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Trafalgar, battle of

Trafalgar, battle of (trəfălˈgər) [key], naval engagement fought off Cape Trafalgar on the SW coast of Spain on Oct. 21, 1805, in which the British fleet under Horatio Nelson won a famous victory over the allied French and Spanish fleets under Pierre de Villeneuve. Nelson's strategy was to divide his own fleet into two sections, one led by himself in the HMS Victory, the other by his deputy Cuthbert Collingwood in the HMS Royal Sovereign, and to penetrate the enemy line in two places. This maneuver resulted in the capture of 20 enemy ships (one was blown up). The British lost no ships. Among the dead was Nelson himself, struck by a bullet from the French ship Redoutable. The decisive English victory ended Napoleon I's power on the sea and made a French invasion of England impossible. The words signaled by Nelson at the beginning of the battle—"England expects that every man will do his duty"—became immortal.

See studies by D. A. Howarth (1969), O. Warner (1971), and A. Nicolson (2005).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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