Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lord Nelson

Firstly, you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king.  And thirdly, you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil.
Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, who was born on this date in 1758, gave this advice to a young midshipman in 1793, when Nelson was the captain of the 64-gun ship of the line, HMS Agamemnon.

Nelson was the preeminent naval commander of the Napoleonic Wars, known for his inspirational leadership and unconventional tactics.  He lost his right eye in 1793 during a successful assault on a Corsican fort, and his right arm during an unsuccessful attack on a port in the Canary Islands.  

Nelson's successes in battle greatly outnumbered his failures.  His greatest victory came at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when his 27 British ships of the line (which were equipped with a total of 2148 guns) decisively defeated 33 French and Spanish ships of the line (which carried a total of 2632 guns).  Prior to that battle, he met with his officers to brief them on his plan of battle, instructing them that "in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy."    

Nelson was shot and killed by a French sniper during the battle.  According to his biographer, Nelson had responded to a previous suggestion that he conceal the admiral's stars on his uniform during battle with these words: "In honour I gained them, and in honour I will die with them." 

Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London

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