21 November 2012
NELSON, Horatio, Viscount (1758-1805). Document signed ('Nelson & Bronte'), orders addressed to John Oakes Hardy, captain of the Zealous, Victory off Cadiz, 1 October 1805, attractive engraved heading recording Nelson's titles and rank, text in the hand of Nelson's secretary John Scott, and countersigned by him, two pages, folio, bifolium, docket (soiling and minor wear to integral blank).
ORDERS THREE WEEKS BEFORE TRAFALGAR. Hardy is directed to proceed with the Zealous to Gibraltar to fit a new main mast and reprovision. Nelson also provides typically bracing instructions with regards to malingerers in the ship's company: 'With respect to the people that are afflicted with Ulcers onboard the Zealous, I have wrote Admiral Knight [commander at Gibraltar] who will order the few individuals that are not likely soon to get well onboard to the Hospital, together with such of the Fevers as the Surgeon of that Place shall deem necessary -- I must here desire to mention that if all the People troubled occasionally with Ulcers were sent to an Hospital the Fleet would soon be in distress for Men, as it is a truth well known, that Seamen who desire to quit their Ships can always find an Ulcer', noting that a similar outbreak on the Victory was cured by its captain's refusal to send a single man to hospital.
Zealous was one of six ships dispatched to Gibraltar for repairs and reprovisioning on 2 October: it was in part the intelligence of this weakening of the British fleet that finally encouraged Villeneuve to leave Cadiz on 18 October. The combination of the signatures of Nelson and his secretary John Scott at the end of the document is poignant: both men had less than three weeks to live. The engraved heading for the document is unusual, though it demonstrates Nelson's characteristic pleasure in the recitation of his honours.
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