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the heights were by this time so secured, and manned
with such a force as to be judged impracticable. Thus
foiled in his plans by circumstances of wind and tide,
he still considered it a point of honor that some attempt
should be made. This was on the 22d of July: he
re-embarked his men that night, got the ships, on the
24th, to anchor about two miles north of the town,
and made show as if he intended to attack the heights.
At six in the evening, signal was made for the
boats to prepare to proceed on the service, as previously

When this was done, Nelson addressed a letter to the
Commander-in-Chief — the last which was ever written
with his right hand. *'I shall not," said he, '* enter on
the subject, why we are not in possession of Santa Cruz.
Your partiality will give credit, that all has hitherto
been done which was possible, but without effect. This
night I, humble as I am, command the whole, destined
to land under the batteries of the town : and, tomorrow,
my head will probably be crowned either with laurel or
cypress. I have only to recommend Josiah Nisbet to
you and my country. The Duke of Clarence, should I
fall, v^ill, I am confident, take a lively interest for my

1. League. Three nautical miles. A nautical mile is 6080 feet, or
one-sixtieth of a degree at the equator.

The Life op Nelson 145

son-in-law, on his name being mentioned." Perfectly
aware how desperate a service this was likely to prove,
before he left the Theseus, he called Lieutenant Nisbet,
who had the watch on deck, into the cabin, that he might
assist in arranging and burning his mother's letters.
Perceiving that the young man was armed, he earnestly
begged him to remain behind. ''Should we both fall,
Josiah," said he, ''what would become of your poor
mother! The care of the Theseus falls to you: stay,
therefore, and take charge of her Nisbet replied:
"Sir, the ship must take care of herself; I will go
with you tonight, if I never go again."

He met his captains at supper on board the Seahorse.
Captain Fremantle, whose wife, whom he had lately mar-
ried in the Mediterranean, presided at table. At eleven
o'clock, the boats, containing between 600 and 700 men,
with 180 on board the Fox cutter, and from 70 to 80
in a boat which had been taken the day before, pro-
ceeded in six divisions toward the town, conducted by
all the captains of the squadron, except Fremantle and
Bowen, who attended with Nelson to regulate and lead
the way to the attack. They were to land on the mole,
and thence hasten, as fast as possible, into the great
square; then form, and proceed as should be found
expedient. They were not discovered till about half-
past one o'clock, when, being Vvdthin half gun-shot of the
landing place. Nelson directed the boats to cast off from
each other, give a huzza and push for the shore. But
the Spaniards were excellently well prepared : the alarm-
bells answered the huzza, and a fire of thirty oi;- forty
pieces of cannon, with musketry from one end of the
town to the other, opened upon the invaders. Nothing,
however, could check the intrepidity with which they
advanced. The night was exceedingly dark; most of
the boats m.issed the mole, and went on shore through

146 The Life of Nelson

a raging surf, which stove all to the left of it. The Ad-
miral, Fremantle, Thompson, Bowen, and four or five
other boats, found the mole : they stormed it instantly,
and carried it, though it was defended, as they imag-
ined, by four or five hundred men. Its guns, which were
six-and-twenty pounders, were spiked , but such a heavy
fire of musketry and grape was kept up from the Citadel,
and the houses at the head of the mole, that the assail-
ants could not advance, and nearly all of them were
killed or wounded.

In the act of stepping out of the boat. Nelson received
a shot through the right elbow, and fell ; but, as he fell,
he caught the sword, which he had just drawn, in his
left hand, determined never to part with it while he
lived, for it had belonged to his uncle. Captain Suckling,
and he valued it like a relic. Nisbet, who was close to
him, placed him at the bottom of the boat, and laid his
hat over the shattered arm, lest the sight of the blood,
which gushed out in great abundance, should increase his
faintness. He then examined the wound, and taking
some silk handkerchiefs from his neck, bound them
round tight above the lacerated vessels. Had it not
been for this presence of mind of his son-in-law, Nelson
must have perished. One of his barge-men, by name
Lovel, tore his shirt into shreds, and made a sling with
them for the broken limb They then collected five
other seamen, by whose assistance they succeeded, at
length, in getting the boat afloat ; for it had grounded with
the falling tide. Nisbet took one of the oars, and ordered
the steersman to go close under the guns of the battery,
that they might be safe from its tremendous fire. Hear-
ing his voice. Nelson roused himself, and desired to be
lifted up in the boat, that he might look about him.
Nisbet raised him up j but nothing could be seen, except
the firing of the guns on shore, and what could be dis-

