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Issue 40 May

Artwork by Michel Madaja

For more information about Michel and his superb Paintings check out his Facebook Page:!/pages/APM-Painting1 Studio/338820019476426


Greetings All Welcome to the May issue of the magazine, the re-enactment seasons for most of you will hopefully be in full swing-Do let me know about any events you have been to or will be going to and I will help to promote them. I will be at Hampton Court Castle for my May bank holiday weekend, when I was there last year the sun was bright and warm for the entire weekend-I am saying prayers and offering sacrifices to all for the same this coming year! Artwork by Michel Madaja

Congratulations to the 2 lucky winners, one in Australia and the other in England, your prizes will be with you soon. Thank you to Chris Humphries for offering his books as the prize! This month sees 2 brand new competitions and my thanks go to Dan Snow and Dr Ian Mortimer for their contribution with the prizes. As always, I am on the look-out for more groups, traders, event details, stories, articles and reports. Please contact me at the normal email address with details! Editor.

Artwork by Michel Madaja

Features This Month 1: “First in the attack” by John Sadler 2: Competition No.1 3: Book Reviews-The Historical Novel Soc. 4: Competition No.2 5: Event Listings 6: Extract “Britain’s Greatest Naval Battle” 7: Historic Tours in Scotland. Competitions: All competitions are free to enter Winners will be selected at random on the 24th of each month for the relevant competition. Winners will be notified via email shortly after the draw takes place. No correspondence will be entered into. The editor’s decision is final. The views and opinions expressed in the articles in this ezine are those of the individual authors themselves and not those of the Editor

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That ‘Glorious though Unfortunate Battle’ – The Black Watch and the Attack on Fort Ticonderoga, 8th July, 1758 Duncan Campbell was one of those who took part in the disastrous attack ordered by General James Abercrombie against the defences of Fort Carillon in July 1758. This was one of the many actions fought in the course of the Seven Years War (1756 – 1763) in the vast arena of the North American wilderness. Ten days after the fight, Duncan Campbell, serving with the 42nd succumbed to his wounds. Some three years beforehand Campbell is said to have provided shelter to one who turned out to have been his brother’s murderer. This was a fine choice for a highland gentleman; to deny the call of vengeance or the obligations of the host. A humane man, he spared the assassin and gave him refuge. A little while after his dead brother appeared to him in a dream in which he promised they would meet again at a place called Ticonderoga, which at that point and, unsurprisingly, Campbell had never heard of. On the very afternoon of the day on which the fateful engagement had been played out in New York State, a ghostly panoply of fighting men appeared in the clouds over Inveraray Castle, Clan Campbell was thus given notice it would soon mourn many of its lost sons. The name Ticonderoga derives from the Iroquois expression tekontaro:ken - ‘at the junction of two waterways’, an entirely pragmatic description for the place stands astride the strategically significant narrow passage of Lake Champlain, where a short traverse cuts through to the northern flank of Lake George. Thus the fort dominated the busy trade highway between English-held Lake Hudson and the French-controlled St. Lawrence River. Such was the importance of its location that four major combats were fought out there within a mere two decades. When the French began to build in 1755, they named their new work Fort Carillon, the choice inspired by the almost musical resonance of tumbling falls nearby. Construction was spread over a period of two years and the ramparts were not completed until 1757. By then local rivalry between France and England had flared as a wider consequence of the Seven Years War, Pitt the Elder’s expansionist triumph that a later populist leader, Winston Churchill, branded as ‘The First World War’. It was from there the French launched a successful campaign against Fort William Henry, an episode familiar to all readers of James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans.

By the following year the British in North America had been substantially reinforced whilst 4

the French under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, were forced back onto the defensive. Two campaigns were planned, General Amherst would lead an attempt on the great French bastion of Louisbourg, whilst Abercrombie, as C-in-C would assault Fort Carillon. His forces were considerable, comprising some 7,000 British redcoats and 9,000 colonial militia; well supported by a formidable artillery train. His regular battalions included the 27th, 44th, 46th, 55th and the 42nd Highland regiment (The Black Watch). For the difficult and dangerous business of scouting and skirmishing he could count upon over a thousand of light infantry. Col. Gage, commanding the 80th foot, was a devoted student of that celebrated exponent of irregular warfare Richard Rogers, whose Rangers had already made a name for themselves as masters of commando style operations.

Against this formidable deployment Montcalm could muster no more than 3,600 defenders all told, made up of seven battalions of French regulars, supported by marines, French colonials and native allies. He knew the blow must fall upon the bastion of Ticonderoga and thus looked to his defences. The site enjoyed a superb tactical position, pushed out on a spur that jutted, like a salient against the course of the river, the rushing waters providing additional cover on three sides. The fourth flank was partly screened by a bog and covered by a timber outwork, a substantial palisade nine feet high, the timbers soundly buttressed, and the ground before sown with stakes and other obstacles. The fort itself was a classic star shaped construction with four corner strengths or bastions, two freestanding works, or ravelins, guarding the most exposed flanks and the whole built upon a swell of higher ground, it was altogether a most commanding position.

Any successful assault could only be prepared after the major logistical effort needed to transport, men, their equipment and supplies, the great guns, ammunition and quantities of powder had been competently undertaken. The officer responsible was Brigadier Viscount George Augustus Howe, one of several remarkable brothers, all of whom were destined to leave their mark on North America. Howe, colonel of the 55th had made a particular study of the irregular pattern of warfare that so suited the terrain and had spent time with Rogers. The many lessons learnt he put to good effect, stripping his fellow officers of much of their more luxurious baggage, lightening the men’s load, adapting their uniform, weapons and drill. He went so far as to be seen washing his own linen in rivers, a chore normally undertaken for officers by the regimental women whom he’d sent back, this was indeed novel!


