When it comes to the Battle of Trafalgar, there is certainly no shortage of first-hand accounts. It was a huge battle fought by tens of thousands of sailors, many of whom wrote of the experience. The Helmsman’s Log from the Mont Blanc is noteworthy first because it is the first real-time account from behind French lines to be discovered, and second because that discovery didn’t occur until 2005.
It covers the period of 29 Fructidor Year 13 to 13 Brumaire Year 14 (16 September 1805 to 4 November 1805). It describes the preparations of the combined fleet at Cadiz, the difficulties of making ready for battle, events at Trafalgar as they happened, and the subsequent flight and capture of Dumanoir’s squadron. Reports written by the French commanders (including Rear-Admiral Dumanoir) are known to exist but these were written some time after the battle.
The Helmsman’s Log was recorded at four to six hourly intervals as the fighting was taking place. High-quality images of the complete log (in French, obviously) can be downloaded for a small fee from the National Archives, but you can download important excerpts in English right here!
Just right or control-click and choose “Save” or “Save As”.
Le Calendrier Républicain (the Republican or French Revolutionary Calendar) was adopted officially on 24 October 1793. It was abolished on 1 January 1806. This table will help you to convert the dates given in the documents.
Courtesy of the National Archives.
Image: Strachan’s Action After Trafalgar by Francis Sartorius depicting the capture of Dumanoir’s squadron including the Mont-Blanc. Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.