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and an officer, who, not very prudently upon such an
occasion, ordered them to drive the people down with
their bayonets, was compelled speedily to retreat; for
the people would not be debarred from gazing, till the
last moment, upon the hero — the darling hero of

He arrived off Cadiz on the 29th of September — ^his
birthday. Fearing that, if the enemy knew his force,

334 The Life of Nelson

they might be deterred from venturing to sea, he kept
out of sight of land, desired Collingwood to fire no salnte,
and hoist no colors; and wrote to Gibraltar, to request
that the force of the fleet might not be inserted there in
the Gazette. His reception in the Mediterranean fleet
was as gratifying as the farewell of his countrymen at
Portsmouth : the officers, who came on board to welcome
him, forgot his rank as commander, in their joy at see-
ing him again.^ On the day of his arrival, Villeneuve
received orders to put to sea^ the first opportunity. Ville-
neuve, however, hesitated, when he heard that Nelson
had resumed the command. He called a council of war ;
and their determination was, that it would not be ex-
pedient to leave Cadiz, unless they had reason to believe
themselves stronger by one-third than the British force.
In the public measures of this country, secrecy is seldom
practicable, and seldomer attempted: here, however, by
the precautions of Nelson, and the wise measures of the
Admiralty, the enemy were for once kept in ignorance;
for, as the ships appointed to reinforce the Mediterra-
nean fleet were despatched singly, each as soon as it was
ready, their collected number was not stated in the news-
papers, and their arrival was not known to the enemy.
But the enemy knew that Admiral Louis, with six sail,
had been detached for stores and water to Gibraltar.
Accident also contributed to make the French Admiral
doubt whether Nelson himself had actually taken the
command. An American, lately arrived from England,

1. Joy at seeing Mm again. The warmth of their welcome may have
been increased by relief from the iron discipline of Collingwood, who
is described as a capable and conscientious officer, but strict, uncom-
municative, and tactless in handling his subordinates.

2. Orders to put to »•«. Villeneuve was under instructions from
i>apoleon to return to the Mediterranean. With his disorganized forces
and . trained crews, however, he had little hope of escaping defeat,
and delayed sailing until he heard that he was to be superseded in
command and that his successor was already on the way to Cadiz.

The Life of Nelson 335

maintained that it was impossible — for he had seen him
only a few days before in London; and, at that time,
there was no rumor of his going again to sea.

The station which Nelson had chosen was some fifty or
sixty miles to the west of Cadiz, near Cape St. Mary's.
At this distance he hoped to decoy the enemy ont, while
he guarded against the danger of being caught with a
westerly wind near Cadiz, and driven within the"^ Straits.
The blockade of the port was rigorously enforced, in
hopes that the combined fleet might be forced to sea by
want. The Danish vessels, therefore, which were carry-
ing provisions from the French ports in the bay,^ under
the name of Danish property, to all the little ports from
Ayamonte to Algesiras, from whence they were conveyed
in coasting boats to Cadiz, were seized. Without this
proper exertion of power, the blockade would have been
rendered nugatory, by the advantage thus taken of the
neutral flag. The supplies from France were thus effectu-
ally cut off. There was now every indication that the
enemy would speedily venture out : officers and men were
in the highest spirits at the prospect of giving them a de-
cisive blow; such, indeed, as would put an end to all
further contest upon the seas. Theatrical amusements
were performed every evening in most of the ships : and
God Save the King was the hymn with which the sports
concluded. "I verily believe," said Nelson (writing on
the 6th of October), ''that the country will soon be put
to some expense on my account ; either a monument, or a
new pension and honors; for I have not the smallest
doubt but that a very few days, almost hours, will put us
in battle. The success no man can insure; but for the
fighting them, if they can be got at, I pledge myself. —
The sooner the better! I don't like to have these things
upon my mind."

