History's HEROES? 1758 - 1805

Horatio Nelson

Horatio Nelson - Timeline

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1758 September 29th - Horatio (Horace) Nelson is born in Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk. His father, Edmund, is the local vicar. He is the sixth of 11 children.
1767 24th December - His mother, Catherine Nelson (nee Suckling), dies, and his grandmother, Ann Suckling, dies on January 5th, just 11 days later.
1768 Horatio is sent with his brother, William, to King Edward VI’s Grammar School in Norwich, boarding there during term time.
1769 Horatio is transferred to Sir William Paston’s School, in neighbouring North Walsham, along with his brother William, returning to Burnham Thorpe during school holidays.
1770 After the Spanish violently take possession of the Falkland Islands, Nelson's uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling, obtains command of the Raisonnable, one of the commissioned ships.
Christmas - Nelson asks his brother to write to his father (then staying in Bath) to inform him that Horatio would like to join his uncle in the Navy.
1771 March or April - Nelson leaves school and travels with his father to his uncle William Suckling’s home in Kentish Town, London.
April 24th - Nelson is sent to Sheerness, Kent, where he joins HMS Raisonnable.
May 21st - The crew of the HMS Raisonnable are paid off as Britain’s dispute with Spain over the Falkland Islands does not lead to war.
May 22nd - Nelson joins his uncle’s next ship, HMS Triumph at Chatham as a captain’s servant. The ship provides no likelihood of active service.
July 25th - Nelson starts his first voyage to sea, a 14-month journey to the West Indies. It is not for the Navy but on the Mary Anne, the merchant ship of Captain Rathbone. He works as a midshipman.
1772 July 7th - Nelson returns to England having gained valuable experience at sea.
July 18th - Nelson rejoins his uncle on HMS Triumph, in dock at Chatham, as midshipman. Over the next year he takes command of HMS Triumph’s boats sailing from Chatham down the Thames.
1773 June 4th - Nelson sails aboard a converted whaler, HMS Carcass, as coxswain, one of two ships on an expedition to survey the Arctic. He nearly gets killed hunting a polar bear.
Late July - The ships nearly get trapped in the ice flows. Plans are made to abandon the ships and escape in boats. Nelson volunteers to have charge of a cutter. The men have to saw through ice 12 feet thick to make a passage. The ice breaks in August and they escape.
October 28th - Nelson transfers to HMS Seahorse (a 20 gunner) one of two ships about to sail for the East Indies - the furthest Royal naval base from Britain at the time. The ship sets sail on November 19th.
1775 February 19th - Nelson has his first taste of battle when his ship is attacked by boats belonging to a hostile Indian prince called Hyder Ali.
April 12th - Nelson’s uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling, becomes Comptroller of the Navy (the Navy Board’s leading official).
April 19th - American War of Independence begins.
1776 March 14th - Nelson is transferred to the Dolphin on its way to England as he had contracted malaria. He is saved by the care of Captain James Piggot, but will suffer from recurring fevers throughout his life.
October 1st - Nelson, aged 17, joins HMS Worcester (a 64 gun ship) on convoy duty in the Channel. Under his uncle's influence, he has been appointed as acting fourth lieutenant.
1777 April 9th - Nelson passes his degree as Master of Arts (his lieutenant's exam) in London. He joins HMS Lowestoffe, as a full officer, (second lieutenant). The ship is tasked with blockade duties in the West Indies.
November 27th - Nelson experiences capturing his first prize, an American brig, the Revolution. Nelson participates despite there being such heavy seas that some other officers refuse.
Nelson is given temporary command of the 'Little Lucy'. In this ship between January and April 1778 Nelson independently captures his first prize ships. He also studies a recently discovered bird: the white-necked Jacobin.
1778 September 5th - Nelson is transferred from HMS Lowestoffe to the flagship, HMS Bristol. He can now expect early promotion. He owes his good fortune to his uncle, Captain Suckling.
