Battle of Trafalgar

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(27 ships of the line and 6 others.)

(France: 18 ships of the line and 8 others. Spain: 15 ships of the line)

Total: 1,666[1]

11 ships captured,
1,025 dead,
1,383 wounded,
4,000 captured[2]

Total: 13,781

The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a sea battle fought between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French Navy and Spanish Navy, during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).

The battle was the most decisive British naval victory of the war. Twenty-seven British ships of the line led by Admiral Lord Nelson aboard HMS Victory defeated thirty-three French and Spanish ships of the line under French Admiral Pierre Villeneuve off the south-west coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, without a single British vessel being lost.

The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the past century and was achieved in part through Nelson's departure from the prevailing naval tactical orthodoxy, which involved engaging an enemy fleet in a single line of battle parallel to the enemy to facilitate signalling in battle and disengagement, and to maximise fields of fire and target areas. Nelson instead divided his smaller force into two columns directed perpendicularly against the larger enemy fleet, with decisive results.

Nelson was mortally wounded during the battle, becoming one of Britain's greatest war heroes. The commander of the joint French and Spanish forces, Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve, was captured along with his ship Bucentaure. Spanish Admiral Federico Gravina escaped with the remnant of the fleet, and succumbed months later to wounds he sustained during the battle.


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