Where England Won a Battle, but Lost her Idol—Nelson
 NAPOLEON the Ambitious decided to invade England. But Nelson kept guard. After some trouble in chasing the
French fleet across the Atlantic and back, he met the allied French and Spanish squadrons off Trafalgar, and
smashed them—at the cost of his own life. As long as red blood runs in the veins of men the story of Nelson and
Trafalgar will live; it is printed in the imperishable book of the world's history, and age will not dim the
glory of the hero who, leading his men to victory, was met and conquered by the last great enemy—Death.
Nelson left Portsmouth on September 14th, followed by the blessings of the populace, whose idol he was. A
fortnight later he was off Cadiz, where he kept watch for the French fleet. Admiral Villeneuve was in ignorance
of his proximity; in fact, it was not known where he was, though it was reported that he was in London. It was
Nelson's desire that his whereabouts should be kept secret, and this was admirably done.
Villeneuve, however, was rather nervous, and when he received orders to sail for Gibraltar, and sweep the
English from the Mediterranean, he hesitated. But at last he had to sail, and on October 19th his fleet of
thirty-three ships left Cadiz, and Nelson's scouting frigates signalled through the Mars to that effect.
All that day the scouts kept up their signalling, and Villeneuve, realising what they were, though little
 they were informing the man he dreaded of his movements occasionally sent a shot across their bows, for which
the frigates didn't care a scrap, but dogged their foe relentlessly. And all the time Nelson was following too,
sailing south-east, hoping to cut off Villeneuve before he could reach the Straight of Gibraltar, yet keeping
out of sight, and it was not until the 21st that the fleets came together.
The English fleet was in order of battle, two lines with an advanced squadron of eight fast-sailing
two-deckers; Nelson, in the Victory led one column, Collingwood, in the Royal Sovereign, lead
The one-armed, one-eyed hero and darling of his men paced to and fro on the deck of the Victory, giving
an order here, an order there, and enthusing his men as only he could do.
About half-past eight Villeneuve ordered his fleet to draw up in such array and position that, if necessary,
they could make for Cadiz, but the manúuvre was bad executed, and the fleet assumed a crescent-shaped formation
right into which the English ship columns were sailing as fast as the choppy seas would allow them.
Nelson was eager for the fight; so were his men. So much depended on the striking of a crushing blow, and
Nelson determined that it should be struck that day. But while Nelson was anxious to begin the battle himself,
the officers on board the Victory, realising that an English victory probably depended upon the safety
of the Admiral, would have been content to forgo the honour of opening the fight in favour of some other ship.
The question was tactfully put to Nelson. Might not the Temeraire be allowed to take the foremost place
Divining their intention, Nelson replied:
 "Oh, yes, let her go—if she can!"
Captain Hardy immediately hailed the Temeraire to give her instructions, but meanwhile Nelson was
dodging about the decks giving orders that caused the Victory to leap forward and retain her place in
"There," he said quietly to Hardy as he came back laughing like a big schoolboy, "let the Temeraires
open the ball if they can—which they most assuredly can't! I think there's nothing more to be done now, is
there, till we open fire? Oh, yes; stay a minute, though. I suppose I must give the fleet something as a final
fillip. Let me see. How would this do: 'Nelson expects that every man will do his duty?'"
Hardy, entering into the spirit of the thing, suggested that "England expects" would be an improvement: Nelson,
realising that loyalty to the nation was to be preferred to loyalty to the man, agreed. The order was given;
and the soul-stirring, ever-to-be-remembered message was sent to the mizen top-gallant mast-head.
No man ever before heard such shouts of enthusiasm as those that greeted the signal in Trafalgar's Bay; not a
man in the fleet but vowed to do what England expected of him; not a man that did not wait with itching hands
for the battle to begin.
"THE SOUL-STIRRING, EVER-TO-BE-REMEMBERED MESSAGE
WAS SENT TO THE MIZEN TOP-GALLANT MASTHEAD."
"Now," said Nelson, "I can do no more. We must trust to the great Disposer of events and the justice of our
cause. I thank God for this great opportunity of doing my duty!"
For all his apparent buoyancy of heart, Nelson had a foreboding of coming ill, and when Captain Blackwood left
him to take up his place on the Euryalus, the Admiral gave him a hand-grip that was never forgotten, and said:
 "God bless you, Blackwood! I shall never see you again."
Shortly afterwards the battle began.
It opened by the French ship Fougueux firing upon the Royal Sovereign, which was sailing straight
for the allied column.
