The Death of Lord Nelson
by William Beatty
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[28] The stock of spirit of wine on board was exhausted and from the sound state of the Body, brandy was judged sufficient for its preservation.

[29] These complaints were the consequence of indigestion, brought on by writing for several hours together. HIS LORDSHIP had one of these attacks from that cause a few days before the battle, but on resuming his accustomed exercise he got rid of it. This attack alarmed him, as he attributed it to sudden and violent spasm; but it was merely an unpleasant symptom (globus hystericus) attending indigestion.



Issued by LORD NELSON to the Admirals and Captains of his Fleet, several days previous to the Battle.

Victory, off Cadiz, 10th of October, 1805.

GENERAL MEMORANDUM sent to the Commanders of Ships.

Thinking it almost impossible to bring a Fleet of forty sail of the line into a line of battle in variable winds, thick weather, and other circumstances which must occur, without such a loss of time that the opportunity would probably be lost of bringing the Enemy to battle in such a manner as to make the business decisive, I have therefore made up my mind to keep the Fleet in that position of sailing, with the exception of the First and Second in Command, that the order of sailing is to be the order of battle: placing the Fleet in two lines, of sixteen ships each with an advanced squadron of eight of the fastest-sailing two-decked ships; which will always make, if wanted, a line of twenty-four sail, on whichever line the Commander in Chief may direct.

The Second in Command will, after my intentions are made known to him, have the entire direction of his line; to make the attack upon the Enemy, and to follow up the blow until they are captured or destroyed.

If the Enemy's Fleet should be seen to windward in line of battle, and that the two lines and advanced squadron could fetch them, they will probably be so extended that their van could not succour their rear. I should therefore probably make the Second in Command's signal to lead through about their twelfth ship from their rear; or wherever he could fetch, if not able to get so far advanced. My line would lead through about their centre: and the advanced squadron to cut three or four ships ahead of their centre, so as to ensure getting at their Commander in Chief, on whom every effort must be made to capture.

The whole impression of the British Fleet must be, to overpower from two or three ships ahead of their Commander in Chief (supposed to be in the centre) to the rear of their Fleet.

I will suppose twenty sail of the Enemy's line to be untouched: it must be some time before they could perform a manoeuvre to bring their force compact to attack any part of the British Fleet engaged, or to succour their own ships; which indeed would be impossible, without mixing with the ships engaged. The Enemy's Fleet is supposed to consist of forty-six sail of the line; British, forty:[30] if either is less, only a proportional number of Enemy's ships are to be cut off; British to be one-fourth superior to the Enemy cut off.

Something must be left to chance: nothing is sure in a sea-fight, beyond all others; shot will carry away masts and yards of friends as well as foes: but I look with confidence to a victory before the van of the Enemy could succour their rear; and then that the British Fleet would most of them be ready to receive their twenty sail of the line, or to pursue them should they endeavour to make off.

If the van of the Enemy tack, the captured ships must run to leeward of the British Fleet: if the Enemy wear, the British must place themselves between the Enemy and captured, and disabled British ships: and should the Enemy close, I have no fear for the result.

The Second in Command will, in all possible things, direct the movements of his line, by keeping them so compact as the nature of the circumstances will admit. Captains are to look to their particular line as their rallying-point; but in case signals cannot be seen or clearly understood, no Captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an Enemy.

Plan of the intended attack from to-windward, the Enemy in line of battle ready to receive an attack:

————- Advanced squadron.} ————————— Weather line. } British. ————————— Lee line. }

————————————————————————- Enemy's line.

The divisions of the British Fleet will be brought nearly within gun-shot of the Enemy's centre. The signal will be made for the lee line to bear up together; to set all their sail, even studding-sails, in order to get as quickly as possible to the Enemy's line; and to cut through, beginning from the twelfth ship from the Enemy's rear. Some ships may not get through their exact place, but they will always be at hand to assist their friends. If any are thrown in the rear of the Enemy, they will effectually complete the business of twelve sail of the Enemy.

Should the Enemy wear together, or bear up and sail large, still the twelve ships composing in the first position the Enemy's rear, are to be the object of attack of the lee line, unless otherwise directed by the Commander in Chief: which is scarcely to be expected; as the entire management of the lee line, after the intentions of the Commander in Chief are signified, is intended to be left to the Admiral commanding that line.

The remainder of the Enemy's Fleet, thirty-four sail, are to be left to the management of the Commander in Chief; who will endeavour to take care that the movements of the Second in Command are as little interrupted as possible.


By Command of the Vice Admiral. JNO. SCOTT.


The following interesting Extracts are faithfully copied from HIS LORDSHIP'S Memorandum Book, written entirely with his own hand.

Saturday, September 14th, 1805. At six o'clock arrived at Portsmouth; and having arranged all my business, embarked at the bathing-machines with Mr. ROSE and Mr. CANNING, who dined with me. At two got on board the Victory, at St. Helen's.

