What You Can Learn From The Battle Of Trafalgar
You see, naval warfare at the time consisted of lining your ships up and volleying waves of cannonballs back and forth until one side surrendered, ran, or sunk. It resembled very much the lines and lines of men firing muskets at one another your are probably more familiar with from all the various movies and TV shows set in the period. So, suffice it to say that being outnumbered by 8 ships was a severe tactical disadvantage that almost certainly spelled defeat. For Admiral Nelson and the British, defeat was not an option. Napoleon had a clear plan to rid the English Channel of the British Royal Navy so he could safely transport invasion armies and supplies without worry. What happened at Cape Trafalgar could make or break Britain's defense of Napoleon's advance. The stakes were extremely high and Admiral Nelson was going to have to get crafty!He devised a plan of attack that would send his ships toward the Franco-Spanish line in two columns, dividing their line into thirds. He identified the two best areas to hit in order to create maximum chaos by disrupting the command and control elements of the French and Spanish elements of the line. He knew that, due to the culture of their fleets, that the French and Spanish subordinate Captains would be slow to respond and maneuver without direct orders from their respective flagships. Disrupting that ability would give his ships an extreme advantage. Now, the prevailing British culture was not so different. Admiral Nelson had to free his subordinate Captains from the very limiters he was leveraging against his enemy. He had to give them the authority to think and act on their own. But, he knew that would be a hard habit to break in such short time so he decided to give an order in a way that would accomplish just that. He sent the following order to each of his Captains:"No Captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy." ~ Lord Admiral Horatio NelsonIt was short. It conveyed all that needed to be said. And, it conveyed what success would look like and left the Captains free to determine how to achieve it.The results? The British decimated the Franco-Spanish fleet. Britain lost no ships, 458 dead, 1,208 wounded. France had 11 ships destroyed or captured, 2,281 dead, 1,155 wounded, and 4,000 captured. Spain had 11 ships captured, 1,025 dead, 1,383 wounded, 4,000 captured. It was a staggering defeat and cemented Admiral Nelson's legacy as well as the British Royal Navy's supremacy at sea. Unfortunately, one of the British dead was Admiral Nelson himself. He had been shot through the spine by an enemy sniper during the battle but he lived long enough to hear the news that his plan had panned out.