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THE LIFE OF NELSON

THE EMBODIMENT OF THE SEA POWER OF GREAT BRITAIN

BY

CAPTAIN A.T. MAHAN, D.C.L., LL.D.
UNITED STATES NAVY

AUTHOR OF "THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON HISTORY, 1660-1783,"
"THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND EMPIRE,"
AND OF A "LIFE OF ADMIRAL FARRAGUT"

IN TWO VOLUMES
VOL. II.

LONDON
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, & COMPANY, _LIMITED_
1897




CONTENTS OF VOL. II.

CHAPTER XIV.

NELSON TEMPORARILY COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. - RELIEVED
BY LORD KEITH. - APPLIES TO RETURN TO ENGLAND ON ACCOUNT OF ILL HEALTH.

AUGUST, 1799 - JUNE, 1800.

Nelson left in temporary command
His disposition of the squadron
Made Duke of Bronté in Sicily
His hopes of remaining in command disappointed
His discontent
Energy and tact in exercising command
Affairs in Rome and Naples
Nelson visits Minorca
His anxiety about Malta
Portuguese squadron recalled to Lisbon. - Nelson's action
Characteristics of his intercourse with foreign officials
Urgency with army to support blockade of La Valetta
Partial success in this
Successes on the Continent of the Coalition against France
Subsequent blunders and disasters
Nelson's mortification at Bonaparte's escape to France
The French defeat the Turks at Aboukir
Nelson peremptorily forbids Sidney Smith to allow any French
to leave Egypt
Smith nevertheless countenances the Convention of El Arish
His action disallowed by Keith and Nelson
Nelson's vivid expressions of disapproval
Nelson joins Keith at Leghorn
They visit Palermo and Malta together
Capture of "Le Généreux," 74, by Nelson's division
Nelson's relations with Keith, and bearing towards him
Keith orders Nelson to take personal charge off Malta
Nelson's annoyance and remonstrance
His restiveness under Keith's command
He returns from Malta to Palermo
The "Guillaume Tell," 80, captured in his absence
Displeasure of the Admiralty at his quitting his station
Letters of the First Lord
Nelson's soreness under them
He applies for leave to return to England


CHAPTER XV.

NELSON LEAVES THE MEDITERRANEAN. - THE JOURNEY OVERLAND
THROUGH GERMANY. - ARRIVAL IN ENGLAND. - SEPARATION
FROM LADY NELSON. - HOISTS HIS FLAG IN THE CHANNEL
FLEET, UNDER LORD ST. VINCENT.

JUNE, 1800 - JANUARY, 1801.

Nelson escorts the Queen of Naples to Leghorn with two British
ships-of-the-line
Keith's displeasure
Nelson at Leghorn
Austrians defeated at Marengo
Nelson and the Hamiltons leave Leghorn for Ancona
Journey to Trieste and Vienna
Enthusiasm shown towards Nelson by the people
Mention of him and Lady Hamilton by eye-witnesses
Anecdotes of him
His meeting with the Archduke Charles at Prague
Mrs. St. George's account of him at Dresden
Her disparaging mention of Lady Hamilton
Arrival of the party in England
Lady Nelson's attitude at this time
Her letters to Nelson
His reception and conduct in London
Growing estrangement between him and Lady Nelson
Anecdote of his visit to Fonthill
Final breach with Lady Nelson
Her blameless character, and subsequent life
Nelson's testimony to her conduct
Hoists his flag on board the "San Josef" at Plymouth
Birth of the child Horatia
Nelson's care to conceal his relations with Lady Hamilton


CHAPTER XVI.

THE EXPEDITION TO THE BALTIC AND BATTLE OF COPENHAGEN. - NELSON
RETURNS TO ENGLAND.

FEBRUARY - JUNE, 1801.

