The Battle of Trafalgar — October 21, 1805
The opposing fleets met off the coast of Spain and fought the decisive Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson ordered a rarely-used approach of attack, striking the enemy line at perpendicular angles rather than the line of battle, in which ships in parallel lines exchanged broadsides. The combined fleet outnumbered the English thirty-three to twenty-seven in ships of the line, but Nelson’s plan proceeded to divide up the enemy ships, and superior British gunnery reduced a number of the opposing vessels to splinters. In close-in combat, lashed to the rigging in his flagship HMS Victory, Nelson was shot and mortally wounded, while directing the battle. Among his last words were “Thanks be to God, I have done my duty.” The British were victorious, although their most important naval hero of the age was killed at the very moment of his greatest glory.
The battle was fought off the southwest coast of Spain, just west of the Cape of Trafalgar
England’s navy dominated the high seas from Trafalgar until World War II. Viscount Nelson was interred at Westminster Abbey, the greatest war hero of British history — his statue gazes out atop the great column, looking over London from Trafalgar Square, to this day.
Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London