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Nelson became fully sensible of the extraordinary talents
of Captain Ball, and a sincere friendship subsisted be-
tween them during the remainder of their lives. ''I
ought not," said the Admiral, writing to his wife, *'I
ought not to call what has happened to the Vanguard
by the cold name of accident : I believe firmly it was the
Almighty's goodness, to check my consummate vanity.
I hope it has made me a better officer, as I feel confident
it has made me a better man. Figure to yourself, on
Sunday evening, at sunset, a vain man walking in his
cabin, with a squadron around him, who looked up to
their chief to lead them to glory, and in whom their chief
placed the firmest reliance that the proudest ships of
equal numbers belonging to France would have lowered
their flags; — figure to yourself, on Monday morning,
when the sun rose, this proud man, his ship dismasted,
his fleet dispersed, and himself in such distress, that the
meanest frigate out of France would have been an un-
welcome guest." Nelson had, indeed, more reason to
refuse the cold name of accident to this tempest than
he was then aware of; for on that very day the French
fleet sailed from Toulon, and must have passed within
a few leagues of his little squadron, which was thus pre-
served by the thick weather that came on.

The British government at this time, with a becom-
ing spirit, gave orders, that any port in the Mediterra-
nean should be considered as hostile, where the governor
or chief magistrate should refuse to let our ships of war
procure supplies of provisions, or of any article which
they might require.

In these orders the ports of Sardinia were excepted.
The continental possessions of the King of Sardinia were
at this time completely at the mercy of the French, and



158 The Life of Nelson

that prince was now discovering, when too late, that the
terms to which he had consented, for the purpose of
escaping immediate danger, necessarily involved the loss
of the dominions which they were intended to preserve.
The citadel of Turin was now occupied by French
troops ; and his wretched court feared to afford the com-
mon rights of humanity to British ships, lest it should
give the French occasion to seize on the remainder of
his dominions : — a measure for which, it was certain,
they would soon make a pretext, if they did not find one.
Nelson was informed, that he could not be permitted to
enter the port of St. Pietro. Regardless of this inter-
dict, which, under his circumstances, it would have been
an act of suicidal folly to have regarded, he anchored in
the harbor; and, by the exertions of Sir James Sau-
marez. Captain Ball, and Captain Berry, the Vanguard
was refitted in four days; months would have been em-
ployed in refitting her in England. Nelson, with that
proper sense of merit wherever it was found, which
proved at once the goodness and greatness of his char-
acter, especially recommended to Earl St. Vincent the
carpenter of the Alexander, under whose direction the
ship had been repaired ; stating, that he was an old and
faithful servant of the crown, who had been nearly thirty
years a warrant carpenter ;^ and begging most earnestly
that the Commander-in-Chief would recommend him to
the particular notice of the Board of Admiralty. He did
not leave the harbor without expressing his sense of the
treatment which he had received there, in a letter to the
Viceroy of Sardinia. *'Sir," it said, ''having, by a gale

1. Warrant carpenter. In the British Navy all officers of lieu-
tenant's rank or higher hold commissions from the Crown and are
called, "commissioned officers" ; subordinate officers, such as boatswains,
gunners, carpenters, etc., are usually promoted from seamen, are
Ineligible for commissioned rank, and hold their positions on warrants
Issued by the Admiralty.



The Life of Nelson 159

of wind, sustained some trifling damages, I anchored a
small part of his Majesty's fleet under my orders off this
island, and was surprised to hear, by an officer sent by the
governor, that admittance was to be refused to the flag of
his Britannic Majesty into this port. When I reflect,
that my most gracious sovereign is the oldest, I believe,
and certainly the most faithful ally which the King of
Sardinia ever had, I could feel the sorrow which it must
have been to his Majesty to have given such an order;
and also for your excellency, who had to direct its execu^
tion. I cannot but look at the African shore,^ where the
followers of Mahomet are performing the part of the
good Samaritan, which I look for in vain at St. Peter's,
where it said the Christian religion is professed. ' '

