _Santa Ana_ and the
_Neptuno_, already noted, Dumanoir was court-martialed, and Gravina
succumbed to his wounds as these words formed themselves on his almost
nerveless lips: “I am a dying man, but I die happy; I am going, I hope
and trust, to join Nelson, the greatest hero that the world perhaps has
produced.”[75] Escano was injured in the leg, but reached Spain safely.
Napoleon’s officers paid dearly for the fight in Trafalgar Bay, but
Villeneuve was the scapegoat of Napoleon’s ambition. On his return to
France he took his own life.

[Illustration: How the news of Trafalgar was carried to London

Frank Dadd, R.I., from a sketch by C. W. Cole]

Collingwood gave the number of prisoners as 20,000, and the monetary
loss of the enemy nearly £4,000,000, “most of it gone to the bottom.”
The British loss was 1690 killed and wounded; that of the allies 5860,
although no exact figures are obtainable. The captives were taken
to England, and the officers allowed on parole, but the seamen and
soldiers of the extinguished Allied Fleet were sent to the prisons of
Porchester, Forton, Weedon, Norman Cross, Mill Bay, and Stapleton,
locked up in local gaols, or interned in hulks. By a cruel fate the
_Bahama_ and the _Swiftsure_ were added to the number of the latter.
Few exchanges were made, and so the poor fellows either died in exile
or remained until the downfall of Napoleon secured them liberty.

Thus ended the battle of Trafalgar--Napoleon’s maritime Waterloo. The
idea of a great military commander conducting operations at sea was
proved to be impracticable, while the superior qualities of British
seamanship were once more evident. The method of warfare practised
by the combined fleet, that of aiming at the rigging and picking
off combatants by sharp-shooting, was less successful than our own
principle of aiming at the vital parts of the hull. Whereas the British
succeeded in firing a gun nearly once a minute, it took three minutes
for the Allied Fleet to do so. The total armament on the English
vessels numbered 2148 guns, while the French had 1356, and the Spanish
1270, bringing the combined force to 2626.

Great Britain gained enormously in prestige as a result of Nelson’s
overwhelming victory. Amongst other important consequences Trafalgar
led Napoleon to enforce his disastrous Continental System, by means
of which he hoped to exclude from the Continent the goods of his
persistent enemy. This, in its turn, brought on the war with Russia, a
big step towards the final catastrophe of Waterloo.

More than two weeks passed before the people of England received
certain intelligence of the great rout of the enemy in Trafalgar Bay.
On the 6th November 1805, guns at the Tower and elsewhere announced
the victory, and the glad tidings flashed through the length and
breadth of the land--

    _The heart of England throbbed from sea to sea._

But, alas! the idol of the nation lay dead in the keeping of his
comrades and sorrowing England could never again greet in life the son
who had loved her so well.

Nelson had touched the imagination of high and low, and only the sad
circumstance of an early death in the moment of glorious victory was
wanted to ensure him the proudest place in all the long annals of
British naval history.

Mr William Canton has written an exquisite poem[76] which well
expresses the mingled feelings of elation and grief with which the
nation received the great news. He imagines a “glittering autumn
morning” in Chester, the Cathedral bells clashing a jubilant peal for
the victory. But while yet the air is filled with the glad tongues of
the joy-bells--

    _Hark, in pauses of the revel--sole and slow--
    Old St Werburgh swung a heavy note of woe!
    Hark, between the jocund peals a single toll,
    Stern and muffled, marked the passing of a soul!
    English hearts were sad that day as sad could be;
    English eyes so filled with tears they scarce could see;
    And all the joy was dashed with grief in ancient Chester on the Dee!_

After Nelson’s remains had been embalmed at Gibraltar they were
conveyed in the _Victory_ to Portsmouth, which was reached on the
2nd December 1805. In the early days of the New Year there was a
lying-in-state in the beautiful Painted Hall of Greenwich Hospital, but
comparatively few of the many thousands of people who wished to pay a
last tribute of respect to the Admiral’s memory were able to do so.
The coffin, made out of the mainmast of the famous _l’Orient_ which
blew up at the Nile, enclosed in an outer case, was then removed to the
Admiralty, where it remained until the 9th January 1806, the day of
the public funeral. The Prince of Wales, Dukes of the realm, prelates,
statesmen, admirals, aristocrats and plebeians crowded into St Paul’s
Cathedral, a fitting shrine for the dust of the greatest sailor of the

    _Whose flag has braved a thousand years
    The battle and the breeze._

An Earldom was conferred upon the Rev. William Nelson, a large sum
of money was voted by Parliament for the purchase of an estate to
be named after Trafalgar, and certain monies were given to the dead
Admiral’s two sisters. By such means the country sought to discharge
its heavy debt to the glorious memory of Nelson. Nothing was done for
Lady Hamilton, and although, at the time of Nelson’s death, her income
amounted to about £2000 a year she died in very reduced circumstances
at Calais in the year of Waterloo. Her daughter, and in all probability
Nelson’s, was married on the 24th February 1822 at Burnham, Norfolk,
to the Rev. Phillip Ward, M.A. She is described as both witty and
fascinating, and her portrait by Sir William Charles Ross makes one
believe that she was so.

