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under a fortunate star. The movements of Villeneuve's and Nelson's
fleets, from this point to Trafalgar, form an interesting study in naval
strategy. Napoleon had 20 ships at Brest, 5 at Rochefort, and 10 at
Toulon, besides about 28 Spanish vessels in the northern ports of
Spain. To secure control of the English channel, it was necessary to
entice away the British fleets watching these ports, and then
rapidly to concentrate an overwhelming naval force against the British
fleet guarding the English coast. Various methods of doing this had
been proposed. The one now adopted was that Villeneuve should
sail for the West Indies, drawing Nelson after him, join there the
French fleets escaped from northern ports, and return at once to attack
the British Channel fleet. The plan was not altogether unfeasible, but
failed through Villeneuve's incapacity.

2. Reinforcements. Admiral Ganteaume left Brest with seven ships-
of-the-line and 5000 troops, but reached Egypt with only a part of his
force and too late to be of assistance.

3. Cape de Oatte (or de Gata). On the Spanish coast east of

The Life of Nelson 321

the Straits of Gibraltar on the day following ; and Nelson,
knowing that they might already be half way to Ire-
land, or to Jamaica, exclaimed, that he was miserable.
One gleam of comfort only came across him in the reflec-
tion, that his vigilance had rendered it impossible for
them to undertake any expedition in the Mediterranean.

Eight days after this certain intelligence had been ob-
tained, he described his state of mind thus forcibly, in
writing to the Governor of Malta : ' ' My good fortune,
my dear Ball, seems flown away. I cannot get a fair
wind, or even a side wind. Dead foul ! Dead foul ! But
my mind is fully made up what to do when I leave the
Straits, supposing there is no certain account of the
enemy's destination. I believe this ill-luck will go near
to kill me; but, as these are times for exertion, I must
not be cast down, whatever I may feel." In spite of
every exertion which could be made by all the zeal and
all the skill of British seamen, he did not get in sight of
Gibraltar till the 30th of April; and the wind was then
so adverse, that it was impossible to pass the Gut. He
anchored in Mazari Bay, on the Barbary shore ; obtained
supplies from Tetuan; and when, on the 5th, a breeze
from the eastward sprang up at last, sailed once more,
hoping to hear of the enemy from Sir John Orde, who
commanded off Cadiz, or from Lisbon. ''If nothing is
heard of them, ' ' said he to the Admiralty, ' ' I shall prob-
ably think the rumors which have been spread are true,
that their object is the West Indies; and, in that case, I
think it my duty to follow them, — or to the Antipodes,
should I believe that to be their destination." At the
time when this resolution was taken, the physician of
the fleet had ordered him to return to England before
the hot months.

Nelson had formed his judgment of their destination,
and made up his mind accordingly, when Donald Camp-

322 The Life of Nelson

bell, at that time an admiral in the Portuguese service,
the same person who had given important tidings to Earl
St. Vincent of the movements of that fleet from which he
won his title, a second time gave timely and momentous
intelligence to the flag of his country. He went on board
the Victory, and communicated to Nelson his certain
knowledge that the combined Spanish and French fleets
were bound for the West Indies. Hitherto all things had
favored the enemy. While the British Commander was
beating up against strong southerly and westerly gales,
they had wind to their wish from the N. E., and had
done in nine days what he was a whole month in accom-
plishing. Villeneuve, finding the Spaniards at Cartha-
gena were not in a state of equipment to join him, dared
not wait, but hastened on to Cadiz. Sir John Orde
necessarily retired at his approach. Admiral Gravina,
with six Spanish ships of the line, and two French, came
out to him, and they sailed without a moment's loss of
time. They had about three thousand French troops on
board, and fifteen hundred Spanish: six hundred were
under orders, expecting them at Martinique, and one
thousand at Guadaloupe. General Lauriston commanded
the troops. The combined fleet now consisted of eighteen
sail of the line, six forty-four gun frigates, one of twenty-
six guns, three corvettes, and a brig. They were joined
afterwards by two new French line of battle ships, and
one forty-four. Nelson pursued them with ten sail of the
line and three frigates. ''Take you a Frenchman
apiece," said he to his Captains, ''and leave me the
Spaniards, — ^when I haul down my colors, I expect you
to do the same, — and not till then."

