1805 - Departure of Lord Nelson from Gibraltar, Anchors in Lagos bay


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 Lord Nelson and M. Villeneuve 333

fine easterly wind now again springing up, Lord Nelson, at 6 p.m., weighed and stood through the Straits. It had been his lordship's intention, on the supposition that the French were bound to Ireland, to have proceeded to a spot about 50 leagues to the westward of Scilly ; but some intelligence, of an undoubted character, pointing to the West Indies as the real destination of the combined fleet, Lord Nelson resolved, at every risk of professional censure, to follow it thither. That information was derived from Rear-admiral Donald Campbell (by birth a Scotchman), of the Portuguese navy, well known to Lord Nelson, from having previously served under him, and from having, on a former occasion, rendered some essential service to the British. For his visit to the Victory, Rear-admiral Campbell appears to have suffered most severely. Notwithstanding the rigid secrecy observed by Lord Nelson, the Spanish naval commander-in-chief at Algeziras got hold or the circumstance, and made a formal complaint against the rear admiral. This brought down the vengeance of the French ambassador at the court of Portugal, and Rear-admiral Campbell was laid upon the shelf. *

On the 10th, in the evening, the fleet anchored in Lagos bay, to clear some transports which had been left there by Sir John Orde, when the latter retreated from before M. Villeneuve. Having, in the course of the night, by extraordinary exertions, completed his ships to five months' provisions, Lord Nelson, at 9 a.m. on the 11th, weighed and sailed out of the bay. The expected arrival from England of a fleet of transports, with 5000 troops on board under General Sir James Craig, induced his lordship to remain a short time off Cape St.-Vincent ; and on the 12th, in the afternoon, the Queen 98, Rear-admiral Knight, and Dragon 74, Captain Edward Griffiths, with their valuable charge, joined company. In order to afford to the convoy an additional protection in its passage through the Straits, Lord Nelson detached the Royal-Sovereign ; and, with his remaining 10 ships of the line and three frigates, namely, the Victory, Canopus, Superb, Spencer, Swiftsure, Belleisle, Conqueror, Tigre, and Leviathan, and Amazon, Décade, and Amphion crowded sail to the westward, in chase of an enemy's fleet which, he knew, consisted of 18 ships of the line, and at least treble his number of frigates. One of the British ships too, the Superb, not having been in a home-port since the 16th of January, 1801, was in a very crazy state ; and it was only upon the urgent solicitation of Captain Keats, that the Superb was allowed to make one in the pursuing fleet.

Lord Nelson has been accused of rashness, in being so eager

* Clarke and M'Arthur, vol. ii., p. 406.

For this ship a contemporary has substituted the Excellent, Captain Frank Sotheron, left by Lord Nelson in Naples bay. See Brenton vol. iii, p 429

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