Viscount Nelson Of The Nile Nelson Horatio, a British admiral, born at Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, Sept. 29, 1758, killed in the battle of Trafalgar, Oct. 21, 1805. His childhood was marked by the fearless spirit for which he afterward became distinguished. He left school at the age of 12, and became a midshipman on board a ship destined for an attack on the Falkland islands; but this expedition having been given up, he went in a merchant ship to the West Indies. In 1773, although a boy, he sailed as coxswain of one of the two ships of Capt. Phipps's arctic expedition. On returning he was placed on board the man-of-war Seahorse, which sailed for the East Indies; but the climate soon prostrated him, and within 18 months he was compelled to return to England. Recovering his health on the voyage home, he passed with credit an examination for a lieutenancy, April 8, 1777, and was appointed second lieutenant on the Lowestoffe, which was employed against the French and American privateers, who were harassing the British trade in the West Indies. He soon afterward became first lieutenant on board the Bristol flag ship; in December, 1778, was appointed commander of the Badger brig, and post captain on June 11, 1779, when he was assigned to the Hinchinbrook, 28, in which he distinguished himself at the siege of Fort San Juan and took the island of St. Bartholomew. But the crew of the Hinchinbrook were decimated by fever, and its commander was forced to return to England, He was next appointed to the Albemarle, 28, in the winter of 1781-'2 cruised in the North sea, sailed for Quebec in April, 1782, and thence with a convoy to New York; he there joined the fleet under Sir William Hood, and with him went to the West Indies, where he remained till the peace of 1783. After his arrival in England he retired to St. Omer, but in the spring of 1784 took command of the Boreas, 28, ordered to the West Indies. At Nevis he captured four American vessels for violating the navigation laws.
At the same island, March 11, 1787, he married a widow, the daughter of the governor, Mr. Herbert. After his return to England a writ was served upon him on the part of the American captains, who laid their damages at £20,-000. But the government protected him, and he had no more trouble with the suit. When the war with France broke out he was appointed, Jan. 30, 1793, to the Agamemnon, 64, and joined the Mediterranean fleet commanded by Lord Hood. By him he was sent with despatches to Naples, where he made the acquaintance of Sir William and Lady Hamilton. Subsequently he commanded a small squadron sent to Corsica to cooperate with Paoli against the French, and took Bastia, May 19, 1794, after a siege of seven weeks. The Agamemnon was then ordered to Calvi to assist Gen. Sir Charles Stuart in the siege of that place. Here Nelson lost an eye from sand and small gravel driven into it by a shot striking the ground near where he stood. His name was not mentioned in the "Gazette," however, and he keenly felt the neglect. Afterward serving under Admiral Hotham, who had succeeded Lord Hood, he distinguished himself in the engagement with the French fleet, which had come out from Toulon to give battle to the English, and hoarded the Ca Ira and the Censeur, the only two ships taken.
About this time he was made colonel of marines, and, hoisting a commodore's pennant, proceeded to the coast of Italy, blockaded Leghorn, and superintended the evacuation of Corsica. In sailing with a convoy to Gibraltar, he saw the Spanish fleet at the mouth of the straits, and on Feb. 13, 1797, brought the intelligence to Admiral Sir John Jervis, then commanding the Mediterranean squadron. By him ho was appointed to the Theseus, 74, and participated in the battle of Cape St. Vincent on the morning of the 14th. In this battle Nelson disobeyed the admiral's orders to tack in succession, and. seconded by Trowbridge in the Culloden and Collingwood in the Excellent, bore down upon seven of the enemy's fleet, attacked the Santissima Trinidada, 130, passed on to the San Nicolas, 84, which he carried by boarding, and led his men on to the San Josef. 112. lying alongside, and compelled it to surrender. For his conduct Nelson, who had been created rear admiral before the action was known in England, was knighted and made a companion of the order of the bath.
