19 October 2005
HORATIO, VISCOUNT NELSON (1758-1805)
Letter signed ('Nelson & Bronte') to Sir Richard Bickerton, 'Rear Admiral of the White', 'Victory at Sea', 25 February 1804, one page, 4to (integral leaf removed).
Provenance: Sir Richard Bickerton, and by descent to the present owner.
AN ORDER MARKED 'SECRET' TO 'RENDEZVOUS NO. 101 TELAMONE BAY, COAST OF TUSCANY, TO THE SOUTH EAST OF ELBA', including a postscript referring to an earlier memorandum of the same date which is No. 100.
An example of Nelson's system of exercising control through communication with his captains, despatched when his priority was to prevent the French from breaking out of Toulon and invading Sardinia. In order to keep in touch with the widely scattered vessels under his command he relied upon the long established naval system of rendezvous by which a number of locations were selected and identified with code numbers. Some were close to land where letters and orders could be left and some were at sea, where a small vessel would be left on station to act as postbox. In this way Nelson was able to exercise personal command and handle the movements of the fleet (Colin White. Nelson. The New Letters (2005), 319-320).
Sir Richard Bickerton (1759-1832), for whom Nelson had a high regard, was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean fleet in 1802-1803 and on the renewal of the war with France became Nelson's second-in-command, serving under him until 1805. He was called home to the Admiralty in the summer before Trafalgar.
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