October - Nelson learns that his uncle, Captain Maurice Suckling, has died.
February - France declares war against Britain in support of America. More ships are required to support the conflicts.
8th December - Nelson is promoted to commander of the sloop, HMS Badger. He is sent to capture small enemy war/merchant ships and to protect the Mosquito Shore and the Bay of Honduras from American privateers.
1779 September 1st - Nelson takes commend of a small frigate, HMS Hinchinbrook after promotion to the rank of post captain.
1780 January - An expedition is prepared, from Jamaica, against the Spanish territories in America. Nelson commands the naval part of the operation. The convoy leaves in February and arrives at the mouth of the San Juan River on April 10th.
The ensuing siege of the fort at El Catillo lasts 18 days. Most of the men on board the Hinchingbrook die as a result of dysentery or malaria. Nelson is sent home to England, gravely ill, arriving in Portsmouth on December 1st.
Very ill, Nelson goes to Bath. He is carried to the springs unable to walk. After three months he has largely recovered and no longer needs crutches and is anxious for another commission.
1781 Nelson visits his father at Burnham Thorpe and his sister, recently married and now residing at Wells. It is the first time she has seen him in 11 years.
August 15th - Nelson is given a new command, HMS Albemarle and is tasked with convoy duties in the Baltic and North Seas.
July 12th - Nelson captures an American schooner, the Harmony, near Boston. A few days later the ship's captain, Nathaniel Carver, helps him evade a number of French war ships.
Scurvy breaks out on the ship and Nelson has to sail to Quebec. Here he falls in love with Mary Simpson.
1782 March - Nelson is ordered to New York to escort a convoy of troop ships.
November 13th - Nelson meets Prince William Henry (later King William IV) at Stanton Island and they become friends.
1783 March 8th - Nelson, acting without orders, unsuccessfully attacks a French garrison on Turks Island. He demands the garrison’s surrender, which is refused and he has to withdraw.
May 9th - Nelson is selected to take Prince William Henry on a three-day visit of Havana. Nelson returns to England arriving at Portsmouth in July and is invited to meet the king at St. James's Palace.
September 3rd - The signing of the Treaty of Paris sees the official end to the American War of Independence.
Nelson goes on a visit to France to learn the language. He also meets Elizabeth Andrews in St. Olmer whom he hopes to marry but she declines.
1784 March 20th - Nelson is given command of a frigate, HMS Boreas. His ship is sent to the West Indies. His duty is to enforce the customs laws.
July - Nelson becomes close to Mary Moutray, the Antigua dockyard commissioner’s wife, whilst surveying St. John’s harbour in the Virgin Islands. Nelson disagrees with her husband issuing orders to naval officers. Mary returns to England with her husband.
Nelson strictly enforces laws against smuggling, and becomes very unpopular with many West Indian merchants who are involved in it. Nelson cannot land on most islands because of law suits lodged against him. This angers him as he believes he is doing his duty.
1785 March - Nelson lands at Nevis and meets Frances Nisbet, a 25 year old widow of a planter and mother to a young son aged five. The couple become engaged.
1787 March 11th - Horatio Nelson and Frances Nisbet are married at Fig Tree Church, St. John's Parish, Nevis. Nelson’s friend Prince William Henry (later King William IV) gives Frances away.
1788 June - Nelson arrives home after mishandling an investigation into the corrupt practices of Leeward Islands' government officials. His determined efforts to establish the truth upset the establishment. He is not given another commission by the Navy.
1789 Summer - The outbreak of the French Revolution stirs the imagination of nearly all Europeans.
August - Frances arrives in England. She finds it difficult to adapt to her new life. Nelson spends the next few years sorting out lawsuits and applying to the Admiralty for employment.
1793 1st February - France declares war on Britain. Nelson is recalled to duty to command HMS Agamemnon.
April - The Agamemnon sails to joins the British fleet in the Mediterranean under Lord Hood, blockading the French fleet in Toulon.
