3 December 2003
NELSON, Horatio, Viscount (1758-1805). Autograph letter signed ('Horatio Nelson', written with his right hand) to William Suckling (his uncle), 'Irresistible off Lagos Bay', 23 February 1797, 3 pages, 4to, integral address leaf, (seal tear, repaired, silked).
A boastful account of his part in the victory at Cape St. Vincent: 'The event of the late Battle has been most glorious for England and you will receive pleasure from the share I had in making it a most Brilliant day, the most so of any that I know of in the annals of England'. He describes the accolades of the Fleet, 'all do me that Justice I feel I deserve ... The Victory and every ship in the Fleet passing the Glorious group gave me three cheers', and mentions the 'Nelson Patent Bridge for boarding first rates', which will never be forgotten. The Captain will 'never be fit to receive me again and the Ad[miral]ty must send me a new ship'. Earlier in the letter he comments on family news.
In the battle of Cape St Vincent on 14 February Nelson was in command of his own ship, the Captain. By an inventive and intrepid dash, he halted the flight of the Spaniards, and his boarding of the San José from the San Nicolas was branded 'Nelson's Patent Bridge', becoming the subject of many witticisms. The Captain took almost one third of all British casualties. He was promoted to Rear-Admiral on 22 February (before news of the battle reached London) but was bitterly disappointed at Sir John Jervis's failure to single him out for praise in his dispatch (in which none of the 15 captains received individual mention). His achievement was acknowledged with the award of a knighthood shortly afterwards.
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