In the warm flush of a continental summer, the end of June, Abercrombie’s task force was mustering on the banks of Lake George, the ruins of Fort William Henry a potent reminder. Thanks to Howe’s efficiency some 800 barges or bateaux, plus 90 whaleboats had been laboriously hauled overland, each of the boats would carry 22 troops with all their gear and 30 days supply of foodstuffs. On 5th July with commendable discipline and elan the regiments embarked and the great flotilla of heavily laden craft proceeded sedately down the length of Lake George. It was indeed a sight of awesome majesty, the might of the burgeoning British Empire, a rich tableau of scarlet and gold, the deep blue of the colonials, the latent power of the great guns, lashed to rafts, the silken standards lifting in a gentle breeze. Around them the sylvan glories of an untouched wilderness; tall stands of pine and fir, the light glancing from the calm, burnished waters of the lake, hills rising on every side.

By dawn the following day, 6th July, the long passage of Lake George had been accomplished without mishap and the battalions were approaching the narrows; ahead of them was the expanse of Lake Champlain but, rising in its headland, reared the great mass of Fort Ticonderoga, an unconquered citadel. Montcalm, however outnumbered, was still vigilant and the shoreline was held by a commanded body of skirmishers; fire from the boats drove these back beneath the shelter of the trees and the attackers disembarked without further opposition. Once ashore, the men were detailed into marching columns but this terrain was not the level arena of Flanders, it was rather a dense web of tangled undergrowth, fallen trees and confusing slopes. Abercrombie’s guides proved less than competent and the British were soon in difficulties. In the confusion the right, commanded by Howe, became involved in a running fight with the French, taking casualties, amongst these was their gallant commander, one whose loss would be keenly felt. Major-General Stewart writing of the action some decades after, commented:

The march was continued in the same order [July 7th], but the ground not having been previously examined, and the guides proving extremely ignorant, the columns came in contact, and were thrown in confusion. A detachment of the enemy, which got bewildered in the wood, fell in with the right column, at the head of which was lord Howe. A smart skirmish ensued, in which the enemy were driven back and scattered with considerable loss. This petty advantage was dearly purchased by the death of Lord Howe. Abercrombie, deprived of his subordinate’s wise counsel, now took a fateful and disastrous 6

decision. Sensibly, he could have deployed his colonials to interdict communications between the beleaguered fort and possible reinforcement from Fort St. Frederic (Crown Point). He could then have begun the laborious process of dragging the guns from their barges to the eminence of Mount Defiance and, from there commenced a bombardment, which given the weight of shot he disposed must surely have soon battered the fort into submission. He chose instead to rely on the distinctly unsound advice of a junior officer of engineers, who opined the impromptu works covering the approach were flimsy and could be rushed with the bayonet. With drums beating and banners unfurled the regular battalions of foot moved into the attack with purpose and precision, but the defences were far stronger than had been suggested, the line of the breastwork was held by Montcalm’s veterans.

A withering hail of fire greeting the leading ranks who were flensed away as their comrades behind struggled to fight through the lines of obstacles – this was grim, close quarter work, which presaged the horror of the trenches; the men could make no headway:

Masses of infuriated men could not go forward and would not go back; straining for an enemy they could not reach, and firing on an enemy they could not see, they were caught in the entanglement of felled trees. Shooting, yelling and cursing, they were assailed all the while with bullets, which killed them by scores, stretched them on the ground, or hung them on jagged branches, in strange attitudes of death.

Thus far the 42nd, with the 55th had been kept in reserve but, as the assault faltered, they were now sent in. Formed nearly two decades beforehand the 42nd (Lord John Murray’s Highlanders – the Black Watch) were proud of their natural elitism – drawn mainly from the ranks of Clan Campbell, the soldiers were men of quality and some standing. Their elan was ferocious and they fell upon the defences with gusto. The battle now reached its savage denouement as the highlanders fought and clawed their way forward, Captain John Campbell and a handful of his company became the only British forces to gain a lodgment in the enemy position but, unsupported and disdaining retreat, they were cut down to a man. As the celebrated historian Francis Parkman wrote:

Then the highland soldiers of the 42nd could endure no longer. Impatient of their position in the rear, they rushed forward, hewed their way through the obstacles with their broadswords. Since no ladders had been provided, they made strenuous efforts to carry the breastworks, partly by mounting on each other’s shoulders and partly by fixing their feet in holes, which 7

they had excavated with their swords and bayonets in the face of the work. The defenders were so well prepared that the instant an assailant reached the top, that instant he was thrown or shot down.

Losses were frightful, the 42nd, which had suffered most grievously, had lost eight officers, nine NCO’s and 297 other ranks killed, 17 officers, ten NCO’s and 306 men hurt – a total loss of 647, the regiment was reduced to a mere shell. The attack was a disastrous failure though, in recognition of its sacrifice the 42nd was awarded by George II with the designation ‘Royal’ – never was such a distinction better merited. Article Supplied by: John Sadler

The Re-Enactor Magazine Free to receive Free to advertise Currently sent to 36 different countries worldwide If you have an article you would like to share with other re-enactors pleas get in contact. I am also after more groups and traders to add to the ever increasing lists. Do let me know of any events you hear about and I will help promote them. Email: Or join us on Facebook: 8

Competition One

DAN SNOW'S NORMAN WALKS - DVD Acclaimed TV historian Dan Snow explores Britain through the eyes of the Norman conquerors. This historic perspective shines new light on landscapes and histories we have come to take for granted, and reveals a texture to the landscape of Britain that time has almost erased. As seen on BBC Television.

