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Commands the Badger brig. appointed commander of the Badger brig, Collingwood again succeeding him in the Bristol.
The Badger was soon afterwards ordered to protect the Mosquito shore and the Bay of Honduras from the depredations of American privateers; and of this duty her commander acquitted himself so much to the satisfaction of the settlers, that they unani. mously voted him their thanks, and expressed deep regret on his quitting the station. While Nelson commanded the Badger, she was lying in Montego Bay, Jamaica, when the Glasgow, of 20 guns, came into the bay and anchored. Two hours afterwards the ship took fire, owing to the carelessness of the steward, who went down into the after-hold with a candle for the purpose of stealing rum. No sooner did Nelson perceive the state of the Glasgow than he hastened to the spot with his boats, and essentially contributed, by his unceasing exertions and presence of mind, to the preservation of the crew. At his suggestion the powder was thrown overboard and the guns pointed upward. They were all loaded ; and, but for these precautions, not only the other ships in the harbour, but also the houses in the town, would probably have been much injured. In spite of all the efforts made to save the ship, she was entirely consumed. The only life lost by this dreadful accident was that of the master, who was snatched from the flames so severely scorched, that he expired the next morning on board the Badger. From the small size of that vessel, she had not a sufficient shelter for so many additional persons; and the constant rains greatly affected the health of her crew during the passage to Port Royal, where the sufferers were landed.
Meanwhile, his friend, Captain Locker, whose health, almost ever since his arrival, had suffered severely from the climate of the West Indies, had been
Made Post into the Hinchinbrooke.
obliged by that cause to quit the Lowestoffe and return to England. Soon afterwards, that vessel formed one of a small squadron sent to the Gulf of Dolce, on the south side of the Bay of Honduras, to intercept some Spanish register-ships, which had taken shelter under the strong fortress of San Fernando de Omoa. The fort was attacked and stormed, and the registerships secured : in the former, the captors made prize of two hundred and fifty quintals of quicksilver, and in the latter of about three millions of piastres. From the participation in the advantages of this brilliant enterprise Captain Locker was thus debarred by ill health, and his promising protégé by excess of patronage. It has been remarked as characteristic of Nelson, that in his letters he never mentioned the circumstance which ved him of a share in such a prize.
During these transactions, on the 11th of June, 1779, Nelson obtained post-rank, through the same generous influence which had removed him from the Lowestoffe. He had therefore neither reason nor inclination to complain. He was not yet twenty-one. He had been nine years in the service, and had made himself not only an able officer, but likewise a most skilful pilot, which from the first had been the object of his constant ambition. Endowed by nature with uncommon quickness of perception, and a ready fund of resource, he was far from suffering talents of such value to be bestowed in vain.
The first ship to which Captain Nelson was appointed, after his promotion, was the Hinchinbrooke. It was soon after this event that the arrival of Count D'Estaing, at St. Domingo, with a numerous fleet and army, led to the expectation of an immediate attack on Jamaica. At this critical juncture, the command of the batteries at Port Royal, which, being the key to the naval force of Kingston and to
Expedition to the River San Juan.
the seat of government at Spanish Town, was considered the most important post in Jamaica, was entrusted to Captain Nelson.
The French fleet was estimated to have on board a force of 25,000 men, while the whole number of troops that could be mustered on the island amounted to no more than 7,000. It was no doubt from the consideration of the inadequacy of the latter to make a successful resistance that Nelson, in writing to his friends in England, told them they must not be surprised to hear of his learning to speak French. D'Estaing, however, made no attempt with his formidable armament, and, in January, 1780, an expedition began to be prepared in Jamaica against the Spanish territories. It was directed by General Dalling, then governor of the island. Its object was to take possession of the river San Juan, and the Lake of Nicaragua, from which it flows. The inner boundary of the lake is only four or five leagues distant from the Pacific Ocean, through a level country. It was planned that a chain of posts should be established from ocean to ocean across the isthmus, which would have the effect of cutting off the communication of the Spaniards between their North and South American colonies. The insurrections which had already taken place in Santa Fé, Popayan, and many parts of Peru, seemed to afford facilities for such an enterprise; and sanguine expectations were entertained of shaking the Spanish dominion in South America to its foundation. These brilliant prospects, however, were blasted by the delay in sending out a force from England, and the obstacles which General Dalling had to encounter in Jamaica.
On the 30 of February, 1780, the first detachment destined for this service, consisting of 500 men, left Jamaica under the convoy of Captain Nelson in the Hinchinbrooke, and landed on the 11th at Cape Gra
Difficult Ascent of the River.
tias a Dios, in Honduras. Here they remained for a month encamped on a swampy, unwholesome plain, where they were joined by a party of the 79th regiment from Black River. Thus reinforced, they again embarked. Having anchored at several places on the Musquito shore, to take on board their Indian allies, who were to furnish proper boats for the navigation of the river, and to accompany them in the expedition, they reached the River San Juan on the 24th of March.
Here, had Nelson chosen to abide by the letter of his orders, his services might have terminated: but, as not a man belonging to the expedition had ever been up the river or knew the distance of any fortress upon it from the mouth, the Captain of the Hinchinbrooke resolved to carry the soldiers up him. self. About two hundred men were accordingly embarked in two of the ships' boats, and in the Musquito shore craft. As it was now near the end of the dry season, the river contained very little water, and the shoals and sandy beaches rendered the passage difficult. In some of the narrow channels, the men were frequently obliged to quit their boats, and to unite their strength in the water to track and push them along. This labour continued for several days: then, arriving in deeper water, they made quicker progress. Still they had currents and occasional rapids and falls to contend with, and these would have been insurmountable but for the skill of the Indians in managing the boats ; the efforts of the seamen in forcing them up the river against the current; and the encouragement given to both by the personal example and perseverance of Captain Nelson
On the gth of April, they reached the island of San Bartolomeo, where the Spaniards had erected a small battery of nine or ten swivels, manned by about twenty men, as an outpost: it commanded a rapid
Capture of San Bartolomeo.
and difficult part of the river. Nelson, who was the first on every service, whether by day or by night, sprang on shore, followed by a few brave seamen and soldiers, in the face of a severe fire. The ground was so muddy that he lost his shoes, and had some difficulty in extricating himself. He advanced, however, barefooted, and, to use his own expression, "boarded the battery.” The hardihood of the attempt, in which he was bravely supported by Captain Despard.* so terrified the Spaniards, that they ran away, though, from the nature of the ground, they might have cut off the whole party
The castle of San Juan is situated about sixteen miles higher up the river. The ammunition and stores were landed some miles below the castle, and transported through woods that were almost impassable. One of the men was bitten under the eye by a snake, which darted upon him from a tree, and he presently died. Nelson himself had a narrow escape from the same kind of reptile. Being extremely fatigued, he had ordered his hammock to be slung under some trees, and he was startled from sleep by a lizard, called the monitory lizard, from its warning persons of the approach of venomous animals, passing over his face. He started up, and, the clothes being hastily removed, a large snake of a most venomous species was discovered lying coiled up at his feet. He was not so lucky in regard to a different kind of poison : having drunk at a spring into which some branches of the manchineel-tree had been thrown, its effects were so injurious that, in the opinion of some of his friends, he never completely recovered from them.
Subsequently, Colonel Despard, who was executed with his treasonable associates at Horsemonger Lane jail, for conspiring to take the life of George III. as he proceeded to open the session of parliament.