Page images



performances of the kind, one time will answer as 1805. well as another. For instance, the Formidable and the four ships in her train are seen just hauled up on the starboard tack, almost ready to begin firing at the northernmost british ship, the Neptune. Let us suppose this to have been at about 2 h. 30 m. P. M. But then the Minotaur and Spartiate are also represented on the starboard tack: whereas they were not so until about 4 h. 30 m. P. M., after M. Dumanoir and his four countrymen had passed on to the southward, and left the spanish Neptuno to her fate. Another division of the sketch would answer for three hours later in the day. The Victory, for Captı example, appears with her mizenmast and main top-ton's mast gone ; whereas that ship did not lose her aemizenmast until 7 P. M., nor strike her main topmast (at which time her fore one also was struck) until within a few minutes of the same period. Of the remaining ships scattered over this much vaunted plate, few that are named are correct

either in their positions or the state of their masts. The Téméraire lies with her head directly where her stern ought to be, and, instead of having her three lower masts and their yards, (the fore yard broken in two,) and her foretop and topgallant masts, standing, is represented as bare as a hulk.

An attempt to sketch the state, positions, and relative bearings of nearly 50 vessels, spread over an extent of at least five miles, was not very likely to succeed; especially when the draftsman was on board a ship situated at one extremity of the line. If it was a degree of presumption in “ a young gentleman, a midshipman of the Neptune,” to attempt a sketch of so complicated, so numerous, and so expanded a group of figures, as must have been spread over the field of Trafalgar, what was it in a post-captain of 16 years' standing, quite away from the spot, to entitle Mr. Herbert's “rough sketch," “a view of the british and combined fleets at the conclusion of the battle of Trafalgar," and to recom

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

originally formed in the order of sailing upon a wind

1805. mend it to the british public as “ an invaluable Oct. memorandum of the battle”? *

For an unprofessional writer to arraign the 'merits of a work on naval tactics, would seem to be a presumption equal to the highest degree of that which we have just been condemning. But tactical reasoning, like all other reasoning, must be built upon facts, or upon what are assumed as facts. Surely, then, to inquire into the reality of those alleged facts, is within the province of a writer, whose avowed purpose, to the extent of his subject, and of his ability, is to separate truth from fiction.

Bold as is the assertion, yet do we confidently make

it,-admiral Ekins has entirely misunderstood the count. principle upon which the battle of Trafalgar was

fought. After describing the plan of attack, as set
forth in vice-admiral Collingwood's letter, and illus-
trated by a diagram taken from one in the possession of
the board of admiralty, the writer says: “Whatever
degree of credit the above plan may be entitled to,
backed as it is by the vice-admiral's letter, it is well
known to all the captains of that fleet, that the plan
of attack from the windward was, by previous con-
cert, to have been of a different and still more for-
midable nature; for, as the order of sailing was the
order of battle, and the enemy seen to-leeward, the
commander in chief in that case would bring the
british fleet nearly within gun-shot of the enemy's
centre, and the signal, most probably, then be made
for the lee division to bear up together, to set all
sails, even steering-sails, &c. The secret memo-
randum at the end of these remarks, will best explain
his lordship’s intention and remove the doubt. We
therefore venture to give the approach as in fig. 1,
Plate XXVIII. The lee division bearing up toge-
ther, followed soon after by the centre; the fleet

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

on the larboard tack; the enemy formed in close line
convexing to-leeward, heads to the northward. This

* Brenton, yol. iii. p. 459.

must be considered as the preconcerted plan of 1805. attack; but that it may have deviated from the exact Octa design, from circumstances to which events of this nature are always liable, it is easy to believe; and it will be particularly apparent to sea-officers : for, supposing a line, like that of lord Collingwood's, of 15 ships, all in their station when the signal to bear up together should be made; and supposing the signal to be obeyed with equal alacrity by all; yet Adm. the different rates of sailing in them will soon be con- acspicuous; and the advantages of some over others, count. neither to be reckoned upon nor accounted for, they will consequently be found to tail away as in the fig. 2. Be it as it may, it will be readily admitted that, both from the design and the execution, no mode of attack could have been formed better calculated for effecting the purpose of the determined chief; the capture or destruction of the centre and rear of the


In his interpretation of lord Nelson's plan of attack from to-windward, the writer of this passage is certainly borne out by the literal meaning of the words, “ the lee line to bear up together;" but the context ought to have convinced him, that this could not have been the mode of attack contemplated by lord Nelson, If the ships of the lee line were to “ bear up together,” so must those of the weather and the advanced lines; and then see how the ships would have been arranged;


[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]


The confidential friends of lord Nelson, many Its inof whom are now living, can testify, that he had the

shown, * Ekins's Naval Battles, p. 268. VOL. IV.


