Seapower and landpower: the napoleonic wars 1803-15

Villeneuve sailed for ferrol on 9 june. Once nelson knew this he sailed for gibraltar on 13 june, sending a fastbrig to england. The brig passed villeneuve’s fleet, noted its course, and reported it to the admiralty on 8 jule admiral lord barham, the elderly first Lord, rapidly reorganized his forces, and dispatched orders to counter the French.

Recognizing that their landfall would be cape finisterre (spain), he ordered Admiral sir robert calder to raise the blockade of ferrol, and rendezvous there with ships from off rochefort and elements of the channel T fleet. On 22 july, in thick weather, calder met villeneuve.

The U.S. clipper Westward Ho cracking along in the trade winds

Although he had only fifteen battleships against twenty, calder attacked the allied rear, hoping to cut it off. In poor Visibility, caused by gunsmoke and fog, any tactical finesse was lost. Ships could hardly see their next head, and rather less of their opponents. Two spanish ships were taken. The following day, when calder realized the allies still outnumbered him, he chose not to renew the action. He did not share nelson’s relentless drive to annihilate the enemy, or his view that it was his duty to continue the action for as long as he could, to cripple the allied invasion plans. For this he would be criticized and effectively disgraced.

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