"Engage the enemy more closely," went up Nelson's last signal, and the fleet closed in upon the foe.
Collingwood broke through their line astern the Santa Anna, reserving his fire until he was almost at
the muzzles of the enemy's guns. Then, with a roar; the port broadside was let fly into the Santa Anna.
Double-shotted, well-aimed and well-timed, the guns sent their messages of destruction and death; four hundred
men fell killed or wounded, and fourteen of the Spanish guns were put out of action.
Simultaneously, the starboard guns spoke to the Fougueux. This time, however, owing to the smoke and the
greater distance, the damage was not great. Still, it was a good opening to a glorious battle, and
Collingwood, standing on his quarter-deck, cried to his flag-captain:
"By Jove, Rotherham! what would Nelson give to be here?
"And," says James in his Naval History, "by a singular coincidence Lord Nelson, the moment he saw his friend in
his enviable position, exclaimed: 'See how that noble fellow Collingwood carries his ship into action.'"
Leaving the Fougueux alone for a while, Collingwood pressed still closer on the Santa Anna, and a
battle royal began between the two great ships. Raking broadsides were poured in, rifles spat their sharp
messages, men fell, and guns were disabled. But still the fight went on. Four other ships soon bore down upon
the Royal Sovereign,
 so that she was very soon the centre of a ring of fire. The roar of cannon, the crash of shot, the splintering
of decks and sides, were as so much music in the ears of the bulldogs of Britain, who fought on with dauntless
So close were the ships to each other, and so incessant was the fire, that often cannon-balls met in midair,
though oftener they fell aboard and did great damage. In one respect the Royal Sovereign was better off
than her foes, for badly aimed shots passed over the gallant Britisher and found their mark on the decks of
French or Spanish vessels, and presently the four newcomers veered off, especially as they noticed that other
British ships were bearing down upon them.
With a crash the British Belleisle let fly a broadside at the Santa Anna as she passed; and then
Collingwood found himself left alone with his foe. For over an hour the duel raged, and the Royal
Sovereign, although she carried a dozen guns less than the Santa Anna, got the best of it; battered
about, mastless, with hundreds of her men lying in pools of blood, the Santa Anna fought on, her
officers refusing for a long time to strike their colours. At last, however, there was nothing for it but to
give in, and the Spanish flag fluttered down the mast. The ship was won.
As soon as the battle began the enemy started to fire at the Victory, which it was evident was Nelson's
flagship. The English Admiral had made certain that he should not be lost sight of, either by friend or foe,
for he had hoisted several flags in case one should be carried away. A shot passed through the Victory's
maintop-gallant sail; then broadsides were hurled at her, but still she kept on.
Nelson was looking out for Villeneuve's ship, but for some time, it seems, he failed to find her. Southey
 says "the enemy showed no colours till late in the action, when they began to feel the necessity of having them
Nelson dearly wished to encounter the French Admiral, and so, despite a raking fire poured in upon him by the
Santissima Trinidad—a Spanish two-decker which he had fought and beaten on another occasion he kept on
his way, taking the Victory into the thick of the fight—always with his one eye on the lookout for
Villeneuve, refusing even to have the hammocks slung higher lest they should interrupt his view, although they
would have afforded some shelter from the enemy's fire. Men dropped here, there, and everywhere, shots bowled
along the deck or bored their way through the sides, yet still the gallant Victory held on her way for
the Bucentaure, which Nelson now knew carried Admiral Villeneuve.
Eight ships, however, surrounded the Bucentaure, and made it impossible for the Victory to be
brought alongside, and these belched forth their heavy fire at her, smashing her wheel, hurling her mizen-mast
overboard; her sails were shattered and torn into shreds. The wind had dropped, too; the Victory was
almost brought to a standstill, and it was impossible to bring a single gun into action.
Pacing his quarter-deck Nelson waited for his time to come. A double-headed shot laid low eight marines on the
poop; another, crashing though the launch, passed between Nelson and Hardy, bruising the latter's foot, and
tearing the buckle from his shoe. Both stopped in their promenade, looked anxiously at each other.
"This is too warm work to last long, Hardy," and then he praised the courage of the men who so calmly stuck to
their posts under such a galling fire.
 "The enemy are closing up their line, sir," said Hardy presently. "See! we can't get through without running
one of them aboard!"
"I can't help that," said Nelson, "and I don't see that it matters much which we tackle first. Take your
choice. Go on board which you please."