The enemy had five-and-thirty days ' start ; but he cal-
culated that he should gain eight or ten days upon them
by his exertions. May 15th he made Madeira, and on
June 4th reached Barbados, whither he had sent des-

The Life of Nelson 323

patches before him; and where he found Admiral Coch-
rane, with two ships, part of our squadron in those seas
being at Jamaica. He found here also accounts that the
combined fleets had been seen from St. Lucia on the 28th,
standing to the southward, and that Tobago and Trini-
dad were their objects. This Nelson doubted; but he
was alone in his opinion, and yielded it with these fore-
boding words — ''If your intelligence proves false, you
lose me the French fleet. ' ' Sir William Myers offered to
embark here with two thousand troops : — they were taken
on board, and the next morning he sailed for Tobago.
Here accident confirmed the false intelligence which had,
whether from intention or error, misled him. A mer-
chant at Tobago, in the general alarm, not knowing
whether this fleet was friend or foe, sent out a schooner
to reconnoiter, and acquaint him by signal. The signal
which he had chosen happened to be the very one which
had been appointed by Colonel Shipley of the engineers
to signify that the enemy were at Trinidad ; and as this
was at the close of day, there was no opportunity of dis-
covering the mistake. An American brig was met with
about the same time ; the master of which, with that pro-
pensity to deceive the English and assist the French in
any manner, which has been but too common among his
countrymen, affirmed, that he had been boarded off
Granada a few days before by the French, who were
standing towards the Bocas of Trinidad.^ This fresh
intelligence removed all doubts. The ships were cleared
for action before daylight, and Nelson entered the Bay
of Paria on the 7th, hoping and expecting to make the
mouths of the Orinoco as famous in the annals of the
British Navy as those of the Nile. Not an enemy was
there; and it was discovered that accident and artifice

1. Bocas of Trinidad. The Boca del Dragon, or Serpent's Mouth,
Is the strait between Trinidad and the coast of South America.

324 The Life op Nelson

had combined to lead him so far to leeward, that there
could have been little hope of fetching to windward of
Granada for any other fleet. Nelson, however, with skill
and exertions never exceeded, and almost unexampled,
bore for that island.

Advices met him on the way, that the combined fleets,
having captured the Diamond Eock,^ were then at Mar-
tinique, on the 4th, and were expected to sail that night
for the attack of Granada. On the 9th, Nelson arrived
off that island, and there learned that they had passed
to leeward of Antigua the preceding day, and taken a
homeward-bound convoy. Had it not been for false in-
formation, upon which Nelson had acted reluctantly, and
in opposition to his own judgment, he would have been
off Fort RoyaP just as they were leaving it, and the
battle would have been fought on the spot where Rodney
defeated De Grasse.^ This he remembered in his vexa-
tion; but he had saved the colonies and above two hun-
dred ships laden for Europe, which would else have
fallen into the enemy's hands; and he had the satisfac-
tion of knowing that the mere terror of his name had
effected this, and had put to flight the allied enemies,
whose force nearly doubled that before which they fled.
That they were flying back to Europe he believed, and
for Europe he steered in pursuit on the 13th, having
disembarked the troops at Antigua, and taking with him
the Spartiate, 74 : the only addition to the squadron with
which he was pursuing so superior a force. Five days
afterwards the Amazon brought intelligence, that she

1. Diamond Rock. A small Island, fortified by the British, off the
southern coast of the French island of Martinique.

2. Fort Royal. The former name of Fort de France, in Martinique.
Villeneuve arrived at Martinique May 26 and left June 8 ; Nelson ar-
rived at Barbados (the second island south of Martinique) June 4,
having gained ten days in crossing.

3. Defeated De Grasse. See p. 53, note 1.

The Life of Nelson 325

had spoke a schooner who had seen them, on the evening
of the 15th, steering to the north ; and, by computation,
eighty-seven leagues off. Nelson's diary at this time
denotes his great anxiety, and his perpetual and all-
observing vigilance. ' ' June 21, Midnight. — Nearly calm ;
saw three planks which I think came from the French
fleet. Very miserable, which is very foolish." On the
17th of July, he came in sight of Cape St. Vincent, and
Peered for Gibraltar. "June 18th," his diary says,
' ' Cape Spartel in sight, but no French fleet, nor any in-
formation about them. How sorrowful this makes me 1
but I cannot help myself." The next day he anchored
at Gibraltar, and on the 20th, says he, "I went on shore
for the first time since June 16th, 1803 ; and from hav-
ing my foot out of the Victory, two years, wanting ten
days. "^