[ocr errors][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

attack ex

1805. strongest objection to the plan of bearing up in line
Oct. abreast, and that he attributed the partial success

of lord Howe on the 1st of June to his having
adopted that mode of attack. His own plan appears
to have been, to bring his force, in the most effective
state, into contact with the force of the enemy, and,
for that

purpose, to present, while advancing to close, the smallest possible front to the enemy's fire. As son's the leading ship of the attacking line or column thod of would of necessity receive the whole weight of that

fire, lord Nelson very naturally chose the post himplained self. If more lines or columns than one, the com

manding officer of each would of course follow the
example of the chief.

In order to make quick, as well as decisive work
of it, lord Nelson purposed, in the first instance,
cutting off a portion of the enemy's line : he then left
every thing to the valour and address of his captains ;
well observing, that no captain could do very wrong
who placed his ship alongside that of an enemy.
The greater the confusion, the greater were his hopes
of success, because he knew that the British, besides
being better prepared for fighting their guns on either
side, or in any direction, were better skilled in work-
ing their ships, than the French or Spaniards. A gale
of wind, or a dark night, was accordingly considered as
a ship or two in his favour. The reason that lord Nel-
son gave, for placing so little dependance upon evolu-
tions, was, that he generally found the inconvenience,
which resulted from the mistakes too frequently
made, to outweigh the benefit expected to be derived
from the most correct performance of the manoeuvre.
Hence the sum of lord Nelson's tactics was, to close
his enemy, and to overpower and annibilate him as
quickly as possible.

There are, we believe, very few of the captains stood present in the Trafalgar battle, with whom we have by his not conversed or corresponded; and yet no one of

them has ever raised a doubt as to the meaning of
lord Nelson's instructions, or the manner in which he

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Well under


[ocr errors]

purposed to bear down upon the enemy's line. That 1805. the expression used in the memorandum is at vari- Oct. ance with what we still contend was the meaning of the gallant chief, we have already admitted; but, would not so simple an alteration as the change of one word to another of similar sound, and of another word from the singular to the plural number, (an Supinterpolation we have ventured to make in our posed transcript of the memorandum,*) reconcile the differ- take in ence? That a mistake of the kind may easily have worthe happened, we can see no difficulty in supposing: For instrucinstance, lord Nelson, when he drew up his in- tions. structions, was almost certain that the.combined fleet would sail with an easterly wind, and therefore be found to-windward. Hence the principal part of the memorandum is filled with the plan of attack from to-leeward. The attack from to-windward, being a very doubtful contingency, occupied much less of his lordship's attention. Nor did he, of course, write a line of the memorandum. The secretary, or the clerk, wrote it by his lordship’s dictation. How easy, then, for either of the former to have mistaken, “The signal will be made for the three lines to bear up together,” for “The signal will be made for the lee line to bear up together"? The two words once miswritten would scarcely be looked at again; especially as all the principal officers of the feet had heard lord Nelson repeatedly describe, in his own clear and energetic manner, the plan which he meant to adopt.

But, after all, what was the signal, by which the Signal british fleet actually steered towards the fleet of the made enemy? Was it No. 81, with the east compass tive of signal, “ Alter the course together to east"? Or, inden rather, was it not No. 76, “ Bear up in succession"+ to that point? That No. 76 was the signal hoisted, See

p. + The signal merely expresses, “Bear up and sail large, on the course steered by the admiral, or that pointed out by signal;" but the 14th article of the printed “Sailing Instructions” refers to this signal, as that to be used “when the fleet is to bear up in succession,"



« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »