1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 94

presence of these carronades renders it probable, that most if not all of the other Spanish ships in the fleet carried a proportion of them, thereby adding four at least to their rated number of guns.

The force of that fine and powerful ship of war, a French 80 has already appeared in the statement of the guns found on board the Franklin. * It is doubtful, however, if either of the French 80s in the combined fleet carried any brass long guns : if not, their guns, instead of being 92, would be 86, as formerly mentioned to be the establishment of the class and as subsequently ascertained to have been the armament of the Formidable, one of the ships in this fleet, All the French 74s captured out of this fleet were found to mount, upon their first and second decks, the 58 guns already so frequently specified, except the Berwick and Swiftsure, which, having been English ships, carried 28 instead of 30 guns on the second deck. Upon the quarterdeck many of the ships appear to have mounted, by filling the cabin ports, 20 instead of 16 long eights : thus making their total force, including four, and in some instances six, brass carronades on the poop, 82, and in the latter case 84 guns. These were exclusive of brass cohorns in the tops, the fire from which, at close quarters, had in this very engagement proved extremely destructive. Most of the captured French ships were also found to have on board one field-piece (in some instances two), with carriage and apparatus complete.

No deduction need be made for inexperience in the Franco-Spanish crews ; for the whole of the 18 French, and nine out of the 15 Spanish, ships had been some time at sea, and 13 of the former had, as recently as the 22d of the preceding July, gained over the British, what the French considered, a victory. The British and the Franco-Spanish fleets, therefore, which met and fought off Cape Trafalgar on the 21st of October, 1805, with the exception of a difference in force of say a sixth in favour of the latter, were fairly opposed.

The French and Spaniards, in general, fought bravely : some individual ships, indeed, of both nations behaved most heroically. Those who, writing when Spain was at peace and France still at war with England, declared, that " the Spaniards, throughout the battle, showed a more uniform firmness and spirit than the French, " did but prove how completely their judgment was held in thraldom by their politics. Thinking to compliment Spain at the expense of France, the same writers wished their readers to infer, that there was a want of unanimity between the ships of the two nations. That a native of France or of Spain, as some excuse for his country's share of the defeat, should leave

*  See vol. ii., p. 185

  See vol. i., p. 54

  Clarke and McArthur, vol. ii,, p. 455. Mr Southey indulges in the same strain.

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