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[+] HONOURING OUR HERO, LORD NELSON, ON THE BICENTENNIAL OF THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR (1805 - 2005)

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Sunday, October 02, 2005
'The Nelson Touch'

LEAD-UP TO THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR (BOT minus 19 days)

Nelson explains his battle plans over dinner with his captains aboard HMS Victory

It was a phrase that Nelson only used in his letters to Emma. Because its origin is unknown, and because he only used it privately, without explanation, its exact meaning has always remained a slight mystery. In later years, when those letters were made public, the phrase was commonly understood in two ways: in particular, to describe the tactical plan he made before Traflagar, and in general as a cover-all description of his nearly indefinable touch of genius.

ADMIRAL NELSON TO HIS CAPTAINS:

No day can be long enough to arrange a couple of fleets and fight a decisive battle according to the old system [by which Nelson meant the conventional parallel pair of lines ahead]. When we meet them, for meet them we shall, I'll tell you how we shall fight them. I shall form the fleet into three divisions in three lines. One division shall be composed of twelve or fourteen of the fastest two-deck ships, which I shall always keep to windward, or in a situation of advantage; and I shall put them under an officer who I am sure will employ them in a manner I wish, if possible. I consider it will always be in my power to throw them into battle in any part I may choose; but if circumstances prevent their being carried againts the enemy where I desire, I shall feel certain he will employ them effectually, and perhaps in a more advantage manner than if he could have followed my orders. With the remaining part of the fleet formed in two lines, I shall go at them at once, if I can, about one-third of their line from their leading ship.

What do you think of it? I'll tell you what I think of it. I think it will surprise and confound the enemy. They won't know what I am about. It will bring forward a pell-mell battle, and that is what I want.

"When I came to explain to them the 'Nelson touch,' it was like an electric shock. Some shed tears, all approved —' It was new—it was singular—it was simple !'; and, from Admirals downwards, it was repeated—' It must succeed, if ever they will allow us to get at them!"


ON THIS DAY 200 YEARS AGO: NELSON'S DISPATCHES

TO WILLIAM MARSDEN, ESQ., SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY BOARD.

Victory, off Cadiz, 2nd October, 1805.

Sir,

You will please to acquaint the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty that I arrived off here on the evening of the 28th ult., where I found Vice-Admiral Collingwood with the Fleet, and on the morning following I took the Command from the Vice-Admiral, and received from him the several unexecuted Orders, &c. The Ships are getting short in their water and provisions: I shall, therefore, send Rear-Admiral Louis with six Sail of the Line [1] immediately to Gibraltar and Tetuan to complete in everything; and the moment he returns, I shall send others to those places, in order that the Fleet may be all prepared for service before the winter sets in. The Zealous having come out from England with a bad mainmast, which has been found, upon survey, to be sprung, and decayed in several places, is just ordered to Gibraltar to get a new one, and otherwise completed for immediate service. The Endymion must also go into Gibraltar, having this day joined the Fleet with her mainmast badly sprung. As I have had no Return from Rear-Admiral Knight, respecting the Disposition of His Majesty's Ships within the Mediterranean, and that of the Fleet off here being nearly the same as made in Vice-Admiral Collingwood's last Return, I shall not send their Lordships a Disposition of the Fleet at this time, being anxious to send the Nimble Cutter to England with the dispatches from Vice-Admiral Collingwood and Sir Robert Calder, which I detained in the Nautilus, off Cape St. Vincent, on her way home. The Fleet is in very fair condition and good humour, and their Lordships may be assured that every exertion of mine shall be used to keep it so, and in a state to meet the Combined Fleet in Cadiz whenever they come out. Their force is about thirty-six Sail of the Line, apparently ready for sea, with a number of Frigates and Corvettes, &c. It is said that there is a great scarcity of provisions at Cadiz, and if Government strictly enforce the prohibition of provisions from the environs of that place, in any bottoms whatever, the Enemy must soon be in distress, and consequently be forced to come out: otherwise, the blockade of Cadiz is perfectly nugatory. The Pickle Schooner joined the Fleet from Plymouth yesterday.

I am, Sir, &c., NELSON AND BRONTE.


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TO WILLIAM MARSDEN, ESQ., SECRETARY TO THE ADMIRALTY BOARD.

Victory, off Cadiz, 2nd October, 1805.

Sir,

In consequence of the inclosed letter from Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder, requesting for the reasons therein mentioned, that I will allow the Captains of His Majesty's Ships named in the margin [Thunderer, Ajax, Defiance, Sirius], to return to England, you will please to acquaint the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that the Captains of the Thunderer and Ajax having signified to me their willingness to attend as evidences at the Court Martial required by the Vice-Admiral, I shall permit them to return with him to England, and appoint Acting Captains to their Ships till they rejoin them; and should Captain Durham, on the Defiance joining the Fleet, wish to return to England for the above purpose, I shall also permit him, and appoint an Acting Captain during his absence; but I do not feel authorised to order him, or any others, who may not wish to go home on this service, without their Lordships' direction, although I am at the same time satisfied that they would not deprive Sir Robert Calder of any evidence he might think necessary to have on the occasion. I trust their Lordships will approve of this measure, and send me such further direction as they may think necessary.

I am, Sir, &c., NELSON

P.S.—The Sirius is daily expected from Gibraltar, when I shall determine upon sending Captain Prowse home with the others.


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TO RICHARD FORD, ESQ., AGENT VICTUALLER AFLOAT.

Victory, October 2nd, 1805.

Dear Sir,

As I hear that Mr. Cutforth, the Agent Victualler at Gibraltar, is very much indisposed, so as probably to render him unable to go over to Tetuan, to settle several things with the Governor and English Vice-Consul at that place, I have therefore to desire that you will go to Gibraltar; and should Mr. Cutforth not be able to proceed to Tetuan, that you will carry my instructions to Mr. Cutforth into execution, marking to the Governor or Vice-Consul, that whatever I may allow for the guards, or any other purpose, is from myself, and not to be considered as a general tax; and you will consult with Mr. Cutforth upon the best mode of keeping these gentry in good humour, and that the Fleet may get liberal supplies without any further trouble. I have the firmest reliance upon your abilities and zeal that this matter will be well terminated; and although no man wishes to be more economical of the Public money than myself, yet in our present state, and with the sort of people with whom we have to manage these matters, care must be taken not to be penny wise and pounds foolish. I need not say more, but that I am sure I shall be content with whatever you do; and I am, with great esteem, dear Sir, &c.,

NELSON AND BRONTE.

You must not be many hours at Gibraltar, but ask Admiral Knight for a conveyance to Tetuan; for Admiral Louis, with a Squadron, will leave the Fleet this day. N and B

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