More than a century has passed since the great battle was fought “in
Trafalgar’s Bay,” but the memory of the little, one-eyed, one-armed
man is still treasured by those who believe, as he believed, that the
strength of Great Britain rests upon her command of the sea.

    _For he is England’s admiral,
    Till setting of her sun._

Index of Proper Names

  Aboukir Bay, 102, 103

  Acre, Siege of, 146

  Acton, Sir John, 55, 119, 137, 141, 149, 216

  Adair, Captain, 242

  _Achille_, the, 244

  Addington, 176, 180, 192, 196, 201, 204, 212

  _Aigle_, the, 203, 204, 209

  _Admiral Barrington_, the, 40

  Africa, 46, 145

  _Agamemnon_, the, 53, 54, 55, 56, 60, 61, 64, 66, 67, 68, 69,
        70, 169, 172

  Ajaccio, 98, 201, 216

  _Ajax_, the, 228, 237

  Alava, Vice-Admiral, 238

  _Albemarle_, the, 36, 37, 38

  Albert, Prince, 120, 121

  _Alcmene_, the, 118

  Alexandria, 100, 101, 103, 110

  _Alexander_, the, 98, 106, 121, 130, 149, 153

  Alexander I., 180

  _Algéçiras_, the, 243

  Algeziras, 194

  Allemand, 226

  Alessandria, 145

  Ancona, 156, 157

  Ancona, Siege of, 158

  Andrews, Miss, 43, 58

  Andrews, Lieutenant George, 58

  Antigua, 44, 47, 48, 222

  Antipodes, the, 201, 220

  _Amazon_, the, 173, 187

  America, 41, 46, 47

  Amiens, Truce of, 196, 209

  _Amphion_, the, 198

  _Archimedes_, the, 120

  Arezzo, 157

  Asia, 46

  _Audacious_, the, 107

  Augereau, 183

  Austria, 107, 116, 144

  _Badger_, the, 32

  _Bahama_, the, 243, 247

  Baird, Dr, 192, 200, 211

  Ball, Captain Alexander, 98, 106, 116, 121, 128, 133, 181, 197, 201

  Barbadoes, 45, 221, 222, 223

  Barcelona, 202, 203

  _Barfleur_, the, 44, 77, 81, 82

  Barras, 146

  Barrington, 32

  Bastia, 59, 60, 61, 62, 71

  Batavia, 198

  Batavia, Army of, 183

  Bath, 35, 43, 50, 86, 94

  Baudoin, Captain Louis, 237

  Bavaria, 145

  Baynes, Lieutenant, 90

  Bayntun, Captain, 221, 245

  Beachy Head, 183

  Beatty, Dr, 239, 240

  _Bedford_, the, 67

  _Belleisle_, the, 201, 244, 248

  _Bellerophon_, the, 107

  _Bellona_, the, 157, 172, 178

  Belmonte, Prince, 156

  Berry, Captain, 83, 84, 97, 102, 104, 105, 108, 109, 150, 151, 152,

  Berthier, 115

  Bey of Tunis, the, 56

  Bickerton, Sir Richard, 38, 50, 197, 226

  Boigne, Comtesse de, 126

  Birmingham, 196

  Blackwood, Captain, 227, 231, 234, 235

  _Blanche_, the, 74, 75

  Blenheim, 195

  _Blenheim_, the, 80, 81

  Bonaparte, Napoleon, 57, 97, 145, 187, 192, 213, 218

  _Boreas_, the, 44, 46, 49, 50

  Borghetto, 69

  Boulogne, 183, 184, 185, 186, 189, 200, 209, 215

  Bowen, Captain Richard, 93

  Box Hill, 182

  Brecon, 195

  Brereton, Brigadier-General, 222

  Brest, 66, 67, 121, 127, 141, 143, 198, 202, 208, 209, 210, 212, 215,
        219, 226

  Bridport, Admiral Lord, 99

  _Bristol_, the, 30

  _Britannia_, the, 81

  Bronté, 143

  Brueys, Admiral, 103, 104, 108

  Bruix, 128, 143

  _Bucentaure_, the, 239, 242

  Burke, Walter, 242

  Burgh, de, Lieutenant-General, 76

  Burnham Thorpe, 20, 43, 50

  Bussorah, 29

  Byron, Admiral, 31

  Cadiz, 54, 55, 77, 79, 87, 88, 89, 96, 128, 143, 201, 203, 204, 209,
        210, 213, 214, 218, 220, 222, 223, 226, 230, 231, 233-236, 239,