The Invasion Dan Snow starts his exploration of Norman Britain from the towering viewpoint of Beachy Head. These great cliffs would have been the first sign of England viewed by William, Duke of Normandy, and his invasion force as they sailed across the Channel in the autumn of 1066. But did William and the Normans really land at Pevensey as the Bayeux Tapestry would have us believe? And did they erect the first of their great castles even before victory on the battlefield? The Welsh Marches This second Norman Walk explores a story of settlement and colonisation in one of the most unsettled corners of the new Norman kingdom. Why are the Welsh borders so littered with castles? This is the subject of Dan’s walk beside the Black Mountains and the Monnow Valley taking in Longtown Castle, White Castle, Skenfrith and Grosmont. Yorkshire York was the focal point for William the Conqueror’s infamous Harrying of the North, a period of terror that devastated the country between York and Durham five years after the conquest. From here to Helmsley Castle and the site of the great Abbey of Rievaulx, we discover how the first Cistercian monks, with the support of Walter Espec, brought communications, wool and mining industries to the north. I have 3 copies of this excellent DVD to give away in this month’s magazine, all you need do is visit the website and answer the simple question to be in with a chance of winning a dedicated/signed copy from Dan Snow. Question: Where was Dan born and raised? Please send your answer along with you full postal address to me at the normal email address: Note: These are “PAL” version DVD’s, so make sure your DVD player is compatible! 9

The Whip

For other reviews on other books why not visit:


Charley Parkhurst was one of the notable Old West stagecoach drivers in the days when this means of travel was the most prevalent manner of transportation west. It was a shock, therefore, when at his death, Charley was found to have been a woman. The discovery was especially shocking because this elite stage driver walked, talked, drank, and smoked like a man and was particularly adept at handling a concord stage pulled by a team of six horses—a feat requiring a great amount of physical dexterity as well as a considerable amount of strength.

Speculation as to why Charlotte/Charley changed her identity and embarked upon such a career has always been extensive, but very few verifiable facts have been discovered. Karen Kondazian has gathered what exists and allowed her imagination to weave Charley’s life into an intriguing pattern. She’s done so in a fast-moving tale that quite possibly could be true. The Whip provides an interesting speculative life history for one of the more enigmatic characters of the Old West. Readers familiar with the setting—or who would like to be—will enjoy this tale.


Child of Aetos is the story of James Stanley, seventh Earl of Derby and supporter of King Charles during the seventeenthcentury English Civil Wars, as told by Paul Morrow, his secretary. The story begins with the execution of the Earl as a traitor for bearing arms for Charles Stuart against Parliament in 1651. The story then moves back in time to 1625 when Paul joined the household of the sixth Earl of Derby as a young man. Saunderson then gently leads us forward from 1625 to the culmination on the Isle of Man in 1651 where Paul fulfills James’ dying wish. Throughout are interwoven the life and concerns of James and Paul as they try to do what they believe is right, sometimes even at the expense of their own families.

The narrator, Paul, is a fictional character, but James Stanley was the seventh Earl of Derby and loyal to Charles Stuart. James was committed to maintaining stability in his counties as had his father William before him. At a time when Catholicism was banned in England, he counted Catholic lords amongst his supporters, leading to strained relations with other Royalist leaders. His wife Lady Charlotte was a strong figure in the story who held Lathom House as the last Royalist stronghold in Lancashire when besieged by Parliamentarian troops. Saunderson shows a fine knowledge of seventeenth-century English history. Saunderson has created a well-written and accurate picture of seventeenth-century England. It speaks to the loyalty and courage of the Earl of Derby for King Charles in the face of great personal sacrifice. An engaging story, recommended. 10

The Mortimer History Society Spring Conference May 12th 2012 The Earl Mortimer College Leominster, Herefordshire. Marc Morris will be hosting a lively and interactive discussion on King Edward I, Simon de Montfort & Prince Llewelyn. He will be joined by representatives from historical groups and other authors to discuss aspects of the three men. For more details


The Festival of History Kelmarsh Hall Northamptonshire, UK July 14th & 15th 2012 Visitors immerse themselves in 2000 years of England's past during the Festival of History at Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire, presented by English Heritage. The event features everything from falconry, jousting displays and battle re-enactments to music, dance and ale. The Historical Writers Association will also be there with various talks and meet the author sessions throughout the weekend. The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross (C1461) September 15th & 16th

Oxford 14-19 August 2012 Come and spend a happy week making a period/historical costume under the expert supervision of Ann Susan Brown Other courses available: Baroque Dance, Commedia, Singing and Instrumental Music Fees: ÂŁ485 for full board and tuition (financial help available, age immaterial) Enquiries and full brochure from Barbara Segal on 020 7700 4293 email: website:

Hampton Court Castle & Gardens, Herefordshire Living History Combat Archery Cannon Traders Row Music Dance Barber Surgeon Beer Tent Bring & Buy sale (Sat eve) 11

Competition Two The past is a foreign country - this is your guide. We think of Queen Elizabeth I as 'Gloriana': the most powerful English woman in history. We think of her reign (1558-1603) as a golden age of maritime heroes, like Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Richard Grenville and Sir Francis Drake, and of great writers, such as Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare. But what was it actually like to live in Elizabethan England? If you could travel to the past and walk the streets of London in the 1590s, where would you stay? What would you eat? What would you wear? Would you really have a sense of it being a glorious age? And if so, how would that glory sit alongside the vagrants, diseases, violence, sexism and famine of the time? In this book Ian Mortimer answers the key questions that a prospective traveller to late sixteenth-century England would ask. Applying the groundbreaking approach he pioneered in his bestselling Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, the Elizabethan world unfolds around the reader. He shows a society making great discoveries and winning military victories and yet at the same time being troubled by its new-found awareness. It is a country in which life expectancy at birth is in the early thirties, people still starve to death and Catholics are persecuted for their faith. Yet it produces some of the finest writing in the English language and some of the most magnificent architecture, and sees Elizabeth's subjects settle in America and circumnavigate the globe. Welcome to a country that is, in all its contradictions, the very crucible of the modern world. I have 3 signed copies of this superb book to give away in the 2 nd of this month’s competitions. Just click on the link above “Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England and answer this question. Q: The book is a handbook for visitors to what? Send your answer to me at the email address below along with your full postal address.


