Go to WTJ Information Page Go to WTJ Portal Go to WTJ War Series Go to WTJ Archives Go to WTJ Articles Go to WTJ Gaming Go to WTJ Store Go to WTJ Home Page

Letters and Dispatches of Horatio Nelson
July 12th through 23rd, 1798




Vanguard, 12 Leagues West of Candia, 12th July, 1798.

My Lord,

By my Letter of the 29th of June, your Lordship will know why I thought it right to steer for Alexandria. I have now the honour to acquaint you that I arrived off` Alexandria on the 28th ultimo, and found lying there one Turkish Ship of the Line, four Frigates, about twelve other Turkish vessels in the old Port, and about fifty Sail of different Nations' vessels, in the Franks' Port. I directed Captain Hardy, of the Mutine, to run close in, and to send an Officer on shore with my letter to Mr. Baldwin, and to get all the information in his power. Herewith I send you the Officer's report. Mr. Baldwin had left Alexandria near three months,. We observed the Line-of-Battle Ship to be landing her guns, and that the place was filling with armed people. After receiving this information, I stretched the Fleet over to the Coast of Asia, and have passed close to the southern side of Candia, but without seeing one Vessel in our route; therefore to this day I am without the smallest information of the French Fleet since their leaving Malta. I own I fully expected to have found Dispatches off this end of Candia; for both Sir William Hamilton and General Acton, I now know, said they believed Egypt was their object; for that when the French Minister at Naples was pressed, on the Armament appearing off Sicily, he declared that Egypt was their object. I have again to deeply regret my want of frigates, to which I shall ever attribute my ignorance of the situation of the French fleet. I shall endeavour to keep in the opening of the Archipelago in Lat. between 36° and 37° N., steering with all sail to the westward, and hope soon to gain information from some Merchant-vessel. I have the honour to be, &c.,



[Original, in the State Paper Office.]

Vanguard, Syracuse, July 20th, 1798.

My dear Sir,

It is an old saying, ' the Devil's children have the Devil's luck.' I cannot find, or to this moment learn, beyond vague conjecture where the French Fleet are gone to. All my ill fortune, hitherto, has proceeded from want of Frigates. Off Cape Passaro, on the 22nd of June, at day-light, I saw two Frigates, which were supposed to be French, and it has been said since that a Line of Battle Ship was to leeward of them, with the riches of Malta on board, but it was the destruction of the Enemy, not riches for myself, that I was seeking. These would have fallen to me if I had had Frigates, but except the Ship of the Line, I regard not all the riches in this world. From every information off Malta I believed they were gone to Egypt. Therefore, on the 28th, I was communicating with Alexandria in Egypt, where I found the Turks preparing to resist them, but know nothing beyond report. From thence I stretched over to the Coast of Caramania, where not meeting a Vessel that could give me information, I became distressed for the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and having gone a round of 600 leagues at this season of the year (with a single Ship [or; "with a crippled ship"]) with an expedition incredible, here I am as ignorant of the situation of the Enemy as I was twenty-seven days ago. I sincerely hope, that the Dispatches which I understand are at Cape Passaro, will give me full information. I shall be able for nine or ten weeks longer to keep the Fleet on active service, when we shall want provisions and stores. I send a paper on that subject herewith. Mr. Littledale is, I suppose, sent up by the Admiral to victual us, and I hope he will do it cheaper than any other person; but if I find out that he charges more than the fair price, and has not the provisions of the very best quality, I will not take them; for, as no Fleet has more fag than this, nothing but the best food and greatest attention can keep them healthy. At this moment, we have not one sick man in the Fleet. In about six days I shall sail from hence, and if I hear nothing more from the French, I shall go to the Archipelago, where if they are gone towards Constantinople I shall hear of them. I shall go to Cyprus, and if they are gone to Alexandretta, or any other part of Syria or Egypt, I shall get information. You will, I am sure, and so will our Country, easily conceive what has passed in my anxious mind, but I have this comfort, that I have no fault to accuse myself of. This bears me up, and this only. I send you a Paper, in which a letter is fixed for different places, which I may leave at any place, and except those who have the key, none can tell where I am gone to.

July 21st.—The Messenger has returned from Cape Passaro, and says, that your letters for me are returned to Naples. What a situation am I placed in! As yet, I can learn nothing of the Enemy; therefore I have no conjecture but that they are gone to Syria, and at Cyprus I hope to hear of them. If they are gone to the westward, I rely that every place in Sicily would have information for us, for it is news too important to leave me one moment in doubt about. I have no frigate, nor a sign of one. The masts, yards, &c. for the Vanguard will, I hope, be prepared directly; for should the French be so strongly secured in Port that I cannot get at them, I shall immediately shift my Flag into some other Ship, and send the Vanguard to Naples to be refitted; for hardly any other person but myself would have continued on service so long in such a wretched state. [A storm on the 21st of May left Vanguard with a Jury Foremast] I want to send a great number of Papers to Lord St. Vincent, but I dare not trust any person here to carry them even to Naples. Pray send a copy of my letter to Lord Spencer. He must be very anxious to hear of this Fleet. I have taken the liberty to trouble your Excellency with a letter for Lady Nelson. Pray forward it for me, and believe me, with the greatest respect, your most obedient Servant,



[From Clarke and M'Arthur, vol. i. p. 71.]