First, Villeneuve on the Bucentaure was made a present of a treble-shotted, close-range broadside, which
disabled four hundred men and put twenty guns out of action, and so left the ship almost defenceless.
Then, porting his helm, Nelson bore down on the Redoubtable and the Neptune. The latter veered
off, but the former could not get away in time to escape the Victory, which she therefore received with
a broadside. Then, fearful that a boarding party would enter her here, the lower deck ports were shut, and
never opened again during the battle. Meanwhile the Temeraire had fastened on to the Redoubtable
on the other side, and the most momentous episode in that day's work began.
Depressing the guns so that they should not do damage to the Temeraire, the Victory's gunners
worked like very demons, and broadside after broadside was poured into the plucky Redoubtable, which
made a brave show. The two ships were almost rubbing sides, and men stood by the British guns with buckets of
water in their hands which, immediately the guns were fired, they threw upon the hole made in the
Redoubtable's side lest she should catch fire and so the prize be lost.
Up in the Frenchman's top riflemen were posted, and throughout that dreadful fight picked off man after man—a
practice which Nelson abhorred. It was from one of these high-placed riflemen that the English Admiral received
Suddenly, while pacing the poop deck, Nelson swung
 round as on a pivot and pitched forward on his face. A ball had entered in at the left shoulder and passed
through his backbone.
Hardy, turning round, saw three men raising him up. "They have done for me at last, Hardy!" said Nelson feebly.
"Oh! I hope not!" cried Hardy.
"Yes," he replied, "my backbone is shot through!"
Quickly, but gently, his bearers carried him down the ladders to the lower deck. On the way, notwithstanding
the fact that he must have been enduring awful agony, he had thoughts for nothing but the battle; seeing the
tiller ropes, which had been shot away at the moment the Victory had crashed into the Redoubtable
had not been replaced, he ordered new ones to be rigged up at once.
"Then, that he might not be seen by the crew, he took out his handkerchief, and covered his face and 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."
Down into the cockpit they carried him, a wounded, dying idol of England, and there in surroundings resembling
a shambles with its groups of surgeons and wounded, the former using the amputating knife and saw unmercifully
upon the latter—there must we leave him for a while and return to the conflict overhead and around.
The men in the Redoubtable's top still kept up their galling fire, as also did the guns of the
second-deck, and within a quarter of an hour after Nelson had received his wound, fifty of the Victory's
officers and men on the upper deck fell killed or wounded.
Taking advantage of this, the French decided to
 board. It was impossible to do this by the bulwarks, so they lowered their mainyard and turned it into a bridge
over which they scrambled on to the deck of the Victory.
To be boarded by Frenchmen was more than English flesh and blood could stand!
It was a cry like that of a wild beast, and it brought up untamed denizens from the lower decks. Half-naked,
utterly unrecognisable owing to the blood and gunpowder with which they were besmirched, the Englishmen hurled
themselves at the audacious Frenchmen. Pistol and pike, cutlass and axe in hand, the Britons fought with the
ferocity that had made them dreaded so often in the past; fought, too, with hands, when other weapons failed;
hurled the trespassers overboard; cut them down where they stood, in fact had their will on them—and that will
was to see that no Frenchman stayed aboard the Victory any longer than it took an Englishman to give him
a cutlass thrust or a good old English punch.
It cost the Victory thirty men, but it cost the Redoubtable more; and at last not a Frenchman was
left alive on the decks of Nelson's flagship.
As we have said, while the Victory had been engaging the Redoubtable on one side the
Temeraire had tackled her on the other, and the three ships hugged each other so that muzzles touched
muzzles. Soon after the attempt to board the Victory the Temeraire lashed her bowsprit to the
gangway of the Redoubtable, and poured in a raking fire until she was compelled to surrender, though not
before she had twice been on fire and over five hundred of her crew had been killed or wounded.
The Temeraire next turned her attention to the Fougueux—or rather it was the Fougueux that
 her attention to the Temeraire, for during the fight with the Redoubtable the English ship's gaff
had been shot away, and her ensign hurled on to the deck. The Fougueux, looking around for a foe to
tackle or a prize to take, thought that the Temeraire would easily come into the latter category, and so
bore down upon her.
