Battle of Cape Finisterre (1805)

Last updated

Battle of Cape Finisterre
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Cape Finisterre.jpg
Admiral Sir Robert Calder's action off Cape Finisterre, 23 July 1805, by William Anderson. The captured Spanish prizes Firme and San Raphael, are under tow on the right and the damaged HMS Windsor Castle, on the left.
Date22 July 1805
Location
Result Indecisive [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]
British strategic victory [6] [7] [8] [9]
Belligerents
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg British Empire Flag of France.svg French Empire
Flag of Spain (1785-1873, 1875-1931).svg Spanish Empire
Commanders and leaders
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Robert Calder

Flag of France.svg Pierre de Villeneuve,

Flag of Spain.svg Federico Gravina
Strength
15 ships of the line 20 ships of the line
Casualties and losses
198 dead or wounded [10] 647 dead or wounded, [10]
2 ships captured,
1,200 prisoners [11]

In the Battle of Cape Finisterre (22 July 1805) off Galicia, Spain, the British fleet under Admiral Robert Calder fought an indecisive naval battle against the combined Franco-Spanish fleet which was returning from the West Indies. Failing to prevent the joining of French Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve's fleet to the squadron of Ferrol and to strike the shattering blow that would have freed Great Britain from the danger [5] of an invasion, Calder was later court-martialled and severely reprimanded for his failure and for avoiding the renewal of the engagement on 23 and 24 July. At the same time, in the aftermath Villeneuve elected not to continue on to Brest, where his fleet could have joined with other French ships to clear the English Channel for an invasion of Great Britain.

Galicia (Spain) Autonomous community of Spain

Galicia is an autonomous community of Spain and historic nationality under Spanish law. Located in the northwest Iberian Peninsula, it includes the provinces of A Coruña, Lugo, Ourense and Pontevedra.

Robert Calder Royal Navy admiral

Admiral Sir Robert Calder, 1st Baronet, was a British naval officer who served in the Seven Years' War, the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

West Indies Island region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean

The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago.

Contents

Strategic background

The fragile Peace of Amiens of 1802 had come to an end when Napoleon formally annexed the Italian state of Piedmont and on 18 May 1803 Britain was once again at war with France.

Piedmont Region of Italy

Piedmont is a region in northwest Italy, one of the 20 regions of the country. It borders the Liguria region to the south, the Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna regions to the east and the Aosta Valley region to the northwest; it also borders Switzerland to the northeast and France to the west. It has an area of 25,402 square kilometres (9,808 sq mi) and a population of 4,377,941 as of 30 November 2017. The capital of Piedmont is Turin.

Napoleon planned to end the British blockade by invading and conquering Britain. By 1805 his Armée d'Angleterre was 150,000 strong and encamped at Boulogne. If this army could cross the English Channel, victory over the poorly trained and equipped militias was very likely. The plan was that the French navy would escape from the British blockades of Toulon and Brest and threaten to attack the West Indies, thus drawing off the British defence of the Western Approaches. The combined fleets would rendezvous at Martinique and then double back to Europe, land troops in Ireland to raise a rebellion, defeat the weakened British patrols in the Channel, and help transport the Armée d'Angleterre across the Straits of Dover.

Napoleon 19th century French military leader and politician

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Boulogne-sur-Mer Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Boulogne-sur-Mer, often called Boulogne, is a coastal city in Northern France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department of Pas-de-Calais. Boulogne lies on the Côte d'Opale, a touristic stretch of French coast on the English Channel between Calais and Normandy, and the most visited location in the region after Lille conurbation. Boulogne is its department's second-largest city after Calais, and the 163rd-largest in France. It is also the country's largest fishing port, specialising in herring.

Toulon Prefecture and commune in Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur, France

Toulon is a city in southern France and a large port on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department.

Villeneuve sailed from Toulon on 29 March 1805 with eleven ships of the line, six frigates and two brigs. He evaded Admiral Nelson's blockading fleet and passed the Strait of Gibraltar on 8 April. At Cádiz he drove off the British blockading squadron and was joined by six Spanish ships of the line. The combined fleet sailed for the West Indies, reaching Martinique on 12 May.

Frigate Type of warship

A frigate is a type of warship, having various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.