  Cadogan, Mrs, 157, 160

  Cagliari, 56, 216

  Caimakan Pacha, the, 151

  _Ça-Ira_, the, 66, 67

  Calabria, 121

  Calais, 183, 186

  Campbell, Rear-Admiral, 202, 210, 214

  Campbell, Commodore Donald, 221

  Canada, 24

  Candia, 109, 200

  _Canopus_, the, 201

  Canterbury, 23

  Canton, William, 248

  _Captain_, the, 67, 70, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 88

  Capaci, 158

  Capraja, island of, 72

  Capri, 120, 125

  Capua, 126, 139, 141

  Capua, Siege of, 140

  Caracciolo, Commodore, 110, 123, 126, 135, 136, 138

  _Carcass_, the, 25, 26, 27

  Carlyle, 31

  Caroline, Queen, 126, 153, 154

  Carthagena, 76, 141, 143

  Caserta, 126

  Castel San Giovanni, 157

  Cayenne, 215

  _Censeur_, the, 67

  _Ceres_, the, 74, 75

  Chatham, 23, 24, 25

  Chatham, First Earl of, 188

  Chatham, Second Earl of, 51

  Cherasco, 71

  Chesterfield, Lord, 52

  Chevalier de Michaud, 32

  Choiseul, 31

  Cisneros, 246

  Civita Vecchia, 98, 144

  Clarence, Duke of, 90, 95, 126

  Cochrane, 221, 223

  Cockburn, Captain, 74

  Collingwood, Captain, 35, 78, 79, 81, 82, 85, 196, 218, 223, 226,
        228, 233, 234, 237, 238, 239, 244, 246

  Colomb, Admiral, 12

  _Colossus_, the, 85, 231, 243

  Colpoys, Sir John, 198

  _Concepcion_, the, 54

  Constantinople, 126, 146

  Copenhagen, 165, 167, 168, 169, 171, 179, 181, 194

  Copenhagen, battle of, 168, 171, 180, 181

  Cordova, Don Josef de, 77

  Corfu, 103, 109, 198

  Cornwallis, Earl, 34, 35

  Cornwallis, Sir William, 35, 198, 200, 209, 214, 215, 223, 226

  Corsica, 55, 56, 57, 59, 63, 64, 66, 71, 72, 73, 88, 128, 129, 145,

  Coruña, 53, 202, 203

  Cosmao, 246

  Cronstadt, 180, 181

  _Culloden_, the, 78, 79, 80, 81, 85, 90, 104, 118, 134, 144

  Culverhouse, Lieutenant, 75, 76

  Dacres, Captain, 78

  Dalling, Sir John, 32, 34

  _Dannebrog_, the, 172, 174, 175, 178

  D’Aubant, General Abraham, 61, 62

  Davison, Alexander, 193, 196, 205

  Deal, 184, 191

  Decaen, 197

  Decrès, 230

  _Defence_, the, 176, 231

  _Defiance_, the, 178

  Dego, 71

  Denmark, 34, 163, 164, 167, 180

  _Desirée_, the, 172, 178

  Despard, Captain, 34

  D’Estaing, Count, 31, 32, 33

  _Diadem_, the, 80, 82

  Diamond Rock, 223

  Dieppe, 186

  Dixon, Captain Charles, 40

  _Dolphin_, the, 29

  Dominica, 222, 223

  _Donegal_, the, 201, 204

  D’Orvilliers, Count, 31

  Dover, 184, 185

  Downs, the, 99

  Draco, 167

  _Drake_, the, 40

  _Dreadnought_, the, 24, 243

  Dresden, 159, 160

  Drinkwater, Lieutenant-Colonel, 80

  Duckworth, Rear-Admiral, 127, 141

  Dumanoir, 229, 241, 244, 246

  Dumouriez, 161

  Dundas, Lieutenant-General David, 59, 60, 61

  Dundonald, Earl of, 155

  Dunkirk, 183

  _Duquesne_, the, 56

  _Egmont_, the, 81

  Egypt, 98, 116, 118, 126, 143, 146, 194, 198, 202, 207, 208, 216, 219

  Elba, 71, 73, 74, 87, 89, 216

  El Arish, Convention of, 147

  _Elephant_, the, 167, 168, 171, 172, 173, 174, 176, 178

  Ellis, Sir S. B., K.C.B., 237

  Elgin, Earl of, 146

  Elliot, Sir Gilbert, 70, 71, 75, 85, 100, 206

  Elsinore, 37

  England, 29, 34, 35, 42, 43, 52, 70, 73, 78, 79, 107, 111, 155, 156,
        161, 163, 179, 180, 183, 185, 197, 201, 203, 205, 208, 209,
        213, 227, 232, 246

  Erskine, Sir James, 144, 148

  Essex, 183

  Europe, 52, 117, 166, 179, 192, 213, 223

  _Euryalus_, the, 228, 231, 236

  _Excellent_, the, 78, 81, 82, 83

  Fall, the pirate, 37

  Farmer, Captain, 29

  Fearney, William, 84

  Ferdinand, King, 113, 117, 118, 126, 130, 137, 139, 140, 142, 149

  Ferguson, Mr, 168

  Ferrol, 198, 208, 219, 223, 224, 226

  _Ferret_, the, 211

  Finland, Gulf of, 181

  Fischer, Commodore, 174

  Fitchett, Dr, 104

  Flanders, 186

  Florence, 156, 157

  Flushing, 183, 186, 188

  Foley, Captain, 173, 177

  Foote, Captain, 131, 132

  Fornelli, 59

  _Fougueux_, the, 237, 238

  _Foudroyant_, the, 109, 129, 131, 133, 136, 137, 139, 149, 150,
        152, 158, 159

  Fox, General, 148

  _Fox_, the, 91

  France, 24, 31, 34, 41, 52, 53, 58, 68, 71, 73, 115, 116, 127, 145,
        147, 163, 189, 192, 197, 198, 200, 202, 209