Event Information May 1st & 2nd Newstead Abbey Battle Display Weekend (NA) Notts 6th & 7th, Fortress Wales, Margam Copuntry Park, Port Talbot, Wales

6th – 8th Albuera Bicentenial Event Spain 12th The Mortimer History Society Spring Conference, Leominster, Herefordshire, UK 12th & 13th Multi-era Grand Historical Bazaar, Rufford Abbey Country Park, Notts. UK 12th & 13th Italian Medieval Tournament at Casei Gerola, Italy, (PV)

12th & 13th Victorian Weekend, Forge Mill Needle Museum, Redditch, UK 12th &13th The Cressing Temple Fayre, Cressing Temple, UK

19th Re-Enactors First Aid Course, The Greenwood Centre, Coalbrookdale, UK Contact: 26th & 27th les medievales de CHAUCONIN-NEUFMONTIERS

June 2nd & 3rd De Quaeye Werelt, Sterckshof, Belgium 9th Boerderij aan de Giessen, Grotewaard 38, Noordeloos, Netherlands 16th The Minstrels Court, St. John’s Church, Chester, UK 16th Llangan Village Festival, Llangan, Vale Of Glamorgan, United Kingdom, CF35 5DP


16th & 17th Tatton Park Medieval Fair 18th & 19th Waterloo Major European Event Belgium 23rd & 24th Wartime Clumber (1940s event), Clumber Park, Notts, UK 23rd & 24th The Yorkshire Museum of Farming, Murton Park, Yorkshire, UK 30th &1st Medieval Festival, Harewood House, Yorkshire, UK

July 2nd & 3rd Cheriton Battle Display Weekend Hampshire 7th & 8th The Romans are Coming! Burgh-le-Marsh, Lincolnshire 14th & 15th The Battle of Tewkesbury, Tewkesbury, UK 14th & 15th The Festival of History, Kelmarsh Hall, Northamptonshire, UK 21st & 22nd Victorians at Hughenden, Hughenden Manor, Bucks 21st & 22nd Berkeley Skirmish, Berkeley castle, Gloucestershire, UK 21st & 22nd The Battle of Azincourt, Azincourt, France. 21st & 22nd Battle of Clontarf, St Ann's park Dublin

22nd The Battle of Salamanca, 200th anniversary!/event.php?eid=183242878392002&notif_t=event_invite 27th – 30th C13th Event at The Arthurian Centre. Slaughterbridge, Camelford, Cornwall, UK 28th & 29th Tournement of Walraversijde, Belgium


30th Highclere Castle Battle Prom Berkshire

August 4th & 5th The Second Annual GREAT ROAD ENCAMPMENT 18th Century Encampment 1700-1799, Elliston, VA, USA Contact Henry Bryant at 10th – 14th Robin Hood Festival, Sherwood Forest, Notts, UK 11th – 13th The Battle of Camlann, The Arthurian Centre, Slaughterbridge, Cornwall, uk 26th & 27th Multi-period re-enactments at The Sheffield Fayre, Norfolk Heritage Park, Sheffield 27th – 29th Loseley House Battle Display Weekend (NA) Nr Guildford, Surrey 31st – 2nd “Borderland 1474”, Poland. Near the border with Ukraine

September 1st & 2nd Ayscoughfee Hall, Tudor Weekend 1st & 2nd On the Home Front 1939-45, Rufford Abbey Country Park, Notts, UK 8th & 9th EMA weekend at Caldicot Castle, wales 15th & 16th The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, Leominster, Herefordshire, UK 22nd & 23rd Wimpole at War (1940s event), The Wimpole Estate, Cambs, UK 22nd & 23rd Blasts from the Past multi-period show, Broadlands, Romsey, Hampshire 29th The Hundred Years War, A Century of conflict re-evaluated. Tower Of London


29th & 30th Sherwood through the Ages multi-period, Sherwood Forest, Nott, UK

October 6th & 7th Hughenden’s Wartime Weekend, Hughenden Manor, Bucks, UK

November 9th – 11th The Original Re-Enactors Market, Ryton, Near Coventry, UK 24th & 25th Ludlow Castle Medieval Christmas Fair, Ludlow, Shropshire, UK

Battles of Camlann! 28th & 29th July 2012

A 13th Century Re-enactment event to coincide with the British Festival of Archaeology Week, this involves an active dig at the original Medieval village on the site.

11th & 12th August 2012

Early through to mid 15th Century-“Tintagel Style”

"How Mordred was Slain by Arthur, and How by Him Arthur was Hurt to the Death", by Arthur Rackham

Open to the public 10am – 5pm daily Camping available on site – Wed before to Wed after for £5 Water, wood, toilets and showers available. Fri-Mon camping & Trader Pitches are FREE 2 Battle daily, morning and afternoon Re-enactor competitions Beer tent, Music, Archery, Story Telling, Rural natural crafts Archaeologists on site for July event On the site of King Arthurs Stone and an actual early medieval battle site! Location: Arthurian Centre on the B3314 half mile from A39 and B3266 junctions. Post code PL32 9TT. Approx. 3 miles from Tintagel. For booking, please email: 16

