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The Story Of The Battle Of Trafalgar






BY ROBERT SOUTHEY.


In 1803 the short-lived Peace of Amiens came to an end, and Nelson was
re-appointed to the command of the Mediterranean fleet. Hoisting his
flag upon the Victory he busied himself for some time in preventing a
combination of the French fleets. Notwithstanding his vigilance, the
French ships escaped from Toulon and joined with those of Cadiz. Nelson
followed them to the West Indies, but they were evidently more inclined
to fence than to fight, and so contrived to elude him. Nelson, weary of
cruising in search of the enemy, gave up the chase, and returned to
England determined to rest awhile and recoup. All his stores were
brought up from the Victory, and he found in his house at Merton the
rest he required. Many days had not elapsed before Captain Blackwood, on
his way to London with despatches, called on him at five in the morning.
Nelson, who was already dressed, exclaimed the moment he saw him: "I am
sure you bring me news of the French and Spanish fleets! I think I shall
yet have to beat them!" They had refitted at Vigo after an indecisive
action with Sir Robert Calder, then proceeded to Ferrol, brought out the
squadron from thence, and with it entered Cadiz in safety. "Depend on
it, Blackwood," he repeatedly said, "I shall yet give M. Villeneuve a
drubbing." But, when Blackwood had left him, he wanted resolution to
declare his wishes to Lady Hamilton and his sisters, and endeavoured to
drive away the thought. He had done enough; he said, "Let the man trudge
it who has lost his budget!" His countenance belied his lips and as he
was pacing one of the walks in the garden, which he used to call the
quarter-deck, Lady Hamilton came up to him and told him she saw he was
uneasy. He smiled, and said, "No, he was as happy as possible; he was
surrounded by those he loved, his health was better since he had been on
shore, and he would not give sixpence to call the king his uncle." She
replied that she did not believe him, that she knew he was longing to
get at the combined fleets, that he considered them as his own property,
that he would be miserable if any man but himself did the business, and
that he ought to have them as the price and reward of his two years'
long watching and his hard chase. "Nelson," said she, "however we may
lament your absence, offer your services; they will be accepted and you
will gain a quiet heart by it; you will have a glorious victory, and
then you may return here and be happy."

His services were as willingly accepted as they were offered; and Lord
Barham, giving him the list of the navy, desired him to choose his own
officers. "Choose yourself, my lord," was his reply; "the same spirit
actuates the whole profession; you cannot choose wrong."

Early on September 14th Nelson reached Portsmouth, and having despatched
his business on shore, endeavoured to elude the populace by taking a
by-way to the beach; but a crowd collected in his train, pressing
forward to obtain sight of his face; many were in tears, and many knelt
down before him and blessed him as he passed. England has had many
heroes, but never one who so entirely possessed the love of his
fellow-countrymen as Nelson. All men knew that his heart was as humane
as it was fearless; that there was not in his nature the slightest alloy
of selfishness or cupidity; but that, with perfect and entire devotion,
he served his country with all his heart, and with all his soul, and
with all his strength; and, therefore, they loved him as truly and as
fervently as he loved England. They pressed upon the parapet to gaze
after him when his barge pushed off, and he was returning their cheers
by waving his hat. The sentinels who endeavoured to prevent them from
trespassing upon this ground, were wedged among the crowd; and an
officer, who, not very prudently upon such an occasion, ordered them to
drive the people down with their bayonets, was compelled speedily to
retreat, for the people would not be debarred from gazing till the last
moment upon the hero--the darling hero--of England!

Nelson arrived off Cadiz on September 29th--his birthday. Fearing that
if the enemy knew his force they might be deterred from venturing to
sea, he kept out of sight of land, desired Collingwood to fire no salute
and hoist no colours; and wrote to Gibraltar to request that the force
of the fleet might not be inserted there in the Gazette. His reception
in the Mediterranean fleet was as gratifying as the farewell of his
countrymen at Portsmouth: the officers, who came on board to welcome
him, forgot his rank as commander in their joy at seeing him again. On
the day of his arrival, Villeneuve received orders to put to sea the
first opportunity. Villeneuve, however, hesitated when he heard that
Nelson had resumed the command. He called a council of war; and their
determination was, that it would not be expedient to leave Cadiz unless
they had reason to believe themselves stronger by one-third than the
British force.