  Frederick, Captain, 80

  Frederick the Great, 117

  Fremantle, 177

  Frere, John Hookham, 204

  _Freya_, the, 164

  Froude, J. A., 31

  Gaeta, 141

  Galwey, Lieutenant, 105

  _Ganges_, the, 177, 178

  Ganteaume, Vice-Admiral, 212, 215, 219, 223, 226

  Gardner, Lord, 198

  Genoa, 65, 68, 69, 72, 98, 129, 149, 197

  George III., 85, 95, 196

  Gibraltar, 30, 87, 110, 202, 229, 231, 248

  _Glasgow_, the, 32, 33

  _Glatton_, the, 174, 178

  Gloucester, 195

  _Goliath_, the, 81, 104, 118, 130

  Gourdon, 219

  Gourjean, 65

  Gozo, 109

  Graham, Brigadier-General, 148

  Græme, Admiral, 184

  Graves, Admiral, 167, 173

  Gravina, 218, 229, 233, 244

  Great Britain, 24, 31, 33, 41, 46, 52, 53, 58, 72, 137, 145, 163,
        164, 180, 183, 191, 197, 247, 249

  Grenville, Lord, 69, 154, 155

  Gutierrez, Don Antonio, 93

  Haïti, 33

  Hallowell (is Carew, Sir Benjamin), 63, 79, 109, 129

  Hamburg, 161

  Hamilton, Lady, 110, 112, 113, 115, 116, 118, 120, 121, 122, 123,
        130, 131, 133, 137, 138, 140, 151, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159,
        160, 165, 182, 184, 187, 190, 193, 225, 227, 230, 234, 240,
        241, 249

  Hamilton, Sir William, 61, 110, 111, 113, 115, 118, 121, 124, 131,
        133, 140, 151, 153, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 182, 195

  Hardy, Thomas, Masterman, etc., 75, 76, 121, 129, 162, 234, 239, 240,
        241, 243

  Haverfordwest, 195

  Haydn, 159

  Helvoet, 188

  _Hermione_, the, 232

  Hières, Islands of, 205, 211

  _Hinchinbrook_, the, 33, 34

  Hispaniola, 30, 33

  Holland, 31, 34, 41, 53, 99, 198

  Hood, Lord, 39, 40, 41, 50, 53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63,
        65, 67, 92, 110, 129, 189

  Hope, Captain, 118, 119, 245

  _Holstein_, the, 172

  Hotham, 32, 65, 66, 68, 70

  Howe, Lord, 31, 43, 50

  Hughes, Sir Richard, 45, 47, 50

  Hughes, Sir Edward, 29

  Hughes, Lady, 44

  Hyde Park, 193

  _Inconstant_, the, 66

  _Incorruptible_, the, 211

  _Indomptable_, the, 238

  India, 100

  Inman, Captain, 172

  _Invincible_, the, 165

  Ipswich, 96

  Ireland, 77, 108, 202, 209, 223

  _Iris_, the, 39

  _Irresistible_, the, 80, 81, 82

  Ischia, 120, 125

  _Isis_, the, 172

  Italy, 57, 88, 118, 122, 126, 143, 145, 162, 229

  _Jamaica_, the, 169, 172

  Jamaica, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 221, 223

  James II., 75

  _Janus_, the, 35

  Jervis, Sir John, 69, 70, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 78, 79, 82, 85, 86, 94
        (see St Vincent).

  Josephine, 49

  Juan, Fort San, 34

  Keith, Lord, 123, 128, 129, 130, 131, 134, 139, 140, 141, 143, 146,
        147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 155, 164, 194, 198

