All Books History Quotes

John Keegan | The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar, The Price of Admiralty by John Keegan, 1989

The Battle of Trafalgar, The Price of Admiralty by John Keegan, 1989

All the rigging was cut to pieces, the masts damaged by a number of shot, the guns in the upper decks dismounted. I was wounded by a splinter….the Admiral [Villeneuve] ordered the few men remaining on the upper decks—they were now useless, having no guns left and no rigging to work, all being cut to pieces—to go below to the 24-pounder gundeck. The enemy ships appeared to leeeward of us; they were followed by the rest of the line…two 74s were on our beam, very close to windward, into whom we fired as vigorously as possible; the main and mizen masts fell, shot through and masked the starboard side, the colours were secured to the stump of the mainmast; the 24-pounder battery was totally dismounted and the 36-pounder battery had lost very many men, all the hands still able to serve were sent there; worked to clear away the masts from the ship so as to be able to make use of the 36-pounder battery…The ship, having only the foremast standing, fell away and broke her jib-boom against the Santissima Trinidad, they being very close together…an instant later our foremast fell…Our rigging completely dismanteld, totally mismasted, having lost all our men in the upper works, the 24-pounder battery entirely dismounted and abandoned…the starboard side masked by the masts; unable to defend ourselves, having nearly 450 men killed and wounded; not being supported by any ship…not even having a boat in which [the admiral] might put off [to shift his flag], all of them having been riddled with shot as well as the one which we had kept, covered before the battle, we were cut off in the midst of 5 enemy ships which were pouring a very hot fire into us. I went on deck again at the moment when Admiral Villeneuve was constrained to strike [surrender], to prevent the further slaughter of brave men without the power of retaliating, which was done after three and a quarter hours of the most furious action, nearly always at pistol range. The relics of the Eagle were thrown into the sea, as were also all the signals.

– Captain Jean-Jacques Magendie of the Bucentaure

From John Keegan’s seminal, masterful The Price of Admiralty.

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