3 December 2003
NELSON, Horatio, Viscount (1758-1805). Autograph letter signed ('Horatio Nelson'), to Earl St Vincent (his Commander-in-Chief), Vanguard, 6 May 1798, 2 pages, 4to, docketed 'Sir Horatio Nelson ... Route' (integral leaf removed, affecting one letter of a word and the final flourish of the signature, small splits in folds, lightly soiled where exposed).
An important naval letter, revealing Nelson's plan of campaign, after learning of Bonaparte's embarkation from Toulon: 'I do not believe any person guesses where I am going. I shall go hard but I will present you at last with some frigates and I hope something better'. Relating his intended route via Minorca, Barcelona, Cape San Sebastian and Toulon: 'There I shall get information enough to regulate my farther proceedings an[d] as I take frigates Shall send one to take charge of each and keeping the large Ships compleat to fight I hope larger ones. God Bless you Ever your Most Affectionate Horatio Nelson'.
Nelson was at Gibraltar when on 2 May he received 'a most secret order' announcing the embarkation of Bonaparte's fleet, the destination of which was of course unknown. He sailed on 8 May, under cover of darkness, with orders to take or destroy the French fleet, and to pursue it anywhere. The final outcome of the summer's campaign was the Battle of the Nile.
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