Syracuse, July 20th, 1798.

I have not been able to find the French Fleet, to my great mortification, or the event I can scarcely doubt. We have been off Malta, to Alexandria in Egypt, Syria, into Asia, and are returned here without success: however, no person will say that it has been for want of activity. I yet live in hopes of meeting these fellows; but it would have beer my delight to have tried Buonaparte on a wind, for he commands the Fleet, as well as the Army. Glory is my object, and that alone. God Almighty bless you.



[Letter book.]

Vanguard, Syracuse, 20th July, 1798.

My Lord,

From my letter of the 12th, you will be informed of my conduct to that time. I have now to acquaint you that having spoke several vessels from the westward, and one from Corfu, I know, as far as their reports, that the French are neither to the Westward of Sicily nor at Corfu. Yesterday I arrived here, where I can learn no more than vague conjecture that the French are gone to the eastward. Every moment I have to regret the frigates having left me, to which must be attributed my ignorance of the movements of the Enemy. Your Lordship deprived yourself of Frigates to make mine certainly the first Squadron in the world, and I feel that I have zeal and activity to do credit to your appointment, and yet to be unsuccessful hurts me most sensibly. But if they are above water, I will find them out, and if possible bring them to Battle. You have done your part in giving me so fine a Fleet, and I hope to do mine in making use of them. We are watering, and getting such refreshments as the place affords, and shall get to sea by the 25th. It is my intention to get into the Mouth of the Archipelago, where, if the Enemy are gone towards Constantinople, we shall hear of them directly: if I get no information there, to go to Cyprus, when, if they are in Syria or Egypt, I must hear of them. Seventeen Sail of the Line, eight Frigates, &c. of War, went from Malta with them. We have a report that on the 1st of July, the French were seen off Candia, but near what part of the Island I cannot learn. I have the honour to remain, &c.




Vanguard, Syracuse, 22nd July, 1798.


Resting with the greatest confidence that had the French Fleet proceeded to the westward from Malta, that his Majesty's Minister at Naples would have taken care to have lodged information for me in every Port in Sicily, knowing I was gone to the eastward, I now acquaint you that I shall steer direct for the Island of Cyprus, and hope in Syria to find the French Fleet. I am, &c.


Having received some vague information of the Enemy, I shall steer to the north of Candia, and probably send a Ship to Milo, and if the Enemy are not in those seas, I shall pass on for Cyprus, Syria, and Egypt.


[From Copies in the State paper Office, Admiralty, and Letter-Book.]

Vanguard, Syracuse, July 22, 1798.

My dear Sir,

I have had so much said about the King of Naples, orders only to admit three or four of the Ships of our Fleet into his Ports, that I am astonished. I understood that private orders, at least, would have been given for our free admission. If we are to be refused supplies, pray send me by many Vessels an account, that I may in good time take the King's Fleet to Gibraltar. Our treatment is scandalous for a great Nation to put up with, and the King's Flag is insulted at every Friendly Port we look at. I am, with the greatest respect, &c.,


You will observe that I feel as a Public man, and write as such. I have no complaint to make of private attention, quite the contrary. Every body of persons have been on board to offer me civilities.


[From Harrison's " Life of Nelson," vol. i. p. 256.]

22nd July, 1798.

My dear Friends,

Thanks to your exertions, we have victualled and watered: and surely watering at the Fountain of Arethusa, we must have victory. We shall sail with the first breeze, and be assured I will return either crowned with laurel, or covered with cypress.


[From a Copy in the Admiralty.]

Vanguard, Syracuse, 23rd July, 1798.

My dear Sir,

The Fleet is unmoored, and the moment the wind comes off the land, shall go out of this delightful harbour, where our present wants have been most amply supplied, and where every attention has been paid to us; but I have been tormented by no private orders being given to the Governor for our admission. I have only to hope that I shall still find the French Fleet, and be able to get at them: the event then will be in the hands of Providence, of whose goodness none can doubt. I beg my best respects to Lady Hamilton, and believe me ever your faithful


No Frigates! — to which has been, and may again, be attributed the loss of the French Fleet.

  Copyright © 1996-2003 by The War Times Journal at www.wtj.com. All rights reserved.