The Life of Nelson 147

cerned by their flashes upon the stormy sea. In a few
minutes, a general shriek was heard from the crew of
the FoXy which had received a shot under water, and
went down. Ninety-seven men were lost in her; eighty-
three were saved, many by Nelson himself, whose exer-
tions on this occasion greatly increased the pain and dan-
ger of his wound. The first ship which the boat could
reach happened to be the Seahorse: but nothing could
induce him to go on board, though he was assured, that
if they attempted to row to another ship, it might be
at the risk of his life. ''I had rather suffer death," he
replied, ''than alarm Mrs. Fremantle, by letting her
see me in this state, when I can give her no tidings what-
ever of her husband. ' ' They pushed on for the Theseus,
When they came alongside, he peremptorily refused all
assistance in getting aboard, so impatient was he that
the boat should return, in hopes that it might save a
few more from the Fox. He desired to have only a
single rope thrown over the side, which he twisted round
his left hand, saying, ' ' Let me alone : I have yet my
legs left, and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make. haste,
and get his instruments. I know I must lose my right
arm ; so the sooner it is off the better. "* The spirit which
he displayed, in jumping up the ship's side, astonished

Fremantle had been severely wounded in the right
arm, soon after the Admiral. He was fortunate enough

• During the peace of Amiens, when Nelson was passing through
Salisbury, and received there with those acclamations which followed
him everywhere, he recognized, amid the crowd, a man who had as-
sisted at the amputation, and attended him afterwards. He beckoned
him up the stairs of the Council House, shook hands with him, and
made him a present, in remembrance of his services at that time.
The man took from his bosom a piece of lace, which he had torn from
the sleeve of the amputated limb, saying he had preserved, and would
preserve, it to the last moment, in memory of his old commander. —
Southey's Note.

148 The Life op Nelson

to find a boat at the beach, and got instantly to his ship.
Thompson was wounded; Bowen* killed, to the great
regret of Nelson; as was also one of his own officers,
Lieutenant Weatherhead, who had followed him from
the Agamemnon, and whom he greatly and deservedly
esteemed. Troubridge, meantime, fortunately for his
party, missed the mole in the darkness, but pushed on
shore under the batteries, close to the south end of the
Citadel. Captain Waller, of the Emerald, and two or
three other boats, landed at the same time. The surf
was so high, that many others put back. The boats were
instantly filled with water, and stove against the rocks ;
and most of the ammunition in the men's pouches was
wetted. Having collected a few men, they pushed on to
the great square, hoping there to find the Admiral and
the rest of the force. The ladders were all lost, so that
they could make no immediate attempt on the Citadel;
but they sent a sergeant, wdth two of the town's people,
to summon it : this messenger never returned ; and Trou-
bridge having waited about an hour, in painful expecta-
tion of his friends, marched to join Captains Hood and
Miller, who had effected their landing to the south-
west. They then endeavored to procure some intelli-
gence of the Admiral and the rest of the officers, but
without success. By daybreak they had gathered to-
gether about eighty marines, eighty pikemen, and one
hundred and eighty small-arm seamen ; all the survivors

* "Captain Bowen's gold seals and chain, and sword, were preserved
in the town house at Teneriffe, i. e., at Santa Cruz, the chief town in
Teneriffe ; his watch and other valuables had been made booty of by
the populace. In 1810, the magistrates of the island sent' these memo-
rials of the dead to his brother, Commissioner Bowen, saying that they
conceived it would be gratifying to his feelings to receive them, and
that as the two nations were now united in a cause which did equal
honor to both, they did not wish to retain a trophy which could remind
them that they had ever been opposed to each other." — Naval Chronicle,
vol. xxiv., p. 393. — [Southey's Note.]

