Part of a very moving collection of letters in the Miller Mundy collection (D517) from October and November 1805, George Miller Mundy wrote an account to his father just two days after the Battle of Trafalgar. George was captain of HMS Hydra and spent many years patrolling the seas around Cadiz and Gibraltar, engaging in combat. It is clear that Lord Nelson was very much admired and respected by his men, and his demise at Trafalgar was sorely felt, in spite of the tremendous victory.
George writes about the day of the battle, and describes how Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Lord Nelson inspired his men to victory:
“One of the most characteristic circumstances of his conduct on the great day was a Telegraphic message to the fleet in general just as they were going into action. It was!
“England espects [sic] British Seamen will do their Duty, this Day”
what could have been more expressive and more exhilarating to men who looked to him as a father? Can you conceive any more to the purpose? The Captains of course turn’d their men up and read the short but nervous sentence to them. Imagine the unanimous response of
“We will do it”
and three lusty Cheers”
The letter continues to describe how Lord Nelson’s unique and inspired strategy repeatedly broke the French line of ships, demolishing the fleet of their enemy. The cost was:
“the loss of Lord Nelson. A Frenchman shot him of the Fore tops thro’ his shoulder which lodg’d in his back, he liv’d some hours, and when Hardy went down & told him the Trinidad (the pride of Spain) had struck! & some others. He said, he was satisfied it was a victory, and almost immediately expir’d, so departed, this wonderful man.”
History tells us that Nelson was recognised as a hero by the nation. The monument, Nelson’s Column, in Trafalgar Square in London, has the inscription ‘England expects every man will do his Duty’ at it’s base, the same message described by George in his letter.
Melanie, Archives Assistant
4 thoughts on “A letter from Trafalgar”
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Hi Sue, lovely to hear from you. Yes, that one threw us for a moment when transcribing! Isn’t language wonderful! Hope you’re well.
Yes, we are well. Hope all at DRO ok. 🙂
“Nervous” in those days meant sinewy, tough, wiry, the opposite of today’s meaning.