Articles on the History of Essex, Researching your Ancestors, and British History

The earliest account of the Battle of Trafalgar

battle of trafalgar, hms victory
Image 'Fall of Nelson' from 'Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire, faisant suite a l'Histoire de la Revolution Francaise' 1845.
Image courtesy of British Library on Flickr NKCR

Where to read the first report of the Battle.

The Battle of Trafalgar was an important naval battle fought during the Napoleonic Wars between the British Navy and the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies on 21 October 1805, off the coast of Spain near Cadiz.

The outcome of the battle was an overwhelming British victory tinged with sadness over the death of Admiral Nelson, Britain's charismatic and tactically brilliant admiral.

The French and Spanish lost 19 ships, the British, none. The French and Spanish suffered an appalling 6,953 casualties, of whom 4,408 died. The British had 1,690 casualties, of whom 430 died.

The news of the battle was eagerly awaited in London, for Britain had been under the threat of invasion by Napoleon for several years, and it was thought that the combined French and Spanish fleet were intent on sailing to the English Channel - the preliminary stage of the invasion.

The British fleet then struggled to deal with the aftermath of the battle, hampered by a ferocious storm which sprung up on the 22 October which sunk 15 of the captured ships.

Vice Admiral Collingwood wrote dispatches for the Admiralty in London, and a schooner, H.M. Pickle, was despatched for London. Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere landed at Falmouth on 4 November and by post-chaise covered the 271 miles from Falmouth to London, arriving in London in the early hours of 6 November.

These despatches were immediately published in the London Gazette. They give the earliest account of the Battle of Trafalgar. The London Gazette is the official newspaper of record for the United Kingdom. It is a useful resource for researching British history and your family history. For more information, see this article on the London Gazette

Also see these articles: how Trafalgar Square in London came to be so named, and which nationalities fought in Nelson's Navy?.

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