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Victory on the Atlantic Chase by Geoff Hunt.


Victory on the Atlantic Chase by Geoff Hunt.

The Treaty of Amiens in March 1802 brought a brief respite in the long war between France and England, one that Nelson was able to enjoy as a country gentleman in his newly acquired estate at Merton in the company of Emma Hamilton and her husband, Sir Wilham Hamilton. The renewal of the war in the spring of 1803 saw Nelson appointed to the Mediterranean Command, hoisting his flag in Victory on May 18th. It was a renewal of the war in more ways than one, not least in the different strengths England and France brought to the conflict. Except where overweening ambition had brought his downfall, Napoleon was entirely dominant on land while the Royal Navy commanded the sea. In the long run, Napoleon could only win the war by invading England but this could not succeed without, at the very least, local naval supremacy in the Channel and Napoleons maritime strategy was largely devoted to achieving this. By the same token British strategy was driven by the need to prevent it. Rather than put the matter to the test in the Channel, the Royal Navys strategy was to keep the French, and later their new allies, the Spanish, bottled up in their own ports. This blockade was the campaign that Nelson joined when Victory finally arrived off Toulon on July 8th 1803. Although less glorious than any out-and-out naval battle, this campaign was an extraordinary feat of endurance by the Royal Navy which lasted with only a brief interruption for the Treaty of Amiens, from 1797 to 1805. It involved endless days and nights at sea, in all weathers, where boredom and morale became as big a factor as the elements, let alone the rarely glimpsed enemy. After joining his command mi the Mediterranean it would be nearly two years before Nelson set foot on land again. Napoleon would never be content to let his ships be contained forever. In January 1805, on his orders and rather to their own surprise, his fleets escaped the blockades at Toulon and Rochefort. Nelsons first reaction was to search the Mediterranean but for once his strategic instinct was wrong. Napoleon was about to attempt a piece of grand strategy that would allow his army of 175,000 now assembling at Boulogne to cross the Channel and finally defeat his old enemy. This would be achieved by concentrating all his naval forces together in the Channel, having first lured the Royal Navy off on chase across the Atlantic to the West Indies. After a hesitant start by the French, whose ships crews had spent too long in harbour and lacked seamanship, they were blessed with good luck and escaped observation by the Royal Navy. But Nelson had now guessed their plan, with its double threat to both English interests in the West Indies and the Channel. Nelsons pursuit of Admiral Villeneuve across the Atlantic was a classic naval chase and is the subject of Geoff Hunts painting. It was the only time Victory ever crossed the Atlantic (it was virtually unknown for first-rate ships to do so) and she is seen carrying a very full set of sails, including stun sails, for maximum speed on the westward run. Behind her stretches a colurnn of ships from the Mediterranean Fleet, with an accompanying frigate to starboard. Nelson completed his westward crossing of the Atlantic 10 days faster than Villeneuve and but for some mistaken intelligence might well have brought the French and Spanish fleet to battle. But Villeneuve had already fled the West Indies when Nelson arrived. Although Nelson resumed the chase back across the Atlantic he failed to catch the enemy fleet. While the results had been inconclusive and Nelson worried how it might be judged at the Admiralty, the reality was that Napoleons grand strategy had proved impractical. The Royal Navy had not been long misled and the enemy had only narrowly avoided a fleet encounter. When Villeneuve finally arrived at Cadiz on August 20th 1805 both his ships and the morale of his men were at a low ebb. He had little heart for the final test that he knew would come.
Item Code : LI0026Victory on the Atlantic Chase by Geoff Hunt. - This Edition
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PRINT Signed limited edition of 850 prints.

Image size 17 inches x 23 inches (43cm x 58cm)Artist : Geoff Hunt120.00

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Artist Details : Geoff Hunt
Click here for a full list of all artwork by Geoff Hunt


Geoff Hunt

Geoff Hunt is one of the leading marine artists of his generation. After formal art school training, Geoff Hunt worked in marine publishing where he acquired a love of marine history. A member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists since 1989, and a Trustee since 1992, he was responsible for the RSMA's book A Celebration of Marine Art and The Tall Ship in Art. His work hangs in public and private collections around the world. There are 12 of his paintings in the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth.

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