Horatio Nelson

British flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy
First gain the victory and then make the best use of it you can.

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (29 September 175821 October 1805) was a British flag officer in the Royal Navy. He was noted for his inspirational leadership, superb grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics, all of which resulted in a number of decisive naval victories, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars (1797–1815).

Our Country will, I believe, sooner forgive an Officer for attacking his Enemy than for letting it alone.

Contents

QuotesEdit

Tell the surgeon to make haste and get his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it is off the better.
Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey.

1790sEdit

  • There are three things, young gentlemen, which you are constantly to bear in mind. Firstly, you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own respecting their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly, you must hate a Frenchman, as you do the devil.
    • Nelson's advice to his Midshipmen (1793), as quoted in Memoirs of the Life of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson K.B. (1849), edited by Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, Vol. 2, p. 580
  • Success, I trust — indeed have little doubt — will crown our zealous and well-meant endeavours: if not, our Country will, I believe, sooner forgive an Officer for attacking his Enemy than for letting it alone.
    • Statement regarding the attack on Bastia, Corsica (3 May 1794), as published in The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson with Notes (1845) edited by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, Vol. I : 1777-1794, p. 393
  • The lives of all are in the hands of Him who knows best whether to preserve it or no, and to His will do I resign myself. My character and good name are in my own keeping. Life with disgrace is dreadful. A glorious death is to be envied, and, if anything happens to me recollect death is a debt we must all pay, and whether now or in a few years hence can be but of little consequence.
    • Letter from Agamemnon at sea (10 March 1795), in Nelson's letters to his wife and other documents, 1785-1831 edited by Navy Records Society, p. 199
  • I cannot, if I am in the field for glory, be kept out of sight. Probably my services may be forgotten by the great, by the time I get Home; but my mind will not forget, nor cease to feel, a degree of consolation and of applause superior to undeserved rewards. Wherever there is anything to be done, there Providence is sure to direct my steps. Credit must be given me in spite of envy.
    • Letter to his wife, Frances Nelson (2 August 1796), as published in The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson with Notes (1845) edited Nicholas Harris Nicolas, Vol. II : 1795-1797, p. 203
  • I had rather suffer death than alarm Mrs. Freemantle, by letting her see me in this state, when I can give her no tidings whatever of her husband.
    • After being wounded during the attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife (24 July 1797), as quoted in The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson with Notes (1845) edited Nicholas Harris Nicolas, Vol. II : 1795-1797, p. 423
  • Let me alone, I have yet my legs left, and one arm. Tell the surgeon to make haste and get his instruments. I know I must lose my right arm, so the sooner it is off the better.
    • After being wounded during the attack on Santa Cruz de Tenerife (24 July 1797), as quoted in The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson with Notes (1845) edited Nicholas Harris Nicolas, Vol. II : 1795-1797, p. 423
  • First gain the victory and then make the best use of it you can.
  • Before this time to-morrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey.
    • Before the Battle of the Nile (1 August 1797), as quoted in Life of Nelson, Ch. 5; alternately reported as "Westminster Abbey, or victory!"
  • The Neapolitan officers did not lose much honour, for God knows they had not much to lose - but they lost all they had.
  • I am myself a Norfolk man.
    • On being welcomed on arrival in Great Yarmouth, in his home county [citation needed]

1800sEdit

My greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory I am the most offending soul alive.
The measure may be thought bold, but I am of the opinion the boldest are the safest.
I cannot command winds and weather.
I have always been a quarter of an hour before my time and it has made a man of me.
I am Lord Nelson. See, here's my fin.
  • My greatest happiness is to serve my gracious King and Country and I am envious only of glory; for if it be a sin to covet glory I am the most offending soul alive.
  • It is warm work; and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment. But mark you! I would not be elsewhere for thousands.
  • To leave off action"? Well, damn me if I do! You know, Foley, I have only one eye,— I have a right to be blind sometimes . . . I really do not see the signal!
    • At the battle of Copenhagen, Ignoring Admiral Parker's signal to retreat, holding his telescope up to his blind eye, and proceeding to victory against the Danish fleet. (2 April 1801); as quoted in Life of Nelson, Ch. 7
  • If a man consults whether he is to fight, when he has the power in his own hands, it is certain that his opinion is against fighting.
  • If I had been censured every time I have run my ship, or fleets under my command, into great danger, I should have long ago been out of the Service and never in the House of Peers.
  • Victory or Westminster Abbey.
    • Life of Nelson Vol. I, Ch. 4  : In the battle off Cape Vincent, giving order for boarding the San Josef
  • In honour I gained them, and in honour I will die with them.
    • Life of Nelson (ch. 9), when asked to cover the stars on his uniform to hide his rank during battle.
  • Duty is the great business of a sea officer; all private considerations must give way to it, however painful it may be.
  • The measure may be thought bold, but I am of the opinion the boldest are the safest.
    • Statement to Sir Hyde Parker urging vigorous action against the Russians and Danes (24 March 1801), quoted in "The Book of Military Quotations" by Peter G. Tsouras, p. 54
  • Bonaparte has often made his boast, that our fleet would be worn out by keeping the sea, that his was kept in order, and increasing, by staying in port; but he now finds, I fancy, if emperors hear truth, that his fleet suffers more in a night, than ours in one year; however, thank God, the Toulon fleet is got in order again, and I hear the troops embarked, and I hope they will come out to sea in fine weather.
    • From a letter to Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, written while aboard HMS Victory and dated (14 March 1805), quoted in full in The Naval History of Great Britain from the year 1783 to 1822 by Captain Edward Pelham Brenton (1824), Vol III, p. 406
  • Desperate affairs require desperate measures.
    • As quoted in The Book of Military Quotations (1992) edited by Peter G. Tsouras, p. 54
  • I cannot command winds and weather.
    • As quoted in Letters and Despatches of Horatio, Viscount Nelson, K.B. (1886) edited by John Knox Laughton, p. 99
  • ...When he was on the eve of departure for one of his great expeditions the coachmaker said to him, "The carriage shall be at the door punctually at six o clock"; "A quarter before," said Nelson. "I have always been a quarter of an hour before my time and it has made a man of me."
    • letter from Sir Thomas Buxton to his son quoted in "Life of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton" from Sylvanus Urban (ed.) The Gentleman's Magazine" July to December 1848, p. 577
  • The bravest man feels an anxiety 'circa praecordia' as he enters the battle; but he dreads disgrace yet more.
    • Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Life of Nelson: The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain, Volume 2. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1897, p. 52; attributed by Mahan to Locker's Greenwich Gallery article "Torrington".
  • Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.
    • Frothingham, Jessie Peabody. Sea Fighters from Drake to Farragut New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1902. p. 314
  • I am Lord Nelson. See, here's my fin.
    • Indicating his stub of his missing arm during the battle of Copenhagen, as quoted in Nelson and the Hamiltons (1969) by Jack Russell, p. 238

