1805 - Anecdote of Lord Nelson


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 Lord Nelson and M. Villeneuve 341

on shore for the first time since June 16, 1803, and from having my foot out of the Victory, two years wanting 10 days. " On the 22d the fleet weighed and stood across to Tetuan to water, anchoring at 8 P.M. in Mazari bay. On the 24th, at noon, the fleet again got under way and steered for Ceuta, and remained during the night in the gut, with variable winds and a thick fog. On the 25th the 18-gun ship-sloop Termagant, Captain Robert Pettet, from England, joined, with information that the brig-sloop Curieux, on her way home with Lord Nelson's despatches, had, on the 19th of June, * in latitude 33 12' north, longitude 58 west, fallen in with the combined fleet, steering, at first, north by west, but afterwards north-north-west. This intelligence, stale as it was in being communicated five weeks after it bore date, was the earliest, of a positive nature, which the vice-admiral had received.

After passing the Straits, Lord Nelson bore away to the westward, and then proceeded off Cape St.-Vincent, to be ready to steer more northerly as circumstances might direct. On the 3d of August the fleet was in latitude 39 north, longitude 16 west, with light northerly airs. By his acuteness, Lord Nelson, about this time, extracted from a log-book, found by an American merchant ship on board a vessel which had been set on fire and abandoned but not destroyed, some far from unimportant information. The circumstances, as related by each of Lord Nelson's biographers, are as follows: " A log-book and a few seamen's jackets were found in the cabin, and these were brought to Nelson. The log-book closed with these words : ' Two large vessels in the W.N.W. ; ' and this led him to conclude that the vessel had been a Liverpool privateer cruising off the Western Islands. But there was in this book a scrap of dirty paper, filled with figures. Nelson, immediately upon seeing it, observed that the figures were written by a Frenchman ; and, after studying this for a while, said, ' I can explain the whole. The jackets are of French manufacture, and prove that the privateer was in possession of the enemy. She had been chased and taken by the two ships that were seen in the W.N.W. The prize-master, going on board in a hurry, forgot to take with him his reckoning : there is none in the log-book, and the dirty paper contains her work for the number of days since the privateer left Corvo, with an unaccounted-for run, which I take to have been the chase, in his endeavour to find out her situation by back-reckoning. By some mismanagement I conclude she was run on board by one of the enemy's ships and dismasted. Not liking delay (for I am satisfied that those two ships were the advanced ones of the French squadron), and fancying we were close at their heels, they set fire to the vessel, and abandoned her in a

* Both Southey in his, and Clarke and M'Arthur in their, " Life of Nelson," make this the 19th of July ; a serious mistake. See p 301 ; a serious mistake. p. 301.

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