Re: THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR: After The Battle
Tuesday 22nd October 1805
HMS Phoebe had taken the French Fougueux in tow; but around midnight of the 21st, when the wind shifted to the south-west and began to blow a gale, she broke adrift. As the morning of the 22nd came on, it blew harder still, and in spite of every effort by Phoebe, during the earlier part of the day, to get hold of the prize again, Fougueux was driven ashore and was beaten to pieces on the rocks. Almost all on board were lost with the ship, including thirty of the prize crew from HMS Temeraire.
Pierre Servaux, the master-at-arms of Fougueux, says this of the dreadful state of affairs on board during the night of the 21st, after the ship had broken away from HMS Phoebe:
"The ship was in a terrible condition, cut down to a hulk, without masts, sails, or rigging left. She was, too, without a boat that could swim, while the whole vessel was as full of holes as a sieve, shattered from stem to stern, and with two enormous gaps forced in on the starboard side at the water line, through which the sea poured in a stream. The water had risen almost to the orlop deck. Everywhere one heard the cries of the wounded and the dying, as well as the noise and shouts of insubordinate men who refused to man the pumps and only thought of themselves. The
scenes of horror on board the ship that night were really the most awful and fearful that imagination can call up."
Servaux himself escaped in the morning of the 22nd as Fougueux was nearing the rocks. When the water in the hold had reached the lower deck and matters were desperate, he jumped into the sea from one of the lower-deck ports and swam to a boat from HMS Orion, that was not far off.
The French prize Redoutable was in tow of HMS Swiftsure, and Swiiftsure’s log describes the unfolding events during the night of the 22nd:
"At 5, the prize made the signal of distress to us. Hove to, and out boats, and brought the prize officer and his people on board, and a great many of the prisoners. At a quarter past, the boats returned the last time with very few in them, the weather so bad and sea running high that rendered it impossible for the boat to pass. Got in the boats. At a quarter past 10, the Redoutable sunk by the stern. Cut the tow, and lost two cables of eight and a half inch, and a cable of five inches, with the prize."
There is also a shocking account of the last hours of Redoubtable in letter that Midshipman G. A. Barker, from Swiftsure, sent home:
"On the 22nd it came on a most Violent Gale of wind, the Prize in Tow seem'd to weather it out tolarable well notwithstanding her shatter'd state until about three in the afternoon, when from her rolling so violently in a heavy sea, she carried away her fore Mast, the only mast she had standing. Towards the evening she repeatedly made signals of distress to us : we now hoisted out our Boats, and sent them on board of her although there was a very high Sea and we were afraid the boats would be swampt alongside the Prize, but they happily succeeded in saving a great number, including our Lieut, and part of the Seamen we sent on board, likewise a Lieut, two Midshipmen with some Seamen belonging to the Temeraire.1 If our situation was disagreeable from the fatigue and inclemency of the weather what must the unfortunate Prisoners have suffered on board with upwards of 8 Thousand men, nearly five Hundred were killed, and wounded in the engagement, and more than one half of the remainder were drowned. What added to the horrors of the night was the inability of our saving them all, as we could no longer endanger the lives of our people in open boats, at the mercy of a heavy sea and most violent Gale of Wind ; at about 10.p.m. the Redoutable sunk, and the Hawser, by which we still kept her in Tow, (in order if the weather should moderate and the Prize be able to weather the tempestous night) was carried away with the violent shock ; this was the most dreadful scene that can be imagined as we could distinctly hear the cries of the unhappy people we could no longer assist.”
Another prize, the French Algeciras, dismasted and battered by shot, and without an anchor that would hold, drifted away from the British Fleet during the early hours of the 22nd, directly for the reefs to northward of Cape Trafalgar. Lieutenant Charles Bennett of HMS Tonnant, and fifty men, were in charge of the prize, and had under hatches in the hold two hundred and seventy French officers and men as prisoners. At daybreak the ship was too far off to get aid from the fleet, and as the morning advanced they neared the rocks fast. Lieutenant Bennett's men were too few to guard the prisoners and to rig the jury-masts, which alone could save the ship. As the only chance for those on board, the Lieutenant had the hatches taken off and the prisoners set free. They swarmed on deck and, instantly, headed by one of their own officers, Lieutenant De la Bretonniere, at once made it clear to Bennett that they resumed possession of the ship: if he and his men did not agree, they would be thrown overboard; if they did, and assisted to save the ship, they should be set at liberty. Under these circumstances Bennett yielded, and Englishmen and Frenchmen, working together, succeeded in getting up three topgallant masts as jury-masts, and after a perilous navigation reached Cadiz.
At 3.30 in the afternoon HMS Minotaur took the Spanish Neptuno in tow, putting her under the charge of a Lieutenant of the Marines with 68 of Minotaur’s crew. As the wind steadily increased to gale force, the tow soon broke, leaving Neptuno to drift off into the storm. Around midnight, her main mast broke and went crashing into the quarterdeck, killing one of the British seaman and a French marine Captain. Neptuno spent the rest of the night wallowing close to the lighthouse at Cadiz.
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