Here he communicated with his old friend Colling-
wood, who, having been detached with a squadron, when
the disappearance of the combined fleets, and of Nelson
in their pursuit, was known in England, had taken his
station off Cadiz, He thought that Ireland was the
enemy's ultimate object; that they would now liberate
the Ferrol squadron, which was blocked up by Sir Rob-
ert Calder, call for the Rochefort ships, and then appear
off Ushant with three or four and thirty sail ; there to be
joined by the Brest fleet. With this great force he sup-
posed they would make for Ireland, — the real mark and

1. Two years, icanting ten days. "After an unremitting cruise
of two long years in ttie stormy Gulf of Lyons, to have proceeded
without going into port to Alexandria, from Alexandria to the West
Indies, from the West Indies back again to Gibraltar, to bave kept
your ships afloat, your rigging standing, and your crews in health
and spirits — is an effort such as never was realized in former times,
nor, I doubt, will ever again be repeated by any other admiral. You
have protected us for two long years, and you have saved the West
Indies by only a few days." — Letter from Elliot, Minister to Naples,
Mahan's Life of Nelson, Vol. II, p. 310.

326 The Life of Nelson

"bent of all their operations ; and their flight to the West
Indies, he thought, had been merely undertaken to take
off Nelson's force, which was the great impediment to
their undertaking.

Collingwood was gifted with great political penetra-
. tion. As yet, however, all was conjecture concerning the
enemy; and Nelson, having victualled and watered at
Tetuan, stood for Ceuta on the 24th, still without infor-
mation of their course. Next day intelligence arrived
that the Curieiix brig^ had seen them on the 19th, stand-
ing to the northward. He proceeded off Cape St. Vin-
cent, rather cruising for intelligence, than knowing
whither to betake himself ; and here a case occurred that,
more than any other event in real history, resembles
those whimsical proofs of sagacity which Voltaire, in his
**Zadig,''^ has borrowed from the Orientals. One of our
frigates spoke an American who, a little to the westward
of the Azores, had fallen in with an armed vessel, ap-
pearing to be a dismasted privateer, deserted by her crew,
which had been run on board by another ship, and had
been set fire to ; but the fire had gone out. A log-book,
and a few seamen's jackets, were found in the cabin; and
these were brought to Nelson. The log-book closed with
these words : * ' Two large vessels in the W. N. W. ; ' ' and
this led him to conclude that the vessel had been an
English privateer, cruising off the Western Islands. But
there was in this book a scrap of dirty paper, filled with
figures. Nelson, immediately upon seeing it, observed

1. The Curieux "brig. This vessel, sent ahead by Nelson on June 12,
had sighted and passed the French fleet on June 19, and brought
word to England that Villeneuve was heading for the northern ports
of Spain. This timely warning led to the despatch of Calder's fleet,
referred to in the next chapter, .

2. Zadig. An Arab of remarkable detective powers in Voltaire's
romance of the same name ; an early prototype of Poe's Dupin and
Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

The Life op Nelson 327

that the figures were written by a Frenchman ; and, after
studying this for a while, said : ' ' I can explain the whole.
The jackets are of French manufacture, and prove that
the privateer was in possession of the enemy. She had
been chased and taken by the two ships that were seen
in the W. N. W. The prize-master, going on board in
a hurry, forgot to take with him his reckoning ;^ there is
none in the log-book; and the dirty paper contains her
work for the number of days since the privateer last left
Corvo : with an unaccounted-for run, which I take to
have been the chase, in his endeavor to find out her situa-
tion by back-reckonings. By some mismanagement, I con-
clude, she was run on board of by one of the enemy's
ships, and dismasted. Not liking delay (for I am satis-
fied that those two ships were the advanced ones of the
French squadron), and fancying we were close at their
heels, they set fire to the vessel, and abandoned her in a
hurry. If this explanation be correct, I infer from it,
that they are gone more to the northward, and more to
the northward I will look for them." This course ac-
cordingly he held, but still without success. Still perse-
vering, and still disappointed, he returned near enough
to Cadiz to ascertain that they were not there ; traversed
the Bay of Biscay; and then, as a last hope, stood over
for the northwest coast of Ireland against adverse
winds; till, on the evening of the 12th of August, he
learned that they had not been heard of there. Frus-
trated thus in all his hopes, after a pursuit to which, for
its extent, rapidity, and perseverance, no parallel can be
produced, he judged it best to reinforce the Channel fleet
with his squadron, lest the enemy, as Collingwood appre-
hended, should bear down upon Brest with their whole
collected force. On the 15th, he joined Admiral Corn-