In the public measures of this country secrecy is seldom practicable,
and seldom attempted: here, however, by the precautions of Nelson and
the wise measures of the Admiralty, the enemy were for once kept in
ignorance; for, as the ships appointed to reinforce the Mediterranean
fleet were despatched singly, each as soon as it was ready, their
collected number was not stated in the newspapers and their arrival was
not known to the enemy. But the enemy knew that Admiral Louis, with six
sail, had been detached for stores and water to Gibraltar. Accident also
contributed to make the French admiral doubt whether Nelson himself had
actually taken the command. An American, lately arrived from England,
maintained that it was impossible--for he had seen him only a few days
before in London, and at that time there was no rumour of his going
again to sea.

The station which Nelson had chosen was some fifty or sixty miles to the
west of Cadiz, near Cape St. Mary's. At this distance he hoped to decoy
the enemy out, while he guarded against the danger of being caught with
a westerly wind near Cadiz and driven within the Straits. The blockade
of the port was rigorously enforced, in hopes that the combined fleet
might be forced to sea by want. The Danish vessels, therefore, which
were carrying provisions from the French ports in the bay, under the
name of Danish property, to all the little ports from Ayamonte to
Algeziras, from whence they were conveyed in coasting boats to Cadiz,
were seized. Without this proper exertion of power, the blockade would
have been rendered nugatory by the advantage thus taken of the neutral
flag. The supplies from France were thus effectually cut off. There was
now every indication that the enemy would speedily venture out: officers
and men were in the highest spirits at the prospect of giving them a
decisive blow; such, indeed, as would put an end to all further contest
upon the seas.

"I verily believe," said Nelson, writing on October 6th, "that the
country will soon be put to some expense on my account; either a
monument, or a new pension and honours; for I have not the smallest
doubt but that a very few days, almost hours, will put us in battle. The
success no man can insure; but for the fighting them, if they can be got
at, I pledge myself. The sooner the better: I don't like to have these
things upon my mind."

At this time he was not without some cause of anxiety; he was in want of
frigates--the eyes of the fleet, as he always called them--to the want
of which the enemy before were indebted for their escape and Bonaparte
for his arrival in Egypt. He had only twenty-three ships--others were on
the way; but they might come too late; and though Nelson never doubted
of victory, mere victory was not what he looked to, he wanted to
annihilate the enemy's fleet.

On the 9th, Nelson sent Collingwood what he called, in his diary, the
Nelson-touch. "I send you," said he, "my plan of attack, as far as a man
dare venture to guess at the very uncertain position the enemy may be
found in; but it is to place you perfectly at ease respecting my
intentions, and to give full scope to your judgment for carrying them
into effect. We can, my dear Coll, have no little jealousies. We have
only one great object in view--that of annihilating our enemies and
getting a glorious peace for our country. No man has more confidence in
another than I have in you; and no man will render your services more
justice than your very old friend, Nelson and Bronte." The order of
sailing was to be the order of battle; the fleet in two lines with an
advanced squadron of eight of the fastest sailing two-deckers. The
second in command, having the entire direction of his line, was to break
through the enemy, about the twelfth ship from their rear; he would lead
through the centre, and the advanced squadron was to cut off three or
four ahead of the centre. This plan was to be adapted to the strength of
the enemy, so that they should always be one-fourth superior to those
whom they cut off. Nelson said that "his admirals and captains, knowing
his precise object to be that of a close and decisive action, would
supply any deficiency of signals and act accordingly. In case signals
cannot be seen or clearly understood, no captain can do wrong if he
places his ship alongside that of an enemy." One of the last orders of
this admirable man was that the name and family of every officer,
seaman, and marine who might be killed or wounded in action, should be,
as soon as possible, returned to him, in order to be transmitted to the
chairman of the patriotic fund, for the benefit of the sufferer or his
family.