Wednesday, Sept. 25th, 1805. Light airs southerly. Saw the rock of Lisbon S.S.E. ten leagues. At sunset the Captain of the Constance came on board, and sent my letters for England to Lisbon, and wrote to Captain SUTTON[31] and the Consul. The Enemy's Fleet had not left Cadiz the 18th of this month, therefore I yet hope they will wait my arrival.

Saturday, Sept. 28th, 1805. Fresh breezes at N.N.W. At day-light bore up, and made sail. At nine saw the AEtna cruising. At noon saw eighteen sail. Nearly calm. In the evening joined the Fleet under Vice Admiral COLLINGWOOD. Saw the Enemy's Fleet in Cadiz, amounting to thirty-five or thirty-six sail of the line.

Sunday, Sept. 29th. Fine weather. Gave out the necessary orders for the Fleet. Sent Euryalus to watch the Enemy with the Hydra off Cadiz.

Wednesday, October 9th. Fresh breezes easterly. Received an account from BLACKWOOD, that the French ships had all bent their top-gallant-sails. Sent the Pickle to him, with orders to keep a good look-out. Sent Admiral COLLINGWOOD the Nelson truth.[32] At night wind westerly.

Monday, Oct. 14th. Fine weather: westerly wind. Sent Amphion to Gibraltar and Algiers. Enemy at the harbour's mouth. Placed Defence and Agamemnon from seven to ten leagues west of Cadiz; and Mars and Colossus five leagues east of the Fleet, whose station is from fifteen to twenty west of Cadiz: and by this chain I hope to have a constant communication with the frigates off Cadiz.

Wednesday, Oct. 16th. Moderate breezes westerly. All the forenoon employed forming the Fleet into the order of sailing. At noon fresh breezes W.S.W. and squally. In the evening fresh gales. The Enemy as before, by signal from Weazle.

Thursday, Oct. 17th. Moderate breezes north-westerly. Sent the Donegal to Gibraltar, to get a ground-tier of casks. Received accounts by the Diligent storeship, that Sir RICHARD STRACHAN was supposed in sight of the French Rochefort squadron; which I hope is true.

Friday, Oct. 18th. Fine weather: wind easterly. The Combined Fleets cannot have finer weather to put to sea.

Saturday, Oct. 19th. Fine weather: wind easterly. At half past nine the Mars, being one of the look-out ships, made the signal that the Enemy were coming out of port. Made the signal for a general chace S.E. Wind at south; Cadiz bearing E.S.E. by compass, distance sixteen leagues. At three the Colossus made the signal that the Enemy's Fleet was at sea. In the evening made the signal to observe my motions during the night; for the Britannia, Prince, and Dreadnought, to take stations as most convenient; and for Mars, Orion, Belleisle, Leviathan, Bellerophon, and Polyphemus, to go ahead during the night, and to carry a light, standing for the Straits' mouth.

Sunday, Oct. 20th. Fresh breezes S.S.W., and rainy. Communicated with Phoebe, Defence, and Colossus, who saw near forty sail of ships of war outside of Cadiz yesterday evening; but the wind being southerly, they could not get to the mouth of the Straits. We were between Trafalgar and Cape Spartel. The frigates made the signal that they saw nine sail outside the harbour. Sent the frigates instructions for their guidance; and placed the Defence, Colossus, and Mars, between me and the frigates. At noon fresh gales, and heavy rain: Cadiz N.E. nine leagues. In the afternoon Captain BLACKWOOD telegraphed that the Enemy seemed determined to go to the westward;—and that they shall not do, if in the power of NELSON AND BRONTE to prevent them. At five telegraphed Captain BLACKWOOD, that I relied upon his keeping sight of the Enemy. At five o'clock Naiad made the signal for thirty-one sail of the Enemy N.N.E. The frigates and look-out ship kept sight of the Enemy most admirably all night, and told me by signal which tack they were upon. At eight we wore, and stood to the S.W.; and at four wore and stood to the N.E.

Monday, Oct. 21st. At day-light saw Enemy's Combined Fleets from east to E.S.E. Bore away. Made the signal for order of sailing, and to prepare for battle. The Enemy with their heads to the southward. At seven the Enemy wearing in succession.

* * * * *

Then follow the Prayer and Codicil already inserted in pages 14 and 15 of the Narrative, which conclude HIS LORSHIP'S manuscript.


[30] With such an inferiority of force as this, HIS LORDSHIP confidently expected not only to gain a decisive victory, but (to use his own favourite phrase) "completely to annihilate the Enemy's Fleet!"

[31] Of his Majesty's ship Amphion, then in the Tagus.

[32] It is presumed that HIS LORDSHIP here meant the preceding Instructions, which were transmitted the next day to the whole Fleet.


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