Origin of the trouble between Great Britain and Denmark
The entrance of the Czar Paul into the quarrel
Renewal of the Armed Neutrality of 1780
Relations of Bonaparte to this event
Nelson joins the fleet under Sir Hyde Parker, at Yarmouth
Relations between him and Parker
Nelson's disapproval of the plans for the expedition
Evident change in his general disposition
Anecdote of Nelson and the turbot
The fleet collected off the Skaw
Parker's slowness and Nelson's impatience
Alarming reports of the Danes' preparations
Nelson's attitude and counsels
Accuracy of his judgment of the conditions
Tact and discretion in his dealings with Parker
His letter to Parker upon the general situation
Parker's indecision
Nelson's plans adopted
The fleet passes the Sound
Detail and discussion of Nelson's plan of operations
His feelings and speech in the Council of War
Nelson's division anchors south of Copenhagen
Nelson on the night before the battle
The Danish dispositions for defence
Nelson's Plan of Attack - Detail and discussion
The Battle of Copenhagen
Parker makes the signal to leave off action
Nelson refuses to repeat it
Discussion of this incident
Incidents of the battle
Nelson addresses a letter to the Crown Prince under a flag of
truce
Characteristic anecdote
Discussion of the sending of the flag of truce
The battle discontinued
Nelson removes his ships
Completeness of his success
Merit of his conduct throughout
He is advanced in the peerage to be a Viscount
No other rewards, or medals, bestowed for this action
Negotiations intrusted to Nelson by Parker
The murder of the Czar Paul
Armistice for fourteen weeks concluded with Denmark
Qualified approval of the British Government
The British fleet enters the Baltic
Nelson's ardor and personal recklessness. - Anecdote
Parker's sluggishness of action. - Nelson's impatience
Russia intimates her purpose to abstain from hostilities
Nelson's controversy with the Danish Commodore Fischer
Parker ordered home, and Nelson left in command
Dissatisfaction of the latter
His longing to return to Lady Hamilton
He insists upon being relieved, on account of his health
He starts at once with the fleet for Revel
Displeasure manifested by the Czar Alexander
Nelson withdraws from Revel to Rostock
The Czar thereupon raises the embargo on British merchant
ships
Nelson's elation over this result of his conduct
Details of his life on board
His avoidance of social relations outside the ship
Relieved by Admiral Pole, and returns to England


CHAPTER XVII.

NELSON COMMANDS THE "SQUADRON ON A PARTICULAR SERVICE,"
FOR THE DEFENCE OF THE COAST OF ENGLAND AGAINST INVASION. - SIGNATURE
OF PRELIMINARIES OF PEACE WITH
FRANCE.

JULY-OCTOBER, 1801.

Nelson's longing for repose
His services immediately required again
His reluctant consent
Bonaparte's threats of invasion
Inadequacy of British preparations for coast-defence
Nature of British apprehensions in 1801
Nelson's Memoranda for the Defence of the Thames
Analysis and discussion of this paper
St. Vincent's sagacious views on national defence
Apparent divergence between him and Nelson
Nelson hoists his flag again
His tact and courtesy towards others
Activity of his movements
Satisfied that there can be no invasion
Boat attack upon the vessels before Boulogne
Its disastrous failure
Nelson's distress
His exasperation at being kept afloat
His alienation from Troubridge
Annoyances of his situation
Death of Commander Parker. - Nelson's grief
His liberality in money matters
Pecuniary embarrassments
Signature of the preliminaries of peace
Nelson's satisfaction at the prospect of release
His indignation at the excessive elation of others
Receives leave of absence and goes home


CHAPTER XVIII.

RELEASE FROM ACTIVE SERVICE DURING THE PEACE OF AMIENS. - HOME
LIFE AT MERTON. - PUBLIC INCIDENTS.

OCTOBER, 1801 - MAY, 1803.

