Visual History of the World

(CONTENTS)
 

 


HISTORY OF CIVILIZATION & CULTURE

From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Photography
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
Prehistory
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists

 

 


The Modern Era

1789 - 1914


In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations. The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and its rise to the status of a Great Power.

 





Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.

 

see also:

Between Two Revolutions

(From David to Delacroix)

 

 


Napoleonic Domination
 


1792 - 1814
 

 


Napoleon Bonaparte - biography


1769 August 15 - Birth at Ajaccio, Corsica
1779 College d’Autun, later Military School Brienne
1784 Royal Military School in Paris
1793 Brigadier General
1795 Commander of the Army of the Interior
1796, March - Head of the Army of Italy
1798 Egyptian Campaign
1799 First Consul of France
1802 Treaty of Amiens
1804 Emperor of the French
1805, Sept 21 - Oct 20 - Battle of Ulm
1805, October 21 - Battle of Trafalgar
1805, December 2 -  Battle of Austerlitz
1807, February 7–8 - Battle of Eylau
1808 Peninsular War
1809, May 21-22 - Battle of Aspern-Essling
1809, July 5-6 - Battle of Wagram
1812 Russian Campaign
1813 Battle of the Nations at Leipzig, Germany
1814 Abdication, Elba
1815 Waterloo (Belgium), St. Helena
1821 May 5 - Death on St. Helena Island

 


In the War of the Third Coalition (the first of the Napoleonic Wars), Admiral Nelson was able to destroy the French fleet at 4 Trafalgar on October 21,1805.


4 The naval battle of Trafalgar, 1805, by Joseph Mallord William Turner
 

 

Battle of Trafalgar

European history
Main
(Oct. 21, 1805), naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars, which established British naval supremacy for more than 100 years; it was fought west of Cape Trafalgar, Spain, between Cádiz and the Strait of Gibraltar. A fleet of 33 ships (18 French and 15 Spanish) under Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve fought a British fleet of 27 ships under Admiral Horatio Nelson.

At the end of September 1805, Villeneuve had received orders to leave Cádiz and land troops at Naples to support the French campaign in southern Italy. On October 19–20 his fleet slipped out of Cádiz, hoping to get into the Mediterranean Sea without giving battle. Nelson caught him off Cape Trafalgar on October 21.

Villeneuve ordered his fleet to form a single line heading north, and Nelson ordered his fleet to form two squadrons and attack Villeneuve’s line from the west, at right angles. By noon the larger squadron, led by Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood in the Royal Sovereign, had engaged the rear (south) 16 ships of the French-Spanish line. At 11:50 am Nelson, in the Victory, signaled his famous message: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” Then his squadron, with 12 ships, attacked the van and centre of Villeneuve’s line, which included Villeneuve in the Bucentaure. The majority of Nelson’s squadron broke through and shattered Villeneuve’s lines in the pell-mell battle. Six of the leading French and Spanish ships, under Admiral Pierre Dumanoir, were ignored in the first attack and about 3:30 pm were able to turn about to aid those behind. But Dumanoir’s weak counterattack failed and was driven off. Collingwood completed the destruction of the rear, and the battle ended about 5:00 pm. Villeneuve himself was captured, and his fleet lost 19 or 20 ships—which were surrendered to the British—and 14,000 men, of whom half were prisoners of war. Nelson was mortally wounded by a sniper, but when he died at 4:30 pm he was certain of his complete victory. About 1,500 British seamen were killed or wounded, but no British ships were lost. Trafalgar shattered forever Napoleon’s plans to invade England.

Encyclopaedya Britannica

 

 

 

Battle of Ulm


The Capitulation of Ulm by Charles Thevenin.

German history
Main
(Sept. 25–Oct. 20, 1805), major strategic triumph of Napoleon, conducted by his Grand Army of about 210,000 men against an Austrian Army of about 72,000 under the command of Baron Karl Mack von Leiberich.

Austria had joined the Anglo-Russian alliance (Third Coalition) against Napoleon in August 1805. The Austrians planned to make Italy the main battleground and concentrated the bulk of their forces there.

