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Nelson's Trafalgar: The Battle That Changed the World

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2007

    Thinking out of the box, Nelson's way

    This, one of the most significant sea battles in history, and one that is credited with sustaining the British Empire for the next hundred years, is a typical example of a creative fighting Admiral thinking outside the box. In 1805, Nelson and his 27 British navy ships were keeping watch, a blockade for all practical purposes, on the combined French and Spanish navies, 34 vessels safely anchored in the harbor at Cadiz. Adkins points out that Nelson¿s vision told him that if he could entice the French, and their reluctant allies, the Spanish, out to sea he could settle the question of superiority over the oceans once and for all. History says he had planned for such a confrontation, waiting only until the time was right and this seemed to be it. Napoleon was banking on the French and Spanish ships to support his invasion of the British Isles after he had conquered the rest of Europe and Russia. Nelson¿s correspondence during this time suggests that while his confidence on defeating the enemy never wavered, he ominously foresaw his own demise. Naval warfare strategy at that time established `lines of battle,¿ where these big ships, some over 100 guns, would parallel each other and fire broadsides, take down masts and sails, devastate the gun decks, slaughter the crew, get close enough, board and hand fight who ever was left with sword and pistol. That¿s the way it was done for years. Nelson had a different idea. Others had engaged in similar encounters but theirs was more by chance rather than carefully planned. Nelson relied on the combined enemy fleet to form up into the traditional battle line, and that they would expect him to engage them in the same way. Surprise! Once the French and Spanish boats cleared the harbor they took the expected battle lines, but the British ships had the weather gage off of Cape Trafalgar, to the south of Cadiz. Nelson¿s strategy was to come at them at a right angle, two columns a half mile or so apart, sailing to split their line. Far as we can tell, no one had tried this maneuver on such a grand scale before. Also, heretofore, individual Captains depended on signals from their Flag Admiral to set the ongoing battle strategy. Nelson gave his Captains the initiative to make their own decisions, fight their own battles, not wait for instructions. This was a new way for the British navy, as well as for the French and Spanish. When the lead British ships ghosted through the enemy line in a light wind, all hell broke loose. Now the battle line was split into three parts, giving the British ships free rein to attack individual ships at will. For the French and Spanish vessels, bravery of the crews could not compensate for the superiority of the British gunnery. Some 17 enemy vessels were captured within hours. By splitting the force, each group of ships engaged one another in a series of individual skirmishes, rather than lining up alongside each other and blasting away. These pitched battles unfolded in slow motion since the wind remained light. During the melee, Admiral Nelson took a musket ball through his chest, which would kill him, eventually, but not before he learned of the British victory at Trafalgar. Adkins brings the true sense of the battle to us interspersed with quotes and excerpts from letters of those who participated. We can almost feel the heat as one of the largest battlewagons blows up as its magazine ignites, a sight supposedly witnessed along the Spanish shoreline miles away. As if the battle was not enough, a hurricane followed a day later, scattering the ships and putting many on the lee shore rocks and shoals. Nevertheless, the British fleet eventually made its way home with the body of Nelson preserved in a cask of brandy aboard his beloved ship Victory. Napoleon abandoned his plan to invade Britain. ###

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A super historical tale of this event!

    This book outlines the battle of Trafalgar as well as looking at the significance of what happened afterwards. Lord Nelson's fame is covered in detail and his impact on Britain and the British navu. It also describes the failed invasion of the channel . For a super historical novel on Trafalgar try this book..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2008

    Great Introduction to the Battle

    It would be difficult to find a better introduction to the Battle of Trafalgar than Adkins¿ book. I really appreciate history books that not only present a great story but also provide little trivial and fascinating facts. Adkins does a bang up job on both accounts. He doesn¿t dwell on Nelson as much as one might think and provides a great cross section of the nations, their leaders, their military culture, their social pressures, their naval commanders and their sailors. And of course he also provides a thorough analysis of the battle and the events after the battle. If I had a criticism it would be how he seems to dismiss some historical accounts and accepts others, seemingly without much explanation. On the other hand I have to say that Adkins book is superior in every aspect to Adam Nicolson¿s book ¿Seize the Fire¿ on the same subject. If you want to learn about the battle, save your money on ¿Seize the Fire¿ and purchase ¿Nelson¿s Trafalgar.¿

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2005

    Roy Adkins' Trafalgar is a great read

    I'm a big fan of Roy Adkins, having read his books on archaeology--which I treasure on my bookshelves. Adkins magnificently details this historic naval battle between the French and Spanish on the one side and the British on the other. Adkins not only gives a memorable overview of the battle, but he also takes the time to explain various aspects of life at the time on board ship, as well as the reasons leading to the battle. What is also a great surprise is that there was a huge storm afterwards, in which more far people lost their lives than in the battle itself. The author then goes on to recount how the news was brought to England after the battle and how it spread to the rest of the world. This is a very stirring and often sad story, much recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2011

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