The Life of Nelson: The Embodiment of the Sea Power of Great Britain - Vol. 2

By A. T. Mahan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXIII.
TRAFALGAR.-- THE DEATH OF NELSON.

OCTOBER 19-21,1805. AGE, 47.

CONTRARY to the general policy that for many years had governed the naval undertakings of France and Spain, the combined fleets put to sea on the 19th of October, 1805, with the fixed purpose of daring the hazard of battle, which they could scarcely expect to avoid. They numbered thirty-three ships-of-the-line, eighteen French and fifteen Spanish, and were accompanied by five frigates and two brigs, all of which were French. This great force in its aggregate was one. There were not two separate entities, a French fleet and a Spanish fleet, acting in concert, as is often the case in alliances. Whatever the administrative arrangements, for cruising and for battle the vessels of the two nations were blended in a single mass, at the head of which was the French admiral, just as the general direction of the naval campaign was in the hands of the French Emperor alone. The commander-in-chief was Vice-Admiral Villeneuve, the same that Nelson recently had pursued to the West Indies and back to Europe. The commander of the Spanish contingent, Vice-Admiral Gravina, was less his colleague than his subordinate. There were also flying in the combined fleet the flags of four junior admirals, two French and two Spanish, and the broad pendants of several commodores.

In the allied force there were four three-decked ships, of from one hundred to one hundred and thirty guns, all

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