1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


 
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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
by
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 88

the cries of the people, the Swiftsure, who had wore to the southward, again sent her boats, and, from three rafts which the French crew, amidst a dreadful night of wind, rain, and lightning, had constructed from the spars of their sunken ship, saved 50 more of the sufferers : making a total of about 170, including 70 out of the 222 described as wounded. * Captain Lucas had been previously removed to the Téméraire. The remaining survivors of the Redoutable's late officers and crew, and 13 of the Téméraire's, and five of the Swiftsure's men, perished in her.

Other casualties were the consequence of this night's gale. The Fougueux, having on board, besides a great portion of her late crew, 30 men belonging to the Téméraire drifted on the rocks between Torre-Bermeja and the river Sancti-Petri and was totally wrecked, with the loss of all on board, except about 25 persons.

When the Algésiras parted from the Tonnant, † the situation of Lieutenant Bennett and his small party was critical in the extreme. The ship had lost all three masts nearly by the board. Her hull had been much battered by shot ; but, so far fortunately, no holes were below the water line. Of her anchors the two at the bows were all that remained : one of these was broken in the shank, and the stock of the other shot nearly away. On board the Algésiras at this time, including 40 or 50 wounded, were about 600 Frenchmen ; and the whole of these were to be kept in subjection by 50 British. The prisoners were sent below, and the gratings secured over them. It was then found that not a man could be spared from guarding the hatchways, to rig jurymasts and endeavour to work the ship off a lee-shore ; nor was there any chance of being taken in tow, the few British ships near at hand being almost in as dismasted a state as the prize.

In this state was passed the whole of the blowing night of the 21st ; and the morning of the 22d found the Algésiras separated from the British fleet, and drifting bodily towards the rocky shore to the northward of Cape Trafalgar. On the evening of that day, being three miles only to windward of the spot where the Fougueux was then beating to pieces, Lieutenant Bennett ordered the hatches to be taken off, to afford to the French crew an opportunity of saving the lives of the 650 beings whose existence was now at stake. The French crew rushed on deck, and, after confining Lieutenant Bennett and his party in the after-cabin, began to rig jurymasts. Three to topgallantmast, were soon stepped, and some small sails set upon them. With the aid of these, the Algésiras bent her head to the northward, and presently brought the port of Cadiz about two points on her lee bow. The ship, however, still continued in so unmanageable a state, owing to the strength of the wind, and the frequent blowing away of the sails, that she barely trailed along

*  See p. 64.

†  See p. 50.

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