The delay which was thus occasioned was useful to him
in many respects : it enabled him to complete his supply
of water, and to receive a reinforcement, which Earl St.
Vincent, being himself reinforced from England, was
enabled to send him. It consisted of the best ships of
his fleet : the Culloden, seventy-four. Captain T. Trou-
bridge; Goliath, seventy-four, Captain T. Foley; Mino-
taur, seventy-four. Captain T. Louis; Defence, seventy-
four. Captain John Peyton; Bellerophon, seventy-four,
Captain H. D. E. Darby; Majestic, seventy-four, Cap-
tain G. B. Westcott; Zealous, seventy-four. Captain S.
Hood; Swiftsure, seventy-four. Captain B. Hallowell;
Theseus, seventy-four, Captain R. W. Miller; Audacious,
seventy-four. Captain Davidge Gould. The Leander,
fifty. Captain T. B. Thompson, was afterwards added.
These ships were made ready for the service as soon as
Earl St. Vincent received advice from England that he
was to be reinforced. As soon as the reinforcement was
seen from the masthead of the- Admiral's ship, off Cadiz

1. African shore. For the friendly relations between Great Britain
and the Barbary Statos, see p. 75, note 1.



160 The Life of Nelson

Lay, signal was immediately made to Captain Troii*
bridge to put to sea ; and he was out of sight before the
ships from home cast anchor in the British station. Trou-
bridge took with him no instructions to Nelson as to the
course he was to steer, nor any certain account of the
enemy's destination:^ everything was left to his own
judgment. Unfortunately, the frigates had been sepa-
rated from him in the tempest, and had not been able to
rejoin: they sought him unsuccessfully in the Bay of
Naples, where they obtained no tidings of his course : and
he sailed without them.

The first news of the enemy's armament was, that it
had surprised Malta. Nelson formed a plan for attack-
ing it while at anchor at Gozo :^ but on the 22d of June
intelligence reached him that the French had left that
island on the 16th, the day after their arrival. It was
clear that their destination was eastward — he thought for
Egypt — and for Egypt, therefore, he made all sail. Had
the frigates been with him he could scarcely have failed
to gain information of the enemy : for want of them, he
only spoke three vessels on the way ; two came from- Alex-
andria, one from the Archipelago f and neither of them
had seen anything of the French. He arrived off Alex-
andria on the 28th, and the enemy were not there, nei-
ther was there any account of them; but the governor
was endeavoring to put the city in a state of defence, hav-
ing received advice from Leghorn, that the French expe-
dition was intended against Egypt, after it had taken
Malta. Nelson then shaped his course to the northward,
for Caramania,* and steered from thence along the south-

1. Enemy's destination. This no one in tlie British fleet Icnew ; it
was variously surmised to be Sicily, Corfu, Portugal, Ireland, and
Cartagena.

2. ClGzo. A pmall island norihwest of Malta. See map, p. SI.

3. ArcJnpelago. The ^gean Sea and Islands.

4. Caramania. The southern coast of Asia Minor.



The Life of Nelson 161

em side of Candia, carrying a press of sail, both night
and day, with a contrary wind. It would have been l;is
delight, he said, to have tried Bonaparte on a wind.^ It
would have been the delight of Europe, too, and the bless-
ing of the world, if that fleet had been overtaken with its
general on board But of the myriads and millions of
human beings who would have been preserved by that
day's victory, there is not one to whom such essential
benefit would have resulted, as to Bonaparte himself.
It would have spared him his defeat at Acre — his only
disgrace ;^ for to have been defeated by Nelson upon the
seas would not have been disgraceful : it would have
spared him all his after enormities. Hitherto his career
had been glorious; the baneful principles of his heart
had never yet passed his lips ; history would have repre-
sented him as a soldier of fortune, who had faithfully
served the cause in which he engaged ; and whose career
had been distinguished by a series of successes, unex-
ampled in modern times. A romantic obscurity would
have hung over the expedition to Egypt, and he would
have escaped the perpetration of those crimes which have
incarnadined his soul with a deeper dye than that of
the purple^ for which he committed them — those acts of
perfidy, midnight murder,* usurpation, and remorseless
tyranny, which have consigned his name to universal
execration, now and forever.

Conceiving that when an officer is not successful in his
plans, it is absolutely necessary that he should explain

1. On a icind. Close-hauled, beating against the wind. In the ISth
century fleets usually fought close-hauled on the same or opposite tacks.

2. Acre . . his only disgrace. Written earlier than 1813, be-
fore Napoleon had suffered a serious reverse. For his defeat at Acre
see p. 238, note 2.

