Death of Nelson at Trafalgar

Trafalgar – 200 Years on

Trafalgar – The Battle:
Battle At Cádiz, in Spain, Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve, hearing that Napoleon had sent a replacement who was on his way to take over Villeneuve’s command, the combined French and Spanish fleet finally set sail. It took two days, October 19 and October 20, for the combined fleet to clear the harbour at Cádiz, and on the morning of October 21, the British approached as the Spanish and French ships were still struggling to form up south of Cádiz in light and contrary winds.
The French had 18 ships of the line: Bucentaure, Formidable, Neptune, Indomptable, Algesiras, Pluton, Mont-Blanc, Intrepide, Swiftsure, Aigle, Scipion, Duguay-Trouin, Berwick, Argonaut, Achille, Redoutable, Fougueux, and Heros. The Spanish had 15: Santissima Trinidad, Principe de Asturias, Santa Anna, Rayo, Neptuno, Argonauta, Bahama, Montanez, San Augustin, San Ildefonso, San Juan Nepomuceno, Monarca, San Francisco de Asis, San Justo, and San Leandro.
Nelson had 27 ships of the line: Britannia, Royal Sovereign, Victory, Dreadnought, Neptune, Prince, Temeraire, Tonnant, Achilles, Ajax, Belleisle, Bellerophon, Colossus, Conqueror, Defence, Defiance, Leviathan, Mars, Minotaur, Orion, Revenge, Spartiate, Swiftsure, Thunderer, Africa, Agamemnon, and Polyphemus.
The battle progressed largely according to Nelson’s plan. At 11:35, Nelson sent throughout the fleet the famous flag signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty”. He then attacked the French line in two columns, leading one column in Victory; while Admiral Collingwood in Royal Sovereign led the other column. As the battle opened, the French and Spanish were in a ragged line headed north as the two British columns approached from the west at almost a right angle. Nelson himself led the north column from Victory, while one of his subordinates, Collingwood, led the south column, flying his flag on Royal Sovereign.
Just before the South column engaged the allied forces, Collingwood said to his officers “Now, gentlemen, let us do something today which the world may talk of hereafter.” Because the winds were very light during the battle, all the ships were moving extremely slowly and the lead British ships were under fire from several of the enemy for almost an hour before their own guns would bear. At 12:45, Victory cut the enemy line between Villeneuve’s flagship Bucentaure and Redoutable. Meanwhile, Royal Sovereign had already engaged the Spanish Santa Anna. A general mêlée ensued, and during that fight, Victory locked masts with the French Redoutable. The captain of Redoutable had trained his crew to use their muskets to fire on enemy officers on the quarterdeck. A musket bullet fired from the mizzentop of the Redoubtable struck Nelson in the left shoulder, and passed through his body lodging in his spine. Nelson was carried below decks and died at about 16:30, as the battle that would make him a legend was ending in favour of the British.
The British captured 22 vessels of the Franco-Spanish fleet and lost not one. As Nelson lay dying, he ordered the fleet to anchor as a storm was predicted. However, when the storm blew up many of the severely damaged ships sank or ran aground and a few were recaptured by the French and Spanish prisoners overcoming the small prize crews or by ships sallying out from Cádiz.

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