Lord Horatio Nelson
1758 - 1805
Battle of Trafalgarby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Horatio Nelson was born on September 29, 1758 at Burham Thorpe, Norfolk England, the son of Reverend Edmund Nelson, Rector of Burnham Thorpe and Catherine Nelson. Not much is known about his early childhood until he first entered the British Navy at age twelve. In march of 1786 he married Frances Herbert Nisbet the widow of one Dr. Nisbet. Together they had no children. In 1798 he was commissioned to rescue the Neapolitan royal family from a French invasion. While in the process of doing that he met and fell in love with Lady Emma Hamilton the young wife of the elderly British ambassador. She became his mistress and in 1799 they bought a house in England and openly lived together. On January 29, 1801, their daughter Horatia was born. Very little else is known about his private life until he died in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.
Lord Nelson had a fantastic military career. He entered the navy at age twelve as midshipmen on his Uncle’s, Captain Maurice Suckling’s, ship the Raisonnable. He took command of his first ship at age 20. He was both praised and condemned for his aggressive and entirely unorthodox tactics as a captain. He became captain in 1778. He lost all sight in his right eye at the siege of Calvi in 1794. His right arm had to be amputated after it was shattered by gunfire during the Battle of Santa Cruz at the Island of Tenerife in 1797. He was knighted in 1797 and promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue, the sixth highest rank in the Royal Navy. He fought the Battle of the Nile on August 1, 1798 and was made a Baron. In 1799 he was promoted to the Rear Admiral of the Red, the fifth highest rank, and made the Duke of Bronte by the Neapolitan King. On January 1, 1801 was made Vice Admiral of the Blue, the fourth highest rank. Shortly after that he fought the Battle of Copenhagen. His commander signaled to him to cease fire. He deliberately raised his telescope to his blind eye so as not to see the signals and won the battle. He was then made a Viscount by Britain and commander of the Baltic Sea. There his climb to glory ended.
The Battle that he is remembered for the best and cost him his life
is the Battle of Trafalgar. The Battle of Trafalgar took place on October
21, 1805. Right before it began Nelson sent a signal to his fleet saying,
“England expects every man will do his duty.” That battle
was a major sea battle during the Napoleonic Wars. It also changed the
art of Naval Warfare forever. In this battle 33 much larger French and
Spanish ships were up against 27 British vessels. Though it seemed a sure
victory for the French they were utterly defeated by the British. At the
end of the day, out of the 33 French ships 14 had surrendered, many others
were sunk. Out of the 27 British ships not one was sunk or captured. 1,241
British men were wounded, 449 killed. Lord Horatio Nelson was one of those
killed. He had received a mortally wound during the battle. His dying
words were, “Thank God I have done my duty.” Trafalgar, his
best known battle of all time, claimed his very life.
Horatio Nelson was criticized by many for the same things and characteristics that made him Britain’s greatest hero in naval history. He was a great leader and a great captain. His goal in life was to serve his God and his country. A goal which is evident by his diary entry on 21 October 1805, the very day that he did die in battle, “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 way tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet. For myself individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may his blessing light upon my endeavors for serving my Country faithfully. To him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted for me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.1”