28 November 2001
NELSON, Admiral Viscount Horatio (1758-1805). Autograph letter signed ('Nelson & Bronte') to Sir Robert Calder, 'Victory Oct[obe]r 13th 1805', one page, 4to, endorsed on verso ('This letter was written off Cadiz. Robt. Calder').
A letter written eight days before the Battle of Trafalgar, recalling Nelson's loyalty to his commanders. 'I have no fears of your falling in with the French Squadron they are at this moment in Vigo I have no doubt and will get alongshore to Ferrol or Corunna, however I am sure you will keep a good look out'. Nelson wishes Calder 'a most happy termination' to his enquiry.
Sir Robert Calder (1745-1818) had served with distinction at Cape St Vincent and later, but failed to engage Villeneuve's fleet off Finisterre in July 1805, dispersed his ships and had to retreat before the French admiral on August 9th, leaving the English coast open to attack. Joining Collingwood near Cadiz, he learned that his conduct had been severely commented on in England. The Admiralty ordered Nelson to send him back for trial. Nelson, arriving off Cadiz on September 28th, sent Calder back in his own ship and not in a smaller one, and wrote to Lord Barham, 'I may be thought wrong as an Officer, to disobey the orders of the Admiralty ... but I trust that I shall be considered to have done right as a man, & to a Brother Officer in affliction ... I submit to the wisdom of the Board to censure me or not' (Dispatches, VII, 56), generous sentiments reflected in the sympathetic wording of the present letter. Calder was however severely reprimanded, and never again engaged on active service.
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