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Keystone Auction 7 – The J. Eric Engstrom Collection of Admiral Nelson Medals

Lot nuber 1

The Battle of the St. Vincent. Gilt Æ Medallet (20mm, 2.02 g, 12h). By an uncertain artist. Distributed by Samuel Pemberton(?). Dated 14 February 1797 (struck circa 1805).


Keystone Auction 7 – The J. Eric Engstrom Collection of Admiral Nelson Medals
Lot: 1.

Closing Date: Jul 6 2022 10:00 ET

Admiral Nelson Medals, Bronze

Estimate: $ 75

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The Battle of the St. Vincent. Gilt Æ Medallet (20mm, 2.02 g, 12h). By an uncertain artist. Distributed by Samuel Pemberton(?). Dated 14 February 1797 (struck circa 1805). ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY, uniformed bust left / Hardy 3; BHM 437; Eimer –. EF.

From the J. Eric Engstrom Collection.

The medals issued commemorating Admiral Nelson and his exploits or honoring those who served under him during his campaigns are reminders of a bygone age: the Age of Sail, when chivalrous admirals and captains blasted broadsides and led boarding parties onto enemy ships and shores. Horatio Nelson was arguably the greatest admiral of this age and his accomplishments include some of the greatest naval victories in history. The medals included offered in this collection present a chance for collectors to celebrate the history of the period and the spirit of adventure that has always accompanied the era.

Horatio Nelson was born on September 29, 1758 in England as the sixth of eleven eventual children. He took to the sea quickly, obtaining his first posting at the tender age of thirteen in 1771. The first decade of his career took place for the most part in the West and East Indies with his first actual combat action being an engagement between his ship the Seahorse with two of Hyder Ali’s ketches during the First Anglo-Maratha War in 1775. Nelson’s first independent command was in 1777 during the American Revolution, when he was assigned as the commander of a captured American merchantman that was renamed Little Lucy. He met his first significant military success with the daring capture of Castillo Viejo in Nicaragua in 1780, as the British sought to capture various Spanish possessions in South America. Nelson fell ill in the jungles of Costa Rica and returned to England to recuperate.

By the end of 1781, Nelson had recovered and taken command of the Albermarle, mostly escorting convoys. He did, however, he see significant action in the attempted capture of Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands, but the British attack was repulsed. With the end of the American Revolution and the various European wars associated with it in 1783, Nelson was relegated to peacetime duty. He spent a great deal of time in the Caribbean, where he married his wife Frances Nisbet, a young widow from a Nevis plantation family, in 1787. Without war, there were significant reductions in the need for naval captains and Nelson was relegated to the reserves. He chafed at being on land with no command. After begging the admiralty for a command for years, the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars finally saw him return to the sea. He took part in the British invasion of Corsica in 1794 providing ground forces with support and blockading enemy ports, and in 1795, saw his first real fleet action off the coast of Genoa, where British forces managed to capture several French ships. Nelson continued to serve in British naval operations off the Italian coast until 1797, when he took part in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent.

During the battle, Nelson was originally positioned in the rear of the British fleet as they moved to engage with the Spanish. Ignoring orders, the gallant captain thrust his ship into the middle of the fighting, at one point engaging three Spanish vessels at once. He personally led multiple boarding parties, with him and his men ultimately capturing two of the four Spanish ships taken during the battle. Rather than being punished for insubordination, Nelson was rewarded for his heroism during the battle and received popular acclaim. The same year, he was sent to attempt to capture a Spanish treasure ship in the Canary Islands, but was bloodily repulsed and harshly wounded. His injuries were severe enough that surgeons were forced to amputate his right arm.

Nelson won his major victory a year later in 1798, while pursuing the French fleet that was transporting Napoleon’s army to Egypt. Despite the French fleet successfully landing the army and taking refuge in a bay, Nelson aggressively attacked, managing to destroy nearly the entire French fleet with but a few losses to his own. This action hamstrung Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign and earned Nelson him international notoriety. Following the naval battles in the eastern Mediterranean, Nelson’s fleet maneuvered to provide naval assistance to the Neapolitan Kingdom before being transferred to the Baltic. Nelson’s Baltic adventures culminated in the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, where again flouted orders to disengage, famously holding a telescope to his blinded eye and proclaiming, “I really do not see the signal.” The resulting battle was one of the hardest fought of Nelson’s career with many casualties on both sides.

The last and most famous of campaign Nelson’s illustrious career, the Trafalgar Campaign of 1803-1805 saw Nelson take the role of commander in chief over all British forces involved. When the combined French and Spanish fleets sailed forth from Cadiz, he eagerly seized on the opportunity to eliminate the last real threat to British sea power. In the ensuing battle, Nelson’s forces utterly obliterated their enemy, effectively destroying the last of Napoleon’s naval forces. But this battle would be Nelson’s last. While pacing the deck of his flagship, the HMS Victory, Nelson was shot through the shoulder by a French sniper. He died a few hours later, surviving just long enough to see the culmination of his greatest victory.

The British people soon came to revere Nelson as near saint. His funeral was followed and attended by tens of thousands, books were written about his exploits, streets and monuments were named after him, and of course medals were struck to commemorate both him and his many victories at sea. The life and exploits of Horatio Nelson have continued to captivate people for over two centuries, with many of the medals associated with himself and his campaigns being struck long after his death at Trafalgar. The medals offered in this sale will hopefully even better illustrate how the British people viewed their hero and the events that he took part in.

Closing Date and Time: 6 July 2022 at 10:00:00 ET.



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