Captain Harvey was busy with the Redoubtable, but Lieutenant Kennedy was far from being in the mood to
surrender, and quickly got together a band of men to man the starboard batteries. With these they opened fire
at about one hundred yards—and the Fougueux knew it! Crash! Masts fell, the wheel was smashed, rigging
shattered, and the Frenchman, which had not been expecting so vigorous an onslaught from a ship whose flag lay
on the deck, was simply crippled, and so ran foul of the Temeraire. The starboard crew of the latter
quickly lashed their foe, and Kennedy, a couple of middies, and less than thirty seamen and marines rushed
It says much for the valour of the men of those days that such a handful should dare to attempt what Kennedy
and his few followers attempted—and successfully too. Five hundred Frenchmen remained fresh for battle on the
Fougueux, yet the Britishers did not hesitate a single moment. With a bound they were on the enemy's
deck, and a second later were slashing and hacking at the crowd that came up against them. Back, back, and
still back, that ridiculously small boarding party forced the Frenchmen, killing and wounding many, and
compelling others to leap overboard to escape their fury. The remainder, scared at the ferocity of the
dare-devils, scuttled away below, and the English clapped hatches on them; and the ship was won.
While engaging the Redoubtable on one side the
 Victory had been pouring a deadly fire into the Santissima Trinidad on the other. Through and
through the Spaniard was raked; shot burnt a way through her sides, and swept her deck clear of men, until at
last the Spaniards knew not how to escape them, and dived overboard, and swam off to the Victory, whose
crew helped them aboard.
The Belleisle, as we have seen, had hurled her broadside into the Santa Anna at the beginning of
the conflict, and was immediately after pounced upon by about half a dozen ships of the enemy.
From every side they poured in their fire, battering her sides, tearing her rigging to pieces, and sending her
mizen-mast with a crash over the aft guns, effectually putting them out of action. Sixty men also had been sent
to their account, but the rest fought on with dauntless courage, returning the enemy's fire as quickly as they
could load the guns that remained in action.
The Achille bore down upon her and attacked her at her point of disadvantage, the Aigle tackled
her on the starboard, assisted by the French Neptune, which aimed at her remaining masts and brought
them to the deck.
Crippled but unconquered, mastless, almost gunless, wellnigh manless, and with nearly everything reduced to
splinters, the Belleisle's few remaining men stood to their three or four guns, hurling defiance at the
foe and pounding away for all they were worth. Not a man flinched; one thing only worried them—the flag had
been shot away. That they quickly remedied; fastening a Union Jack to a pike head, they waved it over their
heads, yelled out a cheer of defiant determination—and fought on and on. Helpless hulk though she was, the
 ship kept in action throughout the battle, refusing to strike her pikehead flag.
What the French Neptune had done for the Belleisle, the English ship of the same name did for the
Bucentaure. It will be remembered that Nelson had led the Victory against this vessel at first,
half-suspecting—then wholly convinced—that Villeneuve was aboard her, but after having given her a taste of
what was coming had tackled the French Neptune and the Redoubtable. The English Neptune
next assailed the Bucentaure, and sent her main and mizen-masts by the board; then the Leviathan
came up, and, at a range of about thirty yards, gave the Frenchman a full broadside which smashed the stern
into splinters. A similar sally from the Conqueror completed the work of demolition and brought down the
A boat containing a marine officer and five men put off from the Conqueror to take possession.
Villeneuve and two chief officers at once tendered the marine officer their swords, but he, thinking that the
honour of accepting them belonged to his own captain, refused the weapons, put the Frenchmen in his boat,
pocketed the key of the magazine, left a couple of sentries to guard the cabin doors, and then pulled away to
rejoin his ship, elated at the good fortune which had given him the French Admiral as a prize. For some time
the little boat was pulled hither and thither in search of the Conqueror, which had meanwhile gone in
quest of other prey. At last, however, the boat was picked up by the Mars, whose acting commander,
Lieutenant Hennah, immediately accepted the surrendered swords, and ordered Villeneuve and his two captains
When the Leviathan had seen that the Bucentaure was crippled, she had hastened off to match
herself with another foe. She quickly found one. It was the seventy-
 four gun Spanish San Augustino, which immediately opened fire at a hundred yards. The Leviathan
replied with twofold interest, brought the Spaniard's mizen-mast and flag down to the deck with a crash, and
then lashed herself to her foe. Clearing the way for boarders by a galling fire, the English captain sent off
his boarding party. A hand-to-hand fight took place, but, fight though they did with great courage, the
Spaniards were steadily but surely forced over the side or below, and at last the ship was won. Another prize
The Leviathan, however, got more than she bargained for, for the French Intrepide saw the plight
of her ally and bore down on the English vessel, sending in a raking fire as she came, and getting her boarders
ready for attack. They had no chance to board; another of Nelson's ships, the Africa, pitted herself
against the Intrepide, giving and receiving a tremendous fire which battered both combatants about
pretty much. The former, smaller though she was, got the best of it, and despite the fact that she herself was
in dire straits banged away at the Intrepide until the Frenchmen were compelled to strike their flag.