Brig sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts

A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Brigs fell out of use with the arrival of the steam ship because they required a relatively large crew for their small size and were difficult to sail into the wind. Their rigging differs from that of a brigantine which has a gaff-rigged mainsail, while a brig has a square mainsail with an additional gaff-rigged spanker behind the mainsail.

Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson Royal Navy Admiral

Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, was a British flag officer in the Royal Navy. He was noted for his inspirational leadership, grasp of strategy, and unconventional tactics, which together resulted in a number of decisive British naval victories, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was wounded several times in combat, losing the sight in one eye in Corsica at the age of 36, as well as most of one arm in the unsuccessful attempt to conquer Santa Cruz de Tenerife when 40 years of age. He was shot and killed at the age of 47 during his final victory at the Battle of Trafalgar near the Spanish port city of Cádiz in 1805.

Nelson was kept in the Mediterranean by westerly winds and did not pass the Strait until 7 May 1805. The British fleet of ten ships reached Antigua on 4 June.

Antigua island in Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua, also known as Waladli or Wadadli by the native population, is an island in the West Indies. It is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region and the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on 1 November 1981.

Villeneuve waited at Martinique for Admiral Ganteaume's Brest fleet to join him, but it remained blockaded in port and did not appear. Pleas from French army officers for Villeneuve to attack British colonies went unheeded except for the recapture of the island fort of Diamond Rock until 4 June when he set out from Martinique. On 7 June he learned from a captured British merchantman that Nelson had arrived at Antigua, and on 11 June Villeneuve left for Europe, having failed to achieve any of his objectives in the Caribbean.

Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume French admiral

Count Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume was a French Navy officer and Vice-admiral.

Diamond Rock Island in Martinique, France

Diamond Rock is a 175-metre-high (574 ft) basalt island located south of "Grande Anse du Diamant" before arriving from the south at Fort-de-France, the main port of the Caribbean island of Martinique. The uninhabited island is about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) from Pointe Diamant.

While in the Antilles, the Franco-Spanish fleet ran into a British convoy worth 5 million francs escorted by the frigate Barbadoes, 28 guns, and sloop Netley. Villeneuve hoisted general chase and two French frigates with the Spanish ship Argonauta, 80 guns, captured all the ships but one escort.

On 30 June the combined squadron captured and burned an English 14-gun privateer. On 3 July the fleet recaptured Spanish galleon Matilda, which carried an estimated 15 million franc treasure, from English privateer Mars, from Liverpool, which was towing Matilda to an English harbour. The privateer was burned and the merchant was taken in tow by the French frigate Sirène.

The fleet sailed back to Europe, and on 9 July the French ship Indomptable lost its main spar in a gale that damaged some other vessels slightly. The Atlantic crossings had been very difficult according to Spanish Admiral Gravina who had crossed the Atlantic eleven times. So with some ships in bad condition, tired crews and scarce victuals, the combined fleet sighted land near Cape Finisterre on 22 July.

Battle

Calder's Action, July 22nd 1805 by Thomas Whitcombe Calder's Action.jpg
Calder's Action, July 22nd 1805 by Thomas Whitcombe

News of the returning French fleet reached Vice Admiral Robert Calder on 19 July. He was ordered to lift his blockade of the ports of Rochefort and Ferrol and sail for Cape Finisterre to intercept Villeneuve. [12] The fleets sighted each other at about 11:00 on 22 July.

After several hours of manoeuvring to the south-west, the action began at about 17:15 as the British fleet, with Hero (Captain Alan Gardner) in the vanguard, bore down on the Franco-Spanish line of battle. In poor visibility, the battle became a confused melee. Malta formed the rear-most ship in the British line in the approach to the battle, but as the fleets became confused in the failing light and thick patchy fog, the commander of Malta Sir Edward Buller found that he was surrounded by five Spanish ships. [13] [14] After a fierce engagement in which Malta suffered five killed and forty wounded the British ship battled it out, sending out devastating broadsides from both port and starboard. At about 20:00 Buller forced the Spanish 80-gun San Rafael to strike, and afterwards sent the Malta's boats to take possession of the Spanish 74-gun Firme. [14] [15] [16] Calder signalled to break-off the action at 20:25, aiming to continue the battle the next day. In the failing light and general confusion some ships continued to fire for another hour.

