HMS Minotaur (built 1793)
Her History, Her Officers, and Her Crew

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.

Week's Days Mo Days Winds Course Dist-ance Lat
Bearings at noon Remarks Comments
October 1805                   
Saturday 19 ESE

    36:38   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.
Sunday 20 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  
Monday 21 S?         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.
Tuesday 22 South

          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.
Wednesday 23 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.
Thursday 24 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.
Friday 25 SSW N83W M

  7:13 Cape St Mary


11 leagues
Fresh breezes and rain. S’Lucar EbyS 5 leagues. several sail ? company. AM fresh breezes, employed about the rigging. noon hard gales  
Saturday 26 SW S66E 15 36:41 6:56 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  
Sunday 27 SSE     36:46   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  
Monday 28 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  
Tuesday 29 SW     36:39   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!
Wednesday 30 SSW

E by S
    36:43   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  
Thursday 31 SE

S43W 44 36:10   Care Spartel


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  
November 1805                  
Friday 1 WNW

SE 19 36:54   d[itt]o


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.  
Saturday 2 ENE     35:54     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  
Sunday 3 NNE

        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.
Monday 4 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  
Tuesday 5 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  
Wednesday 6 SE by S           Moderate and fair got up another main topmast. AM variously employed sailmakers repairing damaged sails  
Thursday 7 SE by S           Fresh breezes and squally with rain at 4 the Niger sailed mustered the company and performed divine service  
Friday 8           Fresh breezes and cloudy Variously employed dry’d sails AM employed about the rigging, a heavy swell on the beach  
Saturday 9           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  
Sunday 10 SE by S

          d[itt]o weather variously employed boats watering Carpenters fishing the masthead got 24 tons of water  
Monday 11 NE

          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  
Tuesday 12 ESE

          Moderate and cloudy carpenters as before sailmakers repairing sails AM boats watering loosed sails to dry  
Wednesday 13 SW           Light airs & fair completed the water AM moderate and fair swayed up topgall’ masts received 16 live bullocks  
Thursday 14 ENE

    35:47   ? 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  
Friday 15 NE by E

        Europa point


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
Saturday 16 E by S

        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  
Sunday 17 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  
Monday 18 N by W         ? moderate & hazy with rain, came in a convoy from ? westward AM fresh breezes, returned damaged sails  
Tuesday 19 WSW

        Moderate & cloudy, employed about the cables AM moderate & hazy, people returning of stores carpenters repairing the stern  
Wednesday 20 East         Fresh breezes & cloudy receiving provisions AM fresh breezes cleared hawse, had a survey on the mainyard  
Thursday 21 ESE         ?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  
Friday 22 SE         Fresh breezes, rec(ei?)ving new running rigging AM light airs& hazy employed shifting the yards sailed HM Ship Queen  
Saturday 23 ENE         ?M fresh breezes & squally employed shifting the yards & receiving store AM light airs variously employed  
Sunday 24 Var-iable

        ?M light breezes sent pursers stores to ye victualling office AM moderate employed about the rigging ? HMS Polyphemus with a convoy to the westward  
Monday 25 ESE         PM moderate & hazy, swayed the main yard up ? HMS Thunderer AM strong gales variously employed  
Tuesday 26         ?M hard gales & rain, variously employed AM moderate. ? sails, received stores carpenters repairing the stern  
Wednesday 27 Var-iable         PM moderate, variously employed AM light breezes variable setting up the rigging  
Thursday 28 SE         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
Friday 29 ESE

        ?M moderate and hazy, employed abgout the rigging AM anchored here HMS Hydra am d[itt]o weather variously employed  
Saturday 30 Var-iable         ?M moderate & cloudy sailed HMS Britannia carpenters repairing the stern AM moderate & cloudy the ?caulkers from the yard employed on board  
Sunday 1 WSW         ?M moderate & cloudy arrived HM ships Endymion ?casta and Hind AM fresh breezes mustered the ship’s company  
Monday 2 NNW         ?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
Tuesday 3 SE by E     36:7   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  
Wednesday 4 E by S

    36:4   Gibraltar NW by W 9 or 10 leagues ? weather made and shortened sail occasionally ? AM boarded an American ship from Leghorn to Baltimore  
Thursday 5 E by S     35:57   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  
Friday 6 ESE

    36:11   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.
Saturday 7 SE by E     36:05   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.
Sunday 8 ESE     36:24   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
Monday 9 WNW     37:00   Cape palos EN?

14 leagues
Light airs set steering sail at 10 am saw a frigate ? Cape de gatt- at noon moderate & fair  
Tuesday 10 W by S

    37:26   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  
Wednesday 11 West     36:55     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?