In April He was sent to bring away the troops from Porto Ferrajo, and shortly after commanded the inner squadron in the blockade of Cadiz. On July 14 he was sent to attack Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, and carried the place, but, not being able to capture the citadel, was forced to retire. In the attack his right arm was shattered by a grape shot, making amputation necessary, and he returned to England, where honors were showered upon him. Congratulatory letters were addressed to him by the first lord of the admiralty and the duke of Clarence; the freedom of the cities of London and Bristol was conferred upon him; he was made a knight of the bath, and received a pension of £1,000. In April, 1798, hoisting his flag in the Vanguard, 74, he rejoined Karl St. Vincent at Gibraltar, and on May 9 sailed from that place with a small squadron to ascertain the design of the vast armament fitting out at Toulon. On the 22d he encountered in the gulf of Lyons a sudden storm by which his ship was dismasted, and in the fog that followed he missed the French fleet, which had sailed for Egypt with Bonaparte and his army on board. Having received a reenforcement of ten ships of the line and one of 50 guns, he sailed for Alexandria, but faded to find the enemy.
After obtaining supplies at Syracuse, he sailed again for Egypt, and on the morning of Aug. 1 descried the tricolor floating from the walls of Alexandria and the bay of Aboukir covered with ships. The fleets joined battle at 6) P. M., and, with an interruption of ten minutes, when the French flag ship L'Orient blew up, maintained it till daybreak. (See Aboukir.) Nelson declared victory a too feeble word for the result of this battle, and called it a conquest. Had he been provided with small craft, he could have destroyed in a few hours the store ships and transports in the harbor of Alexandria; and so deeply did he feel the want of these, that in a despatch to the admiralty he declared: "Were I to die this moment, want of frigates would be engraven on my heart." During the engagement Nelson received a severe though not dangerous wound on the head from a lang-ridge shot. The news of the battle of the Nile was received with boundless enthusiasm by the enemies of France, and congratulations and rewards without number were showered upon the victorious commander.
He was created Baron Nelson of the Nile, with a pension of.£'2,000 to himself and his two immediate successors; received magnificent presents from the sultan, the king of Sardinia, the king of Naples, the emperor of Russia, and the East India company; and the thanks of parliament and gold medals were voted to him and the captains engaged in the action. Seventeen days after the battle Nelson sailed for Naples, and was received with great demonstrations of joy both by the populace and the court. Encouraged by his victory, the Neapolitan government broke openly with the directory, and sent an army under Gen. Mack against the French troops occupying the Papal States. But an incapable commander and cowardly soldiers were no match for the forces of France. The invading army was beaten back, Naples was entered in turn, the royal family compelled to flee, and the short-lived Parthenopean republic established. The king and queen and their suite were conveyed by Nelson to Palermo. The royalists, however, soon took the field under the lead of Cardinal Ruffo, and advanced upon the city of Naples. The garrisons of the castel Nuovo and the castel dell' Ovo, consisting of Neapolitan insurgents, capitulated to the cardinal, June 23, 1799, on condition that they should be allowed to march out with all the honors of war, and that the persons in the forts and all prisoners taken by the king's troops should be unmolested or conveyed to Toulon and there set at liberty.
The part taken by Nelson in annulling this capitulation has been condemned as an ineffaceable blot upon his fame by Southey and nearly all his other biographers; but the publication by Sir Harris Nicolas of the "Nelson Despatches" places his conduct in a much more favorable light. On the 24th Nelson arrived in the bay, and immediately ordered the flag of truce to be pulled down, on the ground that the action of the cardinal in granting a capitulation was not only unauthorized but in direct opposition to the commands of the king, whose orders were explicit not to treat with the rebels. On the next day, no steps having yet been taken to carry the capitulation into effect, he addressed a note to the garrisons, stating that he would not permit them to embark or leave those places, and their surrender must be at discretion. On the 26th the insurgents submitted, with full knowledge that the cardinal's conditions had been annulled, and were detained as prisoners until the arrival of the king, July 10, when they were given up to the Neapolitan authorities.
