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YO HO HO ... And a Bottle of Rum

In The Middle of the Napoleonic War ... Britain’s most famous naval hero ... Admiral Horatio Nelson ... was fatally struck by a musket ball at the very moment of his greatest strategic triumph ... Rather than Burying his Body at Sea ... A Quick-Thinking Surgeon Preserved Him in a Barrel of Brandy that was Lashed to the Deck of the Ship ... A hurricane was on the horizon ... In Addition, the Ship's Mast was Shattered by ... A Cannon Ball ... Time was short, the crew had to hang new sails quickly so that the ship, and ... The Admirals' Body ... Could return to England quickly ... This Short Article ... describes the death of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Nelson was very famous in his lifetime. Britain was an Island Nation with an overseas empire. The strength of its navy was central to national pride and economic security. Nelson was not merely a vice-admiral. He was the man who ... Destroyed Napoleon’s Fleet ... Nelson was an officer who led from the front instead of the rear. He promoted men on the basis of merit instead of political connection ... He Referred to His Missing Arm as His Fin ... Nelson's ongoing and blatant extramarital affair with a diplomat’s wife was tabloid gold that added an air of scandalous romance to his exploits. News of Nelson’s death spread rapidly ... It took 16 Days to Reach London ... However most eye witnesses were still at sea. Members of the public wrote so many poems of lamentation that the newspaper had to ... Ask Them to Please Stop Sending Poems ... A popular theatre staged nightly re-enactments. ...There Was no Escaping Nelson Mania ... As it happens, Nelson’s surgeon ... William Beatty ... was exceptionally competent. At Trafalgar, 96 of 102 casualties treated by Beatty survived, including 9 of 11 amputees. Beatty was not working in a best case scenario according to Beatty. He was in a small, poorly-lit cabin on the ship while it was under attack ... and during a hurricane ... To make matters worse, he was understaffed ... William Beatty ... Was responsible for the preservation of Nelson’s body during the long journey back to England. So, he quickly ... Took Charge of Nelson’s Body ... Essentially, this happened because he was bold enough to say ... I Think I Know How to Do This ... and his co-workers trusted his skills. Preserving a valuable corpse for preservation in alcohol for transportation wasn’t unheard of in the 1800s. it became a precursor to contemporary embalming practices. But, it was not something most people would have direct experience with ... It was Commonly Known by Members of the Public that the Best Way to Preserve a Body was in Navy Rum. But Beatty chose to keep Nelson’s remains in Brandy and ethanol ... Even though he was setting himself against popular wisdom. As a scientist, he knew Nelson’s body had the best chance of surviving the journey if he used the strongest proof liquor on board ... But if it Didn’t Work ... The standard Rum Solution was the politically safest choice. However, before he could be proven right or wrong, the ship had to limp its way back to England. Therefore Beatty’s best impromptu efforts could only slow the decomposition of Nelson’s corpse ... The Body was Slowly Rotting ... Two weeks into the journey, gaseous pressures burst the barrel, scaring one of the watchmen so much that he thought Nelson had returned to life and was trying to climb out of the barrel ... Meanwhile, London was gearing up for the most lavish funeral celebration imaginable. Every coastal town in southern England was on alert to stage multi-gun salutes, militia parades, and black crepe street hangings, and to turn out in a moment’s notice if and when ... The Victory Landed Nearby. ...

Ultimately the Navy settled for a fancy tomb and a smaller statue next to a wall. The entire nation ... regardless of class or occupation ... was riveted. When the Victory finally made port. The event was inundated with a stream of visitors! If anyone had doubted the intensity of the public’s interest. It could no longer be questioned. To prepare the body to lie in state in Greenwich, Beatty removed Nelson’s deteriorated pickled remains from the cask, and wrapped them in clean linen, and transferred them into a lead coffin,

again filled with navy rum as well as camphor and myrrh. Beatty took the opportunity to conduct an autopsy, during which he recovered the musket bullet and a piece of gold epaulet. This was proof Nelson had been struck in the shoulder before the bullet lodged in his spine. Beatty wrote up his findings for the Admiralty and Nelson’s brother, but his primary objective wasn’t fact finding. He needed to empty out Nelson’s abdominal soft tissues, which were decomposing at a faster rate than everything else ... Beatty Would Later Claim the Corpse was in Perfect Condition. Then, Both He and the Chaplain Wrote Letters to Their Higher ups Suggesting the Face was a Little too Gruesome for Public Viewing. After one final check, Nelson,s body was placed into a wooden coffin. Beatty cautiously made sure that ... Nelson’s Skin Did not Fall Off in Front of Everybody ... and then he closed the casket. London held a funeral which cost around $1.2 million British Pounds. Nelson was buried. His corpse had spent 80 unrefrigerated days above ground. It was over ... But the gossip wasn’t. Beatty was now famous, partly by his own doing ... Why Didn’t you use Rum Instead of Brandy, People Wondered ... Countless printed accounts said Beatty did use rum, because it was what they used in that period of time. Popular slang ended up saying ... Navy Rum was "Nelson’s Blood" ... Soon rumors spread that the cask had been drunk down to nothing during the journey. (It hadn’t) ... Beatty returned to inspect the barrel at least four times A very general but erroneous opinion was found to prevail when the Victory arrived in England. It said that rum preserves dead bodies from decay much longer and more perfectly than any other spirits. Therefore ... The Rum Had Likely Been Used ... This Authentic Narrative became the go-to source for historians interested in Nelson’s final moments. However ... The Nelson Rum Connection Remains Tenacious, with Several Liquor Companies Selling Bottles of Spiced Rum Named after the Admiral was Pickled in Brandy. There are still pubs all across England called The Lord Nelson ... As for the killer Musket Ball ... Captain Hardy let Beatty keep it as a good luck charm. He used it as a watch fob for the rest of his life. When he died in 1842, his family gave the musket ball to ... Queen Victoria ... Today the Musket Ball sits in the Grand Vestibule in Windsor Castle ...


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