1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


Next Page

Previous Page
Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 87

course of the night, anchored about a mile and a half from Rota, not being able to enter the bay or harbour of Cadiz on account of the strong south-south-east wind then blowing in shore. In the offing, however, the wind was still from the west-south-west.

At 6 P.M. Vice-admiral Collingwood, now the commander-in-chief of the British fleet, shifted his flag to the Euryalus frigate ; and at 6 h. 15 m. P.M. the latter, taking the Royal-Sovereign in tow, stood off-shore with her. At this time several of the British ships were more or less dismasted, and very few in a condition to carry sail ; and out of the 27 in the fleet, 14 were tolerably damaged in hull. Of the 17 prizes, eight were wholly, and the remainder partially, dismasted. Some of these ships, too, were nearly in a sinking state, and none were without shattered hulls. To add to the perilous condition of the British fleet and prizes, the ships were then in 13 fathoms' water, with the shoals of Trafalgar but a few miles to leeward. Fortunately the wind, which was at west-south-west, and therefore dead on the shore, blew moderately ; but there was a very uneasy swell, highly distressing to the ships, particularly the dismasted ones. At 9 P.M. which was about four hours too late, the vice-admiral made the signal for the fleet to prepare to anchor. It is stated, that few of the ships had an anchor to let go, their cables having been cut by shot. Towards midnight the wind veered to south-south-west, and freshened considerably. Taking immediate advantage of this favourable change, the vice-admiral made the signal for the ships to wear with their heads to the westward. Four of the dismasted prizes, in proof that their cables would hold, had previously anchored off Cape Trafalgar. The remaining ships wore, as directed, and drifted to seaward.

On the 22d, at 8 A.M., the Euryalus cast off the Royal-Sovereign, and signalled the Neptune to take the latter in tow. In the course of the forenoon the vice-admiral issued a general order of thanks to the officers and men of the fleet for their valour and skill in the action; and he also ordered a day to be appointed for returning thanks to God for the success which had attended the British arms. During the whole of this day, the 22d, the wind blew fresh from the southward, with repeated squalls ; but, through the skill and activity of British seamen, the whole 13 prizes that remained under way, were got hold of, and towed towards the appointed rendezvous in the west, round the Neptune and Royal-Sovereign.

At 5 P, M. the Redoutable, in tow by the Swiftsure, being actually sinking, hoisted a signal of distress. The latter ship immediately sent her boats, and brought off part of the prize-crew, and about 120 Frenchmen, which were as many as the boats would contain. At 10 h. 30 m. P.M. the Redoutable being with her stern entirely under water, the Swiftsure cut herself clear. At about midnight the wind shifted to north-west, and still blew a gale. At 3 h. 30 m. A.M. on the 23rd, attracted by

^ back to top ^