On September 11 Baron Mack led a smaller Austrian force into Bavaria, which was allied to France. He concentrated between Ulm and Günzburg, on the upper Danube, about 80 miles (130 kilometres) from the eastern edge of the Black Forest, through which he expected Napoleon to march; he then waited for the slow-moving Russians under M.I. Kutuzov to join him. Mack expected Napoleon to have no more than 70,000 troops to meet him. Napoleon, however, chose to make Germany the main battleground and massed the Grand Army to annihilate Mack before the Russians arrived. On September 25 the first French troops crossed the Rhine River north of the Black Forest, wheeled south, and, moving about 18 miles a day, crossed the Danube two weeks later, before Mack was aware of it.

The Grand Army, its movements effectively screened by its cavalry, moved on Mack’s rear along the Danube, between Ingolstadt and Donauwörth, and cut his lines of retreat eastward. During the second week of October several battles took place in which large numbers of Austrian troops were dispersed or captured as the net around Ulm drew tighter. Napoleon forced the main Austrian body to retire into the city of Ulm on the 15th. On the 16th, French artillery fired on the town, and Mack saw that his troops were in no condition to withstand a siege until the Russian reinforcements arrived. After negotiations Mack surrendered on the 20th, with the Russians still about 100 miles away. Austrian prisoners captured by the manoeuvre around Ulm numbered between 50,000 and 60,000. French losses were insignificant.

Encyclopaedya Britannica

 

This defeat caused France long-term losses in overseas trade. Nevertheless, Napoleon won the decisive 6 Battle of the Three Emperors on December 2,1805, at Austerlitz, ensuring the defeat of the Third Coalition, consisting of Great Britain, Sweden, Austria, and Russia.



6 Battle of the Three Emperors
Napoléon at the Battle of Austerlitz, by Francois Gerard.
 


Battle of Austerlitz

European history
also called Battle of the Three Emperors
Main
(Dec. 2, 1805), the first engagement of the War of the Third Coalition and one of Napoleon’s greatest victories. His 68,000 troops defeated almost 90,000 Russians and Austrians nominally under General M.I. Kutuzov, forcing Austria to make peace with France (Treaty of Pressburg) and keeping Prussia temporarily out of the anti-French alliance.

The battle took place near Austerlitz in Moravia (now Slavkov u Brna, Czech Republic) after the French had entered Vienna on November 13 and then pursued the Russian and Austrian allied armies into Moravia. The arrival of the Russian emperor Alexander I virtually deprived Kutuzov of supreme control of his troops. The allies decided to fight Napoleon west of Austerlitz and occupied the Pratzen Plateau, which Napoleon had deliberately evacuated to create a trap. The allies then launched their main attack, with 40,000 men, against the French right (south) to cut them off from Vienna. While Marshal Louis Davout’s corps of 10,500 men stubbornly resisted this attack, and the allied secondary attack on Napoleon’s northern flank was repulsed, Napoleon launched Marshal Nicolas Soult, with 20,000 infantry, up the slopes to smash the weak allied centre on the Pratzen Plateau. Soult captured the plateau and, with 25,000 reinforcements from Napoleon’s reserve, held it against the allied attempts to retake it. The allies were soon split in two and vigorously attacked and pursued both north and south of the plateau. They lost 15,000 men killed and wounded and 11,000 captured, while Napoleon lost 9,000 men. The remnants of the allied army were scattered. Two days later Francis I of Austria agreed to a suspension of hostilities and arranged for Alexander I to take his army back to Russia.

Encyclopaedya Britannica


On December 26, 1805, Napoleon dictated the Treaty of Pressburg and organized the founding of the Confederation of the Rhine that was to bring an end to the Holy Roman Empire.

In a countermove against Great Britain, Napoleon also later imposed the economic 5 blockade of the Continental System.


5 Continental Blockade: French soldiers search merchants in Leipzig for British goods, 1806
 

When Prussia demanded Napoleon's withdrawal from the region on the cast side of the Rhine, the War of the Fourth Coalition broke out, which the French won in the battles at Jena and Auerstedt on October 14, 1806.

Following these battles they 7 occupied Berlin and with the subsequent Treaty of Tilsit, Prussia was virtually divided into two.

 

 

Battle of Jena-Auerstadt


Napoleon reviews his troops shortly before the
Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806),  by Horace Vernet


European history
also called Battle of Jena-Auerstädt
Main
(Oct. 14, 1806), military engagement of the Napoleonic Wars, fought between 122,000 French troops and 114,000 Prussians and Saxons, at Jena and Auerstädt, in Saxony (modern Germany). In the battle, Napoleon smashed the outdated Prussian army inherited from Frederick II the Great, which resulted in the reduction of Prussia to half its former size at the Treaty of Tilsit in July 1807.

