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to furnish proper boats for the river, and to accompany them. They reached the River San Juan March 24th : and here, according to his orders, Nelson's services were to terminate. But not a man in the expedition had ever been up the river, or knew the distances of
fortification from its mouth; and he, not being one who would turn back when so much was to be done, resolved to carry the soldiers up.
About two hundred, therefore, were embarked in the Mosquito shore craft, and in two of the Hinchinbrook's boats, and they began their voyage. It was the latter end of the dry season, the worst time for such an expedition; the river was consequently low. Indians were sent forward through narrow channels between shoals and sandbanks, and the men were frequently obliged to quit the boats, and exert their utmost strength to drag or thrust them along. This labour continued for several days: when they came into deeper water, they had then currents and rapids to contend with, which would have been insurmountable but for the skill of the Indians in such difficulties. The brunt of the labour was borne by them and by the sailors—men never accustomed to stand aloof when any exertion of strength or hardihood is required. The soldiers, less accustomed to rely upon themselves, were of little use. But all equally endured the violent heat of the sun, rendered more intense by being reflected from the white shoals, while the high woods on both sides of the river were frequently so close as to prevent all refreshing circulation of air; and during the night all were equally exposed to the heavy and unwholesome dews.
On the 9th of April they reached an island in the river called St. Bartolomeo, which the Spaniards had fortified as an outpost, with a small semicircular battery, mounting nine or ten swivels, and manned with sixteen or eighteen men. It commanded the river in a rapid and difficult part of the navigation. Nelson, at the head of a few of his seamen, leaped upon the beach. The ground upon which he sprang was so muddy, that he had some
EXPEDITION AGAINST FORT ST. JUAN.
difficulty in extricating himself, and lost his shoes : barefooted, however, he advanced, and, in his own phrase, boarded the battery. In this resolute attempt he was bravely supported by the well-known Despard, at that time a captain in the army.
The castle of St. Juan is situated about sixteen miles higher up: the stores and ammunition, however, were landed a few miles below the castle, and the men had to march through woods almost impassable. One of the men was bitten under the eye by a snake, which darted upon him from the bough of a tree. He was unable to proceed from the violence of the pain ; and when, after a short while, some of his comrades were sent back to assist him, he was dead, and the body already putrid. Nelson himself narowly escaped a similar fate : he had ordered his hammock to be slung under some trees, being excessively fatigued, and was sleeping, when a monitory lizard passed across his face. The Indians happily observed the reptile, and, knowing what it indicated, awoke him. He started up, and found one of the deadliest serpents of the country coiled up at his feet. He suffered from poison of another kind; for, drinking at a spring in which some boughs of the manchineel had been thrown, the effects were so severe as, in the opinion of some of his friends, to inflict a lasting injury upon his constitution.
The castle of St. Juan is thirty-two miles below the Lake of Nicaragua, from which it issues, and sixty-nine from the month of the river. Boats reach the sea from thence in a day and a half; but their navigation back, even when unladen, is the labour of nine days. The English appeared before it on the 11th, two days after they had taken St. Bartolomeo. Nelson's advice was, that it should instantly be carried by assault; but Nelson was not the commander, and it was thought proper to observe all he formalities of a siege. Ten days were wasted before this could be commenced : it was a work more of fatigue than of danger; but fatigue was more to be dreaded than the enemy. The rains set in ; and,
could the garrison have held out a little longer, disease would have rid them of their invaders. Even the Indians sank under it, the victims of unusual exertion and of their own excesses. The place surrendered on the
But victory procured to the conquerors none of that relief which had been expected; the castle was worse than a prison, and it contained nothing which could contribute to the recovery of the sick, or the preservation of those who were yet unaffected. The huts which served for hospitals were surrounded with filth and with the putrefying hides of slaughtered cattlealmost sufficient of themselves to have engendered pestilence; and when, at last, orders were given to erect a convenient hospital, the contagion had become so general that there were none who could work at it; for, besides the few who were able to perform garrison-duty, there were not orderly men enough to assist the sick. Added to these evils, there was the want of all needful remedies ; for, though the expedition had been amply provided with hospital-stores, river-craft enough had not been procured for transporting the requisite baggage; and when much was to be left behind, provision for sickness was that which of all things men in health would be most ready to leave. Now, when these medicines were required, the river was swollen, and so turbulent that its upward navigation was almost impracticable. At length, even the task of burying the dead was more than the living could perform; and the bodies were tossed into the stream, or left for beasts of prey, and for the gallinazos, those dreadful carrion-birds, which do not always wait for death before they begin their work. Five months the English persisted in what may be called this war against nature ; they then left a few men, who seemed proof against the climate, to retain the castle till the Spaniards should choose to retake it, and make them prisoners. The rest abandoned their baleful conquest. Eighteen hundred men were sent to different posts upon this wretched expedition : not more than three hundred and
RETURNS HOME INVALIDED.