1. Bay. The Bay of Biscay.

336 The Life of Nelson

At this time he was not without some cause of anxiety :
he was in want of frigates, — the eyes of the fleet, as he
always called them : — to the want of which the enemy
before were indebted for their escape, and Bonaparte for
his arrival in Egypt. He had only twenty-three ships, —
others were on the way, — ^but they might come too late ;
and, though Nelson never doubted of victory, mere vic-
tory was not what he looked to, he wanted to annihilate
the enemy's fleet. The Carthagena squadron^ might
effect a junction with this fleet on the one side ; and, on
the other, it was to be expected that a similar attempt
would be made by the French from Brest ; in either case
a formidable contingency to be apprehended by the
blockading force. The Eochefort squadron did push out,
and had nearly caught the Agamemnon and VAimahle in
their way to reinforce the British Admiral. Yet Nelson
at this time weakened his own fleet. He had the un-
pleasant task to perform of sending home Sir Robert
Calder, whose conduct was to be made the subject of a
court-martial, in consequence of the general dissatisfac-
tion which had been felt and expressed at his imperfect
victory. Sir Robert Calder, and Sir John Orde, Nelson
believed to be the only two enemies^ whom h,e had ever
had in his profession ; — and, from that sensitive delicacjl
which distinguished him, this made him the more scrupu-
lously anxious to show every possible mark of respect
and kindness to Sir Robert. He wished to detain him
till after the expected action ; when the services which he
might perform, and the triumphant joy which would be
excited, would leave nothing to be apprehended from an

1. Carthagena squadron. It consisted of six Spanish ships-of-the-

2. Tioo enemies. Calder had criticized Nelson's conduct at St. Vin-
cent (see p. 134), and Orde had objected to Nelson's appointment to
command the Mediterranean fleet before the Battle of the Nile (see
p. 239


The Life of Nelson 337

inquiry into the previous engagement. Sir Robert, how-
ever, whose situation was very painful, did not choose to
delay a trial, from the result of which he confidently ex-
pected a complete justification: and Nelson, instead of
sending him home in a frigate, insisted on his returning
in his own ninety-gun ship ; ill as such a ship could at
that time be spared. Nothing could be more honorable
than the feeling by which Nelson was influenced ; but, at
such a crisis, it ought not to have been indulged.

On the 9th, Nelson sent Collingwood what he called, in
his diary, the Nelson touch.^ ''I send you," said he,
''my plan of attack, as far as a man dare venture to
guess at the very uncertain position the enemy may be
found in : but it is to place you perfectly at ease respect-
ing my intentions, and to give full scope to your judg-
ment for carrying them into effect. We can, my dear
Coll, have no little jealousies. We have only one great
object in view, that of annihilating our enemies, and get-
ting a glorious peace for our country. No man has more
confidence in another than I have in you; and no man
will render your services more justice than your very

1. The Nelson touch. This phrase, which appears also in letters to
Lady Hamilton, refers to the Memorandum Of October 9th, intended
at first for Collingwood only, but afterward sent to all the captains
of the fleet. It provided plans for attack from either the windward
(see diagram, p. 349) or the leeward, assuming the relative strength to
be 40 British ships against 46 of the enemy. In either case, Colling-
wood's division was to attack the enemy's rear, while Nelson fell upon
the center (presumably containing the French flagship) and cut it off
from the ships in the van. With slight changes, notably uniting the
small advanced (in reality a reserve) squadron with Nelson's so as to
bring all forces into action at once, the plan for attack from the wind-
ward was carried out in the battle. Its advantages may be said to lie
(1) in the division of forces and freedom of action granted to the
second in command, thus avoiding the difficulty of controlling so large a
fleet as a unit; (2) in the concentration on rear and center, thus break-
ing up the enemy's line and neutralizing its numerical superiority ; and
(3) in its adaptability to modification under the exigencies of actual
conflict. It may be regarded as the product of Nelson's ripest expe-
rience and genius.

338 , The Life of Nelson

old friend Nelson and Bronte." The order of sailing
was to be the order of battle ; the fleet in two lines, with
an advance squadron of eight of the fastest sailing two-
deckers. The second in command; having the entire
direction of his line, was to break through the enemy,
about the twelfth ship from their rear : he^ would lead
through the center, and the advanced squadron was to
cut off three or four ahead of the center. This plan
was to be adapted to the strength of the enemy, so that
they should always be one-fourth superior to those whom
they cut off. Nelson said, ''That his admirals and cap-
tains, knowing his precise object to be that of a close and
decisive action, would supply any deficiency of signals,
and act accordingly. In case signals cannot be seen or
clearly understood, no captain can do wrong if he places
his ship alongside that of an enemy." One of the last
orders of this admirable man was, that the name and
family of every officer, seaman, and marine, who might
be killed or wounded in action, should be, as soon as pos-
sible, returned to him, in order to be transmitted to the
Chairman of the Patriotic Fund, that the case might be
taken into consideration, for the benefit of the sufferer or
his family.

