Nelson: September 13th, 1805 – Bound for Portsmouth.

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    John Mann

    Dear Forum,

    Friday 13th September, 1805, Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson began his overnight journey to Portsmouth. There are some good accounts of what he did on the following Saturday before joining Victory, anchored off the Isle of Wight; meetings with officials, bathing, lunching and inspecting, but what I’d like to know is:

    1. Did he travel down to Portsmouth on his own as a single passenger?
    2. Did the Post-Chaise have a two or four horse team?
    3. Did it have one or two drivers?
    4a Given the perilous nature of the times, did he travel with a guard of Marines?
    4b. If he did have a marine guard, was it a two horse guard – one in front and one at the rear, or was the guard number more?

    Appreciate any guidance.

    John Mann


    I have six people that may have travailed down to Portsmouth with Nelson: George Matcham, John Scott, Rev. Thos. Lancaster, Rector of Merton, and his son, servants, Chevailler and Sabatini Michele Spedillo.

    According to Colin White, (2002, The Nelson Encyclopedia. p222), John Scott and his wife were close friends of Nelson and Emma Hamilton, and, “Scott also spent time with Nelson and Emma at their home, Merton, during a brief spell of shore leave in the summer of 1805”. This doesn’t confirm or deny that Scott was at Merton on the 13th September, and traveled down to Portsmouth with his Lordship. I do not believe that Scott would have left his wife with Emma Hamilton, as she was pregnant and Nelson the previous days had been back and forth to see The Prince Regent, Ministers and Admiralty.

    According to the private writings of Lord Minto, (LIFE AIS^D LETTEES [1805] Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 1st Earl of Minto),

    “Thursday September 12th: Dinner with with Lord Minto and James Perry
    Pall Mall: Friday, September 13, 1805.
    ‘ I went yesterday to Merton in a great hurry, as he,
    Lord Nelson, said he was to be at home all day, and he
    dines at half-past three. But I found he had been sent
    for to Carlton House, and he and Lady Hamilton did
    not retm-n till half-past five. I stayed till ten at night
    and took a final leave of him. He is to have forty sail of
    the line, and a proportional number of frigates, sloops,
    and small vessels. This is the largest command that
    any admiral has had for a long time. He goes to
    Portsmouth to-night. .

    Not conclusive either way.

    Extract from Nelson’s own Private Diary
    ‘At half-past ten left dear dear Merton, where I left all that I hold dear in this world…’ This does not say he traveled alone, it merely means he left without Emma Hamilton and Horatia.

    George Matcham? Did he accompany Nelson on the last trip to Portsmouth, or did he stay behind with Emma? John Sugden says, ‘George said he wanted for nothing and Nelson’s safety was all that mattered’. Then the door was closed, the last words spoken, and the chaise pulled into the night. Page 771 The Last Farewell Nelson: The Sword of Albion by Dr. John Sugden.

    That say’s to me that George Matcham stayed behind with his wife, (Nelson’s sister), and Emma. Although, annoyingly, according to Tom Pococks, ‘Nelson, chapter XII, page 315,

    “At six o’clock on the morning of the 14th Nelson arrived at Portsmouth. At half-past eleven his flag was again hoisted on board the “Victory,” and at 2 P.M. he embarked. His youngest and favorite sister, Mrs. Matcham, with her husband, had gone to Portsmouth to see him off. As they were parting, he said to her: “Oh, Katty! that gypsy;” referring to his fortune told by a gypsy in the West Indies many years before, that he should arrive at the head of his profession by the time he was forty. “What then?” he had asked at the moment; but she replied, “I can tell you no more; the book is closed.”

    Chevailler and Sabatini Michele Spedillo (Naples Neopolitan). Servants , would have stayed to look after Emma, Horatia and the Matchams.

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