Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Countdown to Trafalgar: Nelson's Private Diary, October 18th - 20th 1805

Friday Oct 18th fine Weather Wind Easterly the Combined fleets cannot have finer Wt. to put to Sea. 

Saturday Oct 19th fine Wt. Wind Easterly at ½ pt: 9 the Mars being one of the look out Ships made the Signal that the Enemy were coming out of Port made the Signal for a general Chase SE.  Wind at South Cadiz bearing ESE by Compass distance 16 Leagues.  At three the Colossus made the Signal that the Enemy fleet was at Sea in the Evening made Sigls to Observe my motions during the night, for the Britannia Prince & Dreadnought they being heavy sailers to take Stations as Convenient and for Mars, Orion Bellisle Leviathan, Bellerophon & Polyphemus to go ahead during the Night and to carry a light Standing for the Streights Mouth

Sunday Oct 20th 1805
Fresh Breezes SSW and rainy.  Communicated with Phoebe, Defence and Colossus, who saw near forty sail of ships of War outside of Cadiz yesterday evening, but the wind being Southerly they could not get to the Mouth of the Straits.  We were between Trafalgar and Cape Spartel.  The frigates made the signal that they saw 9 sail outside the Harbour; gave the Frigates instructions for their guidance, and placed Defence, Colossus and Mars between me and the Frigates.  At noon fresh gales and heavy rain, Cadiz NE 9 Leagues.  In the afternoon Captain Blackwood telegraphed that the Enemy seemed determined to go to the Westward; and that they shall not do if in the power of Nelson and Bronte to prevent them.
at 5 Telegraph’d Capt. Bd. that I rely’d upon his keeping sight of the Enemy at 5 o’Clock Naiad made the signal for 31 Sail of the Enemy NNE.  The frigates and Look out Ships kept sight of the Enemy most admirably all night and told me by Signals which tack they were upon.  At 8 We wore & stood to the SW and at 4am wore and stood to the NE.

From the National Archives, catalogue reference PROB 1/22

I love these entries.  You can really get a feel for Nelson's excitement and tension, from the harder press of his pen upon the paper.  

No comments:

Post a Comment