  Kent, 183

  Keppel, the Hon. Vice-Admiral A., 31

  Kiöge Bay, 180, 181

  Kléber, 147

  Knight, Miss Cornelia, 110, 156, 160, 161

  Knight, Sir Joseph, 110, 156

  _La Diane_, 107

  _La Justice_, 107

  _La Minerva_, 136

  Langara, 54

  _L’Aquilon_, 105

  _L’Artemise_, 106

  _La Sérieuse_, 106

  La Touche Tréville, 189, 190, 209, 210, 211, 213

  Laughton, Sir J. Knox, 123, 135, 163

  Lauriston, General, 192

  _Leander_, the, 100, 109

  _Le Conquérant_, 105

  _Le Généreux_, 106, 107, 109, 148, 149, 151

  Leghorn, 55, 64, 71, 117, 118, 148, 153, 197

  _Le Guerrier_, 105

  _Le Guillaume Tell_, 106, 107, 150, 156

  Leopold, Prince of Salerno, 149

  _Le Souverain Peuple_, 105

  _Le Spartiate_, 105

  _Le Timoleon_, 107

  _Le Tonnant_, 107

  Levant, the, 202

  _L’Heureux_, 105

  Lincoln, 33

  Lindholm, Adjutant-General, 177

  Linzee, Commodore, 56, 57, 59

  _Lion_, the, 35, 150

  Lisbon, 96

  _Lively_, the, 82

  Lloyd, Sir Thomas, 32

  Locker, William, 30, 33, 35, 46, 51

  London, 19, 36, 43, 50, 86, 94, 182, 183, 191, 194

  _London_, the, 172, 177, 178

  _L’Orient_, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 145, 248

  Loudon, Field-Marshal, 117

  Louis XV. of France, 24, 126

  Louis XVI., 53

  _Lowestoffe_, the, 30

  Lucas, Captain, 232

  Lutwidge, Admiral, 25, 27, 183

  Macaulay, 53

  Mack, General, 117, 119

  Macdonald, Marshal, 135

  Madalena Islands, 200, 207, 216

  Madrid, 204

  Magon, Admiral, 229, 246

  Mahan, Admiral, 31, 122, 131, 134, 138, 171

  Mahon, 148

  Malcolm, Captain, 245

  _Malta_, the, 150

  Malta, 98, 100, 101, 116, 118, 121, 122, 123, 127, 128, 130, 144,
        148, 149, 150, 153, 156, 197, 207, 216, 217, 219

  Malta, Siege of, 143

  Man, Admiral, 203

  Mantua, 145

  Margate, 184

  Marlborough, Duke of, 195

  Maria Antoinette, 116

  Maria Carolina, Queen, 111, 116

  Maria Theresa, 116

  Maritimo, 128, 130, 131

  Marquis de Niza, 117, 118

  Marquis d’Osmond, 126

  Marseilles, 201

  _Mars_, the, 231

  Martinique, 33, 215, 218, 221, 223

  McArthur, Mr John, 144

  Masséna, 145

  _Medusa_, the, 187

  _Melpomène_, the, 56

  Melville, Lord, 217

  _Mercedes_, the, 214

  Merton Place, 193, 195, 196, 227, 241

  Messer, Captain, 158, 159

  Messina, 100, 128, 148

  Milford, Duke of, 195

  Miller, Captain R. W., 83, 84, 92, 107

  Millesimo, 71

  _Minerve_, the, 74, 75, 76, 77

  Minto, Lord, 149, 151, 225

  Minorca, 126, 139, 141, 143, 148

  Miomo, 62

  Missiessy, Admiral, 215, 218, 223, 226

  _Monarch_, the, 172, 176, 178

  Mondovi, 71

  Monmouth, 195

  Moore, Sir John, 53, 58, 59

  Montague, Admiral George, 198

  Montenotte, battle of, 71

  Montreuil, 42

  Montserrat, 222

  Morea, the, 200, 202, 208, 210, 216

  Moreau, 145

  Morpeth, 193

  Morris, Judge O’Connor, 122

  Mortello, tower of, 59

  Moseley, Dr, 208

  Moutray, Captain, 47

  Mulgrave, Lord, 25

  Myers, Sir William, 222

  _Namur_, the, 81

  Naples, 54, 55, 71, 107, 110, 112, 113, 116, 118, 119, 121, 122, 123,
        125, 127, 130, 131, 133, 139, 142, 143, 154, 163, 198, 216, 219

  Napoleon, 32, 57, 71, 73, 88, 98, 102, 107, 111, 117, 145, 146, 180,
        183, 184, 186, 188, 191, 194, 200, 208, 209, 211, 212, 214,
        215, 218, 226, 229, 247

  Nelson, Catherine, 20

  Nelson, Edmund, 20, 23, 143

  Nelson, William, 22, 202, 212, 249

  _Neptune_, the, 245

  _Neptuno_, the, 239, 246

  Nevis, 49, 50

  Newfoundland, 39

  Newhouse, Captain, 110

  New York, 39

  Nicolas, Sir Harris, 156, 193

  Nile, battle of, 102, 142, 148

  Nisbet, Josiah, 53, 54, 90, 91, 93

  Nisbet, Mrs, 49, 182

  Nore, the, 99

  _Northumberland_, the, 149

  Norfolk, 20, 36, 86, 88, 94

  North America, 31

  North Walsham, 20, 22

  Norwich, 20, 86, 94

  Nuovo, fort of, 132, 134

  Nova Scotia, 46

  Novi, 145

  Nuovo, fort of, 132, 134

  Otto, M., 191

  Oldfield, Captain, 90

  Oporto, 127

  Orde, Sir John, 214, 220

  Orfordness, 183

  _Orion_, the, 78, 80, 81, 82

  Oxford, 195

  Paget, the Hon. A., 153, 154, 155

  Palermo, 118, 120, 121, 126, 128, 129, 130, 131, 135, 137, 142, 148,
        150, 153, 155, 216