19 eighty ever returned. The Hinchinbrook's complement consisted of two hundred men : eighty-seven took to their beds in one night, and of the whole crew not more than ten survived.
Nelson himself was saved by a timely removal. few days after the commencement of the siege, he was seized with the prevailing dysentery : meantime Captain Glover (son of the author of " Leonidas”) died, and Nelson was appointed to succeed him in the Janus, of forty-four guns. He returned to the harbour the day before St. Juan surrendered, and immediately sailed for Jamaica in the sloop which brought the news of his appointment. He was, however, so greatly reduced by the disorder, that when they reached Port Royal he was carried ashore in his cot; and finding himself, after a partial amendment, unable to retain the command of his new ship, he was compelled to ask leave to return to England, as the only means of recovery. Captain (afterwards Admiral) Cornwallis took him home in the Lion; and to his care and kindness Nelson believed himself indebted for his life. He went immediately to Bath, in a miserable state; so helpless, that he was carried to and from his bed ; and the act of moving him produced the most violent pain. In three months he recovered, and immediately hastened to London and applied for employment. After an interval of about four months he was appointed to the Albemarle, of twenty-eight guns, a French merchantman, which had been purchased from the captors for the King's service.
His health was not yet thoroughly re-established ; and while he was employed in getting his ship ready, he again became so ill as hardly to be able to keep out of bed. Yet in this state, still suffering from the fatal effect of a West Indian climate, as if, it might almost be supposed, to try his constitution, he was sent to the North Seas, and kept there the whole winter. The asperity with which he mentioned this so many years afterwards, evinces how deeply he resented a mode of conduct equally
cruel to the individual and detrimental to the service. It was during the armed neutrality; and when they anchored off Elsineur, the Danish admiral sent on board, desiring to be informed what ships had arrived, and to have their force written down. “The Albemarle,” said Nelson to the messenger, “is one of his Britannic Majesty's ships : you are at liberty, sir, to count the guns as you go down the side ; and you may assure the Danish admiral that, if necessary, they shall all be well served.” During this voyage he gained a considerable knowledge of the Danish coast, and its soundings; greatly to the advantage of his country in after-times. The Albemarle was not a good ship, and was several times nearly overset, in consequence of the masts having been made much too long for her. On her return to England they were shortened, and some other improvements made at Nelson's suggestion. Still, he always insisted that her first owners, the French, had taught her to run away, as she was never a good sailer, except when going directly before the wind.
On their return to the Downs, while he was ashore visiting the senior officer, there came on so heavy a gale that almost all the vessels drove, and a store-ship came athwart-hawse of the Albemarle. Nelson feared she would drive on the Goodwin Sands. He ran to the beach ; but even the Deal boatmen thought it impossible to get on board, such was the violence of the storm.
At length some of the most intrepid offered to make the attempt for fifteen guineas; and, to the astonishment and fear of all the beholders, he embarked during the height of the tempest. With great difficulty and imminent danger, he succeeded in reaching her. She lost her bowsprit and foremast, but escaped further injury. He was now ordered to Quebec, where, his surgeon told him, he would certainly be laid up by the climate. Many of his friends urged him to represent this to Admiral Keppel ; but, having received his orders from Lord Sandwich, there appeared to him an indelicacy in applying to his successor to have them altered.