1805 - Battle of Trafalgar


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Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 95

alleged a want of co-operation in her ally, might be expected ; but is it not singular that Englishmen should resort to such a method to enhance the victory which Englishmen gained at the Battle of Trafalgar ? Not only does no French or Spanish writer, as far as we can discover, make any complaint of the kind, but it was obvious to many of the British ships engaged, that the French and Spanish ships came indiscriminately to each other's aid when attacked; and that, as they had been stationed in the line, so they mingled in the battle, without the slightest national prejudice.

All Europe must recollect how, the instant Sir Robert Calder's Action became known in France, the Moniteur filled its columns with the details. For weeks together, long accounts were published, and great pains taken, in several successive numbers, to refute the British statements, and to prove that the engagement terminated in a victory to the combined fleet. Far otherwise was it, when the news of the Battle of Trafalgar reached Paris. A grave-like silence was imposed : not a word, not a whisper transpired. Not, at least, until towards the end of the year, when the captain and principal surviving officers of the Redoutable had the honour to figure in public as heroes, the single prowess of whose ship, even in Napoléon's opinion, shed a lustre upon the events of a day in other respects so disastrous to the French. The French emperor appears to have believed every tittle of the account transmitted to him by Captain Lucas, and a great deal more than even that account contained ; for, at a subsequent day (March 2, 1806), in his address to the legislative body, his imperial majesty had the effrontery to use these words, and these words only, in reference to the fate of his fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar: "The storm has occasioned to us the loss of a few ships, after a battle imprudently fought." " Les tempêtes nous ont fait perdre quelques vaisseaux après un combat; imprudemment engagé." The writer of the French work, from which we quote the passage, adds in a note, "That of Trafalgar. We have already shown that the storm was not the sole cause of these losses. Was it not committing an outrage upon the French nation thus to mistate the result of this imprudently fought battle ? " " Celui de Trafalgar. Nous avons fait voir plus haut que les tempêtes ne furent pas les seules causes de ces pertes. N'etait-ce pas outrager la nation française, que de dénaturer ainsi les résultats de ce combat imprudemment engagé ? " *

The account, given in the French work from which this extract is taken, of the proceedings of the generality of French and Spanish ships engaged at Trafalgar, is tolerably fair, but, to our regret very brief ; partly, no doubt, in consequence of the sad havoc caused by the gale that so quickly succeeded the battle.

* Victoires et Conquetes, tome xvi, p 217

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