The Life of Nelson: The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain - Vol. 2

By A. T. Mahan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XX.
THE ESCAPE AND PURSUIT OF THE TOULON FLEET. -- NELSON'S RETURN TO ENGLAND.

JANUARY-AUGUST, 1805. AGE, 46.

TO understand rightly the movements of Nelson during the first months of 1805, up to his return to England in August, and to appreciate fully the influence of this closing period of his career upon the plans and fortunes of Napoleon, it is necessary to state briefly the. projects of the latter, as formulated in his correspondence.

The great object of the Emperor was to invade England, crossing the Channel with the army, 150,000 strong, which for two years past he had been assembling and drilling in the neighborhood of Boulogne. To this end all his plans were subsidiary -- to it all movements at this moment were intended to conduce. He had no illusions as to the difficulties of the enterprise; he recognized fully that the odds were against success, but be had too often achieved the apparently impossible to permit the word to stop him in an attempt, which, if accomplished, would cause all other obstacles to disappear from his path of conquest. There were chances in his favor. Warily and steadfastly he advanced, step by step, determined to take no risk that could by the utmost care be changed into security, but equally resolved to dare the hazard, if by the military movements set in action by his unsurpassed genius, he could for a moment obtain the particular combination which would, to use his own phrase, make him master of

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