Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson
Admiral Lord Nelson is considered the greatest British military hero of all time. The naval leader, who became a national icon after his death in the battle of Trafalgar, recently topped a British poll covering more than 800 years of British military history, beating even Richard the Lionheart.
Nelson pulled off an audacious victory at the Battle of the Nile in 1798 when he sailed his ships between the shore and an unprepared French fleet expecting an attack from the opposite direction. Three years later Nelson, who had lost his right eye and arm in combat, destroyed the Danish navy at Copenhagen after ignoring a signal from his superiors to disengage by placing a telescope to his blind eye and remarking: "I really do not see the signal."
His finest hour came in 1805 when he destroyed the combined French-Spanish Fleet at Trafalgar.
The Armada numbered the most ships of the line ever assembled for a naval battle. Napoleon Bonaparte planned to sail into the English Channel and invade Britain.
In the pitched battle, a cannon ball struck and killed Nelson's aide, John Scott. His clerk took over, but he, too, was almost immediately killed. Nelson’s flagship, the Victory, led the assault. With the ship’s wheel blown away by enemy cannon fire, his captain asked Nelson which ship to engage first. Nelson told him to take his pick – and the British fleet proceeded to destroy the Armada.
Nelson was a brilliant naval commander and a charismatic leader. He died in that decisive battle of Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, but hung on long enough to know that he had achieved victory.
The Battle of Trafalgar put an end to Napoleon's plans for the invasion of Britain and ensured British dominance of the world's oceans for the rest of the 19th century.
Tecumseh of Ohio
Born in 1768, Tecumseh grew up during the American Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War, where he was constantly exposed to warfare. With whites continuing to encroach on Shawnee territory after the British ceded the Ohio Valley to the new United States in 1783, the tribe moved further northwest. In 1808, they settled in present-day Indiana. His father was Puckshinwa, a Shawnee war chief, the son of a Muscogee warrior who settled among the Shawnee. At the time they married, their tribe was living somewhere near modern Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“As Pucksinwah stared at the sky on this night,” writes author Alan King, “he saw a huge meteor streak across from the north, leaving a trail of greenish-white flame. It lasted for fully 20 seconds and was unlike anything he had ever seen before. This was the Panther spirit that the old men sometimes spoke of, and a good sign indeed. As the women around the fire talked excitedly and pointed to the heavens, a baby's cry came from the shelter. Usually a child was not named for several days while the parents waited for a sign to indicate what the great spirit Moneto wished the child to be called, but this child must surely be named Tecumseh, "The Panther Passing Across.” At age 15, Tecumseh joined a band of Shawnee determined to stop the white invasion of their lands. Tecumseh became a warrior and in one historic 1811 meeting, he was widely quoted among the tribes as declaring, "Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man. Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws. Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields?"
In September 1809, future U.S. President William Henry Harrison, who was then governor of the newly formed Indiana Territory, negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne in which a delegation of Indians ceded 3 million acres of Native American lands to the United States.
Tecumseh denounced the treaty and began to travel widely, urging warriors to join him in resistance, declaring, "No tribe has the right to sell land, even to each other, much less to strangers. Sell a country!? Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Didn't the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?" Tecumseh rallied the largest confederacy of native American tribes and sided with the British in the War of 1812. He joined British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock in capturing Detroit. At one point in the battle, as the British advanced to a point just out of range of Detroit's guns, Tecumseh had his 400 warriors parade out from a nearby wood and circle back around to repeat the maneuver, making it appear that there were many more warriors than was actually the case. The fort commander, U.S. Brigadier General William Hull, surrendered in fear of a massacre.