About half-past nine in the morning of the 19th, the Mars, being the
nearest to the fleet of the ships which formed the line of communication
with the frigates in-shore, repeated the signal that the enemy were
coming out of port. The wind was at this time very light, with partial
breezes, mostly from the south-south-west. Nelson ordered the signal to
be made for a chase in the south-east quarter. About two the repeating
ships announced that the enemy were at sea. All night the British fleet
continued under all sail, steering to the south-east. At daybreak they
were in the entrance of the Straits, but the enemy were not in sight.
About seven one of the frigates made signal that the enemy were bearing
north. Upon this the Victory hove to; and shortly afterwards Nelson
made sail again to the northward. In the afternoon the wind blew fresh
from the south-west, and the English began to fear that the foe might be
forced to return to port. A little before sunset, however, Blackwood, in
the Euryalus, telegraphed that they appeared determined to go to the
westward. "And that," said the admiral in his diary, "they shall not do
if it is in the power of Nelson and Bronte to prevent them." Nelson had
signified to Blackwood that he depended upon him to keep sight of the
enemy. They were observed so well that all their motions were made known
to him; and, as they wore twice, he inferred that they were aiming to
keep the port of Cadiz open and would retreat there as soon as they saw
the British fleet; for this reason he was very careful not to approach
near enough to be seen by them during the night. At daybreak the
combined fleets were distinctly seen from the Victory's deck, formed
in a close line of battle ahead, on the starboard tack, about twelve
miles to leeward and standing to the south. Our fleet consisted of
twenty-seven sail of the line and four frigates; theirs of thirty-three
and seven large frigates. Their superiority was greater in size and
weight of metal than in numbers. They had four thousand troops on board;
and the best riflemen who could be procured, many of them Tyrolese, were
dispersed through the ships.

Soon after daylight Nelson came upon deck. October 21st was a festival
in his family, because on that day his uncle, Captain Suckling, in the
Dreadnought, with two other line-of-battle ships, had beaten off a
French squadron of four sail of the line and three frigates. Nelson,
with that sort of superstition from which few persons are entirely
exempt, had more than once expressed his persuasion that this was to be
the day of his battle also; and he was well pleased at seeing his
prediction about to be verified. The wind was now from the west, light
breezes, with a long, heavy swell. Signal was made to bear down upon
the enemy in two lines, and the fleet set all sail. Collingwood, in the
Royal Sovereign, led the lee line of thirteen ships; the Victory led
the weather line of fourteen. Having seen that all was as it should be,
Nelson retired to his cabin, and wrote the following prayer:--

"May the great God whom I worship grant to my country and for the
benefit of Europe in general a great and glorious victory, and may no
misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the
predominant feature in the British fleet! For myself individually, I
commit my life to Him that made me; and may His blessing alight on my
endeavours for serving my country faithfully! To Him I resign myself and
the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen."

Having thus discharged his devotional duties, he proceeded to recite at
length in his diary the services rendered to him and through him to the
English nation by Lady Hamilton, commending her to the care of the
Government. This entry was witnessed by Henry Blackwood and T. M. Hardy.

Blackwood arrived on board the Victory about six o'clock. He found
Nelson in good spirits, but very calm; not in that exhilaration which he
had felt upon entering into battle at Aboukir and Copenhagen. He knew
that his own life would be particularly aimed at, and seems to have
looked for death with almost as sure an expectation as for victory. His
whole attention was fixed upon the enemy. They tacked to the northward
and formed their line on the larboard tack; thus bringing the shoals of
Trafalgar and St. Pedro under the lee of the British, and keeping the
port of Cadiz open for themselves. This was judiciously done; and
Nelson, aware of the advantages it gave them, made signal to prepare to
anchor.

