Mediterranean and the most memorable Battles of Nelson
“No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.
England expects that every man will do his duty.
Desperate affairs require desperate remedies”, Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson.
Nelson fought many memorable battles; and it would be sacrilegious not to mention the most memorable ones here. For your information, this is nothing like battling a type of breast cancer… However, I cannot refrain from mentioning where it all started; on the Agamemnon.
Mediterranean, Agamemnon as well as the Ça Ira
A disgruntled Nelson started out on the Agamemnon in January 1793; considering the category and armory of the ship below his dignity. In a couple of weeks he acknowledged the qualities of the ship and joined the Mediterranean fleet. .
The Ça Ira was a battleship from the French convoy heading to invade Corsica. It lost its way, and Nelson lost no time in cornering and destroying it. For two hours the Agamemnon sailed back and forth, bombarding the larger ship, and Nelson was ruthless in his strategy.
The practically shattered ship was rescued by the French, and Nelson had to cut his victory lap short. Nevertheless, this was the cornerstone of Nelson’s prowess, and impressed those around him.
At this time, perhaps Nelson was more convinced of his capabilities, and frustrated at not having achieved more.
Little more than three years later, he had achieved the rank of admiral and, indeed, commanded an English Fleet.
The Battle of Mediterranean Cape St. Vincent
England was at war with France. France had forced Spain into joining forces with it. England was now being cornered on two fronts by two enemies. They decided to withdraw from the Mediterranean; since the Channel was also under threat now.
From early morning, 14th February, 1797; the British ships tried to outmaneuver the Spanish fleet, and finally cordoned them in a U formation. Captain Jervis, leading this foray, gave the signal: “Take suitable stations for mutual support. Also, engage the enemy as coming up in succession” (British stations at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent).
The Captain was devastated in this skirmish. With no option left, Nelson ordered his boarders to cross onto and between between the Spanish ships. The outcome of the battle was victory of 15 British ships over the might of 27 Spanish ships; and enabled Captain Jervis to resume action on the Mediterranean under the command of Nelson.
This foray into the Mediterranean under Nelson re-established British command of the area at the Battle of the Nile..
Battle of the Nile
Also known as the Battle of Aboukir Bay, this confrontation of August, 1798 saw the two greatest men of the time, Nelson and Napoleon, dealing face-to-face. If anything, this battle can be deemed spectacular, and brought Nelson accolades as well as entitlements.
After a fruitless search for the French expedition, Nelson finally cornered them in the Bay of Aboukir. Fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds, Nelson ordered an attack. (Battle of the Nile)
The Battle of the Nile sent shockwaves through Europe. It was Nelson’s first demonstration that he would, given the chance, annihilate opposition rather than simply defeat it.He captured or destroyed eleven of the fifteen enemy ships.
The Royal Navy suddenly realised that they had found in Nelson a tactician, a planner and, above all, a leader and opportunist against whom a single mistake was enough to guarantee defeat.
He was created Baron Nelson of The Nile and Burnham Thorpe and became a national hero. Lord Nelson had claimed his place in history.
Battle of Copenhagen
Following his defeat in the Battle of the Nile, and nursing a grievous injury, Napoleon returned to France to infuse fresh life into a now dishevelled French Navy. 1801 marked a falling out of the Allies, and the French defeat of Austria in Marengo, Italy.
At this time a strong coalition had formed against Britain, the League of Armed Neutrality, and Denmark was the most hostile among the participants.
The British Navy, under the Admiralty of Sir Hyde Parker and with Lord Nelson as Vice Admiral, mounted an offense against Denmark via the Baltic Sea. (Battle of Copenhagen).
On the 2nd of April, 1801, Nelson, while taking into account the ships that were grounded on a shoal. Along with modifying his offensive tactics accordingly; launched a full-fledged battle against the Danes.
Through the battle, Nelson literally turned a “blind eye” to superior orders and continued with his annihilation of the Danish fleet.
The battle lasted about four hours
During which the Danes displayed great courage in the face of falling ranks. As well as earned the respect of the British naval forces. After tremendous casualties on both sides; the battle ended with an Armistice being signed on the 10th of April.
The British and Nelson’s strategies came to fruition, and the Northern Confederacy went to pieces.
Nelson was appointed the commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean region in 1803, and the shaky armistice between Britain and France was slowly eroding away. Both sides were guilty of non-conformance to the Treaty of Amiens
Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor in France, May, 1804. Now Spain joined hands with France once again. And declared war against the British in December, 1804. All this severely compounded the health problems of an already weak Nelson. (National Archives)
The British were now on tenterhooks with Napoleon’s ambitious and devilish plans; to assault their shores. It would have been highly probable; had it not been for Nelson as well as the decisive Battle of Trafalgar.
This battle also was the unfortunate laying ground for Nelson’s death. I shall discuss this in detail in the next post.