1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 45

have enabled us to obtain, taking the British ships of each division, in the order in which, according to the best judgment to be formed from the variety of times noted down in their logs, they successively got into action.

The Royal-Sovereign we left just as, after 15 minutes of close action with three or four ships, the Belleisle had come to her relief. The latter, passing on to the eastward, left the Royal-Sovereign upon the Santa-Ana's starboard bow. In a short time the Spanish three-decker lost her mizen topmast ; and, at the end of about an hour and a quarter from the commencement of the combat, her three masts fell over the side. At about 2 h. 15 m. P.M., after a hot, and with the exception of the Belleisle's broadside, an uninterrupted, engagement between the two ships from 10 minutes past noon, the Santa-Ana struck to the Royal-Sovereign.

This occurrence took place just as the mizenmast of the Royal-Sovereign came down, and when her fore and main masts from their shattered condition, were ready to follow it. No sooner, indeed, did the Royal-Sovereign, in order to put herself a little to rights, move a short distance ahead of her prize, then her mainmast fell over on the starboard side, tearing off two of the lowerdeck ports. The foremast, having been shot through in several places, and stripped of nearly the whole of its rigging, was left in a tottering state. Hence the English three-decker was reduced to almost, if not quite, as unmanageable a state as the Spanish three-decker, which she had so gallantly fought and captured.

The French accounts say: "Le vaisseau la Santa-Ana, vaillamment attaque par l'amiral Collingwood, fut non moins vaillamment defendu par le vice-amiral Alava ; mail, accable par le nombre, il dut ceder. " * And yet out of the 26 remaining British ships, no ship except the Belleisle, and that with merely a broadside in passing, asserts that she fired into the Santa-Ana. Here is the proper place to notice the modesty with which Vice admiral Collingwood, in his official despatch, refers to the part taken by his own ship. "The commander-in-chief in the Victory," he says, " led the weather column, and the Royal-Sovereign, which bore my flag, the lee. The action began at 12 o'clock by the leading ships of the columns breaking through the enemy's line, the commander-in-chief about the tenth ship from the van, the second in command about the twelfth from the rear, &c." The Royal-Sovereign is not again mentioned, except in reference to matters that occurred subsequently to the battle.

The loss sustained by the Royal-Sovereign was tolerably severe: she had one lieutenant (Brice Gilliland), her master (William Chalmers), one lieutenant of marines (Robert Green), two midshipmen (John Aikenhead and Thomas Braund), 29

*  Victoires et Conquetes, tome xvi., p. 179

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