September - Nelson is ordered to Naples to seek the help of King Ferdinand IV in defending Toulon. Here he meets Emma Hamilton, the envoy’s wife. Nelson negotiates a promise of 6,000 troops and returns to Toulon.
October - Nelson is ordered to join Commodore Robert Linzee’s squadron in Tunis. On the way, Nelson falls in with some French frigates and engages them at Melpoméne. His ship is beaten off by superior forces.
1794 January or February - Nelson is ordered to blockade the Island of Corsica. Nelson volunteers to lead a bombardment of Fort Bastia (a site of French resistance).
April 4th - Despite resistance, Admiral Hood gives Nelson command of the bombardment of Fort Bastia. Nelson is successful and the French surrender on May 23rd.
July - Nelson, with Army support, is responsible for the hauling and positioning of guns required to attack the fort of Calvi, Corsica. On July 12th Nelson is wounded in his right eye. The fort is surrendered on August 10th.
1795 March 10th - HMS Agamemnon is involved in a risky fight with a much larger French ship, the Ca Ira. Nelson attacks but is recalled by Admiral Hotham. Nelson is upset and says openly that the opportunity to destroy the French fleet was missed.
November - Admiral Sir John Jervis becomes commander of the Mediterranean fleet: a dynamic officer who allows his captains to act on their initiative.
1796 April - Admiral Jervis gives Nelson the rank of commodore - a kind of junior admiral - and a small squadron off Genoa. Nelson is ordered to support the Austrian Army and capture all ships sailing to France.
Nelson, now commodore, is too senior to command a ship. He transfers to HMS Captain, which now becomes his flagship. His squadron covers the evacuation of British families from Leghorn, Corsica and Elba.
In HMS La Minerve, Nelson, together with HMS Blanche on route to Elba from Gibraltar, engage two Spanish frigates, the Santa Sabina and Ceres, and defeat them.
1797 February 14th - Battle of St. Vincent. Nelson has rejoined the main British fleet (15 ships-of-the-line) off the Cape of St. Vincent. The Spanish fleet of 27 ships (including 22 ships-of-the-line) is sighted and engaged in battle.
Nelson, realising that the Spanish fleet is in danger of escape, orders HMS Captain to break line and head for the Spanish flagship. HMS Captain is shot to pieces but Nelson greatly distinguishes himself by boarding and capturing two huge Spanish warships.
Nelson becomes a national hero. He is knighted, given the Freedom of the city of London and promoted to Rear Admiral of the Blue.
May and June - Mutinies on Royal Navy ships, including Nelson's flagship HMS Theseus, at the Nore and Spithead threaten to undermine Britain’s war efforts.
May 27th - Nelson is ordered to Cadiz to blockade the Spanish fleet there and on July 3rd leads an attack of bomb vessels on the city. His ship is boarded and Nelson is nearly killed in the fighting.
July - Nelson is sent with a small squadron to attack Santa Cruz de Tenerife, where a Spanish treasure-ship lies. The Spanish garrison is prepared for the attack on July 21st, and beats it off with great loss of life.
July 24th - Nelson himself leads a second attack. His arm is shattered by a musket ball. He is taken back onboard his ship HMS Theseus where his injured arm is amputated by ship’s surgeon Thomas Eshelby.
Nelson sails home on HMS Seahorse and is nursed by his wife Fanny. Much to his surprise, he finds that he is regarded even more as a hero and is invested with the Order of the Bath by the king on September 27th.
December - Nelson begs to be allowed to return to active duty and is given the 74-gun HMS Vanguard as his flagship. He is to lead a squadron of seven ships in a search for a French expeditionary force, commanded by General Napoleon Bonaparte.
1798 May - News of a large French force being collected at Toulon reaches the fleet, and Nelson is sent with a small squadron to find out what's going on. His flagship is nearly wrecked by bad weather.
July - Arriving off Toulon, Nelson finds the large force gone. He is informed he is to command a fleet. His small squadron is reinforced by large warships bringing the number under his command to eleven.
