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    Tuesday, June 28, 2005

    Trafalgar: The British are marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (even though it happened in October). It marked a turning point in the war with Napoleon. After Trafalgar, England no longer feared an invasion by France. As an American, especially all these years later, it's difficult to grasp the importance of the victory. Napoleon - as hungry as he was for power and glory - doesn't seem nearly the monster he seemed back then, especially in light of the many 20th century power hungry monsters to come.

    Anyways, Trafalgar was not only a great victory, but a great loss for Britain as well. They lost Horatio Nelson, one of the best fighting seamen who ever lived. Shot through the chest by a French sharp shooter, he died two hours into the battle. Here, then, in honor of Trafalgar, and our few British readers, is Nelson's autopsy, as recorded in The Dispatches and Letters of Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson:

    The ball struck the fore part of his Lordship's epaulette; and entered the left shoulder immediately before the processus acromoni scapulae, [acromion process - ed.] which it slightly fractured. It then descended obliquely into the thorax, fracturing the second and third ribs; and after penetrating the left lobe of the lungs, and dividing in its passage a large branch of the pulmonary artery, it entered the left side of the spine between the sixth and seventh dorsal vertebrae, fractured the left transverse process of the sixth dorsal vertebra, wounded the medulla spinalis, and fracturing the right transverse process of the seventh vertebra, made its way from the right side of the spine, directing its course through the muscles of the back; and lodged therein, about two inches below the inferior angle of the right scapula. On removing the ball, a portion of the gold lace and pad of the epaulette, together with a small piece of his Lordship's coat, was found firmly attached to it.

    Nelson was very attached to the captain of his flagship, Captain Thomas Hardy (later Sir and Admiral), and my favorite Nelson story is the story of his last moments with Hardy:

    He then told Captain Hardy, "he felt that in a few minutes he should be no more;" adding in a low tone, "Don't throw me overboard, Hardy." The Captain answered: "Oh! no, certainly not-" "Then," replied his Lordship, "you know what to do;" and, continued he, "take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy: take care of poor Lady Hamilton. Kiss me, Hardy." The Captain now knelt down, and kissed his cheek' when his Lordship said, "Now I am satisfied. Thank God, I have done my duty." Captain Hardy stood for a minute or two in silent contemplation: he knelt down again, and kissed his Lordship's forehead.

    Those turn-of-the-nineteenth century men may have been macho, but they weren't afraid to feel!

    posted by Sydney on 6/28/2005 06:02:00 PM 0 comments


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