The Battle of Trafalgar (1805)Edit

Now I can do no more. We must trust to the Great Disposer of all Events and the Justice of our Cause. I thank God for this great opportunity of doing my Duty.
There are many accounts of Nelson's words prior to, and during this famous battle of 21 October 1805, against the Napoleonic French and Spanish fleets, in which he was fatally wounded, with minor differences in wording and chronology. These quotations draw from direct readings of several of them.
  • The business of the English Commander-in-Chief being first to bring an Enemy's Fleet to Battle, on the most advantageous terms to himself, (I mean that of laying his Ships close on board the Enemy, as expeditiously as possible;) and secondly, to continue them there, without separating, until the business is decided.
    • "Plan of Attack" (1805), drawn up during pursuit of the French fleet to the West Indies, as published in The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson with Notes (1866) edited by Sir Nicholas Harris Nicolas, Vol. VI : May 1804 - July 1805, p. 443
  • May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my Country and for the benefit of Europe in general a great and glorious victory; and may no misconduct in anyone tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature of the British fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavours for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.
    • Dispatches and Letters of Horatio Nelson : a diary entry on the eve of the battle of Trafalgar
  • Something must be left to chance; nothing is sure in a sea fight above all.
  • When I am without orders and unexpected occurrences arrive I shall always act as I think the honour and glory of my King and Country demand. But in case signals can neither be seen or perfectly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.[citation needed]
  • England expects every Man will do his Duty.
    • Famous signal to the British fleet before the battle of Trafalgar, as quoted in Life of Nelson, Ch. 9; Initially dictated as: "England confides that every man shall do his duty." The signaller pointed out that "expects" was in the signals alphabet, but "confides" was not and so had to be spelt out, taking longer, and Nelson agreed to the change.
    • Variant:
    • England expects every officer and man to do his duty this day.
    • As reported in The London Times (26 Decembeer 1805)
  • Now I can do no more. We must trust to the Great Disposer of all Events and the Justice of our Cause. I thank God for this great opportunity of doing my Duty.
    • In response to the cheer that was raised after he sent the signal "England expects every Man will do his Duty.", as quoted in The Life of Admiral Lord Nelson, K.B. from His Lordship's Manuscripts (1810) by James Stanier Clarke and John McArthur, p. 667
  • Drink, drink. Fan, fan. Rub, rub.
    • In his dying hours, Nelson was attended by his chaplain, Alexander Scott; his steward, Chevalier; and the purser, Walter Burke. Their accounts have been available to Nelson's modern biographers. This was a request to alleviate his symptoms of thirst, heat, and the pains of his wounds, as quoted in Horatio Nelson (1987) by Tom Pocock, p. 331
  • It is nonsense, Mr. Burke, to suppose I can live. My sufferings are great but they will soon be over.[citation needed]
  • Kiss me, Hardy
    • Spoken to his Flag Captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy, who kissed his cheek and then his forehead.[citation needed]
  • Thank God, I have done my duty.

Quotations about NelsonEdit

Let the country mourn their hero; I grieve for the loss of the most fascinating companion I ever conversed with… ~ Alexander Scott
  • Let the country mourn their hero; I grieve for the loss of the most fascinating companion I ever conversed with — the greatest and most simple of men — one of the nicest and most innocent — interesting beyond all, on shore, in public and even in private life. Men are not always themselves and put on their behaviour with their clothes, but if you live with a man on board a ship for years; if you are continually with him in his cabin, your mind will soon find out how to appreciate him. I could for ever tell you the qualities of this beloved man. I have not shed a tear for years before the 21st of October and since, whenever alone, I am quite like a child.
    • Alexander Scott, the chaplain who attended to Nelson at his death, as quoted in Trafalgar: An Eyewitness History (2005) edited by Tom Pocock, p. 154; also in Seize, Burn, Or Sink: The Thoughts and Words of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson (2007) edited by Steven E. Maffeo, p. 588

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