The Battle That Changed The World
Nelson's brilliant victory at Trafalgar shaped history and enshrined his name among its greatest warriors
Did Nelson really matter in all this? That's the question the anniversary of his most famous battle invites us to ponder.
BRITAIN'S SEA CHANGE
On Oct. 21,1805, Great Britain's Royal Navy engaged the combined French and Spanish fleet west of Cape Trafalgar, off the southern coast of Spain. At the end of the five-hour battle, Adm. Horatio Nelson's British fleet had defeated the Combined Fleet under Adm. Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, crushing Napoleon's plans to invade England and establishing British dominance of the seas.
Strait of Gilbraltar
FRENCH EMPIRE AND REGIONS UNDER ITS INFLUENCE
Area of detail
At Trafalgar and other battles, Nelson abandoned traditional naval warfare tactics of orderly lines of attack under central command and encouraged his captains to break through the enemy lines and engage in close combat.
British: 27 ships
0 ships lost
1,666 killed or wounded
French: 18 ships and Spanish 15 ships:
18 ships lost
5,239 killed or wounded
1 In his initial approach, Nelson, aboard the Victory, led his line in a feigned attack on the lead enemy ships.
2 By the time French and Spanish commanders realized his real target, the middle of their line, it was too late and Nelson rammed through, raking the French ships Bucentaure and Redoutable.
Combined French and Spanish fleet
Redoutable (From which a French sharpshooter mortally wounded Nelson)
Royal Sovereign (Collingwood)
Vice Admiral Collingwood's line
Admiral Nelson's line
Broadside - Each ship turns maximum firepower on the other.
Raking - This leaves one ship powerless to return fire.
QUARTER DECK AND FORECASTLE
Coal or wood burning stove (one per ship)
Carpenter's walk (always kept clear so repairs could be quickly made)
Main magazine (gunpowder and small weapons storage)
"Limber Passage" (rids ship of seeping water)
Total length: 227 ft. 6 in.
Widest point: 51 ft. 10 in.
VICTORY'S GUNS AT TRAFALGAR
104 guns fired an average of 25 shots for a total of 2,669 rounds using 17,100 pounds of gunpowder.
Upper deck: 30
Middle deck: 28
Lower deck: 30
Quarter Deck and Forecastle
Sources: The Trafalgar Companion by Mark Adkin; BBC; HMS-Victory.com;
National Geographic; Popular Science
STEPHEN ROUNTREE-- USN&WR