1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


 
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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
by
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 80

where lay the chief hero of this triumphant day eking out the last remnant of that life's blood, which he had so often before lavishly shed in the cause of his country. The manner in which Lord Nelson received his wound has already been described. " The ball, " emphatically adds Doctor Beatty and who states that he has it still in his possession, " was not fired from a rifle piece : " and yet Messieurs Clarke and McArthur, and after them Mr. Southey, have since declared, that the Redoutable and all the French ships had riflemen in their tops, and that it was one of these who aimed at and wounded Lord Nelson * . With marked illiberality too, the gentlemen exult over the supposed death of " the fellow " † who at least did his duty on the occasion, and none sooner than the noble victim would have been ready to acknowledge it. A French writer, well known in England for his general accuracy and candour, says, "Dans la Vie de Nelson, écrite par Southey, panégyriste salarié de la cour de 1'Angleterre, sous le nom de poete lauréat, il est dit qu'au combat de Trafalgar Nelson fut tué par un des arquebusiers tyroliens, apostés pour tirer sum lui. C'est une grossière imposture: il n'y avait pas un seul Tyrolien sum notre flotte; il n'y avait pas même d'armes carabinées. ‡

" While the men, " says Doctor Beatty " were carrying him (Lord Nelson) down the ladder from the middle deck, his lordship observed that the tiller-ropes were not yet replaced : and desired one of the midshipmen stationed there to go upon the quarterdeck and remind Captain Hardy of that circumstance, and request that new ones should be immediately rove. Having delivered this order, he took his handkerchief from his pocket and covered his face with it, that he might be conveyed to the cockpit at this crisis unnoticed by the crew." §

Although the very unlikely circumstance, that a practised seaman, like Lord Nelson, would expect the tiller-ropes to have been rove when the wheel was shot away and the ship foul of another, coupled with the fact that no orders to that effect reached the second in command, renders it doubtful if any remark was made by his lordship about the tiller-ropes, or even about the relieving tackles, the usual substitutes when the wheel is gone, the covering of his face and stars with his handkerchief (of which there is no doubt), lest the crew of the Victory should be disheartened at the sight of the bleeding body of him upon whom they justly reckoned so much, proved that even the pangs of death could not weaken the interest which the hero felt in the final success of the day.

"It must occur to the reader," says Doctor Beatty, "that

*  Clarke and McArthur, vol. ii., pp. 445, 449.

†  Southey, vol. ii., p.264.

‡  Dupin's Voyage' dans la Grande Bretane, tome iv.. p. 10.

§  Beatty's Narrative P.35

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