Frederick William III of Prussia prepared for war after signing a secret alliance with Russia in July 1806. In early October the Prussian-Saxon army, under Charles William Ferdinand, duke of Brunswick, moved slowly westward through Saxony in an attempt to threaten Napoleon’s communications to the west. Napoleon advanced northward rapidly through the eastern end of the Thuringian Forest to cut the Prussians off from the Elbe River and engage them before their Russian allies could join them. The Prussians had to face about to meet this attack from their rear. Frederick William III placed 63,000 men under Duke Charles William Ferdinand at Auerstädt and about 51,000 under Prince Friedrich Ludwig of Hohenlohe-Ingelfingen on a 15-mile (24-kilometre) front between Weimar and Jena.

Shortly after dawn on October 14, Napoleon, employing only about 54,000 of his 96,000 troops, struck Friedrich Ludwig’s 38,000 troops at Jena. By 3 pm he had swept them and 13,000 reinforcements from the field. About 13 miles (21 km) to the north, at Auerstädt, the secondary French force of 26,000, under Louis-Nicolas Davout, encountered Charles William Ferdinand’s main Prussian army. The duke dissipated his vastly superior strength in piecemeal attacks, enabling Davout to stand firm for six hours. After the duke was mortally wounded, Frederick William III took command. The Prussians’ attack slackened when they heard the news of the French victory at Jena. Davout moved up his artillery to rake the entire Prussian line, and by 4 pm the Prussian army had disintegrated. Davout was later made Duke d’Auerstädt for his extraordinary victory. The double victory of the French cost them about 12,000 casualties to about 24,000 Prussian and Saxon casualties and about 20,000 more captured. Napoleon completed his conquest of Prussia within six weeks, before Russia could act to aid its ally.

Encyclopaedya Britannica
 

 


7 Napoleon marches through the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, October 27, 1806

 

 

 

Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson


Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount of Nelson as Vice Admiral,
by Lemuel Francis Abbott.

British naval commander
in full Horatio Nelson, Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe, also called (1797–98) Sir Horatio Nelson, or (1798–1801) Baron Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe

born Sept. 29, 1758, Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, Eng.
died Oct. 21, 1805, at sea, off Cape Trafalgar, Spain

Main
British naval commander in the wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, who won crucial victories in such battles as those of the Nile (1798) and of Trafalgar (1805), where he was killed by enemy fire on the HMS Victory. In private life he was known for his extended love affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton, while both were married.



Lady Nelson, Nelson's wife, by Richard Cosway

Early years
Horatio Nelson was the sixth of 11 children of the village rector, Edmund Nelson, and his wife, Catherine. The Nelsons were genteel, scholarly, and poor. The family’s most important connection from which Nelson could expect preferment was that with a distant relation, Lord Walpole, the descendant of Sir Robert Walpole, who had been prime minister earlier in the century. Decisive for Nelson’s life, however, was his mother’s brother, Captain Maurice Suckling, who was to become comptroller of the British Navy. When Horatio’s mother died, Captain Suckling agreed to take the boy to sea.

Nelson’s first years in the navy were a mixture of routine experience and high adventure. The former was gained particularly in the Thames estuary, the latter in a voyage to the West Indies by merchant ship and a dangerous and unsuccessful scientific expedition to the Arctic in 1773. Nelson had his first taste of action in the Indian Ocean. Soon after, struck down by fever—probably malaria—he was invalided home, and, while recovering from the consequent depression, Nelson experienced a dramatic surge of optimism. From that moment, Nelson’s ambition, fired by patriotism tempered by the Christian compassion instilled by his father, urged him to prove himself at least the equal of his eminent kinsmen.

In 1777 Nelson passed the examination for lieutenant and sailed for the West Indies, the most active theatre in the war against the American colonies. Promoted to captain in 1779, at the early age of 20, he was given command of a frigate and took part in operations against Spanish settlements in Nicaragua, which became targets once Spain joined France in alliance with the American Revolutionaries. The attack on San Juan was militarily successful but ultimately disastrous when the British force was almost wiped out by yellow fever; Nelson himself was lucky to survive.