That Nelson was justifiable in this transaction is now generally admitted; that he did not act without regard to honor and good faith is apparent from his treatment of the garrison of Castellamare, who having surrendered before his arrival were permitted to go free, although the officer who received their capitulation had no authority to grant them terms. The hanging of Prince Caraccioli, the Neapolitan admiral, who had joined the insurgents and served under the "Parthenopean republic," is another event which clouds Nelson's memory. Caraccioli was accused of being a traitor, and having been captured and given up to Nelson was tried by a Neapolitan court martial, who condemned him to death, and submitted their sentence to Nelson as superior officer for confirmation. It has been charged, though perhaps without sufficient proof, that in these transactions the British admiral acted under the baneful influence of Lady Hamilton, with whom his illicit connection had already commenced. Although ordered by Lord Keith to sail with his whole force for the protection of Minorca, he continued in the bay of Naples, and succeeded in restoring the king to his dominions.
For his services he received a sword splendidly enriched with diamonds, and was rewarded with the dukedom of Bronte, with a revenue of £3,000 a year. He soon after assisted Capt. Ball in the siege of Malta; but, mortified by the appointment of Lord Keith to the chief command in the Mediterranean, he returned to England through Germany in company with Sir William and Lady Hamilton, and landed at Yarmouth, Nov. 6, 1800, after an absence of three years. Honors of every kind awaited him; but within three months he was separated from his wife on account of his infatuated attachment to Lady Hamilton. His last words to,his wife were: " I call God to witness that there is nothing in you or in your conduct that I wish otherwise." In December, 1800, a maritime alliance was formed between Rus-sia, Prussia, Denmark, and Sweden in regard to the rights of neutral nations in war. For the purpose of breaking up this confederacy, a fleet of 52 sail was sent in March, 1801, to the Baltic under Sir Hyde Parker, Nelson consenting to act as second in command.
The squadron passed the Sound on the 30th, and entered the harbor of Copenhagen. To Nelson, at the head of 12 ships of the line and smaller vessels, making 36 in all, was assigned the attack; against him were opposed 18 vessels mounting 628 guns, moored in a line a mile in length, and flanked by two batteries. The action began about 10 A. M., April 2, and lasted five hours. About 1 o'clock Sir Hyde Parker made the signal for discontinuing. Nelson ordered it to be acknowledged, but, putting the glass to his blind eye, exclaimed: "I really don't see the signal. Keep mine for closer battle still flying. That's the way I answer such signals. Nail mine to the mast," By 2 o'clock, the Danish fleet being almost entirely taken or destroyed, he wrote to the crown prince the following note: "Vice Admiral Lord Nelson has been commanded to spare Denmark when she no longer resists. The line of defence which covered her shores has struck to the British flag; but if the firing is continued on the part of Denmark, he must set on fire all the prizes he has taken, without having the power of saving the men who have so nobly defended them.
The brave Danes are the brothers and should never be the enemies of the English." An armistice of 14 weeks was agreed to, and in the mean time the policy of Alexander, the new emperor of Russia, broke up the confederacy, and left matters on their old footing. For this battle, which Nelson said was the most terrible of all in which he had ever been engaged, he was raised to the rank of viscount. On July 24 he was made commander-in-chief, from Orfordness to Beachy Head, of the squadron for the defence of England; and on Aug. 15 he attacked the flotilla at Boulogne, but was forced to retreat with considerable loss. After the treaty of Amiens he retired with Sir William and Lady Hamilton to his seat at Merton in Surrey. But war breaking out again, he was appointed commander of the Mediterranean fleet, and set sail May 20, 1803. He immediately blockaded Toulon, but in spite of his utmost vigilance a fleet escaped out of that port on Jan. 18, 1805, and shortly afterward joined the Cadiz squadron. Nelson followed in pursuit to the West Indies, and back again to Europe, but being unsuccessful he returned to England. Upon the receipt of the intelligence that the combined French and Spanish fleets were in Cadiz, he resumed his command of the Mediterranean fleet, and encountered the enemy off Cape Trafalgar, Oct. 21, 1805. The force under him consisted of 27 ships of the line and 4 frigates; the force opposed of 33 ships of the line and 7 frigates.
