1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 78

mast ; but she experienced the singular good fortune, as a ship of this fleet, not to have a man of her crew injured.

We have now, according to the best information in our power, gone through the details of each British ship's proceedings in the Battle of Trafalgar. Should justice not have been done to the exertions of any particular ship on this glorious occasion, we hope it will be attributed, rather to the confused manner in which the attack, the latter part of it especially, was carried on, than to any deficiency of research in us. How far the published accounts on either side are calculated to guide the historian, has already in part appeared, and will be more fully shown when some of those accounts pass under review. As to the accounts furnished exclusively for this work by individuals present in the battle, much as we, and through us the public, owe to them, they are, in many instances, imperfect, obscure, and even contradictory. Nor can it be wondered at, considering how each officer's attention must have been absorbed in the immediate duties of his station ; and how few yards, beyond the side of his own ship, the smoke of so many combatants would permit him to see.

According to the official returns the aggregate loss in killed and wounded on the part of the British amounted to 1690 ; * of which amount about six sevenths, or 1452, fell to the share of 14 out of, the 27 ships in the fleet. With a few exceptions, the ships so suffering were in the van of their respective columns. This was a consequence of the peculiar mode of attack adopted by Lord Nelson, coupled with the fall of the breeze after the firing had begun. For instance, the leading ships of each column, as they approached within gun-shot of the combined fleet, were exposed to the deliberate and uninterrupted fire of seven or eight ships drawn up in line ahead, without being able, until nearly on board of them to bring a gun to bear in return. The moment the former did begin to engage, the French and Spanish ships closed for mutual support ; whereby the latter not only prevented each other from firing at such of the British ships as were still bearing down, but became too seriously occupied with close antagonists, to bestow much attention upon distant ones.

We regret our inability to particularize as usual, the loss sustained by the ships of the Franco-Spanish fleet. Of the many

*  The following is a recapitulation of the loss of men and masts sustained by the British fleet, the ships of each column being ranged in the order in which they appear to have bore down to the attack. The masts "left tottering," actually fell or were taken down a day or two after the action. Besides these, many bowsprits masts, yards, and topmasts were badly wounded, and subsequently replaced by new ones. A column has been added, with the names, as accurately as we have been able to get them, of the officers acting as first, second, third, and fourth lieutenants of the Victory, first and second of the Royal-Sovereign, and first of the ships remaining, at the close of the battle.

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