Villeneuve was a skilful seaman; worthy of serving a better master and a
better cause. His plan of defence was as well conceived and as original
as the plan of attack. He formed the fleet in a double line; every
alternate ship being about a cable's length to windward of her second
ahead and astern. Nelson, certain of a triumphant issue to the day,
asked Blackwood what he should consider as a victory. That officer
answered, that, considering the handsome way in which battle was offered
by the enemy, their apparent determination for a fair trial of strength
and the situation of the land, he thought it would be a glorious result
if fourteen were captured. He replied: "I shall not be satisfied with
less than twenty." Soon afterwards he asked him if he did not think
there was a signal wanting. Captain Blackwood made answer that he
thought the whole fleet seemed very clearly to understand what they were
about. These words were scarcely spoken before that signal was made
which will be remembered as long as the language, or even the memory, of
England shall endure--Nelson's last signal:--"ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN
WILL DO HIS DUTY!" It was received throughout the fleet with a shout of
answering acclamation, made sublime by the spirit which it breathed and
the feeling which it expressed. "Now," said Lord Nelson, "I can do no
more. We must trust to the great Disposer of all events and the justice
of our cause. I thank God for this opportunity of doing my duty."

The French admiral, from the Bucentaure, beheld the new manner in
which his enemy was advancing--Nelson and Collingwood each leading his
line--and pointing them out to his officers he is said to have exclaimed
that such conduct could not fail to be successful. Yet Villeneuve had
made his own dispositions with the utmost skill, and the fleets under
his command waited for the attack with perfect coolness. Ten minutes
before twelve they opened their fire. Eight or nine of the ships
immediately ahead of the Victory, and across her bows fired single
guns at her, to ascertain whether she was yet within their range. As
soon as Nelson perceived that their shot passed over him, he desired
Blackwood and Captain Prowse, of the Sirius, to repair to their
respective frigates, and, on their way, to tell all the captains of the
line-of-battle ships that he depended on their exertions, and that, if
by the prescribed mode of attack they found it impracticable to get into
action immediately, they might adopt whatever they thought best,
provided it led them quickly and closely alongside an enemy. Standing
on the front poop, Blackwood took him by the hand, saying he hoped soon
to return and find him in possession of twenty prizes. He replied, "God
bless you, Blackwood; I shall never see you again."

Nelson's column was steered about two points more to the north than
Collingwood's, in order to cut off the enemy's escape into Cadiz: the
lee line, therefore, was first engaged. "See," cried Nelson, pointing to
the Royal Sovereign as she steered right for the centre of the enemy's
line, cut through it astern of the Santa Anna, three-decker, and
engaged her at the muzzle of her guns on the starboard side--"See how
that noble fellow, Collingwood, carries his ship into action!"
Collingwood, delighted at being first in the heat of the fire, and
knowing the feelings of his commander and old friend, turned to his
captain, and exclaimed: "Rotherham, what would Nelson give to be here!"
Both these brave officers, perhaps, at this moment, thought of Nelson
with gratitude for a circumstance which had occurred on the preceding
day. Admiral Collingwood, with some of the captains, having gone on
board the Victory to receive instructions, Nelson inquired of him
where his captain was, and was told in reply that they were not upon
good terms with each other. "Terms!" said Nelson; "good terms with each
other!" Immediately he sent a boat for Captain Rotherham, led him, as
soon as he arrived, to Collingwood, and saying: "Look; yonder are the
enemy!" bade them shake hands like Englishmen.

The enemy continued to fire a gun at a time at the Victory, till they
saw that a shot had passed through her main-top-gallant sail; then they
opened their broadsides, aiming chiefly at her rigging, in the hope of
disabling her before she could close with them. Nelson, as usual, had
hoisted several flags, lest one should be shot away. The enemy showed no
colours till late in the action, when they began to feel the necessity
of having them to strike. For this reason, the Santissima Trinidad,
Nelson's old acquaintance, as he used to call her, was distinguishable
only by her four decks; and to the bow of this opponent he ordered the
Victory to be steered. Meantime, an incessant raking fire was kept up
upon the Victory. The admiral's secretary was one of the first who
fell: he was killed by a cannon shot while conversing with Hardy.
Captain Adair of the marines, with the help of a sailor, endeavoured to
remove the body from Nelson's sight, who had a great regard for Mr.
Scott; but he anxiously asked, "Is that poor Scott that's gone?" and
being informed that it was indeed so, exclaimed, "Poor fellow!"
Presently, a double-headed shot struck a party of marines, who were
drawn up on the poop, and killed eight of them: upon which Nelson
immediately desired Captain Adair to disperse his men round the ship,
that they might not suffer so much from being together. A few minutes
afterwards a shot struck the fore-brace bits on the quarter-deck, and
passed between Nelson and Hardy, a splinter from the bit tearing off
Hardy's buckle and bruising his foot. Both stopped and looked anxiously
at each other: each supposed the other to be wounded. Nelson then
smiled, and said: "This is too warm work, Hardy, to last long."