The Life of Nelson 149

of those who had made good their landing. They ob-
tained some ammunition from the prisoners whom they
had taken ; and marched on, to try what could be done
at the Citadel without ladders. They found all the
streets commanded by field-pieces, and several thou-
sand Spaniards, with about a hundred French, under
arms, approaching by every avenue. Finding himself
without provisions, the powder wet, and no possibility
of obtaining either stores or reinforcements from the
ships, the boats being lost, Troubridge, with great pres-
ence of mind, sent Captain Samuel Hood with a flag
of truce to the governor, to say he was prepared to burn
the town, and would instantly set fire to it, if the Span-
iards approached one inch nearer: — This, however, if
he were compelled to do it, he should do with regret,
for he had no wish to injure the inhabitants : and he was
ready to treat upon these terms, — that the British troops
should re-embark, with all their arms, of every kind, and
take their own boats, if they were saved, or be provided
with such others as might be wanting; they, on their
part, engaging that the squadron should not molest the
town, nor any of the Canary Islands: all prisoners on
both sides to be given up. When these terms were pro-
posed, the governor made answer, that the English ought
to surrender as prisoners of war: but Captain Hood
replied, he was instructed to say, that if the terms were
not accepted in five minutes, Captain Troubridge would
set the town on fire, and attack the Spaniards at the
point of the bayonet. Satisfied with his success, which
was indeed sufficiently complete, and respecting, like a
brave and honorable man, the gallantry of his enemy,
the Spaniard acceded to the proposal, found boats to re-
embark them, their own having been dashed to pieces in
landing, and before they parted gave every man a loaf
of bread and a pint of wine. ''And here,'' says Nelson

150 The Life of Nelson

in his journal, "it is right we should notice the noble
and generous conduct of Don Juan Antonio .^Gutierrez,
the Spanish governor. The moment the terms were
agreed to, he directed our wounded men to be received
into the hospitals, and all our people to be supplied with
the best provisions that could be procured ; and made it
known, that the ships were at liberty to send on shore,
and purchase whatever refreshments they were in want
of during the time they might be off the island." A
youth, by name Don Bernardo Collagon, stripped him-
self of his shirt, to make bandages for one of those
Englishmen against whom, not an hour before, he had
been engaged in battle. Nelson wrote to thank the gov-
ernor for the humanity which he had displayed. Pres-
ents were interchanged between them. Sir Horatio
offered to take charge of his despatches for the Spanish
government; and thus actually became the first messen-
ger to Spain of his own defeat.

The total loss of the English, in killed, wounded, and
drowned, amounted to 250. Nelson made no mention of
his own wound in his official despatches; but in a pri-
vate letter to Lord St. Vincent — the first which he wrote
with his left hand — ^he shows himself to have been deeply
affected by the failure of this enterprise. *'I am be-
come,'* he said, ''a burden to my friends, and useless to
my country : but by my last letter you will perceive my
anxiety for the promotion of my son-in-law, Josiah
Nisbet. 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^ 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

1. From poor Bowen's loss. Nelson's request, not explicitly stated,
was that Nisbet should be promoted to the vacancy caused by the death
of Captain Bowen.

The Life of Nelson 151

from the mole of Santa Cruz. I hope you will be able
to give me a frigate, to convey the remains of my car-
cass to England." — "A left-handed admiral," he said
in a subsequent letter, ^Svill never again be considered
as useful; therefore, the sooner I get to a very humble
cottage the better; and make room for a sounder man
to serve the state." His first letter to Lady Nelson was
written under the same opinion, but in a more cheerful
strain. **It was the chance of war," said he, ''and I
have great reason to be thankful : and I know it will add
much to your pleasure to find that Josiah, under God's
providence, was principally instrumental in saving my
life. I shall not be surprised if I am neglected and for-
gotten: probably I shall no longer be considered as use-
ful : however, I shall feel rich if I continue to enjoy your
affection. I beg neither you nor my father will think
much of this mishap : — my mind has long been made up
to such an event."

His son-in-law, according to his wish, was imme-
diately promoted; and honors enough to heal his
wounded spirit awaited him in England. Letters were
addressed to him by the First Lord of the Admiralty,
and by his steady friend, the Duke of Clarence, to con-
gratulate him on his return, covered as he was with
glory. He assured the duke, in his reply, that not a
scrap of that ardor with which he had hitherto served
his king had been shot away. The freedoms of the cities
of Bristol and London were conferred on him: he was
invested with the Order of the Bath;^ and received a
pension of £1000 a year. The Memorial which, as a
matter of form, he was called upon to present on this
occasion, exhibited an extraordinary catalogue of serv-

1. Order of the Bath. He had been appointed to the order, immedi-
ately after the battle of Cape St. Vincent (see p. 139), but was now
formally invested by the king.