Meanwhile the Prince and the Swiftsure were enjoying themselves with the Achille, which,
having found the Belleisle too much for her, had veered off to tackle a less dauntless foe.
Unfortunately, she jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire, for as she passed through the fighting line
every English ship that could spare her a shot let her have it, so that at last her masts cumbered the deck,
and the ship was a blazing mass. Unable to quench the flames because the fire-engine had been smashed, the crew
set about cutting the masts, intending to heave them overboard.
Before they could effect this, however, the Prince gave her a broadside which did the cutting for them,
 and sent the wreckage down into the waists. Instantly the whole ship took fire, and the Prince ceased
firing, and sent her boats to save the Frenchmen, the Swiftsure doing the same. It was a gallant but a
dangerous act, for the heat caused the Achille's guns, whose men had left them to endeavour to conquer
the flames, to discharge of their own accord, and several of the would-be rescuers perished as a result.
Helpless blazing hulk though she was, the Achille still kept her colours flying bravely, her sole
surviving senior officer, a middy, refusing to strike. Before the English beats could come up with their
opponent the flames had reached her magazine, and with colours flying, she blew up, carrying her middy and two
hundred men heavenwards.
It is time to hark back to the cockpit of the Victory, where Nelson, the greatest naval captain of his
age, the greatest, too, England had ever known, lay dying, in agony, yet rejoicing that even in death he was
victorious. The rank and file were kept in ignorance of his condition, though Nelson himself knew that the end
was near, and urged the surgeons to give their attention to others. "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."
Every now and then he would ask for Hardy. "Will no one bring Hardy to me?" he cried. At last Hardy came. The
two friends shook hands in silence. Then Nelson spoke: "Well, Hardy, how goes the day with us?"
"Very well, my lord. We have got twelve or fourteen of the enemies' ships, but five of their van have tacked,
 and show an intention of bearing down on the Victory. I have therefore called two or three of our fresh
ships round us, and have no doubt of giving them a drubbing."
"I hope none of our ships have struck, Hardy?"
"No, my lord; there is no fear of that."
"Well, I am a dead man, Hardy, but I am glad of what you say. Oh, whip them now you've got 'em; whip, them as
they've never been whipped before!"
Hardy then left him for a while, and returning somewhat later reported that some fourteen ships had been taken.
"That's well," cried Nelson, "though I bargained for twenty. Anchor, Hardy, anchor."
Hardy suggested that Admiral Collingwood would now take upon himself the direction of affairs.
"Not while I live, Hardy!" said Nelson, raising himself with a mighty effort which left him prostrate. "Do you
"Shall we make the signal, sir?"
"Yes," answered Nelson, "for if I live I'll anchor."
For a minute or so Hardy stood and looked down at his Admiral in silence, then stooped and kissed him as
"Don't have my poor carcase hove overboard," whispered Nelson as Hardy leant over him. "Get what's left of me
sent to England, if you can manage it. Kiss me, Hardy."
Hardy kissed him again.
"Who is that?" asked the hero.
"It is I, Hardy."
"Good-bye. God bless you, Hardy. Thank God, I've done my duty."
Then Hardy left him—for ever.
Nelson was turned on to his right side, whispered that
 he wished he had not left the deck, and said that he knew he should soon be gone. Then, after a little silence
sighed, struggled to speak and was heard to say:
"Thank God, I have done my duty!"
And then died. England's hero, her idol, her greatest sea-captain, had fought his last fight.
Hardy at once took the news to Collingwood, who assumed command. The new commander refused to carry out
Nelson's instruction to anchor, because in view of the fact that a gale was blowing up, it would be quite
unsafe to do so. The battle was over, the allied fleets had been defeated, eighteen of their ships were
captured, and with these Collingwood stood out to sea. The enemy, however, recaptured four of the prizes, one
escaped to Cadiz, some went down with all hands, others were stranded, and one was so unseaworthy that it was
scuttled; and out of all those that were taken during the battle, only four were saved and taken into
Besides Nelson England lost over fifteen hundred men, while the allies' loss has been stated at something like
And England rejoiced and mourned at the same time; rejoiced that Napoleon had received so crushing a blow, and
mourned that the heroic victor of so many battles had fallen a victim to a French ball.