Trafalgar 1805 The call of Cadiz August 1805 In August 1805, after two years at sea, attempting to bring Napoleon’s fleet to a decisive battle, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson had been recalled to England while the government pondered its next step. The Franco-Spanish navy was harassing the British fleet, while thousands of French troops were poised at Boulogne to invade England. Napoleon appeared invincible. After only a few peaceful weeks with his beloved mistress, Emma Hamilton, Nelson heard the news that a large part of the French fleet was blockaded in at Cadiz harbour. This was the prize that he had sought to bring to battle for the last two years. He wrote in his diary: ‘God knows I want a rest; but self is entirely out of the question.’[29]. Nelson returned to sea. Nelson was a maverick admiral. The putting of his telescope to his blind eye at the Battle of Copenhagen was emblematic of a man who always believed that he was right. He had a conviction that he was destined to do great things and he ran immense risks to achieve them. His trademark was boldness; his secret was his conviction that he could do impossible things. All this was carried through with an aura of ‘reckless coolness’, which he displayed until his dying moments at Trafalgar. [30]. Nelson’s opponent, Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve, was a few years younger than him. Although from an aristocratic family he had entered the French navy aged fifteen and steadily worked his way up the ranks. Despite his indifferent performance he had survived Napoleon’s purges of the officer class and found himself at Cadiz with thirty-three French and Spanish warships. By nature a pessimist and without any spark or initiative he knew that his career was faltering. There was nothing original about the tactics that Nelson planned to use against Villeneuve. He knew that the enemy fleet was only capable of fighting in line-ahead formation, so Nelson proposed to cut the line and ‘bring forth a pell-mell Battle’. [31]. Nelson had studied this technique in John Clerk’s Essay on Naval Tactics. But the method could only be used by a commander who could rely on his captains to follow it through: it required trust, courage and quick thinking to succeed. On arrival at Cadiz at the end of September Nelson carefully explained his plan to his captains. He would split his fleet into two columns. His own column would cut through Villeneuve’s line around the twelfth ship. This would leave the van of Villeneuve’s fleet, under Vice Admiral Dumanoir, sailing away from the action and unable to take part until it had turned around. Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood as second-in-command would also cut through Villeneuve’s fleet to attack the rear, which was under the command of Admiral the Duke of Gravina. Nelson was sure that this ‘will surprise and confound the enemy. They won’t know what I am about.’ [32] Nelson’s plan had three essential ingredients. First, to strike in a way which made it difficult for a considerable part of Villeneuve’s fleet to come to action: ‘it must be some time before they could perform a manoeuvre to bring their force compact to attack’. Second, he planned to create absolute chaos at the heart of Villeneuve’s line: ‘the whole impression of the British fleet must be to overpower from two or three ships ahead of their commander-in-chief’. And third, Nelson encouraged and expected his captains to act on their own initiative: ‘no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy’. [33].

Villeneuve’s escape bid 19 October 1805 Unknown to the British government Napoleon had abandoned his invasion plans in the middle of August in order to march on Austria. The mass of troops that he had kept for months at Boulogne had gone; the invasion barges hidden along the coast lay derelict. To 17

support Napoleon’s new operation Villeneuve was ordered to the Mediterranean to aid troop transports and generally attack British shipping. By these moves Napoleon neatly offered up his prime fleet to Nelson’s awaiting destructive force. Villeneuve was under no illusions when he received his orders. He knew Nelson well enough to expect the worst. So did his captains, who overwhelmingly voted to stay put in harbour. But Villeneuve simply ignored their views and on 19 October gave the order to ‘make sail and proceed’. His hope was to run through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean; his expectation was death. Even for a better admiral this would have been a rash and unnecessary move, except for one reason. Villeneuve had heard that Napoleon had decided to supersede him. His replacement – Admiral Rosily – was already at Madrid. With nothing to lose, Villeneuve was ready to fling his ill-prepared and run down fleet against an unassailable foe. Villeneuve commanded a mixed French and Spanish force of thirty-three warships. Nelson, too, should have had thirty-three vessels but six of his ships under Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Louis were called away to collect supplies a few days before the battle. This left Nelson outnumbered in ships by thirty-three to twenty-seven and in guns by about 2600 to 2100. Also, Villeneuve had more officers and men: about 22,000 to Nelson’s 17,000. None of this worried Nelson since his plan would enable him to use all his force, whereas Villeneuve would spend most of the battle with ten of his ships way off to the north.

The meeting of the fleets 21 October 1805 The wind was faint as the Franco-Spanish fleet edged its way out of Cadiz on 19 October. Not until noon on the following day were all the ships at sea. Nelson, out of sight over the horizon, left Villeneuve to get well clear of Cadiz, so depriving him of a potential bolthole in battle. Villeneuve set off towards the west but later in the day was reported as sailing southeast towards the Strait of Gibraltar. Nelson left his frigates to keep watch as the light faded. At daybreak on 21 October Nelson’s frigates sighted Villeneuve moving east by south at a distance of 10-12 miles. There was a gentle west by northwest wind as the French and Spanish warships rolled in the swell of the Atlantic Ocean. The breeze could barely stir the vessels and they moved with an eerie calm as if in a dream. But Nelson was in no mood for calm. A storm was brewing out at sea. In a few hours battle would be unthinkable. It had to be now. Nelson was soon on his quarterdeck dressed in his frock-coat and wearing the stars of his four orders of knighthood. Despite having taken his habitual care with his dress on the day of a battle, he had somehow forgotten his sword in his haste to appear on deck. At 6.10 am Nelson sent out the order to form two columns. Twenty minutes later he ordered ‘Prepare for battle’. Away in the distance Villeneuve’s ships continued in a straggly line, he having taken no steps to counter Nelson’s battle plan. His line would be cut and he would take the consequences. In the calm of the early morning Nelson’s seamen rushed to the decks to catch a glimpse of the mass of masts and sails in the enemy fleet. Collingwood, meanwhile, calmly shaved himself in his cabin with, said his servant, ‘a composure that quite astonished me’. [34] There was much to do to make the ships ready for battle. On the gun-decks tables, benches and other paraphernalia of daily life were stowed away. Down in the cockpits the surgeons prepared for their grisly task of amputations. From the lowest depths of the ship supplies of powder, ball and shot were brought up. All the wooden partitions forming the officers’ cabins were dismantled and netting was strung above the bulwarks to reduce injuries from splinters. Then, at 7.30 am, Villeneuve’s fleet suddenly began to turn back to Cadiz. He had realized the hazard that he faced when heading for the Strait: Nelson would have been behind him


