Boreas in the West Indies March 1787 by Geoff Hunt.
On 18th March 1784, Nelson was extremely lucky to be appointed to command HMS Boreas. The previous September, the Treaty of Versailles had ended the American War of Independence and many naval officers anticipated an extended period on the beach. Perhaps through political influence, Nelson was singled out for the command of the 28-gun frigate Boreas which was destined for a commission in the West Indies. The frigate was the most glamorous warship type in the navy. Although not heavily gunned, it was fast enough to evade larger enemies. It was likely to be given an independent role, whilst ships of the line normally operated in fleets off the enemy coast. The frigate often fought singleship actions against enemy frigates and these were followed avidly by the press and public. Successful frigate captains had something of the image of top-scoring fighter pilots in the Second World War and a few achieved great fame and riches derived from prize money. The frigate was designed with an unarmed lower deck so that its guns were well above the water line, this meant that it could be allowed to heel quite considerably and carry sail in strong wind and heavy seas. On occasion frigates made fourteen knots, making them the fastest ships in the navy. The frigate was used for convoy escort, commerce raiding and patrols. They were also the eyes of the battle fleet. Nelsons time with Boreas, his only peacetime commission, came close to being professional suicide although on all occasions Nelson had, strictly speaking, been in the right. He also found himself being sued for 40,000 pounds, something of a problem for a man whose full pay was 260 pounds a year! Before Boreas arrived on station, she had to make the long voyage across the Atlantic carrying passengers with government connections as was common at this time. Amongst the passengers was Lady Hughes, the wife of a senior naval officer with whom he was later to clash, but who provided good company on the voyage. Very much later she wrote about her experiences on Boreas. She observed, with considerable insight, Nelsons leadership abilities, particularly in regard to the many young midshipmen on board, some of whom might have been as young as 12 or 13. She wrote: Among such a number, it may reasonably be supposed there must have been timid spirits, as well as bold. The timid he never rebuked, but always wished to show them he desired nothing that he would not instantly do himself. and I have known him say, Well, sir, I am going a race to the mast-head, and beg I may meet you there. No denial could be given to such a request, and the poor little fellow instantly began to climb the shrouds. Captain Nelson never took the least notice in what manner it was done, but when they met in the top, spoke in the most cheerful terms to the midshipman, and observed how much any person was to be pitied who could fancy there was any danger, or even anything disagreeable in the attempt. After this excellent example, I have seen the same youth who before was so timid, lead another in like manner, and repeat his commanders words. The main problems he encountered in the West Indies, which made the next nine months on the station wretched and frustrating for him, were caused by the newly found independence of the American colonies which were, under the English Navigation Acts, no longer allowed to trade with British colonies, including those that were close at hand in the West Indies. Nelson later described the problem he faced: The Americans, when colonists, possessed almost all the trade from America to our West India islands, on the return to peace (after the War of Independence) they forgot, on this occasion, they became foreigners, and of course had no right to trade in the British colonies. But of course they were trading, and no one was trying to stop them: Our Governors and Custom-house Officers pretended that by the Navigation Act they had a right to trade, and all the West Indians wished that was so much in their interest. Nelson found he was senior captain on the station and he took his responsibility seriously. He knew the trade was illegal and was determined to stop it. Admiral Hughes was in overall command but he was a weak man and turned a blind eye to the local trade with America. Nelson declined to do this and the result was a confrontation, not just with Hughes but the local traders, including the islanders of Nevis who banded together to sue him for the trade he had lost them. Although Nelson was vindicated by the Admiralty the legal ramifications took years to sort out. If the island of Nevis brought him a very disagreeable legal action, it also brought him a wife. One might surmise that his somewhat impetuous decision to marry was prompted, to some extent, by the loneliness and unhappiness the commission had brought him. Frances Nisbet was a widow of 27, with a five-year-old son, Josiah. Her father had been a judge on the island, her husband, the familys doctor, had succumbed to the very tropical diseases he was called on so often to treat. When Nelson met her she was keeping house for her uncle, John Richardson Herbert, a rich local landowner and politician. Nelsons courtship of Fanny Nisbet was carried out largely by letter as Boreas carried out her duties throughout the West Indies. The marriage took place at John Herberts house, Mompelier, on 11 th March 1787, the best man being Lieutenant Digby Dent of the Boreas. Geoff Hunts painting shows Boreas on passage to Nevis in the spring of 1787, the ship and her crew enjoying the warm weather and steady prevailing winds. It was no hardship to be a masthead lookout in such conditions.
|Item Code : LI0021||Boreas in the West Indies March 1787 by Geoff Hunt. - This Edition|
|PRINT||Signed limited edition of 850 prints. || Image size 17 inches x 23 inches (43cm x 58cm)||Artist : Geoff Hunt||£120.00|
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