In 1783, after the end of the American Revolution, Nelson returned to England by way of France. On his return to London he was cheered by the appointment, in 1784, to command a frigate bound for the West Indies. But this was not to be a happy commission. By rigidly enforcing the Navigation Act against American ships, which were still trading with the British privileges they had officially lost, he made enemies not only among merchants and shipowners but also among the resident British authorities who, in their own interest, had failed to enforce the law. Under the strain of his difficulties and of the loneliness of command, Nelson was at his most vulnerable when he visited the island of Nevis in March 1785. There he met Frances Nisbet, a widow, and her five-year-old son, Josiah. Nelson conducted his courtship with formality and charm, and in March 1787 the couple was married at Nevis.

Returning with his bride to Burnham Thorpe, Nelson found himself without another appointment and on half pay. He remained unemployed for five years, aware of “a prejudice at the Admiralty evidently against me, which I can neither guess at, nor in the least account for”—but which may well have been connected with his enforcement of the Navigation Act. Within a few days of the execution of King Louis XVI of France in January 1793, however, he was given command of the 64-gun Agamemnon.




Emma Hamilton by George Romney



Service in the Mediterranean
From this moment, Nelson the enthusiastic professional was gradually replaced by Nelson the commander of genius. The coming months were probably his most tranquil emotionally. At home waited a loving wife, whose son he had taken to sea with him. His ship, fast and maneuverable, and his crew, superbly trained, pleased him. His task was to fight the Revolutionary French and support British allies in the Mediterranean. Assigned to the forlorn defense of the port of Toulon against the revolutionaries—among them a 24-year-old officer of artillery, Napoleon Bonaparte—Nelson was dispatched to Naples to collect reinforcements. He later gratefully recognized that he owed the success of his mission largely to the British minister—the adroit and scholarly Sir William Hamilton, who had lived at Naples for 30 years and whose vivacious young wife, Emma, was in the queen’s confidence.

When Toulon fell, Lord Hood, Nelson’s commander, moved his base to Corsica, where Nelson and his ship’s company went ashore to assist in the capture of Bastia and Calvi, where a French shot flung debris into Nelson’s face, injuring his right eye and leaving it almost sightless. At the end of 1794, Hood was replaced by the uninspiring Admiral William Hotham, who was subsequently replaced by Sir John Jervis, an officer more to Nelson’s liking. At the age of 60, Jervis was an immensely experienced seaman who quickly recognized Nelson’s qualities and who regarded Nelson “more as an associate than a subordinate Officer.” The arrival of Jervis coincided with an upsurge of French success by land so that the British were forced to abandon their Mediterranean bases and retreat upon Gibraltar and the Tagus.
 


 Nelson receives the surrender of the San Nicholas,
portrait by Richard Westall at the Battle of Cape St Vincent
by Richard Westall


Battles of Cape St. Vincent and the Nile
After a rendezvous with Jervis in the Atlantic off Cape St. Vincent on the previous day, Nelson on Feb. 14, 1797, found himself sailing in mist through a Spanish fleet of 27 ships. The Spaniards were sailing in two divisions and Jervis planned to cut between the two and destroy one before the other could come to its assistance. But he had miscalculated, and it became clear that the British ships would not be able to turn quickly enough to get into action before the Spanish squadrons closed up. Without orders from Jervis, Nelson hauled out of line and attacked the head of the second Spanish division. While the rest of Jervis’ fleet slowly turned and came up in support, Nelson held the two Spanish squadrons apart, at one time fighting seven enemy ships. The efficiency of British gunnery was decisive, and he not only boarded and captured one enemy man-of-war but, from her deck, boarded and took a second.

The Battle of Cape St. Vincent won for Jervis the earldom of St. Vincent and for Nelson a knighthood, which coincided with his promotion by seniority to rear admiral. His first action in command of a major independent force, however, was disastrous. In the course of an assault on Tenerife, a grapeshot shattered his right elbow, and back in his flagship the arm was amputated. In the spring of 1798 Nelson was fit enough to rejoin the Earl of St. Vincent, who assigned him to watch a French fleet waiting to embark an expeditionary force.

Cruising off the port in his flagship, the Vanguard, Nelson was struck by a violent northwesterly gale that blew his squadron off station and carried the French well on their way to their destination, Egypt. The British set out in pursuit, Nelson believing that the French were going either to Sicily or Egypt. After a somewhat confused chase the British caught up with the French squadron in the harbour at Alexandria, near the mouth of the Nile, on Aug. 1, 1798. There the British saw the harbour crowded with empty French transports and, to the east, an escorting French squadron of 13 ships anchored in a defensive line across Abū Qīr Bay near the mouths of the Nile. Once the signal to engage had been hoisted in the Vanguard, Nelson’s ships attacked the French. With the French ships immobilized, the attacking British ships could anchor and concentrate their fire on each enemy before moving on to demolish their next target. Its outcome never in doubt from its beginning at sunset, the battle raged all night. By dawn on August 2, the French squadron had been all but annihilated. The strategic consequences of the Battle of the Nile were immense, and Nelson took immediate steps to broadcast the news throughout the Mediterranean as well as hastening it to London. Nelson was made a baron in recognition of his victory at the Battle of the Nile.