1, Reckoning. The ship's latitude and longitude at the time of her


The Life op Nelson


wallis off Ushant.^ No news had yet been obtained of the
enemy; and, on the same evening, he received orders to
proceed, with the Victory and Superh, to Portsmoath. jl,

1. Ushant. An island ofE the northwest coast of France, at the'
entrance to the English channel.


Sir Eobert Calder falls in with the Combined Fleets — They form
a Junction with the Ferrol Squadron, and get into Cadiz — Nelson
is reappointed to the Command — Battle of Trafalgar — ^Victory, and
Death of Nelson.

At Portsmouth, Nelson at length found news of the
combined fleet. Sir Robert Calder, who had been sent
out to intercept their return, had fallen in with them on
the 22d of July, sixty leagues west of Cape Finisterre.
Their force consisted of twenty sail of the line, three
fifty-gun ships, five frigates, and two brigs ; his, of fifteen
line of battle ships, two frigates, a cutter, and a lugger.
After an action of four hours he had captured an eighty-
four and a seventy-four, and then thought it necessary to
bring-to the squadron, for the purpose of securing their
prizes. The hostile fleets remained in sight of each other
till the 26th, when the enemy bore away. The capture of
two ships from so superior a force, would have been con-
sidered as no inconsiderable victory a few years earlier ;
but Nelson had introduced a new era in our naval his-
tory; and the nation felt, respecting this action, as he
had felt on a somewhat similar occasion.^ They regretted
that Nelson, with his eleven ships, had not been in Sir
Robert Calder 's place; and their disappointment was
generally and loudly expressed.

Frustrated as his own hopes had been, Nelson had yet
the high satisfaction of knowing that his judgment had
never been more conspicuously approved, and that he had
rendered essential service to his country, by driving the

1, Similar occasion. See p. 107.


330 The Life op Nelson

enemy from those islands, where they expected there
could be no force capable of opposing them. The West
India merchants in London, as men whose interests were
more immediately benefited, appointed a deputation to
express their thanks for his great and judicious exer-
tions. It was now his intention to rest^ awhile from his
labors, and recruit himself, after all his fatigues and
cares, in the society of those whom he loved. All his
stores were brought up from the Victory, and he found
in his house at Merton the enjoyment which he had an-
ticipated. Many days had not elapsed before Captain
Blackwood, on his way to London with despatches, called
on him at five in the morning. Nelson, who was already
dressed, exclaimed, the moment he saw him : "I am sure
you bring me news of the French and Spanish fleets ! I
think I shall yet have to beat them ! ' ' They had refitted
at Vigo, after the indecisive action with Sir Robert
Calder ; then proceeded to Ferrol, brought out the squad-
ron from thence, and with it entered Cadiz in safety!-
''Depend on it, Blackwood," he repeatedly said, '*I shall
yet give M. Villeneuve a drubbing." But, when Black-
wood had left him, he wanted resolution to declare his
wishes to Lady Hamilton and his sisters, and endeavored

1. Intention to rest. Nelson remained in England only twenty-five
days, from August 19 to September 15. His first and only meeting
with the Duke of Wellington occurred at this time, in an anteroom of
the Secretary of State's office. Nelson at first failed to recognize the
General, and according to Wellington's later report he monopolized
the conversation, "in a style so vain and silly as to .-"urprise and
almost disgust me." But on learning the other's identity, Nelspn's
"charlatan style vanished, and he talked like an officer and a states-
man. ... I don't know that I ever had a conversation that in-
terested me more."

2. Entered Cadiz in safety. Napoleon's urgent instructions to Vil-
leneuve at Ferrol were that he should proceed northward to join the
fleet at Brest. This Villeneuve attempted, but became alarmed by
false news of a superior British force ahead of bim, and turned
southward for Cadiz, where he arrived August 20.