while Admiral Louis, with his six ships, would be waiting at the Strait to block his path. Better to fight close to Cadiz where Nelson would have fewer ships. As Villeneuve’s fleet swung into its new line at a speed of a mere knot, his ships were unable to keep station and they strung out in a long, untidy crescent, with sizeable gaps – an ideal pattern for Nelson’s attack. During the morning Nelson spent some time with Captain Blackwood of the frigate Euryalus. ‘I shall not be satisfied with anything short of twenty’, Nelson told him. He then rightly forecast that ‘I’ll give them such a dressing as they never had before.’ As Blackwood prepared to return to his ship, he expressed the hope that when they next met Nelson would be ‘in possession of twenty prizes’. ‘God bless you,’ replied Nelson, ‘I shall never speak to you again.’ [35]. While Villeneuve carried out his unexpected manoeuvre, Nelson wrote his last diary entry in which he hoped for a ‘great and glorious victory’ and resigned himself to God. [36]. After adding a codicil to his will he composed his legendary signal: ‘England expects that every man will do his duty’. In the individual ships men ate their breakfasts as the two columns slowly closed on Villeneuve’s line – at a crawl the approach was to take five hours. The mood in the two fleets was very different. Villeneuve was resigned to failure and one of his captains declared that they were all doomed. In Nelson’s ships there was a feeling of excited confidence, mingled with the realisation that death and mutilation would be the price of victory. As the moment of battle drew near the great ships rose and fell on the long Atlantic swell and the sun dazzled on the sea. There was no more than a light breeze to press the fleet on. The immense white sails of the mighty vessels were barely filled by the faltering air. Each ship bore a Union Jack at its fore topgallant stay, while from the Victory fluttered the signal ‘Engage the enemy more closely’. [37]. At 11.45 am the French 74-gun Fougueux fired the first shot at Royal Sovereign, still a quarter of a mile away. Nelson’s ships held their fire. First they had to go through the line.

Collingwood’s attack Collingwood’s flagship was the first vessel to approach Villeneuve’s fleet. As Royal Sovereign neared the enemy line, the Santa Ana fired a broadside, but still Royal Sovereign was silent. Then she passed through the line and, as she crossed the Santa Ana’s path, she fired a double-shotted broadside through the Spanish ship’s stern – one of the weakest points in a ship. In seconds 400 men on the Santa Ana were dead or injured and 14 guns were out of action. Nelson’s audacity of close attack and Collingwood’s coolness in action began to reap their rewards from the first moment of battle. Royal Sovereign, now through the line, swung round to pour broadsides into the starboard side of the Spanish ship. The two ships were close – too close – and soon their yardarms locked. The fight continued for an hour or so, by which time the Royal Sovereign was a useless hulk and was towed away. In her turn, the Santa Ana was dismasted and her crew seriously depleted. Her thirty-eight year old captain and holder of the Légion d’honneur lay dead. Santa Ana struck her colours and surrendered. The second ship in was the Belleisle. She too found herself rapidly in difficulties as she was set upon by several French and Spanish ships. Although soon dismasted she flew her colours until she was pulled out along with her 33 dead and 93 wounded. But the battle was not as bad for Nelson as these first two encounters might lead us to expect. Soon more of Collingwood’s ships were passing through the line. As, in succession, Tonnant, Bellerophon, Colossus and Achille went in they poured fire into the first Spanish ship they could find and, as they sailed on, they simply transferred their fire to the next ship in the enemy line. The Franco-Spanish ships were stunned by the unrelenting ferocity of this mode of attack. 19

And so the battle continued in Collingwood’s part of the line. His last ship, the Prince, reached the enemy’s rear at about 3 pm, when there was little fight left in Villeneuve’s fleet. She briefly fired on one French and one Spanish ship, but suffered no casualties. Her role neatly summarises the success of Collingwood’s column. Despite the great damage suffered by his first ships, his last one could barely find an enemy vessel worthy of attack. He may have had only six ships still fully able to fight, but he had captured ten out of the fifteen French and Spanish ships that he had taken on, and one, the Achille, had blown up. Collingwood’s column had been indisputably victorious. Now we must turn to Nelson and see how he fared.

Nelson’s attack The feeble wind barely filled the sails as Nelson and his officers endured the agonisingly slow advance to the enemy’s line. As the Victory drew nearer, the enemy’s broadsides began to fall on the English ships. Reply was impossible while Nelson’s column remained at a right angle to the Franco-Spanish line. Nelson stood on the quarterdeck unperturbed as the shot tore its way across Victory’s decks and through her rigging. Her mizzenmast was rent in two. Every sail was torn to fragments. At Nelson’s side, busily taking notes of the battle, was his personal secretary, John Scott. He fell before the Victory even reached the enemy’s line, sliced in two by a cannonball. As his body was tipped overboard by the captain of the marines, Nelson asked ‘Is that poor Scott gone?’ [38]. Nelson was to fall in the very pool of Scott’s blood a few hours later. Nelson had been desperately seeking signs of Villeneuve, who seemed to have put to sea without a flag. But the early shots from the Bucentaure were confirmation of his adversary’s location. The Victory ploughed on and the shots fell with ever increasing destruction. Eight marines fell to a double-shot and the ship’s wheel was turned to matchwood. (The ship could still be steered from below deck.) Captain Hardy, standing at Nelson’s side, escaped harm as a buckle was ripped from his shoe by a flying splinter. It was, said Nelson, ‘too warm work to last for long’. [39]. It was not until just after 12.30 pm that the Victory finally penetrated the Franco-Spanish line, entering between the Bucentaure and the Redoubtable. Nelson repeated Collingwood’s opening shots as each of his port guns in succession poured fire into the Bucentaure’s stern, killing 195 men and injuring 85 others. The fate of the Bucentaure – Villeneuve’s flagship – was symbolic of the fate of Napoleon’s fleet that day. Nelson’s catastrophic opening shots left Villeneuve stunned and unable to regain the initiative. As the Bucentaure headed towards a collision with Victory, Villeneuve is said to have torn down the eagle of his ship, saying ‘I am going to throw this on board the English ship. We will go and fetch it back or die!' [40]. By now his ship was hidden from view in the smoke of battle. Villeneuve attempted one last signal to his fleet: ‘Every ship which is not in action is not at its post, and must take station to bring herself as speedily as possible under fire.’ [41].