  Pantellaria, 216

  Paoli, 58

  Paris, 98, 145

  Parker, Captain, 33, 190, 191

  Parker, Lady, 35

  Parker, Sir Peter, 30, 32, 35

  Parker, Sir Hyde, 70, 80, 81, 164, 166, 167, 168, 178, 180

  Parker, Sir William, 100

  Parsons, Lieutenant G. S., 77, 78, 80, 136

  Pasco, 235

  Paul I., 164, 180

  _Pegasus_, the, 50

  Pellew, 202

  _Penelope_, the, 150

  Percy, Josceline, 115

  Perrée, Rear-Admiral, 149

  Petersburg, 126

  Pettigrew, 7

  Phipps, Captain Constantine John, 26

  Piccadilly, 195, 196

  Piedmont, 69, 71

  Pierson, Lieutenant, 83, 84

  Pigot, Captain James, 29

  Pisaro, 158

  Pitt, William, 52, 53, 180, 213

  Plymouth, 37, 50

  Polson, Sir John, 35

  _Polyphemus_, the, 169

  Ponza Islands, 125

  Pope, 43

  Porqueroles, castle of, 212

  Port Mahon, 127, 129, 144

  Porto Ferrajo, 71, 73, 76, 87

  Port Royal, 33

  Portsmouth, 29, 37, 41, 197

  Portugal, 73, 107

  Prague, 159

  Preston, Captain D’Arcy, 75

  Prince Regent, the, 177

  _Prince George_, the, 80, 81

  _Principe d Asturias_, the, 89

  Procida, Islands of, 125, 133

  _Proselyte_, the, 62

  Prussia, 34, 180

  Quebec, 39

  _Racehorse_, the, 26

  _Raisonnable_, the, 23, 24

  _Ramilies_, the, 176

  Ramsgate, 184

  Rathbone, John, 24

  _Redoutable_, the, 232, 239, 242, 245

  _Revenge_, the, 203

  Richery, Admiral, 203

  Riou, Captain, 172, 173, 174

  Robinson, Captain Mark, 29, 30

  Rochefort, 198, 202, 209, 210, 215, 216, 226

  Rogers, Samuel, 37

  Rogliani, 58

  Rome, 117, 144

  Romney, 61, 160

  Rose, Captain, 172

  Rosily, 229

  Ross, 195

  Ross, Sir William Charles, 249

  _Royal Sovereign_, the, 233, 235, 237, 238, 244, 245

  Ruffo, Cardinal, 126, 131, 132, 134, 135, 137

  _Russell_, the, 169, 172, 178

  Russia, 34, 107, 126, 163, 200, 213, 247

  _Santissima Trinidad_, the, 77, 78, 80, 84, 239, 240, 242

  Sardinia, King of, 115

  Sardinia, 55, 56, 71, 129, 201, 207, 212, 216

  Saumarez, Captain Sir James, 78, 79, 109, 193

  Savannah, 33

  Scott, Dr, 240

  _Seahorse_, the, 29, 79, 94, 131, 132

  Sheerness, 184

  Sicily, 100, 122, 127, 131, 139, 148, 150, 198, 207, 216, 219

  _Siren_, the, 211

  Smith, Sir Sidney, 123, 125, 143, 145, 146, 147

  Smith, Spencer, 146

  Smyrna, 126

  Southey, 7, 138

  Southolm, 167

  Spain, 24, 31, 32, 33, 41, 72, 73, 89, 99, 199, 203, 204, 242, 246

  Spencer, Lord, 100, 113, 124, 126, 134, 139, 140, 141, 145, 152, 155

  Spezia, 129, 153

  Spithead, 50, 64, 94, 96, 99, 223, 236

  St Cyr, General, 208

  St George, Mrs, 159

  _St George_, the, 164, 165, 167, 178

  St Kitts, 48

  St Lucia, 32, 222

  St Omer, 42

  St Vincent (see Jervis), 85, 88, 89, 93, 96, 98, 99, 109, 118, 122,
        123, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 151, 152, 164, 177, 181, 183,
        185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 205

  San Domingo, 198, 201, 202

  San Fiorenzo, 58, 59, 60, 62, 68

  _San Josef_, the, 84, 86, 162

  _San Juan Nepomuceno_, the, 243, 246

  _San Justo_, the, 238

  _San Leandro_, the, 238

  _San Nicholas_, the, 84

  _Sannite_, the, 120

  _Sans Culottes_, the, 67

  _Santa Ana_, the, 238, 246

  Santa Cruz, 89, 94, 95

  _Santa Sabina_, the, 74, 75

  Spry, Mr, 35

  Staines, 182

  Sterne, 42

  Stewart, Colonel William, 168

  Stirling, Admiral, 223

  Strachan, Sir Richard, 201, 203, 244

  Stuart, Captain Don Jacobo, 74, 76

  Stuart, General, 64

  _Success_, the, 149

  Suckling, John, 20

  Suckling, Captain Maurice, 20, 23, 24, 91

  Suckling, William, 36, 43, 56

  Suffolk, 183

  _Superb_, the, 223, 225

  Surrey, 193, 196

  Sussex, 183

  Suwarrow, 144, 145, 160

  Swansea, 195

  Sweden, 34, 163, 168, 180

  _Swiftsure_, the, 243, 245

  Switzerland, 145

  Sykes, John, 88

  Syracuse, 101, 150

  Taranto, 208

  _Téméraire_, the, 242

  Teneriffe, 89

  Tetuan, 220

  _Thalia_, the, 110

  _Theseus_, the, 88, 91, 94, 107

  Thesiger, Captain Sir Frederick, 175, 177

  Thompson, Horatia Nelson, 234, 240, 249

  _Thunderer_, the, 228

  Thurn, Count, 136

  Thursfield, James R., 123, 124

  Tippoo Saib, 100

  Tobago, 221

  _Tonnant_, the, 105, 237, 243

  Toro, 216, 219

  Toulon, 54, 55, 57, 64, 65, 66, 67, 69, 76, 77, 96, 97, 98, 132, 133,
        145, 197, 201, 202, 205, 207, 208, 210, 215, 217, 218, 222

