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Sir Robert Calder falls in with the combined Fleets—They form
a Junction with the Ferrol Squadron, and get into CadizNelson is reappointed to the Command— Battle of Trafalgar
Victory, and Death of Nelson. At Portsmouth Nelson, at length, found news of the combined feet. Sir Robert Calder, who had been sent out to intercept their return, had fallen in with them on the 22d of July, sixty leagues west of Cape Finisterre. Their force consisted of twenty sail of the line, three fifty gun ships, five frigates, and two brigs : his, of fifteen line of battle ships, two frigates, a cutter, and a lugger. action of four hours he had captured an eighty-four and a seventy-four, and then thought it necessary to bring-to the squadron, for the purpose of securing their prizes. The hostile fleets remained in sight of each other till the 26th, when the enemy bore away. The capture of two ships from so superior a force would have been considered as no inconsiderable victory a few years earlier; but Nelson had introduced a new æra in our naval history; and the nation felt, respecting this action, as he had felt on a somewhat similar occasion. They regretted that Nelson, with his eleven ships, had not been in Sir Robert Calder's place; and their disappointment was generally and loudly expressed.
Frustrated as his own hopes had been, Nelson had yet the high satisfaction of knowing that his judgment had never been more conspicuously approved, and that he had rendered essential service to his country, by driving the enemy from those
islands, where they expected there could be no force capable of opposing them. The West India merchants in London, as men whose interests were more immediately benefited, appointed a deputation to express their thanks for his great and judicious exertions. It was now his intention to rest awhile from his labours, and recruit himself, after all his fatigues and cares, in the society of those whom he loved. All his stores were brought up from the Victory; and he found in his house at Merton the enjoyment which he had anticipated. Many days had not elapsed before Captain Blackwood, on his
way to London with despatches, called on him at five in the morning. Nelson, who was already dressed, exclaimed, the moment he saw him: "I am sure you bring me news of the French and Spanish fleets ! I think I shall yet have to beat them !” They had refitted at Vigo, after the indecisive action with Sir Robert Calder; then proceeded to Ferrol, brought out the squadron from thence, and with it entered Cadiz in safety. “Depend on it, Blackwood," he repeatedly said, “ I shall yet give M. Villeneuve a drubbing.” But, when Blackwood had left him, he wanted resolution to declare his wishes to Lady Hamilton and his sisters, and endeavoured to drive
the thought.—He had done enough, he said, -· Let the man trudge it who has lost his budget!" His countenance belied his lips; and as he was pacing one of the walks in the garden, which he used to call the quarter-deck, Lady Hamilton came up to him, and told him she saw he was uneasy.
He smiled, and said : “ No, he was as happy as possible; he was surrounded by his family, his health was better since he had been on shore, and he
would not give sixpence to call the king his uncle.” She replied, that she did not believe him,—that she knew he was longing to get at the combined fleets,—that he considered them as his own property,—that he would be miserable if any man but himself did the business ; and that he ought to have them, as the price and reward of his two years' long watching, and his hard chase. son,” said she, “ however we may lament your absence, offer your services; they will be accepted, and you will gain a quiet heart by it: you will have a glorious victory, and then you may return here and be happy.” He looked at her with tears in his eyes :-“ Brave Emma! Good Emma!If there were more Emmas there would be more Nelsons.”
His services were as willingly accepted as they were offered; and Lord Barham, giving him the list of the navy, desired him to choose his own officers. “ Choose yourself, my lord,” was his reply: “ the same spirit actuates the whole profession: you cannot choose wrong.” Lord Barham then desired him to say what ships, and how many, he would wish, in addition to the fleet which he was going to command, and said they should follow him as soon as each was ready. No appointment was ever more in unison with the feelings and judgment of the whole nation. They, like Lady Hamilton, thought that the destruction of the combined fleets ought properly to be Nelson's work; that he, who had been
• Half around the sea-girt ball, The hunter of the recreant Gaul,'
* Songs of Trafalgar.
ought to reap the spoils of the chase which he had watched so long, and so perseveringly pursued.
Unremitting exertions were made to equip the ships which he had chosen, and especially to refit the Victory, which was once more to bear his flag. Before he left London he called at his upholsterer's, where the coffin which Capt. Hallowell had given him was deposited ; and desired that its history might be engraven upon the lid, saying, that it was highly probable he might want it on his return. He seemed, indeed, to have been impressed with an expectation that he should fall in the battle. letter to his brother, written immediately after his return, he had said : “ We must not talk of Sir Robert Calder's battle—I might not have done so much with my
small force. If I had fallen in with them, you might probably have been a lord before I wished; for I know they meant to make a dead set at the Victory.” Nelson had once regarded the prospect of death with gloomy satisfaction: it was when he anticipated the upbraidings of his wife, and the displeasure of his venerable father. The state of his feelings now was expressed, in his private journal, in these words :-“ Friday night, (Sept. 13.) at half-past ten, I drove from dear, dear Merton ; where I left all which I hold dear in this world, to go to serve my king and country. May the great God, whom I adore, enable me to fulfil the expectations of my country! and, if it is his good pleasure that I should return, my thanks will never cease being offered up to the throne of his mercy. If it is his good providence to cut short my days upon earth, I bow with the greatest submission; relying that he will protect those so dear
to me, whom I may leave behind! His will be done. Amen! Amen! Amen!”
Early on the following morning he reached Portsmouth; and, having despatched his business on shore, endeavoured to elude the populace by taking a by-way to the beach ; but a crowd collected in his train, pressing forward, to obtain a sight of his face: many were in tears, and many knelt down before him, and blessed him as he passed. England has had many heroes; but never one who so entirely possessed the love of his fellow countrymen as Nelson. All men knew that his heart was as humane as it was fearless; that there was not in his nature the slightest alloy of selfishness or cupidity; but that, with perfect and entire devotion, he served his country with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength; and, therefore, they loved him as truly and as fervently as he loved England. They pressed upon the parapet, to gaze after him when his barge pushed off, and he was returning their cheers by waving his hat. The sentinels, who endeavoured to prevent them from trespassing upon this ground, were wedged among the crowd; and an officer, who, not very prudently upon such an occasion, ordered them to drive the people down with their bayonets, was compelled speedily to retreat; for the people would not be debarred from gazing, till the last moment, upon the hero--the darling hero of England !
He arrived off Cadiz on the 29th of September -his birthday. Fearing that, if the enemy knew his force, they might be deterred from venturing to sea, he kept out of sight of land, desired Collingwood to fire no salute, and hoist no colours ; and