Collingwood’s despatch about the Battle of Trafalgar
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Catalogue reference: ZJ 1/114 pages 1365-7
The London Gazette EXTRAORDINARY.
Published by Authority.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 1805.
Admiralty Office, November 6, 1805. Dispatches, of which the following are Copies, were received at the Admiralty this Day, at One o’Clock A.M. from Vice-Admiral Collingwood, Commander in Chief of His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels off Cadiz:
Euryalus, off Cape Trafalgar, October 22, 1805.
The ever to be lamented Death of Vice-Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, who, in the late Conflict with the Enemy, fell in the Hour of Victory, leaves to me the Duty of informing my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that on the 19th Instant, it was communicated to the Commander in Chief from the Ships watching the Motions of the Enemy in Cadiz, that the Combined Fleet had put to Sea; as they sailed with light Winds westerly, his Lordship concluded their Destination was the Mediterranean, and immediately made all Sail for the Streight’s Entrance, with the British Squadron, consisting of Twenty - seven Ships, Three of them Sixty fours, where his Lordship was informed by Captain Blackwood, (whose Vigilance in watching, and giving Notice of the Enemy’s Movements, has been highly meritorious,) that they had not yet passed the Streights.
On Monday the 21st Instant, at Daylight, when Cape Trafalgar bore E[ast] by S[outh], about Seven Leagues, the Enemy was discovered Six or Seven Miles to the Eastward, the Wind about West, and very light, the Commander in Chief immediately made the Signal for the Fleet to bear up in Two Columns, as they are formed in order of sailing; a Mode of Attack his Lordship had previously directed, to avoid the Inconvenience and Delay in forming a Line of Battle in the usual Manner. The Enemy’s Line consisted of Thirty-three Ships (of which Eighteen were French and Fifteen Spanish), commanded in Chief by Admiral Villeneuve; the Spaniards, under the Direction of Gravina, wore, with their Heads to the Northward, and formed their Line of Battle with great Closeness and Correctness; but as the Mode of Attack was unusual, so the Structure of their Line was new; - it formed a Crescent convexing to Leeward – so that, in leading down to their Centre, I had both their Van, and Rear, abaft [astern] the Beam; before the Fire opened; every alternate Ship was about a Cable’s Length to Windward of her Second a-head and a-stern, forming a Kind of double Line, and appeared, when on their Beam, to leave a very little Interval between them; and this without crowding their Ships. Admiral Villeneuve was in the Bucentaure in the Centre, and the Prince of Asturias bore Gravina’s Flag in the Rear; but the French and Spanish Ships were mixed without any apparent Regard to Order of national Squadron.
As the Mode of our Attack had been previously determined on, and communicated to the Flag-Officers, and Captains, few Signals were necessary, and none were made, except to direct close Order as the Lines bore down.
The Commander in Chief in the Victory led the Weather Column, and the Royal Sovereign, which bore my Flag, the Lee.
The Action began at Twelve o’Clock, by the leading Ships of the Columns breaking through the Enemy’s Line, the Commander in Chief about the Tenth Ship from the Van, the Second in Command about the Twelfth from the Rear, leaving the Van of the Enemy unoccupied; the succeeding Ships breaking through, in all Parts, astern of their Leaders, and engaging the Enemy at the Muzzles of their Guns; the Conflict was severe; the Enemy’s Ships were fought with a Gallantry highly honourable to their Officers; but the Attack on them was irresistible, and it pleased the Almighty Disposer of all Events to grant His Majesty’s