1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


Next Page

Previous Page
Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 23

the troops on the 30th of September, and intended to put to sea the first easterly wind. This intelligence, meeting the rear-admiral on his way to the eastward, induced him, on the 3d, to return with his squadron to the fleet ; but Lord Nelson, conceiving the whole to be a stratagem to draw him nearer to Cadiz for the purpose of obtaining a more accurate knowledge of his force, ordered the rear-admiral to proceed in the execution of his orders.

On the 4th, twice in the course of the day, several Spanish gun-boats taking advantage of the calm state of the weather pulled out from Cadiz and attacked the Euryalus and Hydra but, after the exchange of a few ineffectual shot, the former retired to the harbour's mouth. On the 7th the Defiance joined from England, and on the 8th the Leviathan from Gibraltar. On the same day, with the aid of a fine south-east wind and clear weather, the Euryalus was again enabled to count 34 sail of the line in Cadiz harbour. The proximity of the Euryalus to the entrance of the harbour may be judged by the frigate's bearings at the time she tacked to stand out. They were, Rota point north half-west, San-Sebastian south half-west distant two miles and a quarter.

The possibility that the Cadiz, Carthagena, and Rochefort ships might effect a junction, and thereby present a force of 46 sail of the line (a rumour indeed prevailed, that the Brest fleet was out, which, without the junction of the Carthagena and Rochefort squadrons, would have made the combined fleet 54 or 55 sail), induced Lord Nelson, on the 10th, to draw up and transmit to the flag-officers and captains of his fleet, a plan of attack, in which, hourly expecting to be reinforced, particularly by a squadron of fast-sailing two-deckers under Vice-admiral Thornborough he calculates, by anticipation, the strength, of his fleet at 40 sail of the line. As this plan, or "General Memorandum", of which a translation appears in several French historical works, is universally considered to be a complete masterpiece of the kind ; and particularly, as it agrees in principle with that adopted in the great battle presently to be detailed, we shall offer no apology for inserting it entire in these pages.

"Thinking it almost impossible," says the noble chief, to form a fleet of 40 sail of the line into a line of battle, in variable winds, thick weather, and other circumstances which must occur, without such a loss of time, that the opportunity would probably be lost, of bringing the enemy to battle in such a manner as to make the business decisive ; I have therefore made up my mind to keep the fleet in that position of sailing (with the exception of the first and second in command), that the order of sailing is to be the order of battle placing the fleet in two lines of 16 ships each, with an advanced squadron of eight of the fastest sailing two-decked ships : which will always make, if wanted,

^ back to top ^