The Victory had not yet returned a single gun; fifty of her men had
been by this time killed or wounded, and her main-top mast with all her
studding sails and their booms shot away. Nelson declared that, in all
his battles, he had seen nothing which surpassed the cool courage of his
crew on this occasion. At four minutes after twelve she opened her fire
from both sides of her deck. It was not possible to break the enemy's
line without running on board one of their ships; Hardy informed him of
this and asked him which he would prefer. Nelson replied: "Take your
choice, Hardy, it does not signify much." The master was ordered to put
the helm to port, and the Victory ran on board the Redoubtable just
as her tiller-ropes were shot away. The French ship received her with a
broadside, then instantly let down her lower-deck ports, for fear of

being boarded through them, and never afterwards fired a great gun
during the action. Her tops, like those of all the enemy's ships, were
filled with riflemen. Nelson never placed musketry in his tops; he had a
strong dislike to the practice; not merely because it endangers setting
fire to the sails, but also because it is a murderous sort of warfare,
by which individuals may suffer and a commander now and then be picked
off, but which never can decide the fate of a general engagement.

Captain Harvey, in the Temeraire, fell on board the Redoubtable on
the other side. Another enemy was in like manner on board the
Temeraire, so that these four ships formed as compact a tier as if
they had been moored together, their heads all lying the same way. The
lieutenants of the Victory seeing this, depressed their guns of the
middle and lower decks, and fired with a diminished charge, lest the
shot should pass through and injure the Temeraire. And because there
was danger that the Redoubtable might take fire from the lower-deck
guns, the muzzles of which touched her side when they were run out, the
fireman of each gun stood ready with a bucket of water, which, as soon
as the gun was discharged, he dashed into the hole made by the shot. An
incessant fire was kept up from the Victory from both sides; her
larboard guns playing upon the Bucentaure and the huge Santissima
Trinidad.

It had been part of Nelson's prayer that the British fleet might be
distinguished by humanity in the victory he expected. Setting an example
himself, he twice gave orders to cease firing upon the Redoubtable,
supposing that she had struck, because her great guns were silent; for,
as she carried no flag, there was no means of instantly ascertaining the
fact. From this ship, which he had thus twice spared, he received his
death. A ball fired from her mizen-top, which, in the then situation of
the two vessels, was not more than fifteen yards from that part of the
deck where he was standing, struck the epaulette on his left shoulder,
about a quarter after one, just in the heat of action. He fell upon his
face on the spot which was covered with his poor secretary's blood.
Hardy, who was a few steps from him, turning round, saw three men
raising him up. "They have done for me at last, Hardy!" said he. "I hope
not!" cried Hardy. "Yes," he replied, "my back-bone is shot through!"
Yet even now, not for a moment losing his presence of mind, he
observed, as they were carrying him down the ladder, that the
tiller-ropes, which had been shot away, were not yet replaced, and
ordered that new ones should be rove immediately. Then, that he might
not be seen by the crew, he took out his handkerchief, and covered his
face and his stars. Had he but concealed these badges of honour from the
enemy, England, perhaps, would not have had cause to receive with sorrow
the news of the battle of Trafalgar. The cockpit was crowded with
wounded and dying men, over whose bodies he was with some difficulty
conveyed and laid upon a pallet in the midshipman's berth. It was soon
perceived, upon examination, that the wound was mortal. This, however,
was concealed from all except Captain Hardy, the chaplain, and the
medical attendants. He himself being certain, from the sensation in his
back, and the gush of blood he felt momently within his breast, that no
human care could avail him, insisted that the surgeon should leave him,
and attend to those to whom he might be useful. "For," said he, "you can
do nothing for me." All that could be done was to fan him with paper and
frequently to give him lemonade to alleviate his intense thirst. He was
in great pain, and expressed much anxiety for the event of the action,
which now began to declare itself. As often as a ship struck, the crew
of the Victory hurrahed; and at every hurrah a visible expression of
joy gleamed in the eyes, and marked the countenance of the dying hero.
But he became impatient to see Captain Hardy; and as that officer though
often sent for could not leave the deck, Nelson feared that some fatal
cause prevented him, and repeatedly cried: "Will no one bring Hardy to
me? He must be killed! He is surely dead!" An hour and ten minutes
elapsed from the time when Nelson received his wound before Hardy could
come to him. They shook hands in silence; Hardy in vain struggling to
suppress the feelings of that most painful and yet sublimest moment.
"Well, Hardy," said Nelson, "how goes the day with us?" "Very well,"
replied Hardy; "ten ships have struck, but five of the van have tacked
and show an intention to bear down upon the Victory. I have called
two or three of our fresh ships round, and have no doubt of giving them
a drubbing." "I hope," said Nelson, "none of our ships have struck?"
Hardy answered, "There was no fear of that." Then, and not till then,
Nelson spoke of himself. "I am a dead man, Hardy," said he; "I am going
fast; it will be all over with me soon. Come nearer to me. Let my dear
Lady Hamilton have my hair, and all other things belonging to me." Hardy
observed that he hoped Mr. Beatty could yet hold out some prospect of
life. "Oh, no!" he replied; "it is impossible; my back is shot through.
Beatty will tell you so." Captain Hardy then once more shook hands with
him, and with a heart almost bursting, hastened upon deck.

