For the simple fighting men among them he left them a straightforward message, if you cannot do anything more intelligent, engage the enemy at close quarters. Nelson devoted much time and thought to building the morale of his officers and men. He walked around the flagship, showing himself to the crew; he was their talisman, their guarantee of success.
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What he meant to say was Nelson trusts the men will do their duty, a far more positive signal, and this is why they cheered him. As they did so they could see he was leading them into battle, setting an example of courage and confidence that they had only to follow. By leading in this bold and public way Nelson made it easy for everyone else to be brave. The need to control the pace and direction of the main blow, thereby giving the second column, led by Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, the freedom to destroy, settled Nelson's role at Trafalgar. Characteristically, he took the hardest part himself.
Despite heavy enemy fire, the Victory drove under the stern of Villeneuve's flagship, the Bucentaure, inflicting terrible damage with her first broadside. The decisive blow had been struck, and with his supporting ships now also coming into action, the battle was as good as won. He died three hours later just as the last guns of the battle fell silent. No one could deny that he had.
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He had inflicted a blow on the navies of France and Spain from which they could never recover. Trafalgar, as the battle was named by George III, crushed the naval power of the enemy, with total losses of more than twenty ships. It also destroyed their morale. The Spanish and French had in the main fought like heroes, but even so they had been utterly beaten. It was in the broad strategic awareness shown in such actions that his true genius was shown best. Her trade and empire had been made safe, and now she could prosper, creating the wealth to fund the war.
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It was now time to translate naval power into strategic success. However, the fruits of Trafalgar would take a decade to harvest. Napoleon still dominated Europe and in he set up the Continental System, an economic blockade to exclude British trade from Europe. Yet the naval disaster meant his power had been circumscribed, his ultimate fate already mapped out.
The British responded with their own blockade of Europe which, as Nelson had stressed in , made the Continent suffer the full cost of French occupation, and prompted rebellion. To sustain absolute naval control any flickering threats were swiftly crushed: the Danish and Portuguese navies were removed by British action in , and the Spanish by a French invasion of their country. British financial and military aid revived the peoples of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany, downtrodden by the tyranny and extortion that kept Napoleon in power.
Finally the tension snapped: Spain revolted in , then Russia left the Continental System in Having destroyed the French fleet, the Royal Navy was reconfigured for a new war. With the residue of French seapower tightly blockaded in Brest, Toulon and Antwerp, British task forces swept up the last remnants of the French and Dutch overseas empires, boosting trade and ending any remaining threat to British shipping. Insurance rates fell. British cruisers shifted to the offensive, coastal towns were attacked and the Spanish rising against the French sustained and reinforced.
But wherever there is water to float a ship, we are sure to find you in our way. Trafalgar was the beginning of the end for him. Yet, for all the glory, Trafalgar was a bitter victory. It had been won at too high a price, as for Britain the loss of her hero-god outweighed any success.
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Grief and despair were the principal feelings of the King and prime minister, statesmen, merchants and common people. After the battle, naval veterans of all ranks wept without shame; Britons of every description shared their grief over the coming months. In death Nelson took on a new national role. His countrymen had begun to call him an immortal after the battle of the Nile, but now he would be carefully translated from living hero into talisman, war-god and example. Alive he had been the only hope for a nation alone and without allies; dead, his legacy was unchallenged British global power.
The symbol of that power remains at the heart of London. Although the House of Commons had discussed erecting a national Nelson monument in , it was only in that the newly cleared space at the northern end of Whitehall was named Trafalgar Square. This temple at the heart of imperial Rome was built to celebrate the deification of Julius Caesar, link him with the god of war, avenge his murder and establish an eternal imperial regime; and with this architectural quotation the Nelson monument was loaded with meaning.
Nelson had become the national god of war, his death avenged by the final defeat of Napoleon. The impact of the column was, and remains, immense.
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Hitler saw it as the 'symbol of British naval might and world domination': he had planned to take it back to Berlin if his invasion project had been more successful than Bonaparte's. However, British naval might - represented by fleet flagship HMS Nelson — was more than a symbolic deterrent, and he did not make the attempt.
The Victorians had been troubled by his unconventional behaviour, but Nelson came from a family little concerned by conventional morality. His elder brother lived with a woman who was not his wife, his uncle had a family of acknowledged illegitimate children, and Nelson went out of his way to help them both.
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Similarly his decision to abandon his wife in was remarkable only for the very modern decision to give her half his income. Twentieth-century tastes elevated the relationship of Horatio and Emma, the two charismatic and talented self-made celebrities, into an enduring romantic standard. His loss was the greatest grief to me. There is nothing like him left for gallantry and conduct in battle. It was not a foolish passion for fighting for he was the most gentle of all human creatures and often lamented the cruel necessity of it, but it was a principle of duty which all men owed their country in defence of her laws and liberty.
He valued life only as it enabled him to do good, and would not preserve it by any act he thought unworthy… He is gone, and I shall lament him as long as I remain. Skip to main content. Google Tag Manager. Nelson, Trafalgar and the Meaning of Victory. Napoleonic Era Britain Military. Are Empires Always Bad? Menstruation and the Holocaust. Lee was the archetypal southern gentleman, complete with the damning flaw of many southern gentlemen of his day—slave ownership. Entering the service of the United States, Lee served gallantly during the Mexican War and later would become superintendent of the United States Military Academy — It was at the outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South that Lee made the decision to back Virginia and the Confederacy over the United States.
And though ultimately McClellan failed, the casualties on the southern side were great. Still, as E. The string of Northern victories had ended. While the South was still in a sense at bay, there was more cause for hope. Indeed, the remainder of provided the Southern cause with major victories at Second Bull Run in late August and at Fredericksburg in mid-December. Cited: A. Long, Memoirs of Robert E.