The fatal shot In the mêlée at the centre of the battle few ships could move. The Victory was soon rammed up against the Redoubtable and the two ships became locked together by their masts and rigging. Both ships continued to fire their main guns at each other, but after a while all the Victory’s upper deck guns had been put out of action by small-arms fire. It was this same fire that fatally wounded Nelson at 1.15 pm. His insistence in walking the quarterdeck in full uniform and glistening regalia made him an obvious target. With the fleets so closely packed, marksmen in the rigging had easy pickings. And so it was that a ball from high up in the Redoubtable struck Nelson’s left shoulder, ran through his left lung, cut an artery, severed his 20

spine and ended up in the muscle of his right shoulder. When Hardy asked Nelson how he was, he replied ‘They have done for me at last, Hardy.’ Hardy responded: ‘I hope not.’ But Nelson knew the truth and answered: ‘Yes, my backbone is shot through.’[42]. It is generally accepted that Midshipman John Pollard avenged Nelson’s death. He and a fellow midshipman, Francis Collingwood, both returned fire into the rigging of the Redoubtable. It was Pollard’s gun that felled Nelson’s assassin. Nelson covered his face with a handkerchief in an attempt to conceal his fate from his men below. He was carried down to the cockpit, which was already crowded with injured men. At first the surgeon failed to notice the admiral’s arrival. When he was told of Nelson’s presence, Dr Beatty came over but Nelson cried out ‘Ah, Mr Beatty! You can do nothing for me. I have but a short time to live: my back is shot through.’ [43]. Beatty’s examination soon confirmed that there was nothing that could be done. Back on deck the deadly sniper fire continued and there was soon hardly a living soul on the upper-deck. The French attempted a boarding but were repelled by a vigorous body of men and officers. Finally the Redoubtable ceased to resist and the Victory succeeded in breaking away from the enemy’s hulk. The Victory herself was a spent vessel, barely able to do more than drift amongst the detritus of war. Hardy could finally leave his command and return to his dying admiral. ‘Well, Hardy, how goes the battle?’ asked Nelson. ‘Very well, my Lord, we have twelve or fourteen of the enemy’s ships in our possession.’ [44]. As Hardy left to return to the deck to deal with Dumanoir’s approaching ships, Nelson said ‘I am a dead man, Hardy: I am going fast; it will be all over soon.’ [45].

Dumanoir’s attack When Villeneuve had sent his signal to ‘every ship which is not in action’ he had good reason to be concerned. Ever since Nelson had cut the Franco-Spanish line the enemy’s van had sailed on away from the battle area. Whether some or all of the captains in the van were seeking to escape the battle is not clear. But they did not hurry to take part. It was not until 1.00 pm that Dumanoir asked Villeneuve for instructions. It took Villeneuve over an hour to respond with the signal ‘Tack and support centre division’. [46]. The wind was light so Dumanoir’s ships had the greatest difficulty in turning round. Several had to be towed around. So slow was their response that it was not until 3.15 pm that Hardy noticed five ships coming from the north: Héros, Intrépide, San Augustin, San Francisco de Asis, and Rayo. By now Hardy had taken over Nelson’s column of ship and he ordered it to take action against the new arrivals. The engagement was brief. The San Augustin was captured without difficulty by the Leviathan, although she later caught fire and sank. The Intrépide fought until 5.00 pm when, seriously damaged, she struck her colours. The three other ships in the engagement escaped in the fading light. Dumanoir’s five remaining ships arrived later on the scene and fired off a few broadsides, but the battle was fast ending. Once the threat of Dumanoir’s ships had been dealt with, Hardy went below again to find that Nelson was still alive. He reported that ‘the victory is complete’ even though he had been unable to ascertain just how many French and Spanish ships had struck their flags. It was then that Nelson became very agitated, crying out ‘Anchor, Hardy, anchor!’ When Hardy asked if Collingwood was now in charge Nelson retorted ‘Not while I live.’ Nelson twice repeated the command to anchor before asking Hardy to kiss him. Hardy then took his leave and never saw Nelson alive again. [47]. Before expiring Nelson, now struggling for breath as his lungs filled with blood, murmured ‘Thank God, I have done my duty!’ The victory and Nelson’s death were duly entered into the ship’s log book: ‘Partial firing continued until 4.30 pm when a victory having been


reported to the Right Hon. Lord Nelson, KB and Commander-in-Chief, he then died of his wounds.’ [48].