3. Purple. The imperial purple.

4. Midnight murder. Presumably an allusion to Napoleon's act in
seizing and putting to death the Due d'Enghien, a young prince of the
Bourbon family, March 21, 1804.



162 The Life of Nelson

the motives upon which they were founded, Nelson wrote
at this time an account and vindication of his conduct
for having carried the fleet to Egypt. The objection
which he anticipated was, that he ought not to have made
so long a voyage without more certain information.
"My answer," said he, "is ready — Who was I to get it
from? The governments of Naples and Sicily either
knew not, or chose to keep me in ignorance. Was I to
wait patiently until I heard certain accounts ? If Egypt
were their object, before I could hear of them they would
have been in India. To do nothing was disgraceful;
therefore I made use of my understanding. I am before
your lordships' judgment; and if, under all circum-
stances, it is decided that I am wrong, I ought, for the
sake of our country, to be superseded; for at this mo-
ment, when I know the French are not in Alexandria, I
hold the same opinion as off Cape Passaro — that, under
all circumstances, I was right in steering for Alexandria :
and by that opinioil I must stand or fall." Captain Ball,
to whom he showed this paper, told him, he should recom-
mend a friend never to begin a defence of his conduct
before he was accused of error : he might give the fullest
reasons for what he had done, expressed in such terms
as would evince that he had acted from the strongest
conviction of being right ; and of course he must expect
that the public would view it in the same light. Captain
Ball judged rightly of the public, whose first impulses,
though from want of sufficient information they must
frequently be erroneous, are generally founded upon just
feelings. But the public are easily misled, and there are
always persons ready to mislead them. Nelson had not
yet attained that fame which compels envy to be silent;
and when it was known in England that he had returned
from an unsuccessful pursuit, it was said that he de-
served impeachment ; and Earl St. Vincent was severely



The Life of Nelson 163

censured for having sent so young an officer upon so
important a service.

Baffled in his pursuit, he returned to Sicily. The Nea-
politan ministry had determined to give his squadron no
assistance, being resolved to do nothing which could pos-
sibly endanger their peace with the French Directory;
by means, however, of Lady Hamilton's influence at
court, he procured secret orders to the Sicilian govern-
ors; and, under those orders, obtained everything which
he wanted at Syracuse : — a timely supply ; without which,
he always said, he could not have recommenced his pur-
suit with any hope of success. ''It is an old saying,"'
said he in his letter, ''that the devil's children have the
devil's luck. I cannot to this moment learn, beyond
vague conjecture, where the French fleet are gone to;
and having gone a round of six hundred leagues at this
season of the year, with an expedition^ incredible, here I
am, as ignorant of the situation of the enemy as I was
twenty-seven days ago. Every moment I have to regret
the frigates having left me; had one-half of them been
with me, I could not have wanted information. Should
the French be so strongly secured in port that I cannot
get at them, I shall immediately shift my flag into some
other ship, and send the Vanguard to Naples to be re-
fitted; for hardly any person but myself would have
continued on service so long in such a wretched state. '^
Vexed, however, and disappointed as he was, Nelson,
with the true spirit of a hero, was full of hope. ' ' Thanks
to your exertions," said he, writing to Sir William and
Lady Hamilton, "we have victualled and watered; and
surely, watering at the fountain of Arethusa,^ we must
have victory. We shall sail with the first breeze; and

1. Expedition. Speed.

2. Fountain of Arethusa. A spring on the small island of Ortygla,
In the harbor of Syracuse. According to Greek legend, the nymph



164 The Life op Nelson

be assured I will return either crowned with laurel or
covered with cypress." Earl St. Vincent he assured,
that if the French were above water he would find them
out : — he still held his opinion that they were bound for
Egypt: ''but," said he to the First Lord of the Ad-
miralty, ' ' be they bound to the antipodes, your lordship
may rely that I will not lose a moment in bringing them
to action."^

On the 25th of July he sailed from Syracuse for the
Morea.^ Anxious bej^ond measure, aind irritated that the
enemy should so long have eluded him, the tediousness of
the nights made him impatient; and the officer of the
watch was repeatedly called on to let him know the hour,
and convince him, who measured time by his own eager-
ness, that it was not yet daybreak. The squadron made
the Gulf of Coron^ on the 28th. Troubridge entered the
port, and returned with intelligence that the French had
been seen about four weeks before steering to the S. E.
from Candia. Nelson then determined immediately to
return to Alexandria, and the British fleet accordingly,
with every sail set, stood once more for the coast of
Egypt. On the 1st of August, about ten in the morning,
they came in sight of Alexandria ; the port had been
vacant md solitary when they saw it last; it was now