About half -past nine in the morning of the 19th, the
Mars, being the nearest to the fleet of ships which formed
the line of communication with the frigates in shore, re-
peated the signal, that the enemy were coming out of port.
The wind was at this time very light, with partial breezes,
mostly from the S. S. W. Nelson ordered the signal to be
made for a chase in the southeast quarter. About two,
the repeating ships announced that the enemy were at
sea. All night the British fleet continued under all sail,
steering to the southeast. At daybreak they were in the
entrance of the Straits, but the enemy were not in sight.

1. Be. Nelson, with the main or windward division.

The Life of Nelson • 339

About seven, one of the frigates made signal that the
enemy were bearing north. Upon this the Victory hove-
to ; and shortly afterwards Nelson made sail again to the
northward. In the afternoon the wind blew fresh from
the southwest, and the English began to fear that the foe
might be forced to return to port. A little before sunset,
however, Blackwood, in the Euryahis, telegraphed^ that
they appeared determined to go to the westward. — "And
that," said the Admiral in his diary, "they shall not do,
if it is in the power of Nelson and Bronte to prevent
them." Nelson had signified to Blackwood that he de-
pended upon him to keep sight of the enemy. They were
observed so well, that all their motions were made known
to him; and, as they wore twice, he inferred that they
were aiming to keep the port of Cadiz open, and would
retreat there as soon as they saw the British fleet : for this
reason he was very careful not to approach near enough
to be seen by them during the night. At daybreak the
combined fleets were distinctly seen from the Victory's
deck, formed in a close line of battle ahead, on the star-
board tack, about twelve miles to leeward, and standing
to the south. Our fleet consisted of twenty-seven sail of
the line and four frigates ; theirs of thirty-three and seven
large frigates. Their superiority was greater in size and
weight of metaP than in numbers. They had four thou-
sand troops on board ; and the best riflemen who could
be procured, many of them Tyrolese, were dispersed
through the ships. Little did the Tyrolese, and little
did the Spaniards, at that day, imagine what horrors the

1. Telegraphed. This word, taken directly from Nelson's papers,
was formerly the term commonly applied to flag signaling between
ships at sea.

2. Size and weight of metal. The Allies had a total of 2626 guns,
with four ships of 100 to 130 guns ; the British had 2148 guns, with
seven ships of 98 to 100. Most of the other ships on both sides
were 74's.

340 ' The Life of Nelson

wicked tyrant whom they served was preparing for their

Soon after daylight Nelson came upon deck. The 21st
of October was a festival in his family, because on that
day his uncle, Captain Suckling, in the Dreadnought,
with two other line of battle ships, had beaten off a
French squadron of four sail of the line and three
frigates. Nelson, with that sort of superstition from
which few persons are entirely exempt, had more than
once expressed his persuasion that this was to be the
day of his battle also ; and he was well pleased at seeing
his prediction about to be verified. The wind was now
from the west, light breezes, with a long heavy swell.
Signal was made to bear down upon the enemy in two
lines ; and the fleet set all sail. Collingwood, in the Royal
Sovereign, led the lee line of thirteen ships; the Victory
led the weather line of fourteen. Having seen that all
was as it should be, Nelson retired to his cabin, and
wrote the following prayer :

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

Having thus discharged his devotional duties, he an-

1. Preparing for their country. The inhabitants of Tyrol in 1809
revolted against Bavaria and aided France, bnt on the conclusion of
peace they were forced by France to go back under Bavarian rule.
In Spain, Napoleon overthrew the wretched Bourbon monarchy and
in 1808 set his brother Joseph on the throne. The people, however,
fought desperately against French control.

The Life op Nelson 341

nexed, in the same diary, the following remarkable writ-
ing :

^^ October 21st, 1805. — Then in sight of the comhined
fleets of France and Spain, distant ahout ten miles.