Outcomes At the end of the battle Nelson’s fleet had not lost a single ship. The result for Napoleon’s fleet was a humiliation. Of the thirty-three warships that left Cadiz, only fifteen escaped after the battle. One had been destroyed and seventeen taken as prizes. No two sources agree on the numbers of killed and wounded in the Franco-Spanish fleet. All seem to agree that at least 3500 French and Spanish were wounded or killed and around 4000 were taken prisoner. On the British side there were 449 dead and 1214 wounded. Great as the victory was, it was almost a foregone conclusion. In our two other battles in this book, either side could conceivably have won. At Trafalgar it is hard to see how the FrancoSpanish fleet could have defeated Nelson. It started with every possible disadvantage. The British policy of blockade had gravely reduced the opportunities for Villeneuve and his commanders to train their men and keep them at battle readiness. With or without the fortunes of war, Napoleon’s fleet went to sea as a weakened and inexperienced force. This inexperience critically extended to the admirals and the captains of the individual ships. Villeneuve had not sought to train them to take the initiative. At best they could sail in line and act together – though Trafalgar showed them gravely lacking in the most basic battle skills. By the time Villeneuve realised that Nelson would seek to cut his line rather than fight in-line, it was too late for him to turn his lacklustre captains into bold go-getters. Had he thought out a better mode to counter Nelson’s dual thrusts, his captains could never have executed it. Villeneuve had no better proof of the poverty of the material that he worked with than was demonstrated by his two subordinate commanders: Dumanoir in the van and Gravina in the rear. It must have been obvious to Dumanoir that his ships could contribute nothing to the battle unless they turned back. But he sailed on. As one French critic said of Dumanoir ‘It would appear that fatality clung to the movements of our van.’ [49]. As to Gravina, he might have had the wits to see that if he sailed on his ships would be hit by successive vessels in Collingwood’s line. He could have turned to port to offer his broadsides to the starboard sides of Collingwood’s approaching ships. But he sailed on. Nelson’s victory depended critically on his battle plan. His aim had been to use overwhelming force at the centre to scatter and disorientate his enemy. But he was only able to do this because of the quality of his officers and men. The British gunners could fire more rapidly and more accurately than their opponents. Collingwood said of the Dreadnought crew that they were so well practised that ‘few ships companies could equal them in rapidity and precision of firing’ [50]. The superb British seamen were led by bold, courageous officers, who interpreted Nelson’s plan in the heat of battle.

After the battle When the news of Nelson’s death was conveyed to Collingwood he was stricken with sorrow for his great friend. Even so, when Nelson’s order to anchor was reported to him, he retorted ‘Anchor the fleet! Why, it is the last thing I should have thought of.’ [51] Clear and dramatic as the victory had been, Collingwood was left in a very difficult situation. Three of the British ships – Victory, Royal Sovereign and Belle Isle – had been dismasted and so required towing. Eleven ships had lost their topmasts and he had his seventeen prizes to deal with. Of these six were dismasted. All this would have been a challenge to handle even with full crews and fair weather. With storms for four days and nights, and many ships with severely reduced crews, it was all too much. The winds blew and the ships drifted. All but four of the prizes escaped. As the words ‘Anchor, Hardy!’ rang in Collingwood’s brain he 22

belatedly issued the order at 9.00 pm. But, as he told the Admiralty, ‘few ships had an anchor to let go’ [52]. Their cables had been severed in battle. Villeneuve was taken prisoner and brought to England. He lived for a while in Berkshire where, according to Napoleon, ‘he studied anatomy with a view to taking his own life’ [53]. A few months after returning to France he was found dead from stab wounds in his hotel room. The testimony of his servant leaves little doubt that Villeneuve had stabbed himself with his table knife. After five wounds to the left lung, the sixth stab entered his heart and he fell on his back. [54]

Consequences When the news of the victory reached Britain it was greeted with ecstasy tinged with a great national mourning for the loss of Nelson. There was universal relief that Napoleon’s threatened invasion had been thwarted. (The fact that he had abandoned the invasion two months before was not then known.) In the short-term the impact of Trafalgar was felt more by Napoleon than by the British. It was clear that he could never hope to revive his invasion programme. Nor, in the short-term, could he hope to rebuild his much-depleted navy – he had too many other calls on his resources as he waged continental war. So at Trafalgar Napoleon lost his only means of directly attacking Britain. He was left with an enemy who was hard to reach. For Britain the short-term advantage was simply the reduction in the threat to an island nation. But the victory by no means cleared the seas of the French menace, as Churchill reminded the House of Commons in 1915. In the Napoleonic wars Britain lost an average of 517 ships a year. The figures for the years immediately after Trafalgar were: 1806: 519 losses; 1807, 559 losses; 1808, 469 losses; and 1809, 571 losses. [55]. Clearly Trafalgar had less of an impact than is often claimed. It is a mistake to make too much of Trafalgar, however brilliant Nelson’s handling of the battle was. It failed to decide anything. Britain remained at war with the French for another ten years until a land battle – Waterloo – decided the outcome. Here was the real lesson for Britain. While Trafalgar once more confirmed (as had Armada) Britain’s command of the seas, it also underlined the fact that naval warfare is rarely decisive. Trafalgar bought time, but not much else. In the longer term it is arguable that Trafalgar weakened Britain’s position because of the complacency that it brought in its wake. For nearly 100 years after the battle the Royal Navy faced no credible rival. As a result it became ossified in routine and neglectful of warpreparation. When Sir John Fisher took over the Mediterranean Fleet in 1899 ships were judged by the smartness of their paintwork and the elegance of their synchronised evolutions. He shook the navy to its core as he deposed useless captains, forced ships to manoeuvre at high speed and demanded long-range gun practice. His reforming zeal as First Sea Lord in 1904-1909 replaced a self-satisfied but ineffective fleet brought up in the shadow of Trafalgar with the mighty Grand Fleet that held the Germans at bay throughout the First World War. Not for nothing did Fisher see himself as Nelson’s heir. Extract from ‘Britain’s Greatest Naval Battle’ by Richard Freeman £ 3.99 published 9 Feb 2012


Historic Battlefield Tours Discover 800 years of conflict in the heart of Scotland Welcome to Historic Battlefield Tours. Based in Cumbernauld we offer short two day trips to some of the most famous battlefields in Central Scotland. As well as visiting sites where well-known heroes such as Wallace and the Bruce fought against the English during the Wars of Independence you'll discover some of the other, less celebrated battles and conflict sites that also helped to shape the Scotland we know today. Your guide, Jim, is a former infantry soldier and a graduate of the University of Glasgow where at the world renowned Centre for Battlefield Archaeology, he gained his Master of Letters in Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology. By using a combination of his expertise and knowledge in these fields and the latest historical and archaeological perspectives, he can guide you through over eight hundred years of conflict in the heart of Scotland.

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The Re-enactor issue 40PDF  
The Re-enactor issue 40PDF  

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