Captain's Log - The Battle of Trafalgar
The Captain's Log of the Minotaur from the time of the battle of Trafalgar, kept by Captain C.J.M. Mansfield, is now held by the National Archives at Kew, document reference ADM 51/1533.
In our transcription that follows, we have added some
punctuation and expanded some abbreviations to make it more readable. We have
also added the last column containing our own comments. Each entry in the log covers
the period from noon the previous day to noon on the date of entry, so the
battle of Trafalgar is described in the entry for October the 22nd.
|Bearings at noon
|d[itt]o N ? W 6 leagues
|Light breezes. AM answered the signal for a[ll] lieut[enants]. at ? Answered the general signal to chase. At 11 answered the signal to prepare for battle. at noon light airs
|The signal "for all lieutenants" was a request for all ships to report their state and condition.
|SW by W
|Cape Trafalgar SE by E 9 leagues
|Light breezes. answered the signal to form the order of sailing. at ? AM the Phoebe Defiance and Mars joined, at noon strong breezes
|Cadiz NE 8 leagues
|Strong breezes & rain. At 10 heard the report of 12 guns. at 6 am d[itt]o weather. saw the combined fleets East, at noon light breezes. Enemy in a line of battle from NE to SE 33 sail of the line
|saw the French and Spanish combined fleets, 33 line of battle ships compared to 27 British.
|Light breezes and fair. 18 min past 12 the action began on the enemy's centre by the Royal Sovereign in close battle. at 1? of the enemy's ships on fire, ships on both sides engaging as they came near. several of the enemy's ships dismasted. 15 min past ? Spanish admiral's ship a compleat wreck. 1/2 past 2 action became general, a number of ships dismasted. passed four French and 1 Spanish ship and brought the Spaniard to action. she? struck at 55 min past 5 one of the enemy's ships blew up. the? remainder that were not disabled making for port. AM fresh breezes. bore down to take the prize in tow. 3 dismasted ships in sight, Enemy's ships not in sight
The winds were so light that it took over 4 hours for the Minotaur and
Spartiate at the end of the weather column to reach the action.
The Spanish ship captured was the Neptuno.
"struck" is short for "struck her colours" which means "lowered her flag (ensign)", the signal of surrender.
|S by W
|Cadiz North 4 leagues
|Fresh breezes and hazy, took the prize in tow. at 5 strong gales. hawser broke. at 4 am saw Cadiz lights, NE at 11 the enemy’s ships coming out of Cadiz, at noon light airs
|The prize is the captured Spanish ship Neptuno. She was subsequently recaptured by the French and Spanish, but wrecked on rocks and the British crew members on board taken prisoner. Four British seamen were killed during the storm and the wreck. See also the entry for 3rd November.
|SW by S
|S’Lucar E by N 6 leagues
|Light breezes and cloudy, 10 sail of the line of the enemy out of the harbour, answered the signal for battle. at 6 joined the Britannia, strong breezes and cloudy. at midnight hard gales? AM more moderate, carpenters fishing a foretopsail yard, and people splicing and knotting the rigging, unbending damaged sails
The carpenters weren't fishing for their dinner! "fishing" means repairing a
mast or yard by lashing another piece of timber to it like a splint.
"unbending" sails means unfastening or untying sails.
|Cape St Mary N78W 11 leagues
|Fresh breezes and rain. S’Lucar EbyS 5 leagues. several sail ? company. AM fresh breezes, employed about the rigging. noon hard gales
|Cadiz S77E 11 leagues
|Strong gales and hazy, no ships in sight AM saw the Tonnant to leeward several sail in sight at noon 13 sail in sight
|Cadiz SE 7 or 8 leagues
|Fresh breezes and cloudy, at 4 saw the Royal Sovereign at anchor without masts answered the signal for a[ll] lieut[enants], joined the Prince, fresh breezes and squally AM d[itt]o weather at noon fresh breezes
|W by S
|S’Lucar E by N 5 leagues
|Fresh breezes and squally fleet in company AM fresh breezes saw the Temeraire at anchor off the mouth of Seville River with lower[?] masts standing, at noon moderate, fleet in company
|Cadiz SE 6 leagues
|Fresh breezes and squally at 8 the Britannia South. AM moderate and cloudy. dryed sails. disabled ships at anchor. found a knee of the head opening from the stem at noon more moderate and cloudy
The Knee of the head is a large flat piece of timber, fixed
edgeways to the front of a ship's stem, and supporting the
figurehead, under the bowsprit. It also secures one of the booms, so is quite important!