''Whereas the eminent services of Emma Hamilton,
widow of the Right Honorable Sir William Hamilton,
have been of the very greatest service to my King and my
country, to my knowledge, without ever receiving any
reward from either our King or country.

''First, That she obtained the King of Spain's letter,
in 1796, to his brother, the King of Naples, acquainting
him of his intention to declare war against England;
from which letter the ministry sent out orders to the
then Sir John Jervis, to strike a stroke, if opportunity
offered, against either the arsenals of Spain or her fleets.
That neither of these was done is not the fault of Lady
Hamilton ; the opportunity might have been offered.

' ' Secondly : The British fleet under my command could
never have returned the second time to Egypt, had not
Lady Hamilton's influence with the Queen of Naples
caused letters to be wrote to the governor of Syracuse,
that he was to encourage the fleet's being supplied with,
everything, should they put into any port in Sicily. We
put into Syracuse, and received every supply; went to
Egypt, and destroyed the French fleet.

' ' Could I have rewarded these services, I would not now
have called upon my country ; but as that has not been in
my power, I leave Emma Lady Hamilton therefore a
legacy to my King and country, that they will give her
an ample provision^ to maintain her rank in life.

1. Ample provision. Lady Hamilton's claims were never recognized
by the Government. Though provided with about £2000 a year from
the estates of Sir William Hamilton and Nelson, she soon exhausted
her funds and was imprisoned for debt. On her release she retired
to Calais, where she died in 1815.

342 The Life of Nelson

^'I also leave to the beneficence of my country my
adopted daughter, Horatia^ Nelson Thompson ; and I de-
sire she will use in future the name of Nelson only.

''These are the only favors I ask of my King and
country, at this moment when I am going to fight their
battle. May God bless my King and country, and all
those I hold dear ! My relations it is needless to men-
tion : they will, of course, be amply provided for.

"Nelson and Bronte."
Henry Blackwood.
T. M. Hardy."

The child of whom this writing speaks was believed to
be his daughter, and so, indeed, he called her the last
time that he pronounced her name. She was then about
five years old, living at Merton, under Lady Hamilton's
care. The last minutes which Nelson passed at Merton
were employed in praying over this child, as she lay
sleeping. A portrait of Lady Hamilton hung in his
cabin: and no Catholic ever beheld the picture of his
patron saint with devouter reverence. The undisguised
and romantic passion with which he regarded it amounted
almost to superstition; and when the 'portrait was now
taken down, in clearing for action, he desired the men
who removed it to "take care of his guardian angel."
In this manner he frequently spoke of it, as if he be-
lieved there were a virtue in the image. He wore a
miniature of her, also, next his heart.

Blackwood went on board the Victory about six. He
found him in good spirits, but very calm ; not in that ex-
hilaration which he had felt upon entering into battle at
Aboukir and Copenhagen : he knew that his own life
would be particularly aimed at, and seems to have looked

1. Horatia. See p. 303, note 1.

The Life of Nelson 343

for death with almost as sure an expectation as for vic-
tory. His whole attention was fixed upon the enemy.
They tacked to the northward, and formed their line on
the larboard tack ; thus bringing the shoals of Trafalgar
and St. Pedro under the lee of the British, and keeping
the port of Cadiz open for themselves. This was judi-
ciously done; and Nelson, aware of all the advantages
which it gave them, made signal to prepare to anchor.

Villeneuve was a skilful seaman ; worthy of serving a
better master, and a better cause. His plan of defense
was as well conceived, and as original, as the plan of at-
tack. He formed the fleet in a double line ; every alter-
nate ship being about a cable 's length to windward of her
second ahead and astern. Nelson, certain of a triumph-
ant issue to the day, asked Blackwood what he should con-
sider as a victory. That officer answered, that, consid-
ing the handsome way in which battle was offered by the
enemy, their apparent determination for a fair trial of
strength, and the situation of the land, he thought it
would be a glorious result if fourteen were captured. He
replied: "I shall not be satisfied with less than twenty. '^
Soon afterwards he asked him, if he did not think there
was a signal wanting. Captain Blackwood made answer,
that he thought the whole fleet seemed very clearly to
understand what they were about. These words were
scarcely spoken before that signal was made, which will
be remembered as long as the language, or even the
memory, of England shall endure; — Nelson's last sig-
nal^ : — "England expects every man to do his duty!"