152 The Life op Nelson

ices performed during the war. It stated, that he had
been in four actions with the fleets of the enemy, and in
three actions with boats employed in cutting out of
harbor, in destroying vessels, and in taking three towns:
he had served on shore with the army four months, and
commanded the batteries at the sieges of Bastia and
Calvi; he had assisted at the capture of seven sail of
the line, six frigates, four corvettes, and eleven priva-
teers : taken and destroyed nearly fifty sail of merchant
vessels; and actually been engaged against the enemy
upwards of one hundred and twenty times; in which
service he had lost his right eye and right arm, and
been severely wounded and bruised in his body.

His sufferings from the lost limb were long and pain-
ful. A nerve had been taken up in one of the ligatures
at the time of the operation ; and the ligature, according
to the practice of the French surgeons, was of silk, in-
stead of waxed thread: this produced a constant irrita-
tion and discharge ; and the ends of the ligature being
pulled every day, in hopes of bringing it away, occa-
sioned fresh agony. He had scarcely any intermission
of pain, day or night, for three months after his return
to England. Lady Nelson, at his earnest request, at-
tended the dressing of his arm, till she had acquired
sufficient resolution and skill to dress it herself. One
night, during this state of suffering, after a day of
con'stant pain. Nelson retired early to bed, in hope of
enjoying some respite by means of laudanum. He was
at that time lodging in Bond Street; and the family
was soon disturbed by a mob knocking loudly and vio-
lently at the door. The news of Duncan's victory^ had
been made public, and the house was not illuminated.
But when the mob were told that Admiral Nelson lay

1. Duncan's victory. Over the Dutch off Camperdown, October 11,

The Life of Nelson 153

there in bed, badly wounded, the foremost of them made
answer: "You shall hear no more from us tonight;"
and, in fact, the feeling' of respect and sympathy was
communicated from one to another with such effect, that,
under the confusion of such a night, the house was not
molested again.

About the end of November, after a night of sound
sleep, he found the arm nearly free from pain: the
surgeon was immediately sent for, to examine it; and
the ligature came away with the slightest touch. From
that time it began to heal. As soon as he thought his
health established, he sent the following form of thanks-
giving to the minister of St. George's, Hanover Square:
"An officer desires to return thanks to Almighty God
for his perfect recovery from a severe wound, and also
for the many mercies bestowed on him."

Not having been in England till now, since he lost his
e^^e, he went to receive a year's pay, as smart money ;^
but could not obtain payment, because he had neglected
to bring a certificate from a surgeon, that the sight was
actually destroyed. A little irritated that this form
should be insisted upon; because, though the fact was
not apparent, he thought it was sufficiently notorious,
he procured a certificate, at the same time, for the loss
of his arm ; saying, they might just as well doubt one as
the other. This put him in good humor with himself,
and with the clerk who had offended him. On his return
to the office, the clerk, finding it was only the annual
pay of a captain, observed, he thought it had been more.
"Oh!" replied Nelson, "this is only for an eye. In a
few days I shall come for an arm ; and in a little time
longer, God knows, most probably for a leg. ' ' Ac-
cordingly, he soon afterwards went; and with perfect
good humor exhibited the certificate of the loss of his arm.

1. Smart money. Extra pay granted for wounds incurred In service.


Nelson rejoins Earl St. Vincent in the Vanguard — Sails in pur-
suit of the French to Egypt — Returns to Sicily, and sails again to
Egypt— Battle of the Nile.

Early in the year 1798, Sir Horatio Nelson hoisted
his flag in the Vanguard, and was ordered to rejoin Earl
St. Vincent. Upon his departure, his father addressed
him with that affectionate solemnity by which all his
letters were distinguished. *'I trust in the Lord," said
he, "that He will prosper your going out and your
coming in. I earnestly desired once more to see you, and
that wish has been heard. If I should presume to say
I hope to see you again, the question would readily be
asked, How old art thou? Vale! vale! Dominie, vale!'^^
It is said that a gloomy foreboding hung on the spirits
of Lady Nelson at their parting. This could have arisen
only from the dread of losing him by the chance of war.
Any apprehension of losing his affections could hardly
have existed; for all his correspondence to this time
shows that he thought himself happy in his marriage;
and his private character had hitherto been as spotless
as his public conduct. One of the last things he said
to her was, that his own ambition was satisfied, but that
he went to raise her to that rank in which he had long
wished to see her.