|SSW E by S
|d[itt]o SE 8 leagues
|Light breezes and fair saw a French frigate SE with a flag of truce at 7 saw a ship on fire ESE at 8 she blew up AM fresh breezes saw a ship NW with a dismasted ship in tow at noon fresh breezes Squadron in company
|Care Spartel S64E 17 leagues
|Fresh breezes and hazy, Euryalus parted company several sails in company AM light breezes and hazy several sails in sight Strange sail S?? under jury masts
|d[itt]o S68E 10 leagues
|Calm and hazy shifted the cables Britannia SW AM light airs at 9 fresh breezes Admiral Collingwood joined in the Queen. answered the Britannia’s signal for a[ll] lieut[enants] at noon moderate. Queen, Dreadnought, Britannia and the Prince in co.
|Fresh breezes and hazy Recovered 32 french prisoners from the Britannia. Filled and made sail. AM saw Capa Spartel E 3 or 4 leagues. At noon light breezes several sails in sight
|Cabarilla ? E by N 4 leagues
|Moderately fair at ? fresh breezes came to with the best bower in Gibraltar Bay. At 7 am sent all the prisoners aboard the Beagle sloop recovered our Officers and Men who went? In El Neptuno At 10 weighed and sailed out of the Bay
|The best bower is the larger of the two anchors carried at the bows.
|West S by E
|At anchor in Tetuan Bay
|Moderate and clear standing for Tetuan AM d[itt]o weather ? past 10 anchored in 22 fathoms Morau town W by S ? N by E at noon moderate and clear
|SE by S
|Moderate and clear sent the boats for water but could none[?] for the surf. at 5 strong breezes in boats, struck Top gall[ant] masts AM moderate & clear Got the main top[mast] down
|SE by S
|Moderate and fair got up another main topmast. AM variously employed sailmakers repairing damaged sails
|SE by S
|Fresh breezes and squally with rain at 4 the Niger sailed mustered the company and performed divine service
|Fresh breezes and cloudy Variously employed dry’d sails AM employed about the rigging, a heavy swell on the beach
|d[itt]o weather AM moderate and fine sent all the boats to ? off water, knotted the forestay and several shrouds that were shot Am got down the fore topmast carpenters fishing the head of the foremast at noon light airs boats watering
|SE by S Var-iable
|d[itt]o weather variously employed boats watering Carpenters fishing the masthead got 24 tons of water
|Light breezes employ’d watering found the fore topmast ?hung in the Cap, found the midship piece of the foremast ? close up to the cap at noon light airs boats watering
|Moderate and cloudy carpenters as before sailmakers repairing sails AM boats watering loosed sails to dry
|Light airs & fair completed the water AM moderate and fair swayed up topgall’ masts received 16 live bullocks
|? NW ½ W 6 or 7 miles
|Light airs variously employed 1/2 past 5 AM weighed and made sail at 8 moderate & variable saw the Tonnant? Gun brig? NE at noon moderate & cloudy Tonnant in company
|NE by E East
|Europa point WNW 3 miles
|Moderate & cloudy R[aine]d occasionally. at 10 taken aback AM light breezes & cloudy at 9 Europa point NW by W 3 leagues at ? made all sail saw several lines of battleships coming out of Gibraltar Bay
|"taken aback" means the wind changed and the sails were blown against the mast
|E by S NbE
|Moored in Gibraltar Bay
|Moderate & hazy answered the signal of recall at 4 light airs came to in 30 fathoms europa point SSE new mole head ?NE found Admiral Collingwood in the Queen and several ships of war riding in the Bay
|North SE by E
|Fresh breezes employed mooring ship AM light airs ?sent 11 butts of water to the Spartiate, the dismantled ships sailed for England
|N by W
