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Trafalgar Eyewitness Account by the Assistant-Surgeon of H.M.S Swiftsure

Posted by Tony Beales, on October 20th, 2013

Abstract

This letter by Robert Hilton appears to be a collaborative account of the engagements of Trafalgar, as a surgeon’s mate would have been below deck during the battle.  Each of the surviving letters chooses different details to include, but the tone of patriotic triumph rings through.  The letter tells of the efforts of the Swiftsure to save the French prize Redoubtable from the storm which followed the battle.  Only 169 men survived when she sank, many of them wounded.  Hilton’s letter goes on to detail the efforts to retrieve prize crews from the French ships which had to be destroyed in the storm, out of the nineteen which struck.  He then tells of the melancholy news they received two days after the battle that Admiral Nelson had died of his wound, his last words being, ‘I have then lived long enough’.

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