Battle of Trafalgar
|Battle of Trafalgar|
|Part of the |
The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory.
| || |
|Commanders and leaders|
33 ships(27 ships of the line and six others)
(France: 18 ships of the line and eight othersSpain: 15 ships of the line)
|Casualties and losses|
Total: about 15,000
The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a
The victory confirmed the naval supremacy Britain had established during the course of the eighteenth century and it was achieved in part through Nelson's departure from the prevailing naval
During the battle, Nelson was shot by a French musketeer and he died shortly before the battle ended. Villeneuve was captured, along with his ship
In 1805, the
The main French
The British possessed an experienced and well-trained corps of naval officers. By contrast, some of the best officers in the French navy had either been executed or had left the service during the early part of the
Napoleon's naval plan in 1805 was for the French and Spanish fleets in the Mediterranean and Cádiz to break through the blockade and join forces in the
Early in 1805,
Villeneuve returned from the Caribbean to
Napoleon's invasion plans for Britain depended on having a sufficiently large number of ships of the line before
When Villeneuve set sail from Ferrol on 10 August, he was under orders from Napoleon to sail northward toward Brest. Instead, he worried that the British were observing his manoeuvres, so on 11 August, he sailed southward towards Cádiz on the southwestern coast of Spain. With no sign of Villeneuve's fleet, on 25 August, the three French army corps' invasion force near Boulogne broke camp and marched into Germany, where it was later engaged. This ended the immediate threat of invasion.
The same month, Nelson returned home to Britain after two years of duty at sea. He remained ashore for 25 days and was warmly received by his countrymen. Word reached Britain on 2 September about the combined French and Spanish fleet in Cadiz harbour. Nelson had to wait until 15 September before his ship,
On 15 August, Cornwallis decided to detach 20 ships of the line from the fleet guarding the English Channel and to have them sail southward to engage the enemy forces in Spain. This left the Channel drastically reduced of large vessels, with only 11 ships of the line present. This detached force formed the nucleus of the British fleet that would fight at Trafalgar. This fleet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Calder, reached Cádiz on 15 September. Nelson joined the fleet on 28 September to take command.
The British fleet used
At this point, Nelson's fleet badly needed provisioning. On 2 October, five ships of the line,
These ships were later diverted for convoy duty in the
Meanwhile, Villeneuve's fleet in Cádiz was also suffering from a serious supply shortage that could not be easily rectified by the cash-poor French. The blockade maintained by the British fleet had made it difficult for the Franco-Spanish allies to obtain stores, and their ships were ill-equipped. Villeneuve's ships were also more than two thousand men short of the force needed to sail. These were not the only problems faced by the Franco-Spanish fleet. The main French ships of the line had been kept in harbour for years by the British blockade with only brief sorties. The French crews included few experienced sailors, and, as most of the crew had to be taught the elements of seamanship on the few occasions when they got to sea, gunnery was neglected. The hasty voyage across the Atlantic and back used up vital supplies. Villeneuve's supply situation began to improve in October, but news of Nelson's arrival made Villeneuve reluctant to leave port. Indeed, his captains had held a vote on the matter and decided to stay in harbour.
On 16 September, Napoleon gave orders for the French and Spanish ships at Cádiz to put to sea at the first favourable opportunity, join with seven Spanish ships of the line then at