1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 93

In reviewing the merits of the Battle of Trafalgar, we shall take the number of ships in each line, 27 and 33, as a fair criterion of the relative force of the two fleets. It is singular that the aggregate of the rated number of guns on each side, 2148 and 2626, affords about the same result, a full sixth part in favour of the French and Spaniards. The real number of guns on each side would very slightly reduce the disparity. A few examples will establish this. The Victory and Téméraire mounted, the one two, the other four, guns only more than the numbers of their respective classes, or 102 guns each. Those of the Victory consisted, in equal divisions upon her first, second, and third decks, of 90 long 32, 24, and 12 pounders, and of 10 long 12-pounders and two 68-pounder carronades on her quarterdeck and forecastle. The guns upon the three principal decks of the Téméraire were 86 long 32 and 18-pounders (30 of the latter on the third or upper deck), and those upon the quarterdeck and forecastle were four long 18 pounders and twelve 32-pounder carronades. These two ships, therefore, although of different rates (first and second), mounted the same number of guns ; and the 98 was actually 50 lbs. heavier in her broadside than the 100.

As the Victory and Téméraire were the two ships of the British fleet whose rated and real number of guns approximated the nearest, so were the Tonnant and Belleisle, the latter in particular, the two in which there was in that respect the greatest difference. The Tonnant, for instance, whose rate was 80, mounted 90 guns ; and the same number were mounted by the Belleisle, although she was only a 74. The latter was even the heavier ship in broadside force, the age and weakness of the former having required the substitution of 18 for 24 pounders on the main deck ; while the Belleisle was enabled to carry on her main deck a whole tier of the larger of those calibers. No other 74-gun ship, however, in the British fleet, to our knowledge, mounted more than 82 guns ; and that number would of course include six light poop-carronades.

With respect to the gun force of the ships in the Franco-Spanish fleet, our previous statements upon the subject have left little to add. The force, in long guns, of the Santisima-Trinidad, and of a Spanish first-rate of the class of the Santa-Ana and Principe-de-Asturias, has already appeared ; and so has the force of a Spanish 80 and 74 gun ship of the old or small construction. * For an 80 of a more recent build and equipment, the San-Rafael, taken by Sir Robert Calder, may be referred to † and, for a 74, the San-Ildefonso, captured on the present occasion. The guns of the latter consisted of 58 long 24-pounders on the first and second decks, four long 8s and 10 iron 36 pounder carronades on the quarterdeck and forecastle, and six iron 24-pounder carronades on the poop; total 78. The

*  See vol., ii., p. 66.

†  See p. 14.

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