Nelson searches the length and breadth of the Mediterranean for the enemy, all the time explaining to his captains his battle plans. On June 22nd, whilst off Sicily, he learns that Malta has been captured by the French. Nelson assumes they have sailed for Egypt.
June 28th - Nelson arrives at Alexandria. The French are not there and he frantically sails back to Sicily and then back to the Egyptian coast, finally sighting the French fleet moored in a line at Aboukir Bay. Nelson immediately sails to engage with the French ships.
August 1st - The Battle of the Nile begins. Nelson's leading ships sail between the French ships and the land, so that they can be fired at from both sides. The captains of Nelson's ships pour shot into the French ships.
In the middle of the battle, around 11pm, the French flagship, L’Orient, blows up. The Battle of the Nile is a great victory. 13 out of 17 French ships are captured, sunk or burned, leaving Napoleon, Emperor of France, stranded in Egypt.
During the battle Nelson is hit in the head by shrapnel, knocking him out. He sails his fleet back to Naples to repair his ships. The great victory boosts Nelson's status as a national hero. Nelson receives the title Baron Nelson of the Nile.
September 22nd - Nelson’s arrival in Naples is met with chaotic scenes of celebration. Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador, and his wife Emma greet him. Nelson falls in love with Emma Hamilton and starts an affair which will last to the end of his life.
October 15th - Nelson, now Commander of Operations east of Corsica, sails to Malta to enforce a blockade there and to assist its inhabitants and other British allies in Italy.
November 5th - Nelson returns to Naples. He joins an offensive to take Rome but it ends with the retreat of the Royal Family and other dignitaries, in December, from Naples to the safety of Palermo, Sicily.
1799 14th February - Nelson is promoted to Rear Admiral of the Red. Later 25 French ships-of-the-line escape from Brest and 17 Spanish ships from Cadiz. Nelson sends 10 ships to help the pursuit but stays in Palermo.
June 16th - Spain declares war on Britain.
Nelson sends four ships to support Cardinal Fabrizio Ruffo's army - sent to recapture Naples. Ruffo secures a surrender but Nelson, arriving in June, does not agree with the terms. Trials of Neapolitan traitors follow. Nelson is ruthless in enacting the death sentence.
Nelson is ordered by Lord Keith, now Mediterranean commander-in-chief, to defend the island of Minorca against French invasion. Nelson declines and only sends ships, thinking it more important to save Naples.
August 9th - Nelson returns to Palermo. He stays here until May 1800 only leaving to inspect the blockade of Malta in January 1800. King Ferdinand rewards Nelson’s services by granting him a title of Sicilian nobility: the Duke of Bronte.
1800 January - While cruising off Malta, Nelson's flagship sights the surviving ship of the Battle of the Nile: the Genereux. Nelson gives chase, and after a short fight, takes the ship.
April - Lord Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, suggests Nelson returns to England to recover his strength. Nelson travels overland with the Hamiltons. Everywhere he is mobbed by adoring crowds, arriving back in England, at Great Yarmouth, on November 6th.
November 8th - Nelson has a tense meeting with his wife accompanied by the Hamiltons at Merot’s Hotel, King Street, St. James.
November 11th - Nelson attends a Royal levee at St. James’s Palace. Nelson is wearing 'unauthorised foreign honours and awards'. He is shunned by King George III, and the queen refuses to meet Emma Hamilton.
1801 January 13th - Nelson meet Frances for the last time. They argue over Emma. Nelson arranges for his wife to be paid £400 as a one-off lump sum and receive a quarterly allowance. Effectively the marriage has ended.
January 17th - Nelson is promoted to Vice-Admiral of the Blue and appointed second in command to Admiral Sir Hyde Parker whose fleet is to sail for the Baltic. The Russian, Prussian and Danish governments are preparing for war with Britain.