Immediately on his rejoining the fleet, he was des-
patched to the Mediterranean, with a small squadron, in
order to ascertain, if possible, the object of the great
expedition which at that time was fitting out, under

1. Vale, etc. Farewell, Master, farewell.


The Life of Nelson 155

Bonaparte, at Toulon. The defeat of this armament,
whatever might be its destination, was deemed by the
British government an object paramount to every other ;
and Earl St, Vincent was directed, if he thought it neces-
sary, to take his whole force into the Mediterranean, to
relinquish, for that purpose, the blockade of the Spanish
fleet, as a thing of inferior moment: but, if he should
deem a detachment sufficient, * ' I think it almost unneces-
sary," said the First Lord of the Admiralty, in his
secret instructions, ''to suggest to you the propriety of
putting it under Sir Horatio Nelson." It is to the
honor of Earl St. Vincent, that he had already made the
same choice. This appointment to a service in which so
much honor might be acquired gave great offence to the
senior admirals of the fleet. Sir William Parker, who
was a very excellent officer, and as gallant a man as any
in the navy, and Sir John Orde, who on all occasions of
service had acquitted himself with great honor, each wrote
to Lord Spencer, complaining that so marked a prefer-
ence should have been given to a junior of the same
fleet. This resentment is what most men in a like case
would feel, and if the preference thus given to Nelson
had not originated in a clear perception that (as his
friend Collingwood said of him a little while before) his
spirit was equal to all undertakings, and his resources
fltted to all occasions, an injustice would have been done
to them by his appointment. But if the services were
conducted with undeviating respect to seniority, the
naval and military character would soon be brought down
to the dead level of mediocrity.

The armament at Toulon consisted of thirteen ships of
the line, seven forty-gun frigates, with twenty-four
smaller vessels of war, and nearly 200 transports. Mr.
Udney, our counsel at Leghorn, was the first person who
procured certain intelligence of the enemy's design

156 The Life op Nelson

against Malta ; and, from his own sagacity, foresaw that
Egypt must be their after object. Nelson sailed from
Gibraltar on the 9th of May, with the Vanguard, Orion,
and Alexander, seventy-fours ; the Caroline, Flora,
Emerald, and Terpsichore, frigates; and the Bonnie
Citoyenne sloop of war, to watch this formidable arma-
ment. On the 19th, when they were in the Gulf of Lyons,
a gale came on from the N, W. It moderated so much
on the 20th, as to enable them to get their top-gallant-
masts and yards aloft.^ After dark, it again began to
blow strong : but the ships had been prepared for a gale,
and therefore Nelson's mind was easy. Shortly after
midnight, however, his main topmast went over the side,
and the mizzen-topmast soon afterwards. The night was
so tempestuous, that it was impossible for any signal
either to be seen or heard; and Nelson determined, as
soon as it should be daybreak, to wear, and scud before
the gale: but at half -past three the foremast went into
three pieces, and the bowsprit was found to be sprung
in three places.

When day broke, they succeeded in wearing the ship
with a remnant of the sprit-sail :^ this was hardly to have
been expected: the Vanguard was at that time twenty-
five leagues south of the islands of Hieres, with her head
lying to the N. E., and if she had not wore, the ship must
have drifted to Corsica. Captain Ball, in the Alexander,
took her in tow, to carry her into the Sardinian harbor
of St. Pietro. Nelson, apprehensive that this attempt
might endanger both vessels, ordered him to cast off : but
that excellent officer, with a spirit like his commander's,
replied, he was confident he could save the Vanguard, and

1. Masts and j/ards aloft. As was customary in violent storms, the
top-gailant and other upper masts had been unrigged, lowered, and
lashed to the masts below.

2. Wearing . . . ivith the sprit-sail. Turning the ship with the
wind by mesns of a small sail spread under the bowsprit.

The Life of Nelson 157

by God's help lie would do it. There had been a previous
coolness between these great men; but from this time

Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 12 of 29)