1. Nelson's last signal. The form at first proposed was "Nelson
confides, etc." Someone, however, suggested "England confides," a
change which Nelson at once approved. Signals were conveyed by flags
of different shapes and colors, for different numbers, which in turn
stood for letters or whole words according to a code. The word "con-
fides" had no number in the code book, and it was therefore changed
to "expects." Collingwood is said to have exclaimed when he caught

344 The Life of Nelson

It was received throughout the fleet with a shout of
answering acclamation, made sublime by the spirit which
it breathed, and the feeling which it expressed. ' ' Now, ' '
said Lord Nelson, * ' I can do no more. "We must trust to
the great Disposer of all events, and the justice of our
cause. I thank God for this great opportunity of doing
my duty."

He wore that day, as usual, his Admiral's frock-coat,
bearing on the left breast four stars, of the different or-
ders with which he was invested. Ornaments which ren-
dered him so conspicuous a mark for the enemy were be-
held with ominous apprehensions by his officers. It was
known that there were riflemen on board the French
ships ; and it could not be doubted but that his life would
be particularly aimed at. They communicated their fears
to each other; and the surgeon, Mr. Beatty,* spoke to
the chaplain. Dr. Scott, and to Mr. Scott, the public
secretary, desiring that some person would entreat him
to change his dress, or cover the stars: but they knew
that such a request would highly displease him. "In
honor I gained them," he had said, when such a thing
had been hinted to him formerly, ''and in honor I will
die with them." Mr. Beatty, however, would not have
been deterred by any fear of exciting displeasure, from
speaking to him himself upon a subject in which the
weal of England, as well as the life of Nelson, was con-
cerned, — ^but he was ordered from the deck before he
could flnd an opportunity. This was a point upon which
Nelson 's officers knew that it was hopeless to remonstrate

sight of the first flag going aloft, "I wish Nelson would stop sig-
naling ; we all know what we have to do," — a remark which may be
taken to indicate a clear understanding of his instructions rather than
unwillingness to receive orders.

* In this part of the work I have chiefly been indebted to this
gentleman's Narrative of Lord Nelson's Death — a. document as interest-
ing as it is authentic. — Southey's Note.

The Life of Nelson 345

or reason with him; but both Blackwood and his own
captain, Hardy, represented to him how advantageous
to the fleet it would be for him to keep out of action as
long as possible; and he consented at last to let the
Leviathan and the Temeraire, which were sailing abreast
of the Victory, be ordered to pass ahead. Yet even here
the last infirmity of this nobie mind was indulged; for
these ships could not pass ahead if the Victory continued
to carry all her sail ; and so far was Nelson from shorten-
ing sail, that it was evident he took pleasure in pressing
on, and rendering it impossible for them to obey his own
orders. A long swell was setting into the Bay of Cadiz :
our shipi, crowding all sail, moved majestically before it,
with light winds from the southwest.^ The sun shone on
the sails of the enemy; and their well-formed line, with
their numerous three-deckers, made an appearance which
any other assailants would have thought formidable; —
but the British sailors only admired the beauty and
splendor of the spectacle ; and, in full confidence of win-
ning what they saw, remarked to each other, what a fine
sight yonder ships would make at Spithead !

The French Admiral, from the Biicentaure, beheld the
new manner in which his enemy was advancing — Nelson
and Collingwood each leading his line ; and pointing them
out to his officers, he is said to have exclaimed, that such
conduct could not fail to be successful. Yet Villeneuve
had made his own dispositions with the utmost skill,
and the fleets under his command waited for the attack
with perfect coolness. Ten minutes before twelve they
opened their fire. Eight or nine of the ships immediately
ahead of the Victory, and. across her bows, fired single
guns at her, to ascertain whether she was yet within their
range. As soon as Nelson perceived that their shot
passed over him, he desired Blackwood, and Captain

1. SoutJiicest. Before the battle the wind shifted to the northwest.

346 The Life of Nelson

Prowse, of the Sirius, to repair to their respective fri-

Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 27 of 29)