Arethusa, pursued by the river-god Alpbeus, fled thither and was
tr:insformed into the spring. Tliough tat:en from Harrison's Life of
Nolscn and suspected as a forgery in support of Lady Hamilton's
claims for services rendered to the fleet in the Mediterranean, the
letter, with its characteristic antithesis of death and victory, is at least
a good iir.ilation of Nelson's epistolary style.

1. Bringing them to action. Of Nelson's movements in the Nile
campaign, Mr. David Hannay writes : "At no time in his life were the
noble qualities of his nature displayed more entirely free from all
alloy. He was an embodied flame of resolution, ar.d as yet showed
no sign of the vulgar bluster which was to appear later." — Encyc.
Britannica.

2. Morea. The southern peninsula of Greece.

3. Gulf of Coron. At the southern extremity of the Morea.



The Life of Nelson 165

crowded with ships, and they perceived with exultation
that the tri-color flag was flying upon the walls. At four
in the afternoon, Captain Hood, in the Zealous, made
the signal for the enemy's fleet. For many preceding
days Nelson had hardly taken either sleep or food : he
now ordered his dinner to be served, while preparations
were making for battle ; and when his officers rose from
the table, and went to their separate stations, he said
to them : "Before this time tomorrow, I shall have gained
a peerage or Westminster Abbey."

The French, steering direct for Candia, had made an
angular passage for Alexandria ; whereas Nelson, in pur-
suit of them, made straight for that place, and thus mate-
rially shortened the distance. The comparative small-
ness of his force made it necessary to sail in close order,
and it covered a less space than it would have done if
the frigates had been with him: the weather also was
constantly hazy. These circumstances prevented the
English from discovering the enemy on the way to
Egypt, though it appeared, upon examining the journals
of the French officers taken in the action, that the two
fleets must actually have crossed on the night of the 22d
of June. During the return to Syracuse, the chances
of falling in with them were fewer.

Why Bonaparte, having effected his landing, should
not have suffered the fleet to return, has never yet been
explained. This much is certain, that it was detained by
his command; though, with his accustomed falsehood, he
accused Admiral Brueys, after that officer's death, of hav-
ing lingered on the coast, contrary to orders. The French
fleet arrived at Alexandria on the 1st of July; and
Brueys, not being able to enter the port, which time and
neglect had ruined, moored his ships in Aboukir Bay,
in a strong and compact line of battle; the headmost
vessel, according to his own account, being as close as



'166 The Life of Nelson

possible to a shoal on the N. W., and the rest of the fleet
forming a kind of curve along the line of deep water, so
as not to be turned by any means in the S. W. By Bona-
parte 's desire, he had offered a reward of 10,000 livres to
any pilot of the country who would carry the squadron
in ; but none could be found who would venture to take
charge of a single vessel drawing more than twenty feet.
He had, therefore, made the best of his situation, and
chosen the strongest position which he could possibly
. take in an open road. The" commissary of the fleet said,
they were moored in such a manner as to bid defiance to a
force more than double their own. This presumption
could not then be thought unreasonable. Admiral Bar-
rington, when moored in a similar manner off St. Lucia,
in the year 1778, beat off the Comte d'Estaing in
three several attacks, though his force was inferior by
almost one-third to that which assailed it. Here, the ad-
vantage of numbers, both in ships, guns, and men, was in
favor of the French. They had thirteen ships of the
line and four frigates, carrying 1196 guns, and 11,230
men. The English had the same number of ships of the
line, and one fifty-gun ship, carrying 1012 guns, and
8068 men. The English ships were all seventy-fours ; the
French had three eighty- gun ships, and one three-decker
of 120.

