The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson HTML version

Chapter 8. 1801 – 1805
Sir Hyde Parker is recalled and Nelson appointed Commander-- He goes to Revel--
Settlement of Affairs in the Baltic--Un- successful Attempt upon the Flotilla at Boulogne-
-Peace of Amiens--Nelson takes Command in the Mediterranean on the Renewal of the
War--Escape of the Toulon Fleet--Nelson chases them to the West Indies and back--
Delivers up his Squadron to Admiral Cornwallis and lands in England.
WHEN Nelson informed Earl St. Vincent that the armistice had been concluded, he told
him also, without reserve, his own discontent at the dilatoriness and indecision which he
witnessed, and could not remedy. "No man," said he, "but those who are on the spot, can
tell what I have gone through, and do suffer. I make no scruple in saying, that I would
have been at Revel fourteen days ago! that, without this armistice, the fleet would never
have gone, but by order of the Admiralty; and with it, I daresay, we shall not go this
week. I wanted Sir Hyde to let me, at least, go and cruise off Carlscrona, to prevent the
Revel ships from getting in. I said I would not go to Revel to take any of those laurels
which I was sure he would reap there. Think for me, my dear lord: and if I have deserved
well, let me return; if ill, for Heaven's sake supersede me, for I cannot exist in this state."
Fatigue, incessant anxiety, and a climate little suited to one of a tender constitution,
which had now for many years been accustomed to more genial latitudes, made him at
this time seriously determine upon returning home. "If the northern business were not
settled," he said,"they must send more admirals; for the keen air of the north had cut him
to the heart." He felt the want of activity and decision in the commander-in-chief more
keenly; and this affected his spirits, and, consequently, his health, more than the
inclemency of the Baltic. Soon after the armistice was signed, Sir Hyde proceeded to the
eastward with such ships as were fit for service, leaving Nelson to follow with the rest, as
soon as those which had received slight damages should be repaired, and the rest sent to
England. In passing between the isles of Amak and Saltholm, most of the ships touched
the ground, and some of them stuck fast for a while: no serious injury, however, was
sustained. It was intended to act against the Russians first, before the breaking up of the
frost should enable them to leave Revel; but learning on the way that the Swedes had put
to sea to effect a junction with them, Sir Hyde altered his course, in hopes of intercepting
this part of the enemy's force. Nelson had, at this time, provided for the more pressing
emergencies of the service, and prepared on the 18th to follow the fleet. The ST.
GEORGE drew too much water to pass the channel between the isles without being
lightened; the guns were therefore taken out, and put on board an American vessel; a
contrary wind, however, prevented Nelson from moving; and on that same evening, while
he was thus delayed, information reached him of the relative situation of the Swedish and
British fleets, and the probability of an action. The fleet was nearly ten leagues distant,
and both wind and current contrary, but it was not possible that Nelson could wait for a
favourable season under such an expectation. He ordered his boat immediately, and
stepped into it. Night was setting in, one of the cold spring nights of the north; and it was