"I have 23 Sail with Me and Should they come out I shall immediately bring them to battle...that as an Enemys fleet they may be annihilated" Horatio Nelson
Lot 146
"I have 23 Sail with Me and Should they come out I shall immediately bring them to battle...that as an Enemys fleet they may be annihilated"
Horatio Nelson
Sold for £66,000 (US$ 87,029) inc. premium

Lot Details
"I have 23 Sail with Me and Should they come out I shall immediately bring them to battle...that as an Enemys fleet they may be annihilated"
Horatio Nelson
Autograph letter signed ("Nelson & Bronte"), to Lord Barham, First Lord of the Admiralty, setting out the position before the Battle of Trafalgar: "On Monday the french and spanish Ships took their Troops on board which had been landed on their arrival and it is said that they mean to sail the first fresh Levant Wind and as the Carthegena Ships are ready and when seen a few days ago had their Topsail Yards hoisted up this looks like a Junction, the position I have taken for this Month is from 16 to 18 Leagues West of Cadiz for although it is most desirable that the fleet should be well up in Easterly Winds, Yet I must guard against being caught with a Westerly Wind near Cadiz for a fleet of Ships with so many three deckers would inevitably be forced into the Streights and then Cadiz would be perfectly free for them to come out with a Westerly Wind as they served Lord Keith in the Late War. I am most anxious for the arrival of frigates less than eight with the Brigs &c: as we settled I find are absolutely inadequate for this Service and to be with the fleet, and Spartel, Cape Cantin or Blanco, & the Salvages must be watched by fast Sailing Vessels in case any Squadron should escape. I have been Obliged to send Six Sail of the Line to Water & get Stores &c: at Tetuan & Gib.r for if I did not begin I should very soon be Obliged to take the whole fleet into the Streights. I have 23 Sail with Me and Should they come out I shall immediately bring them to battle but although I should not doubt of Spoiling any Voyage they may attempt Yet I hope for the arrival of the Ships from England that as an Enemys fleet they may be annihilated..."; and assuring the First Lord that he may "rely" upon his "every exertion"; with a postscript referring to Calder's return and his desire to retain his niece's husband, Captain Sir William Bolton, 4 pages, 4to, minor dust-staining and weakness at folds, modern archival restoration but overall in fine and attractive condition, Victory, 5 October 1805


  • The historic letter in which Nelson outlines to Lord Barham, First Lord of the Admiralty and architect of victory, his strategy on the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar, vowing to "annihilate" the enemy fleet: this is quite possibly the finest letter relating to Trafalgar remaining in private hands. As First Lord of the Admiralty, Charles Middleton, Lord Barham (who turned eighty on 14 October 1805), was Nelson's immediate superior. It was he who had given him carte blanche in choosing the officers serving under him, and who did as much as anyone to make victory possible. In the words of Roger Morriss: "Justly, he has been credited with orchestrating the campaign at Trafalgar. The painstaking thoroughness he brought to administration, and the discipline he demanded in the dispatch and execution of orders, was complemented by the seaman's appreciation of the demands of ship management. It was appropriate that on 26 October, Cuthbert Collingwood's congratulations for 'the most complete victory that was ever obtained over an enemy' went to Barham" (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).

    An inaccurate text of the letter, taken from Clarke and M'Arthur, The Life of Lord Admiral Nelson, 1809, ii, p.431, and lacking the seven-line postscript, is published by Nicolas, Dispatches and Letters. It appears to have descended through the Barham family to the present owners, or was possibly acquired by them at some time to commemorate that family connection.
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