February 1st - Emma Hamilton gives birth to Nelson's daughter, Horatia. Nelson is at anchor in Torbay preparing to sail. He is ecstatic.
Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, gives Nelson command over the ships sent in against the Danish fleet in Copenhagen harbour.
2nd April - The Battle of Copenhagen starts poorly. Nelson's squadron attack fiercely. Parker, with the heavier ships, takes little part. At the height of the battle Parker raises the flag to withdraw.
Nelson puts his telescope to his blind eye and claims he cannot see the signal. The fierce battle continues until Nelson proposes a truce. Following negotiations, the Danes agree to peace with England.
The British people view the battle of Copenhagen as a great victory. On hearing about the battle, ministers in England ask Nelson to take over Parker’s command. He is appointed commander-in-chief of the Baltic fleet. Nelson is also made a Viscount.
1802 March 27th - Treaty of Amiens is signed ending the war between Britain and France. Nelson returns to civilian life. He buys Merton Place, a country house and estate in Surrey, where he lives briefly with Emma Hamilton.
April 26th - Nelson’s father dies. Nelson does not attend the funeral at Burnham Thorpe, not wishing to meet his wife.
1803 Nelson's second child with Emma, another girl, dies a few weeks after her birth in early 1803. Nelson is devastated.
April 6th - Emma's husband William Hamilton dies at his home in Piccadilly, London. Both Emma and Nelson are present.
Horatia is christened, aged two, at St. Marylebone Parish Church. Emma and Horatio act as the 'godparents', naming her as the daughter of Vice-Admiral Charles Thompson of Portsmouth dockyard (as a cover story). Her natural parents later adopt her.
May 15th - Nelson is appointed Mediterranean commander-in-chief. Diplomatic relations between Britain and France are at crisis point. Britain declares war on France on May 16th.
May 8th - Nelson boards the HMS Victory, the flagship he has been given. Nelson is now commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean fleet - one of the two most important commands in the Navy.
1804 April 23rd - Nelson is promoted to Vice Admiral of the White while still at sea.
May 18th - Napoleon is proclaimed Emperor of the French by the senate. On December 2nd he is crowned at Notre Dame Cathedral.
December 14th - Spain joins France, declaring war on Britain, raising the threat of an invasion of Britain by a combined French and Spanish fleet.
August - Nelson asks the Admiralty for leave on account of his health. His vision is failing and he has lost much weight under the stress.
1805 January - the French fleet, under Admiral Villeneuve, escapes briefly from Toulon, but soon returns to port. Villeneuve breaks out again in April, and this time manages to sail into the Atlantic. Nelson chases the French fleet all the way to the West Indies, and back again.
The French fleet find their way to Cadiz, where the Spanish fleet is based. Nelson's fleet blockades the Franco-Spanish fleet there, but he returns to England.
Nelson is given a rapturous reception by the people. He spends a short time with Emma and his daughter at Merton but, in September, news arrives that the Spanish and French fleets are about to sail. Nelson returns to command the fleet blockading Cadiz.
October 20th - the Spanish and French fleet is spotted making its way out of Cadiz harbour, and the next day the two fleets approach one another. Nelson sends this signal to his fleet - "England expects that every man will do his duty."
21st October - The Battle of Trafalgar begins and the Victory engages the enemy ships Bucentaure and Redoutable. After only five hours the British capture 17 ships and burn one of the 33 French ships.
As snipers from the enemy ships fire onto Victory’s deck, Nelson is mortally wounded, shortly after 1 o'clock. Nelson is carried below, and, three hours later, dies.
The battle comes to an end and the British fleet is victorious. HMS Victory is towed into Gibraltar. When news reaches England, the King says, in tears, "We have lost more than we have gained."
1806 January 9th - The funeral of Horatio Nelson takes place. The coffin is escorted by 32 admirals, over 100 captains and 10,000 troops. A huge crowd waits to catch a glimpse of the funeral procession. Nelson is laid to rest in St. Paul's Cathedral.
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