|? moderate & hazy with rain, came in a convoy from ? westward AM fresh breezes, returned damaged sails
|Moderate & cloudy, employed about the cables AM moderate & hazy, people returning of stores carpenters repairing the stern
|Fresh breezes & cloudy receiving provisions AM fresh breezes cleared hawse, had a survey on the mainyard
|?M fresh breezes sent the bad running rigging ashore AM d[itt]o weather, anchored here HMS Polyphemus, received several stores, employed about the rigging
|Fresh breezes, rec(ei?)ving new running rigging AM light airs& hazy employed shifting the yards sailed HM Ship Queen
|?M fresh breezes & squally employed shifting the yards & receiving store AM light airs variously employed
|?M light breezes sent pursers stores to ye victualling office AM moderate employed about the rigging ? HMS Polyphemus with a convoy to the westward
|PM moderate & hazy, swayed the main yard up ? HMS Thunderer AM strong gales variously employed
|?M hard gales & rain, variously employed AM moderate. ? sails, received stores carpenters repairing the stern
|PM moderate, variously employed AM light breezes variable setting up the rigging
|Moored in Gibraltar Bay
|?M moderate breezes set up the topmast rigging ? the cheque mustered the ship’s company AM d[itt]o weather squared the ratlines dryed sails
|ratlines – transverse ropes of shrouds forming rungs of rope ladder
|?M moderate and hazy, employed abgout the rigging AM anchored here HMS Hydra am d[itt]o weather variously employed
|?M moderate & cloudy sailed HMS Britannia carpenters repairing the stern AM moderate & cloudy the ?caulkers from the yard employed on board
|?M moderate & cloudy arrived HM ships Endymion ?casta and Hind AM fresh breezes mustered the ship’s company
|?M moderate & Cloudy AM hard gales at ?8 ?unmoored found the small bower much cut about ye middle
|bower – an anchor carried at the bow of a ship
|SE by E
|Europa point ? 10 or 12 miles
|Light breezes At 1 am weighed and made sail at 4 light breezes at 10 spoke HMS ?Unite at noon moderate & fair
|E by S ESE
|Gibraltar NW by W 9 or 10 leagues
|? weather made and shortened sail occasionally ? AM boarded an American ship from Leghorn to Baltimore
|E by S
|Adira? Point EN? 9 or 10 leagues
|Moderate & fair At 5 Malaga NbyE 6 or 7 leagues AM d[itt]o weather filled a new main topsail, at noon fresh breezes
|d[itt]o EN? 12 or 13 leagues
|Fresh breezes & clear AM fresh breezes & cloudy, ?changed ?umbo?s with the Thunder bomb at 10 observed the Thunder ?to a brig, at noon fresh breezes
|Bomb ships fired bombs from muzzle loading mortars. Bomb ships were reinforced with massive timbers to withstand the mortars' recoil.
|SE by E
|d[itt]o NE 10 leagues
|Moderate & fair A ship of war South, steering towards the ?shails, AM fresh breezes employed at working up junk
|"Junk" refers to pieces of old cable or old cordage, used for making gaskets, mats, swabs, etc., and when picked to pieces, forming oakum for filling the seams of ships.
|Cape de gatt? EN? 9 or 10 leagues
|Fresh breezes & clear AM mustered the ship’s company ?erved slops at noon light airs
|slops – cheap clothing issued to sailors
|Cape palos EN? 14 leagues
|Light airs set steering sail at 10 am saw a frigate ? Cape de gatt- at noon moderate & fair
|W by S NNW
|d[itt]o NE by N 9 or 10 leagues
|Fresh breezes & fair at 3 spoke the Entreprenante cutter at ? joined admiral Collingwood's squadron AM fresh breezes & hazy, at noon light breezes, Dexterous Gun brig joining
|Light breezes & clear at 6 the Swiftsure & Seahorse parted company am fresh breezes & cloudy at 5 cape palos NE by N 5 leagues at midnight strong breezes & cloudy adml East 2 Mil?