By this time all feeling below the breast was gone; and Nelson having
made the surgeon ascertain this, said to him, "You know I am gone. I
know it. I feel something rising in my breast" (putting his hand on his
left side) "which tells me so." And upon Beatty's inquiring whether his
pain was very great, he replied, "So great, that he wished he was dead.
Yet," said he, in a lower voice, "one would like to live a little
longer, too!" And after a few minutes, in the same undertone, he added:
"What would become of poor Lady Hamilton if she knew my situation!" Next
to his country, she occupied his thoughts. Captain Hardy, some fifty
minutes after he had left the cockpit, returned, and, again taking the
hand of his dying friend and commander, congratulated him on having
gained a complete victory. How many of the enemy were taken he did not
know, as it was impossible to perceive them distinctly, but fourteen or
fifteen at least. "That's well!" cried Nelson; "but I bargained for
twenty." And then in a stronger voice, he said: "Anchor, Hardy; anchor."
Hardy, upon this, hinted that Admiral Collingwood would take upon
himself the direction of affairs. "Not while I live, Hardy," said the
dying Nelson, ineffectually endeavouring to raise himself from the bed.
"Do you anchor." His previous order for preparing to anchor had shown
how clearly he foresaw the necessity of this. Presently, calling Hardy
back, he said to him, in a low voice: "Don't throw me overboard;" and
he desired that he might be buried by his parents, unless it should
please the king to order otherwise. Then reverting to private
feelings--"Take care of my dear Lady Hamilton, Hardy; take care of poor
Lady Hamilton. Kiss me, Hardy," said he. Hardy knelt down and kissed his
cheek; and Nelson said: "Now I am satisfied. Thank God, I have done my
duty!" Hardy stood over him in silence for a moment or two, then knelt
again, and kissed his forehead. "Who is that?" said Nelson; and being
informed, he replied: "God bless you, Hardy." And Hardy then left him
for ever.

Nelson now desired to be turned upon his right side, and said: "I wish I
had not left the deck; for I shall soon be gone." Death was, indeed,
rapidly approaching. He said to the chaplain: "Doctor, I have not been
a great sinner;" and after a short pause, "Remember that I leave Lady
Hamilton and my daughter Horatia as a legacy to my country." His
articulation now became difficult; but he was distinctly heard to say:
"Thank God, I have done my duty!" Nelson expired at thirty minutes after
four, three hours and a quarter after he had received his wound.