The Life of Nelson 331

to drive away the thought. He had done enough, he
said : ' ' Let the man trudge it who has lost his budget ! ' '
His countenance belied his lips : and as he was pacing
one of the walks in the garden, which he used to call the
quarter-deck, Lady Hamilton came up to him, and said
she saw he was uneasy. He smiled, and said: '^No, he
was as happy as possible; he was surrounded by his
family, his health was better since he had been on shore,
and he would not give sixpence to call the King his
uncle." She replied, that she did not believe him, that
she knew he was longing to get at the combined fleets,
that he considered them as his own property, that he
would be miserable if any man but himself did the busi-
ness, and that he ought to have them, as the price and
reward of his two years' long watching, and his hard
chase. '^ Nelson," said she, "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 maj; return here, and be
happy. ' ' He looked at her with tears in his eyes : —
''Brave Emma! — Good Emma! — If there were more
Emmas, there would be more Nelsons."^

His services were as willingly accepted as they were
offered; and Lord Barham,^ giving him the list of the
Navy, desired him to choose his own officers. "Choose
yourself, my lord, ' ' was his reply : ' ' the same spirit actu-
ates the whole profession; you cannot choose wrong."
Lord Barham then desired him to say what ships, and
how many, he would wish in addition to the fleet which
he was going to command, and said they should follow

1. More Nelsons. This conversation is taken from Harrison's Life
of Nelson. Lady Hamilton's influence over Nelson's decision is evi-
dently exaggerated, for there is proof that his choice had already been
made and that Blackwood's call was by appointment.

2. Lord Barham. Successor to Earl St. Vincent as First Lord of
the Admiralty. He was a retired naval officer, over eighty years old.

332 The Life op Nelson

him as soon as each was ready. No appointment was
ever more in unison with the feelings and judgment of
the whole nation. They, like Lady Hamilton, thought
that the destruction of the combined fleets ought prop-
erly to be Nelson's work; that he, who had been

*^Half around the sea-girt ball,
The hunter of the recreant Gaul, ' '*

ought to reap the spoils of the chase, which he had
watched so long, and so perseveringly pursued.

Unremitting exertions were made to equip the ships
which he had chosen, and especially to refit the Victory,
which was once more to bear his flag. Before he left Lon-
don, he called at his upholsterer's, where the coffin which
Captain Hallowell had given him was deposited, and de-
sired that his history might be engraven upon the lid,
saying, it was highly probable he might want it on his
return. He seemed, indeed, to have been impressed with
an expectation that he should fall in battle. In a letter to
his brother, written immediately after his return, he had
said : "We must not talk of Sir Eobert Calder's battle. —
I might not have done so much with my small force. If
I had fallen in with them, you might probably have been
a lord before I wished ; for I know they meant to make a
dead set at the Victortf." Nelson had once regarded the
prospect of death with gloomy satisfaction : it was when
he anticipated the upbraidings of his wife, and the dis-
pleasure of his venerable father. The state of his feelings
now was expressed, in his private journal, in these words :
''Friday night (September 13th) at half -past ten, I
drove from dear, dear Merton; where I left all which I
hold dear in this world, to go to serve my king and

♦ Songs of Trafalgar. — Southey's "Note. The Songs of Trafalgar were
written by John Wilson Croker, Secretary of the Admiralty, to whom
Southey dedicated his Life of Nelson.

The Life of Nelson 333

country. 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, whom I may leave
behind ! His will be done, Amen ! Amen ! Amen ! ' '

Early on the following morning he reached Ports-
mouth; and, having despatched his business on shore,
endeavored to elude the populace by taking a by-way to
the beach, but a crowd collected in his train, pressing
forward to obtain a sight of his face : many were in
tears, and many knelt down before him, and blessed him
as he passed. England has had many heroes, but never
one who so entirely possessed the love of his fellow-coun-
trymen as Nelson. All men knew that his heart was as
humane as it was fearless ; that there was not in his na-
ture the slightest alloy of selfishness or cupidity ; but that,
with perfect and entire devotion, he served his country
with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his
strength ; and, therefore, they loved him as truly and as
fervently as he loved England. They pressed upon the
parapet, to gaze after him when his barge pushed off,
and he was returning their cheers by waving his hat.
The sentinels, who endeavored to prevent them from tres-
passing upon this ground, were wedged among the crowd ;

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