Horatio Nelson


Horatio Nelson is the most famous naval officers of all time. He fought during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, and he remains one of the most celebrated heroes in all of British History. In the process of winning numerous important naval victories for England, the presence of Nelson always added a great deal of romance and drama to the conflict. He was a highly inspirational leader that brought out the best of the seamen that he fought with so his victories were always marked with a great deal of reckless courage, swashbuckling bravado, and terrific sea-faring lore. Given that naval service, in reality, was a grindingly difficult and often tedious job, the romance and flair that heroes like Nelson lent to the occupation, elevated not only their own reputations, but that of the entire branch of service.

Horatio Nelson
Nelson went to sea at a very young age on a ship commanded by one of his uncles, and from the beginning showed only enthusiasm for the seafaring life. He rose through the ranks relatively quickly both due to his own capabilities and also the helpful connections of his uncle. He fought in the American Revolutionary War on the British side, and distinguished himself as an excellent sailor, but just as his talents were starting to be recognized, Britain entered into a ten year period of peace, between 1783 and 1793. These were relatively uneventful years for Nelson, and he spend a good deal of this decade on shore.

When the French Revolutionary Wars broke out in the early 1790's, Nelson's career fell into full swing. Early on, he was wounded in the face at Calvi, and lost sight in his right eye. After recovering he returned to duty, and was instrumental in Britain's great victory over the French at the battle of St. Vincent, by disobeying orders, and falling out of line in order to prevent Spain's retreating ships from escaping. Sir John Jervis, his commanding officer, recognized his genius, but Nelson was not particularly popular with the Admiralty due to his marked tendency for "dramatic and bold", but risky exploits. He was, however, exceedingly popular with sailors, and the public, with whom he already beginning to establish a reputation.

More victories and associated dramatics followed in quick succession. He lost his right arm in a battle off Santa Cruz Teneriffe, but shortly after won a great victory against Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile. While stationed in Naples, he fell in love with Lady Hamilton, and began a scandalous affair that only increased the notoriety of both lovers. Returning to business, he won the great battle of Copenhagen, again by disobeying direct orders, and shortly afterward Britain declared peace with France. The peace, however, was short lived. Napoleon, who was now emperor of France, began immediately to rebuild his fleet in anticipation of a naval invasion of Britain. Nelson return to sea in 1803 and pursued the combined French-Spanish fleet all over the Mediterranean, always attempting to draw them into battle. In October 1805, he cornered the fleet at Trafalgar, and forced a battle using a highly unorthodox battle formation. The victory was overwhelmingly in favor of the British; only a few French ships escaping capture or destruction. Nelson himself however, was mortally wounded. His naval costume, bristling with medals, made him an easy mark for a French sniper, firing from the main mast of an enemy ship.

Key events during the life of Horatio Nelson:

Nelson is born in Norfolk
Embarks on his first voyage with his uncle, Maurice Sucking.
'Lieutenant' Nelson fights on British side in Revolutionary War.
Contacts malaria and returns to England for a year.
Nelson returns to active duty in the West Indies.
In command of the Agamemnon, he began his career of notable service during the French Revolutionary Wars.
Wounded in the face at Calvi—lost sight in right eye.
Appointed Commodore by Sir John Jervis.
Helped with the great Battle of Cape St. Vincent by disobeying orders.
Lost right arm in battle at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Defeats Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile and ends his attempt to attack British India.
While stationed in Naples, Nelson falls in love with Lady Hamilton.
Won the Battle of Copenhagen by disobeying orders.
Peace declared with France. Nelson returns to Lady Hamilton, now in London.
Nelson returns to sea as Napoleon rebuild's the French Fleet.
Nelson dies after a heroic fight, at the Great British victory of Trafalgar.

Book Links
Story of Nelson  by  Edmund F. Sellar

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
The Story of Nelson, Part I  in  Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary  by  Cambridge Press
Greatest Sailor Since the World Began  in  Stories from English History, Part Third  by  Alfred J. Church
Lord Horatio Nelson  in  Boys' Book of Sea Fights  by  Chelsea Curtis Fraser
The French Revolution  in  The Hanoverians  by  C. J. B. Gaskoin
Horatio Nelson  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
England and the French Revolution  in  The Story of England  by  Samuel B. Harding
Story of Nelson  in  Back Matter  by  books/lord/stpauls/_back.html
England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty  in  Our Island Story  by  H. E. Marshall
Trafalgar and the Death of Nelson  in  Historical Tales: English  by  Charles Morris
Nelson and Wellington  in  Nations of Europe and the Great War  by  Charles Morris
Horatio Nelson  in  Great Englishmen  by  M. B. Synge
Horatio Nelson  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Battle of the Nile  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Battle of Trafalgar  in  The Struggle for Sea Power  by  M. B. Synge
Trafalgar  in  The Boy's Book of Battles  by  Eric Wood

Image Links

Lord Nelson
 in Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary

The Nelson monument, St Paul's cathedral
 in Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary

The death of Nelson
 in Cambridge Historical Reader—Primary

Lord Nelson
 in Stories from English History, Part Third

Our greatest Naval Hero, Admiral Lord Nelson
 in The Hanoverians

The Death of Nelson
 in The Hanoverians

Death of Nelson
 in  The Story of the English

Nelson boarding the St. Nicholas
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar
 in Famous Men of Modern Times
Lord Horatio Nelson
Lord Horatio Nelson
 in Back Matter
Nelson at trafalgar
Nelson at trafalgar
 in Back Matter

They have done for me at last, Hardy,' said Nelson.
 in Our Island Story

The Old Temeraire
 in Historical Tales: English

Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen
 in The Story of Nelson

His pony and he struggled on
 in The Story of Nelson

There was a heavy sea running
 in The Story of Nelson

Nelson wounded at Calvi
 in The Story of Nelson

Berry helped Nelson into the main-chains of the San Josef
 in The Story of Nelson

Nelson leaving Portsmouth to join the Victory
 in The Story of Nelson

They have done for me at last, Hardy.'
 in The Story of Nelson

Nelson's Last Farewell
 in Great Englishmen

Short Biography
John Jervis Commander of British fleet during the French Revolutionary Wars. Friend of Horatio Nelson.
Duke of Wellington Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
Lady Hamilton Notorious English beauty and consort of several Famous Men. Great love interest of Horatio Nelson.
Sir Thomas Hardy Naval captain and friend of Horatio Nelson. With Nelson when he died at Trafalgar.
Maurice Sucking Naval officer and uncle of Horatio Nelson who trained him as a young man.