Daybreak on 23 July found the fleets 27 kilometres (17 mi) apart. Calder was unwilling to attack a second time against superior odds, he had to protect the damaged Windsor Castle and Malta with her large captured Spanish prizes and he had to consider the possibility that the previously blockaded fleets at Rochefort and Ferrol might put to sea and effect a junction with Villeneuve's combined fleet. Accordingly, he declined to attack and headed northeast with his prizes.

Villeneuve's report claims that at first he intended to attack, but in the very light breezes it took all day to come up to the British and he decided not to risk combat late in the day. On 24 July a change in the wind put the Franco-Spanish fleet to the windward of the British the ideal position for an attack but instead of attacking, Villeneuve turned away to the south. When he arrived at A Coruña on 1 August he received orders from Napoleon to proceed immediately to Brest and Boulogne, but perhaps believing a false report of a superior British fleet in the Bay of Biscay, he returned to Cádiz, reaching that port on 21 August.

Aftermath

The battle was inconclusive and both admirals, Villeneuve and Calder, claimed victory. [17] The British human losses were 39 officers and men killed and 159 wounded; the Franco-Spanish losses 476 officers and men killed and wounded, with a further 800 ill. [18] Calder was relieved of his command, court-martialled, and sentenced to be severely reprimanded for his failure to renew the battle on 23 and 24 July. He never served at sea again. Villeneuve failed to push on Brest, retired to refit at Vigo, then slipped into Coruña, and on 15 August decided to make for Cadiz. The direction of Villeneuve on Cadiz ruined all hopes of Napoleon to make an invasion and landing on England, thus Napoleon, frustrated by Villeneuve's lack of élan, was forced to abandon his plan of invading Britain. Instead, the Armée d'Angleterre, renamed the Grande Armée, left Boulogne on 27 August to counter the threat from Austria and Russia. A few weeks after the battle he wrote: "Gravina is all genius and decision in combat. If Villeneuve had had those qualities, the battle of Finisterre would have been a complete victory."

Villeneuve and the combined fleets remained at Cádiz until they came out to their destruction at the battle of Trafalgar on 21 October.

Order of battle

British fleet

ShipCasualtiesDamage
DeadWoundedRiggingMasts and sparsHull and others
Hero (74), Capt. Alan Gardner 14Much tornForemast and fore spars seriously damagedSeveral shots in flotation line
Ajax (74), Capt. William Brown 216Much tornTopsail sparA cannon blasted causing battery damages
Triumph (74), Capt. Henry Inman 56Much tornTopsail sparTwo dismounted cannons
Barfleur (98), Capt. George Martin 37Foremast and fore spar
Agamemnon (64), Capt. John Harvey 03Fore spar, mizzen mast and main spar
Windsor Castle (98), Capt. C. Boyles1035Much tornFore spar and most of foremast, main mast, main spar, foremast and bowsprit
Defiance (74), Capt. Philip Durham 17Much tornSpar of top mizzen sail, main mast, spar of foremast
Prince of Wales (98), Flagship of Adm. Calder, Capt. W. Cuming320Much tornSpar of foremast, spar of top mizzen mast and spar of main mastRudder completely ripped off
Repulse (64), Capt. the Honourable Arthur Kaye Legge 04Much tornBowsprit
Raisonnable (64), Capt. Josias Rowley 11Several sparsSome encrusted bullets
Dragon (74), Capt. Edward Griffith 04
Glory (98), Flagship of Rear-Adm. Sir Charles Stirling, Capt. Samuel Warren 11Much tornSpar of foremast
Warrior (74), Capt. Samuel Hood Linzee 00Much tornSome sparsShored starboard
Thunderer (74), Capt. William Lechmere 711Much tornMizzen mast, and spars of fore and main mastsSeveral encrusted shots
Malta (80), Capt. Edward Buller [20] 540Much tornLarger spars, and all masts
Egyptienne (40), Capt. Hon. Charles Fleeming
Sirius (36), Capt. William Prowse
Nile (lugger), Lieut. John Fennell
Frisk (cutter), Lieut. James Nicholson

Franco-Spanish fleet

(according to Juan Ramón Viana Villavicencio)

ShipFleetCasualtiesDamage
DeadWoundedRiggingMasts and sparsHull and others
Argonauta (80), Flagship of Lieutenant-General Federico Gravina, Flag-Captain Rafael de Hore Flag of Spain.svg 65Mizzen and fore masts knocked downCutwater torn down
Terrible (74), Commander Francisco Vázquez de Mondragón Flag of Spain.svg 17Much tornTwo cannons dismounted, slide ripped off, one shot flotation high
América (64), Comm. Juan Darrac Flag of Spain.svg 513All masts bullet-riddled60 shots
España (64), Comm. Bernardo Muñoz Flag of Spain.svg 523Much tornMizzen mast down, several sparsRudder partly obliterated, some damage in hull
San Rafael (80), Comm. Francisco de Montes (captured) Flag of Spain.svg 4197All tornUtterly dismantledBullet riddled
Firme (74), Comm. Rafael de Villavicencio (captured) Flag of Spain.svg 3560All tornFully dismantledShot riddled
Pluton (74), Comm. Cosmao-Kerjulien Flag of France.svg 1424
Mont-Blanc (74), Comm. Guillaume-Jean-Noël de Lavillegris   (DOW) Flag of France.svg 516
Atlas (74), Comm. Pierre-Nicolas Rolland Flag of France.svg 1552Captain Rolland wounded
Berwick (74), Comm. Jean-Gilles Filhol de Camas Flag of France.svg 311
Neptune (80), Comm. Esprit-Tranquille Maistral Flag of France.svg 39
Bucentaure (80), Flagship of Adm. Villeneuve, Comm. Jean-Jacques Magendie Flag of France.svg 55
Formidable (80), Flagship of Rear-Admiral Dumanoir, Comm. Letellier Flag of France.svg 68
Intrépide (74), Comm. Louis-Antoine-Cyprien Infernet Flag of France.svg 79
Scipion (74), Comm. Charles Berrenger Flag of France.svg 00
Swiftsure (74), Comm. Charles-Eusèbe Lhospitalier de la Villemadrin Flag of France.svg 00
Indomptable (80), Comm. Jean Joseph Hubert Flag of France.svg 11
Aigle (74), Comm. Pierre-Paulin Gourrège Flag of France.svg 60
Achille (74), Comm. Louis-Gabriel Deniéport Flag of France.svg 00
Algésiras (74), Flagship of Rear-Admiral Charles René Magon de Médine, Comm. Gabriel-Auguste Brouard Flag of France.svg 00
Cornélie (44), Flag of France.svg
Rhin (44), Comm. Michel-Jean-André Chesneau Flag of France.svg
Didon (40), Comm. Pierre-Bernard Milius Flag of France.svg
Hortense (40), Comm. Delamarre de Lamellerie Flag of France.svg
Hermione (40), Comm. Jean-Michel Mahé Flag of France.svg
Sirène (40), Flag of France.svg
Thémis (40), Flag of France.svg

See also

Notes

  1. Barnes, p.36 "Admiral Sir Robert Calder's squadron, stationed off Ferrol, intercepted him (Villeneuve) and fought a confused and inconclusive engagement. Although Calder managed to capture two Spanish ships, he was reprimanded, for the action had interfered with Barham's plans by failing to divide the enemy fleet and thus had left the situation unaltered.
  2. Moors, p. 1263 "The French had twenty-seven vessels, Calder but fifteen, and after an indecisive battle, in which two Spanish ships were taken, he was afraid to renew the engagement, and Villeneuve was thus enabled to reach Ferrol in safety.
  3. Alfred Thayer Mahan, p 303. "Two Spanish ships-of-the-line were captured, but the battle was otherwise indecisive. Calder hesitated to attack again, and on the 26th lost sight of the enemy, who, on the 28th, put into Vigo Bay"
  4. Alexander Myrick Broadley,p.224
  5. 1 2 Brytant p. 154
  6. Palmer, p. 198 The British although outnumbered by a third, had won the day
  7. Tucker p. 1039, Calder had a won victory with an inferior force
  8. Stewart p. 54 Cape Finisterre was a serious defeat for Napoleon
  9. Marriott p. 280 Sir Robert Calder's victory over Villeneuve at Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1805 p.280
  10. 1 2 Tucker, pg 1039
  11. Palmer, p.198
  12. Adkin. The Trafalgar Companion. p. 56.
  13. 1 2 Tracy. Who's who in Nelson's Navy. p. 66.
  14. The Annual Biography and Obituary. 1825. p. 72.
  15. The Gentleman's Magazine . 1805. p. 760.
  16. Brytant p. 153
  17. Weighly 1991, p. 343: Villeneuve reported to Paris on the day of the battle that he had 800 of his fleet "sick", and that everything capable of going wrong was doing so.
  18. The London literary gazette and journal of belles lettres, arts, sciences... p. 706
  19. Bennett "The Battle of Trafalgar", p. 115

Related Research Articles

Battle of Trafalgar 1805 battle of the Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Trafalgar was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies, during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).

Pierre-Charles Villeneuve French naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars

Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve was a French naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He was in command of the French and the Spanish fleets that were defeated by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Cosme Damián de Churruca y Elorza Spanish noble

Cosme Damián de Churruca y Elorza was a Basque Spanish noble, an Admiral of the Royal Spanish Armada, scientist and Mayor of Mutriku, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar while commanding the ship of the line San Juan Nepomuceno.

HMS <i>Ajax</i> (1798)

HMS Ajax was an Ajax class 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the British Royal Navy. She was built by John Randall & Co of Rotherhithe and launched on the Thames on 3 March 1798. Ajax participated in the Egyptian operation of 1801, the Battle of Cape Finisterre in 1805 and the Battle of Trafalgar, before she was lost to a disastrous fire in 1807 during the Dardanelles Operation.

HMS <i>Neptune</i> (1797) 1797 ship of the line

HMS Neptune was a 98-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She served on a number of stations during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and was present at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

French ship <i>Formidable</i> (1795)

Formidable was an 80-gun Tonnant class ship of the line of the French Navy, laid down in August 1794 and given the name Formidable, on 5 October, but renamed Figuieres on 4 December 1794, although the name was restored to Formidable on 31 May 1795 after she was launched at Toulon on 17 March 1795. She participated in the Battle of Algeciras, the Battle of Cape Finisterre and several other actions before the British captured her at the Battle of Cape Ortegal on 4 November 1805. The British took her into service as HMS Brave. She was sold to be broken up in April 1816.

French ship <i>Neptune</i> (1803) ship

Neptune was a Bucentaure-class 80-gun ship of the line of the French Navy. Built during the last years of the French Revolutionary Wars she was launched at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. Her brief career with the French included several major battles, though she spent the last 12 years of her life under the Spanish flag.

French ship <i>Indomptable</i> (1789)

Indomptable ("Indomitable") was a Tonnant-class 80-gun ship of the line in the French Navy, laid down in 1788 and in active service from 1791. Engaged against the Royal Navy after 1794, she was damaged in the Battle of Trafalgar and wrecked near the Spanish city of Cadiz on 24 October 1805.

HMS Berwick was a 74-gun Elizabeth-class third rate of the Royal Navy, launched at Portsmouth Dockyard on 18 April 1775, to a design by Sir Thomas Slade. She fought the French at the Battle of Ushant (1778) and the Dutch at the Battle of Dogger Bank (1781). The French captured her in the Action of 8 March 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars and she served with them with some success then and at the start of the Napoleonic Wars until the British recaptured her at the Battle of Trafalgar. Berwick sank shortly thereafter in a storm.

Federico Gravina Spanish admiral

Federico Carlos Gravina y Nápoli was a Spanish Admiral during the American Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. He died of wounds sustained during the Battle of Trafalgar. Spanish explorer Jacinto Caamaño named the Gravina Island in Alaska in his honor.

George Johnstone Hope Royal Navy admiral

Rear-Admiral Sir George Johnstone Hope, KCB was a British naval officer, who served with distinction in the Royal Navy throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, including service at the Battle of Trafalgar. A close personal friend of Admiral Nelson, he received many honours following the battle, and later served as a Lord of the Admiralty.

William Brown (Royal Navy officer) Royal Navy officer

William Brown was an officer of the British Royal Navy who served in increasingly senior positions during a long period from the American Revolutionary War, including the French Revolutionary War, and until the Napoleonic Wars. He began his naval career as a servant to Captain Philemon Pownoll in the frigate HMS Apollo and became a midshipman after two years. He then served on HMS Resolution with Lord Robert Manners and came home with him in HMS Andromache. He spent the next five years ashore in peacetime. After a brief time on HMS Bounty he was taken off by the First lord and moved to HMS Ariel before Bounty sailed. He was then moved to HMS Leander, where he was commissioned by Admiral Peyton in 1788. He later captained a series of ships serving in the Mediterranean Sea, the North Sea, the Channel Fleet and then the Mediterranean, again with Lord St Vincent. He captained HMS Ajax in the Blockade of Brest and the Battle of Cape Finisterre and then at Cadiz at Nelson's personal request. After Trafalgar he had a series of shore postings as Dockyard Commissioner at Malta and Shearness before being made Commander in Chief of the Channel Islands and then Jamaica where he died.