At Naples, the most convenient port for repairs, he was given a hero’s welcome, stage-managed by Lady Hamilton. A prolonged British naval presence in Naples was useful in supporting the shaky military strength of King Ferdinand, the one major ruler in Italy to be resisting the southward march of the French, who had already taken Rome and deposed the pope.

The love affair that developed between Nelson and Emma Hamilton came at a time of crisis. With Nelson’s encouragement, King Ferdinand had indulged his own fantasies of glory and, openly joining the alliance of Great Britain, Russia, and Austria against the French, led his own insignificant army to recapture Rome. Not only was this a disastrous failure but the French counteroffensive drove him back to Naples, which itself then fell. Nelson had to evacuate the Neapolitan royal family to Sicily, and at Palermo it became obvious to all that his infatuation with Emma Hamilton was complete. She had proved herself indispensable company to him.


The Battle of Copenhagen, as painted by Nicholas Pocock.
British line is diagonally across the foreground, the city of Copenhagen in the background and the Danish line between.
The ships in the left foreground are British bomb vessels.


Blockade of Naples and battle of Copenhagen
In the summer of 1799, Nelson’s squadron supported Ferdinand’s successful attempt to recapture Naples, but word of his dalliance with Emma had reached the Admiralty, and his superiors began to lose patience. Bonaparte had escaped from Egypt to France, and the French still held Malta when Lord Keith, who had replaced St. Vincent as commander in chief, decided that the enemy’s next objective would be Minorca. Nelson was ordered to that island with all available ships but refused on the grounds that he expected the threat to be toward Naples. Events justified him, but to disobey orders so blatantly was unforgivable. The Admiralty, also angered by his acceptance of the dukedom of Bronte in Sicily from King Ferdinand, sent him an icy order to return home.

In 1800 he returned, but across the continent in company with the Hamiltons. When the curious little party landed in England, it was at once clear that he was the nation’s hero, and his progress to London was triumphal. Nelson was promoted to vice admiral in January 1801. Emma was pregnant by him when he was appointed second in command to the elderly admiral Sir Hyde Parker, who was to command an expedition to the Baltic. Shortly before sailing, Nelson heard that Emma had borne him a daughter named Horatia.

Parker’s fleet sailed for the first objective, Copenhagen, early in 1801. At first Nelson’s advice was not sought; then, as Danish resistance became increasingly likely, he could record, “Now we are sure of fighting, I am sent for.” By the stratagem of taking the fleet’s ships of shallower draught through a difficult channel, Nelson bypassed the shore batteries covering the city’s northern approaches. The next morning, April 2, he led his squadron into action. There was to be no room for tactical brilliance; only superior gunnery would tell. The Danes resisted bravely, and Parker, fearing that Nelson was suffering unacceptable losses, hoisted the signal to disengage. Nelson disregarded it, and, an hour later, victory was his; the Danish ships lay shattered and silent, their losses amounting to some 6,000 dead and wounded, six times heavier than those of the British.

Before this success could be followed by similar attacks on the other potential enemies, Tsar Paul of Russia died and the threat faded. Parker was succeeded by Nelson, who at last became a commander in chief. He was also made a viscount. The Admiralty, well aware of his popular appeal, now made maximum use of it by giving him a home command. At once he planned an ambitious attack on the naval base of Boulogne in order to foil a possible French invasion. He did not take part himself, and the operation was a gory failure. A second attempt was abandoned because of peace negotiations with France, and in March 1802 the Treaty of Amiens was signed.

At last there was time to enjoy the fruits of his victories. Emma had, on Nelson’s instructions, bought an elegant country house, Merton Place, near London, and transformed it into an expensive mirror for their vanities. At last her husband rebelled, but it was too late for change, and he appeared reconciled to his lot when, early in 1803, he died with his wife and her lover at his side.