Nelson makes his home with the Hamiltons
His letter of final severance to his wife
His relations to his stepson, Josiah Nisbet
Desire to have a home of his own
Lady Hamilton selects Merton for him
The purchase effected, and the Hamiltons reside with him
Position of Sir William and of Lady Hamilton in the house
Differences between them
Minto's account of the household at Merton
Reminiscence of the same by Nelson's nephew
Incident narrated by Lieutenant Layman
Recollections of Nelson by the vicar's daughter
Nelson's strong religious sense of Divine Providence
Takes his place in the House of Lords
His controversy about rewards for the Battle of Copenhagen
His action justified
Nelson's warm and avowed sympathy with his followers
His consistent maintenance of the ground assumed
His interest in public questions
Dissatisfaction with the general conduct of the Admiralty
His sense of neglect
Embarrassment in money matters
Inadequacy of his pension to his services
His doubts as to the continuance of peace
His antagonism to Bonaparte illustrated
Speech in seconding the address to the throne
Designated for the Mediterranean in case of war
Volunteers his services
Hoists his flag in the "Victory," and sails
Breaks in his home-ties during this period
Death of his father
Death of Sir William Hamilton
Hamilton's expressed confidence in Nelson
Relations of Nelson's family to Lady Nelson and to Lady Hamilton


CHAPTER XIX.

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. - THE LONG
WATCH OFF TOULON. - OCCUPATIONS OF A COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF.

MAY, 1803 - JANUARY, 1805.

Changed political conditions in the Mediterranean
Attitude of the Great Powers
Situation of Spain and Portugal
Policy of the Italian States
Nelson's sense of the importance of the Mediterranean
Bonaparte's policy
The course advocated by Nelson
Accuracy of his general forecast
Impatience to reach his station
Unwilling detention off Ushant
Quits the "Victory," and proceeds in a frigate
Momentary stop in Gibraltar
Arrival at Malta
Extensive correspondence
Policy as regards the Two Sicilies
His impatience with blind observance of orders
Departure from Malta for Toulon
Emotions at the sight of Naples
Opinion on Malta's value to England
Strategic importance of Malta and Gibraltar
Nelson joins the fleet before Toulon
Bad condition of the ships
His skilful administration of the fleet
Difficulty of obtaining supplies
His attitude towards Spain
Importance of Sardinia in Nelson's eyes
The valuable anchorage at Madalena
Station taken by him off Toulon
Fears loss of Sardinia, and serious consequences
Significance of Napoleon's inactivity in the Mediterranean
The winter rendezvous of the fleet. - Number
Seamanlike care of ships and spars
Preserves health of seamen by constant activity
Sanitary conditions of the fleet
His personal health, and anxieties
Fears a break-down
Speculations as to French intentions
Characteristic distrust of Frenchmen
Increasing perplexities
Firmness of his resolution
The French manoeuvre outside Toulon
Nelson's tactical conclusions and arrangements
His care to impart his ideas to his officers
Methods of intercourse with them
Exasperation at a statement of Latouche Tréville
Endeavors to force or to lure the French to sea
Effect of worry upon his mind
His last promotion. - Vice-Admiral of the White
Wearing effect of protracted monotony
Refuses to let Lady Hamilton join him
The daily life on board
Account of Nelson's health and habits
Occupations in business hours
Diplomatic ability and conciliatory temper
Sharp reply to remonstrance about blockades
Difficulties with Algiers
Nelson's diligent pursuit of information
Interest in listening to conversations
Examination of foreign journals and captured letters
Kindliness in intercourse with others
Exercise of official patronage
Protection of British trade
Want of frigates and small cruisers
Collection and protection of convoys
Nelson applies for sick leave
Desire to return to the station afterwards
Leave is granted by the Admiralty
The Mediterranean Station divided
Sir John Orde given the portion west of Gibraltar
Nelson's dissatisfaction and complaints
His change of mind about going home
Learns Cornwallis's order to seize Spanish treasure-ships
Directs captains under his orders not to obey
Letter illustrative of the characteristics of his orders
Adequacy of his measures to the requirements of the case
Determines not to use his leave of absence
Orde arrives off Cadiz
Indications of the French fleet leaving Toulon
Nelson receives word of the seizure of Spanish ships
Promptness of his measures. - Reasons therefor
Rumors of French departure
Annoyances caused Nelson by Orde
The mission of the frigate "Amazon"
Nelson's hope of meeting the French fleet
Opinions on general subjects
Sympathetic insight into Bonaparte's purposes
The French fleet sails from Toulon


CHAPTER XX.