On that day he wore his admiral's coat, bearing upon his left breast the insignia of the orders with which he had been invested. To all remonstrance against wearing so conspicuous a uniform he replied, referring to the insignia: " In honor I gained them, and in honor I will die with them." At 11.40 A. M., while bearing down on the enemy, he hoisted the signal, " England expects every man to do his duty," which was received with tremendous cheering by the whole fleet. At 10 minutes after noon the action began. In the heat of the battle, about 1½ P. M., he was struck in the shoulder by a musket ball. "They have done for me at last. Hardy," said he, as He was raised up from the deck; "my backbone is shot through" He was carried below, and the surgeon examining his wound pronounced it to be mortal. He continually expressed the greatest anxiety as to the result of the battle. At length Capt. Hardy came down from the deck, and congratulated his dying commander on having gained a complete victory. He did not know how many had struck, but 14 or 15 at least had surrendered. "That's well," answered Nelson, "but. I had bargained for 20." Anxious that the vessels taken should be saved from the possible danger of a storm, he added in a stronger voice: " Anchor, Hardy, anchor.
Do you make the signal." The order was not obeyed, and in the gale that came up the following night all but four of the prizes were destroyed or lost. Next to his country, Lady Hamilton occupied his thoughts. "Take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy; take care of poor Lady Hamilton." A few minutes before he died, he turned to the chaplain, and said: "Doctor, I have not been a great sinner. Remember that I leave Lady Hamilton and my daughter Horatia as a legacy to my country".
He then frequently repeated: "Thank God, I have done my duty." These were the last words he uttered, and at 4½ P. M. he expired without a groan. The body was placed in a coffin made out of the mast of the L'Orient. This singular gift had been presented him by Capt. Hallowed, and before Nelson left London for the last time he had called at his upholsterer's and told him to get it ready, for he should soon require it. He was buried in St. Paul's cathedral, Jan. 8, 1806, and his funeral, conducted at the public expense, was the most solemn and magnificent spectacle which had ever been witnessed in England. Honors were heaped upon his family. His brother, the Rev. William Nelson, I). I)., was created Earl Nelson of Trafalgar and Merton, with an annual grant of £6,000, and permission to inherit the dukedom of Bronte; £10,000 were voted to each of his two sisters, besides £100,000 for the purchase of an estate. A few hours before his death he appended a codicil to his will, in which he left Lady Hamilton as a legacy to his king and country, and his "adopted daughter, Horatia Nelson Thompson," to the beneficence of his country. "These," continues the document, "are the only favors 1 ask of my king and country at this moment, when I am going to fight their battle." This codicil his broth-er concealed until the parliamentary grant to himself had been completed; and to it and his dying request in behalf of the same persons the British people paid no attention. - Nelson is the greatest name in the naval annals of England. "He annihilated the French navy," says Alison, "by fearlessly following up the new systern of tactics, plunging headlong into the enemy's fleet, and doubling upon a part of their line, in the same manner as Napoleon practised in battles on land." As he left no legitimate children, his viscounty became extinct, but the barony devolved by limitation upon his brother William, whose grandnephew Horatio, Earl and Baron Nelson and Viscount Merton, is the present representative of the family.
Horatia Nelson was the admiral's natural daughter, probably by Lady Hamilton; for it is a singular fact that while he is universally considered her father, her maternity is doubted, and there are not wanting patriotic British critics who maintain that the attachment between Nelson and Lady Hamilton was purely Platonic. Horatia was married to the Rev. Philip "Ward, an English clergyman. - Among the biographies of Lord Nelson we may cite Clarke and MacAr-thur's " Life of Admiral Lord Nelson" (2 vols. 4to, 1809); Robert Southey's "Life of Nelson" (2d ed., 8vo, 1831); Pettigrew's "Memoirs of the Life of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson " (2 vols. 8vo, 1849); and E. De Forgues, Histoire de Nelson, from official documents and Nelson's private correspondence (Paris, 1860). His letters to Lady Hamilton (2 vols. 8vo) were published in 1814, and the "Letters and Despatches of Lord Nelson," edited by Sir Harris Nicolas (7 vols. 8vo), in 1844 - '6.