The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the mizen starboard shrouds of the Victory
by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Victory at Trafalgar
Bonaparte was known to be preparing for renewed war, and, two days before it broke out, Nelson, in May 1803, was given command in the Mediterranean, hoisting his flag in the Victory. Once again he was to blockade Toulon, now with the object of preventing a rendezvous between the French ships there with those at Brest in the Atlantic and, after Spain declared war on Britain, with Spanish ships from Cartagena and Cádiz. A combined force of that size could well enable Bonaparte to invade England; and in early 1805, Napoleon, who the previous year had crowned himself emperor, ordered the fleets to converge for this purpose. The French and Spanish squadrons were to burst through the British blockade; run for the West Indies; and after ravaging British possessions and trade, return across the Atlantic in a single invincible fleet to destroy the British near Ushant, an island off Brittany, and take control of the English Channel while it was crossed by an invading army of 350,000.

In March, Admiral Pierre Villeneuve, who was to be in overall command, broke out of Toulon under cover of bad weather and disappeared. Nelson set off in pursuit. Villeneuve cut short his marauding, but his fleet was intercepted and damaged by a British squadron. Failing to win control of the English Channel, he ran south to Cádiz.

Nelson put into Gibraltar, made dispositions for the blockade of Cádiz, and returned to England. During his 25 days at home, he planned the strategy for the confrontation with the Franco-Spanish fleets that seemed inevitable; 34 enemy ships were blockaded in Cádiz by smaller numbers under Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. Although Napoleon, abandoning the plan of a cross-Channel invasion, began to redeploy the Grand Army, in Britain the danger of invasion seemed as pressing as ever, and Nelson appeared the country’s hope.

When his orders came, Nelson on September 15 sailed in the Victory. He was now at the height of his professional powers. Worshiped by his officers and sailors alike, he was confident that his captains understood his tactical thinking so well that the minimum of consultation would be required. On his 47th birthday he dined 15 captains in his flagship and outlined his plans to bring on a “pell-mell battle” in which British gunnery and offensive spirit would be decisive. He planned to advance on the Franco-Spanish fleets in two divisions to break their line and destroy them piecemeal. This was the final abandonment of the traditionally rigid tactics of fighting in line of battle.

After receiving Napoleon’s orders that he must break the blockade, Villeneuve, on October 20, sailed out of Cádiz. At dawn next day, the Franco-Spanish fleets were silhouetted against the sunrise off Cape Trafalgar, and the British began to form the two divisions in which they were to fight, one led by Nelson, the other by Collingwood. As the opposing fleets closed, Nelson made his famous signal, “England expects that every man will do his duty.” The Battle of Trafalgar raged at its fiercest around the Victory, and a French sniper, firing from the mast of the Redoutable, shot Nelson through the shoulder and chest. He was carried below to the surgeon, and it was soon clear that he was dying. When told that 15 enemy ships had been taken, he replied, “That is well, but I had bargained for 20.” Thomas Hardy, his flag captain, kissed his forehead in farewell and Nelson spoke his last words, “Now I am satisfied. Thank God, I have done my duty.”

Although the victory of Trafalgar finally made Britain safe from invasion, it was, at the time, overshadowed by the news of Nelson’s death. A country racked with grief gave him a majestic funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and his popularity was recorded in countless monuments, streets, and inns named after him and, eventually, in the preservation at Portsmouth of the Victory. Emma Hamilton and his daughter, however, were ignored. Emma died, almost destitute, in Calais nine years later. Horatia, showing her father’s resilience, married a clergyman in Norfolk and became the mother of a large and sturdy family.
 


Apotheosis of Nelson, by Scott Pierre Nicolas Legrand


Assessment
Nelson had finally broken the unimaginative strategic and tactical doctrines of the previous century and taught individual officers to think for themselves. His flair and forcefulness as a commander in battle were decisive factors in his two major victories—the battles of the Nile and Trafalgar. In the former, he had destroyed the French fleet upon which Napoleon Bonaparte had based his hopes of Eastern conquest, and in the latter he had destroyed the combined French and Spanish fleets, thus ensuring the safety of the British Isles from invasion and the supremacy of British sea power for more than a century. Spectacular success in battle, combined with his humanity as a commander and his scandalous private life, raised Nelson to godlike status in his lifetime, and after his death at Trafalgar in 1805, he was enshrined in popular myth and iconography. He is still generally accepted as the most appealing of Britain’s national heroes.

Tom Pocock
 

Encyclopaedya Britannica
 

 

 

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