  Trabaccoli, 157

  Trafalgar, 53, 86, 90, 109, 230, 246, 247

  Trench, Mrs, 159, 160

  Trench, R. C, Archbishop of Dublin, 159

  Trieste, 109, 126, 156, 158

  _Triumph_, the, 24

  Trinidad, 221, 222

  Troubridge, Captain, 78, 79, 80, 90, 92, 93, 95, 127, 129, 131, 133,
        139, 143, 144, 149, 150

  Tucker, Colonel J. M., 26

  Tunis, 56, 59, 216

  Turin, 54, 68, 115

  Turkey, 107

  Tuscany, Grand Duke of, 57

  Tuscany, 115, 117, 118, 126

  _Unité_, the, 184

  Ushant, 31, 198, 223

  Vado Bay, 130

  Valetta, 150

  _Vanguard_, the, 96, 97, 98, 103, 104, 105, 110, 113, 119, 120,
        121, 129

  Vansittart, Mr, 165, 166, 181

  Vaudreuil, M., 39

  _Vestale_, the, 66

  _Victory_, the, 19, 65, 66, 78, 79, 81, 82, 115, 197, 198, 200,
        201, 223, 225, 228, 231

  Vienna, 126, 155, 156, 159

  Vigo, 224, 226

  Villeneuve, 209, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 223, 229, 232, 234, 239,
        242, 243

  Villettes, Lieutenant-Colonel, 62

  Vincent, Earl of St (see Jervis)

  Voinovitsch, Count, 158

  Voltri, 69

  Wales, 195

  Walpole, Galfridus, 120

  Walpole, Sir Robert, 20

  Ward, Rev. Phillip, 249

  Warwick, 196

  Waterloo, 247

  Wellington, Duke of, 113

  West Indies, 24, 31, 39, 46, 202

  Whitehall, 227

  William, Prince (or William IV.), 40, 50

  _William Tell_, the, 151

  Wolfe, 61

  Woodward, Dr., 35

  Woolwich, 29, 36

  Wooton, 20

  Worcester, 196

  _Worcester_, the, 29

  Wroxham, 94

  Yarmouth, 161, 165, 181

  Yorktown, 34

  _Zealand_, the, 172

  _Zealous_, the, 107

  Zurich, battle of, 145


[1] Robert Browning.

[2] The Report is given in full in Laughton’s edition of “Nelson’s
Letters and Despatches,” pp. 409-11. The editor discovered it in the
Record Office, Admiral’s Despatches, Mediterranean, xxxi. 272.

[3] See lines on page opposite.

[4] A Chippendale arm-chair, which was given to Nelson by his great
grandfather, was presented by the boy to Mrs Luckins, his nurse, when
he left home to join the Navy. It appeared in an auction room so
recently as 1908.

[5] In other words, tow the vessels.

[6] Ships of war sent to accompany merchantmen during hostilities so as
to protect them from the enemy.

[7] A private vessel commissioned to attack and capture the vessels of
an enemy.

[8] See _post_, Chapter xix.

[9] Nelson’s successor and friend.

[10] Sir Richard Bickerton (1727-92) sailed from England with a convoy
on the 6th February 1782. He took part in an indecisive engagement
with Suffrein, off Pondicherry, on the 20th June 1783. Not more than
two-thirds of the British crews were effective owing to scurvy.

[11] In his Autobiography Nelson gives the number as three.

[12] More detailed particulars of this thrilling siege will be found in
the author’s companion volume, “The Story of Napoleon,” pp. 60-64.

[13] See _ante_, page 43.

[14] Captain Benjamin Hallowell (1760-1834). He afterwards assumed the
name of Carew, and became a Vice-Admiral in 1819.

[15] “The Royal Navy,” by Wm. Laird Clowes, vol. iv., p. 153, vol. v.,
pp. 9-10.

[16] “The Navy League Annual, 1910-11,” p. 226.

[17] Parsons gives Nelson the title which he had not then won. See
_post_, p. 85.

[18] “Larboard” has now been superseded by “port,” _i.e._ the left.

[19] See _post_ p. 224.

[20] See _ante_, p. 90.

[21] The Earl of St Vincent appointed him a Master and Commander.

[22] Captain Richard Bowen, of H.M.S. _Terpsichore_, who was killed at
Santa Cruz.

[23] This is in marked contrast to the generous words he wrote to the
Earl of St Vincent on the 24th July.--See _ante_, p. 90.

[24] To bring the vessel round with her stern to the wind.

[25] _i.e._ the Toulon fleet.

[26] His “Authentic Narrative” of the battle was published in 1798,
and is a plain, straightforward account of Nelson’s first great naval
action without a superior in command. We shall have occasion to quote
it freely in this chapter. Berry was Nelson’s captain.

[27] See “Deeds that Won the Empire,” p. 100.

[28] _Ibid._ p. 103.

[29] See _Comment_, ii. 341-2, also Mahan’s “Sea Power,” i. 269.

[30] Among those who perished were Commodore Casabianca and his young
son, whose bravery is immortalised in the well-known poem by Mrs Hemans.