THE ESCAPE AND PURSUIT OF THE TOULON FLEET. - NELSON'S
RETURN TO ENGLAND.

JANUARY-AUGUST, 1805.

Object of Napoleon's combinations in 1805
Details of his plan
Nelson's share in thwarting it
The difficulties of one dealing with Napoleon
Nelson's guiding principle
The sailing of the Toulon fleet
Nelson's movements and perplexities
Goes to Alexandria
Returns to Gulf of Palmas, Sardinia
British disasters in Western Mediterranean
Characteristic letter of Nelson in behalf of an officer
Explanations to the Admiralty about his own course
Makes a round off Toulon and Barcelona to deceive the enemy
Returns to the Gulf of Palmas
The Toulon fleet sails again
Its movements and those of Nelson
Distress and misfortunes of the latter
Learns that the French fleet has passed the Straits
Thoroughness and sagacity of his measures
Continued head winds and distress of mind
The excitement in London
Gloom at the Admiralty
Nelson's constancy against bad fortune
Hears that the French and Spaniards are gone to the West
Indies
Determines to follow them there
Sails in pursuit
Incidents of the voyage
Arrives in Barbadoes
Misled by false information
Rapid measures to retrieve the mis-step
Infers that the enemy have returned to Europe
He starts back immediately for Gibraltar
His judgments rapid, but not precipitate
Strength of his convictions
Relief from the anxiety previously felt
Movements of the allies and of Nelson
Precautions of the latter
His own explanation of his reasons
Discussion of this utterance
Indecisive engagement between the allies and Sir Robert Calder
Alarm in London at the failure of the latter
Nelson's protracted pursuit and mental depression
Reaches the Straits again
Appreciation of his action by others
Exchange of views between Nelson and Collingwood
Movements of Villeneuve, Calder, and Nelson
Nelson's arrival in Gibraltar
Subsequent rapid movements
Learns the news brought by the "Curieux"
Starts at once for the northward
Joins the Channel Fleet off Ushant
Leaves his squadron with Cornwallis, and proceeds to England
Anchors at Spithead
His sympathy with Calder
Tenacity of his opinions


CHAPTER XXI.

NELSON'S LAST STAY IN ENGLAND.

AUGUST 19 - SEPTEMBER 15, 1805.

Nelson hauls down his flag and goes to Merton
Interviews with the Admiralty
His one meeting with Wellington
Interview with Lord Castlereagh
Popular demonstrations of affection
Home life at Merton
Presentiments
Intimations of early summons into service
News arrives that the combined fleets are in Cadiz
Determination of the British Government
Nelson's opinion on the License System
His services requested by the Government
Lady Hamilton's part in his decision
It is settled that he return to the Mediterranean
His health and spirits
His insistence upon the need for numbers
Final departure from home
Flag re-hoisted on board the "Victory"
Anecdote of Nelson and the gypsy


CHAPTER XXII.

THE ANTECEDENTS OF TRAFALGAR.

SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 19, 1805.

Popular demonstrations when Nelson embarked
The passage to Cadiz
Precautions to deceive the enemy
His reception by the officers of the fleet
The "Plan of Attack" of May, 1805
The "Nelson Touch"
Discussion and comparison of these two papers
Comparison between the second and the Battle of Trafalgar, as
fought
Nelson and Sir Robert Calder
Nelson's concession to Calder, and his own comments upon it
His disposition of the fleet before Cadiz
His fear lest the enemy should evade him
Growing presentiments, and cheerful calmness
Anecdote showing his considerateness
Necessity for sending away a detachment
Numbers of the British, and of the allies in Cadiz
Nelson's general intentions, made known to his subordinates
The enemy begins to leave Cadiz


CHAPTER XXIII.