William Prowse CB was an officer of the Royal Navy, who saw service during the American War of Independence, and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Rising from humble origins and joining the navy as an able seaman, he had a highly active career, serving under some of the most famous naval commanders of the age of sail, and participating in some of their greatest victories. He was at Grenada and Martinique under Byron and Rodney, the Glorious First of June under Howe; and commanded ships at Cape St Vincent under Jervis, Cape Finisterre under Calder and Trafalgar under Nelson. He finished his career by serving with distinction in the Mediterranean, and died with the rank of Rear-Admiral.

Trafalgar campaign

The Trafalgar campaign was a long and complicated series of fleet manoeuvres carried out by the combined French and Spanish fleets; and the opposing moves of the Royal Navy during much of 1805. These were the culmination of French plans to force a passage through the English Channel, and so achieve a successful invasion of the United Kingdom. The plans were extremely complicated and proved to be impractical. Much of the detail was due to the personal intervention of Napoleon, who as a soldier rather than a sailor failed to consider the effects of weather, difficulties in communication, and the Royal Navy. Despite limited successes in achieving some elements of the plan the French commanders were unable to follow the main objective through to execution. The campaign, which took place over thousands of miles of ocean, was marked by several naval engagements, most significantly at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October, where the combined fleet was decisively defeated, and from which the campaign takes its name. A final mopping up action at the Battle of Cape Ortegal on 4 November completed the destruction of the combined fleet, and secured the supremacy of the Royal Navy at sea.

L'Hermite's expedition was a French naval operation launched in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars. The operation was intended as both a commerce raiding operation against the British trading posts of West Africa and as a diversion to the Trafalgar campaign. Sailing from Lorient in October 1805 with one ship of the line, two frigates and a corvette, Commodore Jean-Marthe-Adrien L'Hermite was under orders to intercept and destroy British traders and slave ships off the West African coast and await reinforcements under Jérôme Bonaparte which were to be used in the invasion and capture of one of the British trading forts for use as a permanent French naval base from which further raiding operations could be conducted. It was also hoped by the French naval command that L'Hermite might draw some of the large British fleet maintained off Cadiz away from the blockade to allow the French and Spanish allied fleet trapped in the harbour to escape.

Allemands expedition of 1805

Allemand's expedition of 1805, often referred to as the Escadre invisible in French sources, was an important French naval expedition during the Napoleonic Wars, which formed a major diversion to the ongoing Trafalgar Campaign in the Atlantic Ocean. With the French Mediterranean Fleet at sea, Emperor Napoleon I hoped to unite it with the French Atlantic Fleet and together form a force powerful enough to temporarily displace the British Royal Navy Channel Fleet for long enough to allow an invasion force to cross the English Channel and land in Britain. In support of this plan, the French squadron based at Rochefort put to sea in July 1805, initially with the intention that they would join the Atlantic Fleet from Brest. When this fleet failed to put to sea, the Rochefort squadron, under Contre-Admiral Zacharie Allemand, went on an extended raiding cruise across the Atlantic, both to intercept British trade left lightly defended by the concentration of British forces in European waters and with the intention of eventually combining with the French Mediterranean Fleet then blockaded in Spanish harbours.

HMS <i>Malta</i> (1800)

HMS Malta was an 80-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She had previously served with the French Navy as the Tonnant-classGuillaume Tell, but was captured in the Mediterranean in 1800 by a British squadron enforcing the blockade of Malta. Having served for less than four years for the French from her completion in July 1796 to her capture in March 1800, she would eventually serve for 40 years for the British.

French brig <i>Furet</i> (1801)

Furet was an Abeille-class 16-gun brig of the French Navy, launched in 1801. HMS Hydra captured her on 27 February 1806, off Cadiz.

Neptuno was an 80-gun Montañes-class ship of the line of the Spanish Navy. She was built in 1795 and took part in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. She fought with the Franco-Spanish fleet in the battle of Trafalgar, and was wrecked in its aftermath.

References

Coordinates: 42°53′39″N9°16′16″W / 42.8941°N 9.2711°W / 42.8941; -9.2711