[31] Battle of the Nile.

[32] Miss Knight is referring to the Earl of St Vincent’s flagship, and
not to a vessel named after him.

[33] See _ante_, pp. 72-3.

[34] He had held the position since 1765.

[35] In 1804.

[36] Maria Theresa (1717-1780), Archduchess of Austria, Queen of
Hungary and Bohemia, and Empress of Germany. She crossed swords with
Frederick the Great on more than one occasion, and participated in the
partition of Poland, 1772.

[37] Parthenopeia was the ancient name of Naples.

[38] Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

[39] After the fall of the Bastille on the 14th July 1789, many of the
French nobility left the country. In 1790, hereditary nobility was
abolished by the National Assembly. _Émigrés_ who had not returned to
France by the 1st January 1792 were declared traitors.

[40] See _post_, pp. 131-8.

[41] See _post_, Chapters xiv. and xv.

[42] This additional corroborative evidence has not been noticed by
many of Nelson’s recent biographers.

[43] The squadron in Naples Bay was placed under Troubridge.

[44] Pius VI.

[45] See _ante_, p. 24.

[46] The arrival of _La Marguerite_ on the 14th June, with provisions
for the French garrison. Keith’s letters are printed as he wrote them.

[47] Vol. i., pp. 212-7. Dated Palermo, May 13, 1800.

[48] Compare this statement with that of Paget, given on p. 154.

[49] Lady Hamilton’s mother.

[50] Miss Knight and Mrs Cadogan sailed on one of the frigates,
commanded by Captain Messer, an Englishman.

[51] She was the daughter of a domestic servant, and at the age of
thirteen became a children’s nurse.

[52] Afterwards increased to eighteen.

[53] Subsequently Lord Bexley.

[54] Parker’s flag-ship.

[55] This incident is bereft of much of its romance by the knowledge
that Sir Hyde Parker sent a verbal message to the effect that the
question of discontinuing the action was left to the discretion of

[56] TO THE GOVERNMENT OF DENMARK. _Elephant, 2nd April, 1801_: Lord
Nelson’s object in sending on shore a Flag of Truce is humanity: he,
therefore, consents that hostilities shall cease till Lord Nelson can
take his prisoners out of the Prizes, and he consents to land all the
wounded Danes, and to burn or remove his Prizes. Lord Nelson, with
humble duty to His Royal Highness, begs leave to say, that he will ever
esteem it the greatest victory he ever gained, if this Flag of Truce
may be the happy forerunner of a lasting and happy union between my
most gracious Sovereign and his Majesty the King of Denmark.

directions to spare Denmark, when no longer resisting; but if the
firing is continued on the part of Denmark, Lord Nelson will be obliged
to set on fire all the Floating-batteries he has taken, without having
the power of saving the brave Danes who have defended them. Dated on
board his Britannic Majesty’s ship _Elephant_, Copenhagen Roads, _April
2nd, 1801_.

[58] Nelson afterwards found it necessary to address the Rt. Hon. Henry
Addington, then Prime Minister, on the subject. In a letter written on
the 8th May 1801, he refers to those who thought the sending of a flag
of truce a _ruse de guerre_, to others who “attributed it to a desire
to have no more fighting, and few, very few, to the cause that I felt,
and which I trust in God I shall retain to the last moment, _humanity_.”

[59] The letter will be found in full in footnote 1, p. 175.

[60] See “Napoleon and the Invasion of England,” by H. F. B. Wheeler
and A. M. Broadley, especially vol. i. pp. 159-194.

[61] A volunteer corps enrolled for the purpose of defending the coast.

[62] See “Annual Register,” for 1801, p. 269.

[63] The _Aigle_ had taken refuge in Cadiz harbour.

[64] The despatch is quoted in French by Professor Sir W. Knox Laughton
in his edition of Sir N. Harris Nicolas’s great work (pp. 354-5).

[65] See Mahan’s “Nelson,” p. 661, and Laughton, p. 202.

[66] These were crippled ships detached by Villeneuve.

[67] Mahan accepts this, but Laughton discredits it.

[68] The total British broadside was 1000 lbs. less.

[69] Not by telegraph as we understand it, but by semaphore.

[70] De la Gravière, p. 252.

[71] Blackwood is, of course, generalising.

[72] “Seadrift,” p. 253.

[73] “The Three Dorset Captains at Trafalgar.” By A. M. Broadley and
R. G. Bartelot, M.A., p. 286.

[74] Eleven ships in all escaped into Cadiz.

[75] “Diary of the first Earl of Malmesbury,” vol. iv., p. 354.

[76] _Trafalgar_ in “W. V. Her Book and Various Verses.”

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Index entries were not checked for proper alphabetization or correct
page references. They were not systematically compared with their
spellings on the pages they reference, but when differences were found,
the Index entries were changed to match the references.

In the Index, ships’ names were printed in italics and all other
entries were printed in boldface. To improve readability in this eBook,
the boldface entries are shown in normal weight.

Page 27: “walrusses” was printed that way.

Page 33: “Haïti” was printed that way; in the Index, it is printed as

Page 149: Closing quotation mark added after “command in the

Page 246: “court-martialed” originally was printed as

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