Within a quarter of an hour after Nelson was wounded, about fifty of the
Victory's men fell by the enemy's musketry. They, however, on their
part, were not idle; and it was not long before there were only two
Frenchmen left alive in the mizen-top of the Redoubtable. One of them
was the man who had given the fatal wound; he did not live to boast of
what he had done. An old quarter-master had seen him fire, and easily
recognised him, because he wore a glazed cocked hat and a white frock.
This quarter-master and two midshipmen, Mr. Collingwood and Mr. Pollard,
were the only persons left in the Victory's poop; the two midshipmen
kept firing at the top, and he supplied them with cartridges. One of the
Frenchmen attempting to make his escape down the rigging, was shot by
Mr. Pollard, and fell on the poop. But the old quarter-master, as he
cried out, "That's he, that's he," and pointed at the other, who was
coming forward to fire again, received a shot in his mouth, and fell
dead. Both the midshipmen then fired at the same time, and the fellow
dropped in the top. When they took possession of the prize they went
into the mizen-top, and found him dead, with one ball through his head
and another through his breast.

The Redoubtable struck within twenty minutes after the fatal shot
had been fired from her. During that time she had been twice on fire;
in her forechains, and in her forecastle. The French, as they had
done in other battles, made use in this of fire-balls and other
combustibles--implements of destruction which other nations from a sense
of honour and humanity have laid aside--which add to the sufferings of
the wounded without determining the issue of the combat; which none but
the cruel would employ, and which never can be successful against the
brave. Once they succeeded in setting fire, from the Redoubtable, to
some ropes and canvas on the Victory's booms. The cry ran through the
ship and reached the cockpit. But even this dreadful cry produced no
confusion; the men displayed that perfect self-possession in danger by
which English seamen are characterised; they extinguished the flames on
board their own ship, and then hastened to extinguish them in the enemy,
by throwing buckets of water from the gangway. When the Redoubtable
had struck, it was not practicable to board her from the Victory; for
though the two ships touched, the upper works of both fell in so much
that there was a great space between their gangways, and she could not
be boarded from the lower or middle decks because her ports were down.
Some of our men went to Lieutenant Quilliam and offered to swim under
her bows, and get up there; but it was thought unfit to hazard lives in
this manner.

What our men would have done from gallantry, some of the crew of the
Santissima Trinidad did to save themselves. Unable to stand the
tremendous fire of the Victory, whose larboard guns played against
this great four-decker, and not knowing how else to escape them nor
where else to betake themselves for protection, many of them leapt
overboard and swam to the Victory, and were actually helped up her
sides by the English during the action. The Spaniards began the battle
with less vivacity than their unworthy allies, but continued it with
greater firmness. The Argonauta and Bahama were defended till they
had each lost about four hundred men; the San Juan Nepomuceno lost
three hundred and fifty. Often as the superiority of British courage has
been proved against France upon the seas, it was never more conspicuous
than in this decisive conflict. Five of our ships were engaged muzzle to
muzzle with five of the French. In all five the Frenchmen lowered their
lower-deck ports and deserted their guns; while our men continued
deliberately to load and fire till they had made the victory secure.

The total British loss in the battle of Trafalgar amounted to one
thousand five hundred and eighty-seven. Twenty of the enemy struck.
Unhappily the fleet did not anchor, as Nelson, almost with his dying
breath, had enjoined; a gale came on from the south-west; some of the
prizes went down, some went on shore; one effected its escape into
Cadiz; others were destroyed--four only were saved, and those by the
greatest exertions. The wounded Spaniards were sent ashore, an assurance
being given that they should not serve till regularly exchanged; and the
Spaniards, with a generous feeling which would not, perhaps, have been
found in any other people, offered the use of their hospitals for our
wounded, pledging the honour of Spain that they should be carefully
attended there. When the storm, after the action, drove some of the
prizes upon the coast, they declared that the English, who were thus
thrown into their hands, should not be considered as prisoners of war;
and the Spanish soldiers gave up their own beds to their shipwrecked
enemies. The Spanish vice-admiral, Alva, died of his wounds. Villeneuve
was sent to England and permitted to return to France. The French
government say that he destroyed himself on the way to Paris, dreading
the consequences of a court martial; but there is every reason to
believe that the tyrant, who never acknowledged the loss of the battle
of Trafalgar, added Villeneuve to the numerous victims of his murderous
policy.






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