TRAFALGAR. - THE DEATH OF NELSON.

OCTOBER 19-21, 1805.

Numbers and composition of the opposing fleets
Difficulties of the allies in leaving port
Respective movements of the two fleets
Nelson's last letter to Lady Hamilton
His last letter to his child
Events and incidents of October 20
Relative positions of the fleets at midnight
Conditions at daybreak of the 21st
The manoeuvres of the two fleets
Nelson's intercourse with Blackwood on the 21st
He bequeaths Lady Hamilton and Horatia to the care of his
Country
The hostile fleets forming for battle
Nelson's impatience to close the enemy
The anxiety of others for his personal safety
The order of the allies while awaiting attack
Nelson's last prayer as entered in his journal
The origin and development of his famous signal
The battle opens
The "Victory" comes under fire
Nelson bids Blackwood a final farewell
Exposure and loss of life on board the "Victory"
The "Victory" breaks the enemy's line
Her duel with the "Redoutable"
Nelson falls, mortally wounded
The death-scene in the cockpit
The decisive hour of the battle
The second and closing phase of the battle
Nelson's anxiety about Hardy
Hardy's first visit to his death-bed
The final exchange of shots
Hardy's second visit and Nelson's farewell
The last moments
The death of Nelson
The close of the fight
The significance of Nelson's life
The perfect fulfilment of his life's work


INDEX



CHAPTER XIV.

NELSON TEMPORARILY COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF IN THE MEDITERRANEAN. - RELIEVED
BY LORD KEITH. - APPLIES TO RETURN TO ENGLAND ON ACCOUNT OF ILL HEALTH.

AUGUST, August 1799 - JUNE, 1800. AGE, 41.


Upon Keith's departure, the command in the Mediterranean devolved upon
Nelson, who for some time remained in doubt of the fact, but with his
usual promptitude acted as if all depended upon himself. "I am
venturing certainly out of my line of duty, but as the
commander-in-chief may not even be on the station, I must do the best
which my judgment points out during his temporary absence." Six
sail-of-the-line, under Admiral Duckworth, were sufficient for service
at Gibraltar and Cadiz, if the latter port was deserted. Four of the
line were about Minorca, constantly, though inefficiently, threatened
from the adjacent coasts of Spain. Three were blockading Malta,
conjointly with the Portuguese vessels. Sidney Smith with his division
remained in the Levant. Troubridge was operating with a few ships on
the coast of Italy, against Civita Vecchia, still in the hands of the
French. A small squadron was maintained on the Riviera of Genoa,
disturbing the communications of the French, and keeping touch with
the advance of the Austro-Russians; but it was expected that the
Russian fleet, as was natural and proper, would soon assume the duty
of co-operating with their general, Suwarrow. The smaller British
cruisers were distributed among these various duties. The flagship
"Foudroyant" was at Palermo, whither the King returned from Naples on
the 8th of August, and there the headquarters of the squadron remained
during Nelson's command. Soon after this arrival in Palermo the King
conferred upon him the title of Duke of Bronté, with an estate of the
same name in Sicily, valued at £3,000 per annum. After this the
admiral for a time signed his papers as Bronté Nelson,[1] changed
subsequently to Bronté Nelson of the Nile, and finally settled down to
Nelson and Bronté, which was his form of signature for the last four
years of his life. He placed upon his new estate an annual charge of
£500 in favor of his father for the term of the latter's life.
"Receive this small tribute, my honoured father," he wrote, "as a mark
of gratitude to the best of parents from his most dutiful son."