During the whole pursuit, it had been Nelson's prac-
tice, whenever circumstances would permit, to have his
captains on board the Vanguard,^ and explain to them

1. Captains on "board the Vanguard. Modern students of naval war-
fare find perhaps the most valuable lesson to be drawn from Nelson's
career in his practice, here Illustrated, of carefully "indoctrinating"
his subordinates in the plan and principles to be carried out in action.
Understanding and accepting the plan, they were expected to use full
discretion in executing it. "We must all exert ourselves to the tit-
most," he wrote to one of his captains, "and not be nonsensical in
saying, *I have an order for this, that, and the other,' if the King's
service clearly marks what ought to be done."



The Life of Nelson 167

his own ideas of the different and best modes of attack,
and such plans as he proposed to execute, on falling in
with the enemy, whatever their situation might be. There
is no possible position, it is said, which he did not take
into calculation. His officers were thus fully acquainted
with his principles of tactics : and such was his confi-
dence in their abilities, that the only thing determined
upon, in case they should find the French at anchor, was
for the ships to form as most convenient for their mutual
support, and to anchor by the stern. ''First gain the
victory, ' ' he said, ' ' and then make the best use of it you
can." The moment he perceived the position of the
French, that intuitive genius with which Nelson was en-
dowed displayed itself ; and it instantly struck him, that
where there was room for an enemy's ship to swing,^
there was room for one of ours to anchor. The plan
which he intended to pursue, therefore, was to keep en-
tirely on the outer sidejDf the French line, and station
his ships, as far as he was able, one on the outer bow, and
another on the outer quarter, of each of the enemy's.
This plan of doubling on the enemy's ships was projected
by Lord Hood, when he designed to attack the French
fleet at their anchorage in Gourjean Road.^ Lord Hood
found it impossible to make the attempt ; but the thought
was not lost upon Nelson, who acknowledged himself, on
this occasion, indebted for it to his old and excellent com-

1. Room , . . to sicing. Unless moored by both bow and stern,
a ship at anchor must have a safe depth to swing in for the length
of her cable in all directions.

2. Gourjean Road. For Hood's plan, see p. 100, and note. Nelson's
method of attack here was to concentrate, two ships to one, on the
outer side of the French ships nearest him, and thus to weaken them
before the French ships anchored to leeward could come to their
assistance. The maneuver, described later, by which Captain Foley and
the four ships following him passed around the head of and thus inside
the French line (doubling it in another sense) was an advantageous
modification of the original plan, made possible by the freedom of
Initiative which Nelson granted his subordinates.



168 The Life of Nelson

mander. Captain Berry, when he comprehended the
scope of the design, exclaimed with transport, "If we
succeed, what will the world say ! ' ' — ' ' There is no if in
the case, ' ' replied the Admiral : * * that we shall succeed,
is certain : who may live to tell the story, is a very dif-
ferent question."

As the squadron advanced, they were assailed by a
shower of shot and shells from the batteries on the island,
and the enemy opened a steady fire from the starboard
side of their whole line, within half gun-shot distance,
full into the bows of our van ships. It was received in
silence : the men on board every ship were employed aloft
in furling sails, and below in tending the braces, and
making ready for anchoring. A miserable sight for the
French; who, with all their skill, and all their courage,
and all their advantages of numbers and situation, were
upon that element on which, when the hour of trial
comes, a Frenchman has no hope. Admiral Brueys was
a brave and able man; yet the indelible character of his
country^ broke out in one of his letters, wherein he de-
livered it as his private opinion, that the English had
missed him, because, not being superior in force, they
did not think it prudent to try their strength with him.
— The moment was now come in which he was to be un-
deceived.

A French brig was instructed to decoy the English, by
maneuvering so as to tempt them toward a shoal lying
off the island of Bekier; but Nelson either knew the
danger, or suspected some deceit ; and the lure was un-

1. Character of Ms country. The fighting quality of the French
nation was sufficiently displayed on the battlefields of the Napoleonic
wars. Her relative weakness on the sea in that period may be attrib-
uted — not, as some writers have said, to the demoralizing influence of
democracy, which had no similar effect on the army — but rather to the
fact that control of the sea was less vital for her than for England,
and her traditional naval policy was to keep the defensive and avoid
the risk of a decisiv'^ action.



The Life of Nelson 169

successful. Captain Foley led the way in the Goliath,
outsailing the Zealous, which for some minutes disputed
this post of honor with him. He had long conceived that
if the enemy were moored in line of battle in with the
land, the best plan of attack would be to lead between
them and the shore, because the French guns on that side



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