Pusser’s Rum and Trafalgar Day – A Brief History
Every year, we commemorate the Anniversary of Nelson’s great victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, October 21st, 1805. On that day, Great Britain’s Royal Navy won its greatest victory and lost its greatest hero, Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson. Although his life was lost, his legacy has never been forgotten.
Who was Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson?
At the beginning of the 19th century, there was one British naval officer who was an outstanding and strongly nonconformist leader. He did not follow the old and traditional patterns, but instead created his own solutions in the battles and engagements that he fought and later led. In fact, at times his path to success was in direct defiance of the orders given him. He did not follow orders that he found useless or not according to his own concept, and because of his leadership and tactical genius, he was victorious in every major engagement he fought and was therefore never brought to task for his disobedience. This man was Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson.
He was constantly developing and evolving new tactics that became known as the “Nelson touch” as in the famous and vital Battle of Trafalgar, the largest sea battle ever fought between ships-of-the-line. He was popular and well-respected, and those he led worshiped him in contrast to the usual relationship between English military leaders and their men at that time. He was always personally in the thick of the fight. He appealed to the pride and patriotism of his sailors. This connection to his men, apart from winning the most important sea battle of the time and one of the greatest in the annals of naval warfare, made him a hero to not only his men and the Royal Navy, but to the common people of England where the Battle of Trafalgar, 200 years later, is still celebrated annually.
What was the Battle of Trafalgar?
Trafalgar was a turning point in world history. The English fleet led by Nelson performed a miracle in defeating the combined French and Spanish fleets, thus destroying Spain’s dominance of the world’s oceans. Now Britain “ruled the waves” as the famous anthem goes. Britain had finally curtailed the Spanish predominance of the oceans and the end of French dominance of the European continent would soon follow. This victory opened the path to the construction of the British Empire, as no other European power could now prevent Britain’s imperialism. Her Walls of Oak, as the wooden hulled ships of the Royal Navy were called,dominated the seas and gave cover to Britain’s expansion, while Great Britain lay protected and secure behind them.
If Nelson had not prevailed at Trafalgar, the British Empire could not have happened, and the world today would be a very different place. Even the growth and development of what was then the Colonial United States would probably have been adversely affected.
Pusser’s Rum and the Origin of Nelson’s Blood
Pusser’s Rum is the same Admiralty Rum as was issued on board British warships, and it is with the Admiralty’s blessing and approval that Pusser’s Rum is now available to the consumer. Prior to 1979, Pusser’s Rum was never sold or available to the public. Pusser’s Rum is also known to the Navy as “Nelson’s Blood”. Unfortunately, in the heat of battle at Trafalgar, Nelson was mortally wounded by a French sharpshooter. As he lay dying, he requested that his body not be thrown overboard as was the custom in those days. At the end of the battle, legend has it that they placed his body in a large puncheon (cask) of Admiralty rum to preserve it for the long trip home. Upon arrival at Portsmouth, his pickled body was removed, but most of the rum was gone. The sailors had drilled a small hole at the base of the cask, and drank all the rum, thereby drinking of “Nelson’s Blood” which became synonymous with the name Pusser’s Rum. The expression is still popular in the Royal Navy today when alluding to Pusser’s Rum.