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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Illustration BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR


The

Allied fleet worked out of Cadiz on the 19th of October and on the 20th tacked southward under squally westerly winds. On the 21st, the day of the battle, the wind was still from the west, light and flawy, with a heavy swell and signs of approaching storm. At dawn the two fleets were visible to each other, Villeneuve about 9 miles northeast and to leeward of the British and standing southward from Cape Trafalgar. The French Admiral had formed his main battle line of 21 ships, French and Spanish intermingled, with the _Santisima Trinidad_ (128) in the center and his flagship _Bucentaure_ next; the remaining 12 under the Spanish Admiral Gravina constituted a separate squadron stationed to windward to counter an enemy concentration, which was especially expected upon the rear.

As the British advance already appeared to threaten this end of their line, the Allied fleet wore together about 9 o'clock, thus reversing their order, shifting their course northward, and opening Cadiz as a refuge. The maneuver, not completed until an hour later, left their line bowed in at the center, with a number of ships slightly to leeward, while Gravina's squadron mingled with and prolonged the rear in the new order.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR, OCT. 21, 1805

Position of ships about noon, when _Royal Sovereign_ opened fire.

(From plan by Capt. T. H. Tizard,

R.N., British Admiralty Report, 1913.)]

The change, though it aroused Nelson's fear lest his quarry should escape, facilitated his attack as planned, by exposing the enemy rear to Collingwood's division. As rapidly as the light airs permitted, the two British columns bore down, Nelson in the _Victory_ (100) leading the windward division of 12 ships, closely followed by the heavy _Neptune_ and _Temeraire_, while Collingwood in the freshly coppered and refitted _Royal Sovereign_ set a sharp pace for the 15 sail to leeward. Of the forty ships Nelson had once counted on, some had not come from England, and a half dozen others were inside the straits for water. While the enemy were changing course, Collingwood had signaled his division to shift into a line of bearing, an order which, though rendered almost ineffective by his failure to slow down, served to throw the column off slightly and bring it more nearly parallel to the enemy rear. (See plan.) Both commanders clung to the lead and pushed ahead as if racing into the fray, thus effectually preventing deployment and leaving trailers far behind. Nelson went so far as to try to jockey his old friend out of first place by ordering the _Mars_ to pass him, but Collingwood set his studding sails and kept his lead. Possibly it was then he made the remark that he wished Nelson would make no more signals, as they all knew what they had to do, rather than after Nelson's famous final message: "England expects that every man will do his duty."


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