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Nelson letter sells for just under $50,000

world Updated: Jul 16, 2010 21:02 IST

Reuters
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A letter by Admiral Horatio Nelson which shows the hero of Trafalgar was spoiling for a fight with his French rivals four days before the battle was sold by Sotheby's for more than twice its estimate.

The letter went to an unidentified buyer for 32,450 pounds ($49,900) after it was put up for auction this week with an estimate of 9,000 12,000 pounds, Sotheby's told Reuters.

In the letter, Nelson also warns the Governor of Gibraltar to keep quiet about a shortage of drinking water aboard HMS Victory "or we shall see it in an English newspaper."

The letter to the governor, Rear Admiral John Knight, was written on October 17, 1805, just four days before the historic battle in which Nelson was killed.

In it, the admiral declared he was "anxious for an Easterly wind", as that would encourage the enemy to leave port and finally face the British.

"He obviously wants to take the fight to the enemy," Gabriel Heaton from Sotheby's told Reuters.

He was never in any doubt that his men and his ships would win in a fight."

The day after the letter was written, the wind swung to the southeast and the French Admiral Villeneuve raised the signal for his ships to unmoor from anchor at Cadiz.

The wind was incredibly light it took days for the battle to start and it was not until nearly midday on the 21st when Nelson ordered the hoisting of his famous message "England expects every man to do his duty."

Despite being outnumbered in terms of both ships and men, the British triumphed. Ten days later Nelson's body was received in Gibraltar by governor Knight.

The letter is unpublished and was in the hands of a private collector. The significant factor about it is the date," Heaton said. "That's really what makes this such a striking document."