Next Page

Previous Page
Naval history of Great Britain - Vol. IV
William James
1805 Battle of Trafalgar 96

In one point the French writer, who is evidently a naval officer is quite wrong. He states, that the Bucentaure, Santisima-Trinidad, and Redoutable, sustained, for some time, nearly the whole united efforts of the 12 ships in Lord Nelson's column.* The ample details given in these pages afford the most complete refutation of that statement. The fact is, that the leading ship of the lee column, the Royal-Sovereign, was in hot action, after having cut through the combined line, for upwards of a quarter of an hour before any ship did or could come to her assistance. The Victory and Téméraire were also closely engaged for even a longer period, before the three or four ships astern of them could get to their support. The nature of the attack, combined with the lightness of the breeze, was such, indeed, that the whole business was done by 12 or 14 ships of the 27 ; and that without the slightest disparagement to the conduct of the remainder.

On the 28th the Victory, towed by the Neptune, arrived at Gibraltar ; where she found, among other ships, the Belleisle, who, having been taken in tow by the Naiad, sent to her assistance by Captain Hardy, had anchored in the bay on the third day after the termination of the battle in which she had performed so distinguished a part. On the 3d of November, having been partially refitted, the Victory sailed for England, passed the Straits on the 4th, and on the 4th of the following month, anchored at St.-Helen's, having on board, preserved in spirits, the body of the lamented hero, whose flag she had so long borne, and which was then flying on board of her, but in a melancholy position, at half-mast. On the 10th of December the Victory again sailed, and on the 22d, when crossing the flats from Margate, was boarded by Commissioner Grey's yacht, the Chatham, which had been despatched by the board of admiralty to receive Lord Nelson's body, and convey it to Greenwich. The body was removed into the coffin made from a part of the wreck of the Orient, burnt at the Battle of the Nile, and which had been presented to Lord Nelson by Captain Hallowell, of the Swiftsure, in 1799. This coffin with its contents its was placed within a leaden coffin. The latter was then soldered, and never afterwards opened. On the coffin's being lowered into the yacht, the Victory struck, for the last time, Lord Nelson's flag at the fore, and the same was hoisted half-mast high on board the yacht.

On the 24th, at 2 P.M., the yacht, having in the passage up had military honours paid to her illustrious charge on both sides of the river, anchored off Greenwich ; and at 7 P.M. the body was landed at the centre gate of the royal hospital, amidst as immense crowd of spectators. The awful and imposing ceremony which subsequently took place having been minutely described by other publications, we shall content ourselves with stating

*  Victoires et Conquetes, tome xvi., p, 182

^ back to top ^