Collingwood’s despatch about the Battle of Trafalgar
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Catalogue reference: ZJ 1/114 pages 1365-7
Arms a complete and glorious Victory; about Three P.M. many of the Enemy’s Ships having struck their Colours, their Line gave way; Admiral Gravina, with Ten Ships joining their Frigates to Leeward, stood towards Cadiz. The Five headmost Ships in their Van tacked, and standing to the Southward, to Windward of the British Line, were engaged, and the Sternmost of them taken; the others went off, leaving to His Majesty’s Squadron Nineteen Ships of the Line, (of which Two are First Rates, the Santissima Trinidad and the Santa Anna,) with Three Flag Officers, viz. Admiral Villeneuve, the Commander in Chief, Don Ignatio Maria D’Aliva, Vice-Admiral, and the Spanish Rear-Admiral Don Baltazar Hidalgo Cisneros.
After such a Victory it may appear unnecessary to enter into Encomiums on the particular Parts taken by several Commanders; the Conclusion says more on the Subject than I have Language to express; the Spirit which animated all was the same; when all exert themselves zealously in their Country’s Service, all deserve that their high Merits should stand recorded; and never was high Merit more conspicuous than in the Battle I have described.
The Achille (a French 74), after having surrendered, by some Mismanagement of the Frenchmen took Fire and blew up; Two hundred of her Men were saved by the Tenders.
A Circumstance occurred during the Action, which so strongly marks the invincible Spirit of British Seamen, when engaging the Enemies of their Country, that I cannot resist the Pleasure I have in making it known to their Lordships; the Temeraire was boarded by Accident, or Design, by a French Ship on one Side, and a Spaniard on the other; the Contest was vigorous, but in the End, the combined Ensigns were torn from the Poop, and the British hoisted in their Places.
Such a Battle could not be fought without sustaining a great Loss of Men. I have not only to lament, in common with the British Navy, and the British Nation, in the Fall of the Commander in Chief, the Loss of a Hero, whose Name will be immortal, and his Memory ever dear to his Country; but my Heart is rent with the most poignant Grief for the Death of a Friend, to whom, by many Years’ Intimacy, and a perfect Knowledge of the Virtues of his Mind, which inspired Ideas superior to the common Race of Men, I was bound by the strongest Ties of Affection; a Grief to which even the glorious Occasion in which he fell, does not bring the Consolation which perhaps it ought; his Lordship received a Musket Ball in his Left Breast, about the Middle of the Action, and sent an Officer to me immediately with his last Farewell; and soon after expired.
I have also to lament the Loss of those excellent Officers Captains Duff of the Mars, and Cooke of the Bellerophon; I have yet heard of none others.
I fear the Numbers that have fallen will be found very great when the Returns come to me; but it having blown a Gale of Wind ever since the Action, I have not yet had it in my Power to collect any Reports from the Ships.
The Royal Sovereign having lost her Masts, except the tottering Foremast, I called the Euryalus to me, while the Action continued, which Ship lying within Hail, made my Signals, a Service Captain Blackwood, performed with great Attention. After the Action, I shifted my Flag to her, that I might more easily communicate my Orders to, and collect the Ships, and towed the Royal Sovereign out to Seaward. The whole Fleet were now in a very perilous Situation, many dismasted; all shattered in Thirteen Fathom Water, off the Shoals of Trafalgar; and when I made the Signal to prepare to anchor, few of the Ships had an Anchor to let go, their Cables being shot; but the same good Providence which aided us through such a Day preserved us in the Night, by the Wind shifting a few Points, and drifting the Ships off the Land, except Four of the captured dismasted Ships, which are now at Anchor off Trafalgar, and I hope will ride safe until those Gales are over.
Having thus detailed the Proceedings of the Fleet on this Occasion, I beg to congratulate their Lordships on a Victory which, I hope, will add a Ray to the Glory of His Majesty’s Crown, and be attended with public Benefit to our Country.
I am, &c. (Signed) C.COLLINGWOOD
William Marsden Esq
The Order in which the Ships of the British Squadron attacked the Combined Fleets, on the 21st of October, 1805.
Victory Temeraire Neptune Conqueror Leviathan Ajax Orion Agamemnon Minotaur Spartiate Britannia Africa Euryalus Sirius Phoebe Naiad Pickle Schooner Entreprenante Cutter
Royal Sovereign Mars Belleisle Tonnant Bellerophon Colossus Achille Polyphemus Revenge Swiftsure Defence Thunderer Defiance Prince Dreadnought
(Signed) C. COLLINGWOOD
Euryalus, October 22, 1805.
The ever to be lamented Death of Lord Viscount Nelson, Duke of Bronte, the Commander in Chief, who fell in the Action of the Twenty-first, in the Arms of Victory, covered with Glory, whose Memory will be ever dear to the British Navy, and the British Nation, whose Zeal for the Honor of his King, and for the Interests of his Country, will be ever held up as a shining Example for a British Seaman, - leaves to me a Duty to return my Thanks to the Right Honourable Rear-Admiral, the Captains, Officers, Seamen, and Detachments of Royal Marines serving on board His Majesty’s Squadron now under my Command, for their Conduct on that Day; but where can I find Language to express my Sentiments of the Valour and Skill which were displayed by the Officers, the Seamen, and Marines in the Battle with the Enemy, where every Individual appeared an Hero, on whom the Glory of his Country depended; the Attack was irresistible, and the Issue of it adds to the Page of Naval Annals a brilliant Instance of what Britons can do, when their King and their Country need their Service.
To the Right Honourable Rear Admiral the Earl of Northesk, to the Captains, Officers, and Seamen, and to the Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and Privates of the Royal Marines, I beg to give my sincere and hearty Thanks for their highly meritorious Conduct, both in the Action, and in their Zeal and Activity in bringing the captured Ships out from the perilous Situation in which they were, after their Surrender, among the Shoals of Trafalgar, in boisterous Weather.
And I desire that the respective Captains will be pleased to communicate to the Officers, Seamen, and Royal Marines this public Testimony of my high Approbation of their Conduct, and my Thanks for it.
(Signed) C. COLLINGWOOD
To the Right Honourable Rear-Admiral the Earl of Northesk, and the respective Captains and Commanders.