On the 20th of September he received letters from the Admiralty,
investing him with the chief command, "till the return of Lord Keith
or some other your superior officer." He was not, however, allowed the
appointments of a commander-in-chief, and often complained of the
inadequacy of his staff to the extent of his duties. Nelson naturally
hoped that his long and eminent services in that particular field, and
the conspicuous ability he had shown on so many occasions, would lead
to the station remaining permanently in his hands, and that Lord
Keith, who was now in England, would succeed in due course to the
Channel Fleet, whose commander, Lord Bridport, soon after retired. The
Mediterranean was naturally attributed to a vice-admiral, and one of
some seniority; but Nelson was now a rear-admiral of the Red, the
highest color, not far, therefore, from promotion, and it would not be
an unreasonable conclusion that the same ministry which had been
fortunate enough to choose him for the campaign of the Nile, might now
prefer to entrust to such able and enterprising hands the great
interests of the Mediterranean at large.

It was not, however, to be so. Whether moved only by routine
considerations of rank, as afterwards at Copenhagen, or whether his
relations with the Sicilian Court, his conduct of affairs at Naples,
and his collisions with Keith, had excited doubt of the normal balance
of his mind, the Admiralty decided to send Keith back, and Nelson,
greatly to his mortification, was kept in charge only till the end of
the year. As St. Vincent had always left him practically independent,
he had known no superior since he entered the Straits, except during
Keith's brief period of succession, when leagues of sheltering
distance left him free, as has been seen, to defy orders when not in
accordance with his views; and he found it impossible now to bow his
will to the second place on the very field of his glory. To this
feeling, natural in any man, and doubly so to one of Nelson's quick
susceptibilities, at once stimulated and soothed by the lavish
adulation of the past year, was added personal dislike to his new
superior, aggravated, if not originated, by the clash of judgment over
the relative importance of Naples and Minorca. "I have serious
thoughts of giving up active service," he wrote to Minto; "Greenwich
Hospital seems a fit retreat for me after being _evidently_ thought
unfit to command in the Mediterranean." Complaints of Keith's lack of
consideration then abound, nor does he seem to be conscious that there
was anything in his mode of life, in current rumor, or in his past
relations with his new commander-in-chief, which might make the latter
unwilling to give him the loose rein St. Vincent had done.

From the time that Keith left the Mediterranean in July, 1799, to
Nelson's own departure a year later, there was little to be done in
the naval way except to maintain and press existing advantages, and
wait until the fruit was ready to drop. The absolute supremacy of the
British squadrons, challenged for a moment by the incursion of Admiral
Bruix, had reverted, in even greater degree than before, by the
absence of the Spanish ships which had accompanied him to Brest.
Impeded by their own numbers, and paralyzed by the insufficiency of
the resources of the port, they remained there a huge, inert mass,
whose impotence was only partially understood by the British; a fact
which conduced to prolong Keith's presence in the Channel. The year
under consideration was therefore devoid of stirring events at sea.

In the Mediterranean, it is true, Nelson's unwearying mental energy,
and keen sense of the necessity of seizing opportunity, did not allow
things to lapse into indolence. Whether or not he was well advised to
settle himself at Palermo, aware as he must have been of the actual
temptation, and of the serious injury that scandal was doing to his
reputation, both professional and personal, may admit of doubt. With
numerous detached and minor services carrying on at the same moment,
there was much to be said for the commander-in-chief remaining in a
fixed position, near the centre of affairs; and in his apprehension
everything then revolved about the Kingdom of Naples. There can be no
question, however, that all his faculties were constantly on the
alert; and that his administration of the station until Keith's return
was characterized by the same zeal, sagacity, and politic tact that he
had shown in earlier days. It is admirable to note the patience,
courtesy, and adroit compliment, he brings into play, to kindle, in
those over whom he has no direct control, the ardor for the general
good, and the fearlessness of responsibility, which actuate himself;
and at the same time to observe how severe the strain was upon his
nervous and irritable temper, as betrayed in comments upon these very
persons, made in private letters which he never expected would see the



Online LibraryA.T. MahanThe Life of Nelson, Volume 2 (of 2) The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain → online text (page 1 of 37)