Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nelson and the Battle of the Nile

Hello again! In this post I'm going back to the 18th century, the times of the Great Napoleon, but this time we will study his great British nemesis: Horatio Nelson, and the great Battle of the Nile, in which he defeated Napoleon for the first time. Here is the video with a summary. Enjoy!

The 18th century was a century of revolution and conquest for most of Europe. The French had killed their king, and only Great Britain remained as a country against the Republican Ideals. This nation had had many national heroes, but one of the best was Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was respected by both his superiors, equals and subordinates. He was passionate and courageous, had everything he needed to become a hero. He had given much to his nation, but in 1794, while commanding an operation he had been wounded on his right eye, and in 1797, at the command of admiral John Jervis, he had secured a great victory against the Spanish: by disobeying his orders he managed to cut off the retreating ships. Great Britain wanted good news and victory, and since its neighbor, France, was ruler of most of Europe, they needed good heroes. Admiral Nelson was happy to be one.

     Despite the naval victories, war was not going well for Great Britain. The French won land battle after land battle, and without allies, Britain had been forced to retreat completely from the Mediterranean. Still savoring the victory against the Spanish, Nelson was tasked to take Spanish treasure ships to the control of Great Britain. The operation was a disaster: they lost element of surprise and the tides were against them... Nelson was hit on the right elbow. The ship was destroyed, and had he not been assisted, Nelson would have been lost forever. With his left arm for the first time he wrote that he had become a burden to his friends and useless to my country: an admiral without his right arm was nothing. Still, the black mood did not last long, and by spring of 1798, Britain was ready to reenter the Mediterranean. Intelligence reports said that the French were on the move and on large numbers, but no one knew their destination.

     In the command of this French Operation was general Napoleon Bonaparte, who had been granted permission to invade Egypt, and then travel to India to destroy British possessions. The expedition sailed on the 19th of May, with nearly forty thousand troops and four hundred transports and 40 battleships. Nelson didn't care about the weather and the lack of information and went hunting for the enemy.

     Whispers from different people sent Nelson and his squadron from one place to another, while the French fleet seemed to be very elusive. While hunting the enemy, a storm almost destroyed the admiral's ship, tearing all of its three top masts, sending them towards shore in certain disaster. The Alexander went to save them, but it seemed they would lose both ships, so Nelson told the Alexander's captain to cut loose and save themselves. The captain refused this order, and with determination, skill, and luck, both ships went away safe. During the storm the squadron had become scattered, and Nelson had lost his tactical eyes.The frigates and the scout ships had become separated and returned to Gibraltar. After months of searching for the French, the admiral decided to search the shores of Egypt. The British arrived earlier than the French, and went upstream, only returning to the delta when the French had had time to land. On the afternoon of the first of August, the enemy fleet was finally discovered.

     Most of the French were ashore and thought to be well protected, but in no condition to fight. Nelson's fleet, on the other hand, was able to form a well-trained fighting unit. He created a band of brothers with all his captains, which became legendary. By listening to their counsel, he had created an unstoppable fighting force. When they came down on the French, there was only one expected result. The British attacked, and destroyed the French fleet, catching them totally unprepared. They were totally sandwiched by the British. They took on ship after ship. Nelson was wounded on his good eye, but it was not that serious and he was back on the field a while later. The bravery of the remaining French was almost beyond belief, but that couldn't save them. Nelson was severely wounded, his head and arm bleeding, and a cannonball almost cut him in two, but he stayed in the fight, refusing medical help. They were all able to see the mighty explosion of the French ships, how the fire spread and all the fleet was torn apart. Nelson had defeated and destroyed the "almighty" General Napoleon's fleet. Nelson returned to Great Britain as a national hero, to hug his beautiful wife one more time...

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