Captain Lucas’s report concerning the loss of the vessel Redoutable at the Battle of Trafalgar

Author(s) : LUCAS Jean-Jacques-Etienne, Captain
Share it

This day, 1ère de Brumaire, An XIV (the 23rd of October), we, the undersigned, E. Lucas, Captain and Officer of the legion of Honour, having the command of his Majesty's ship Le Redoutable, together with the officers of the Etat Major (commissioned officers), under-officers, etc., finding ourselves brought together on board the English ship Swiftsure, and having survived the loss of our own ship, have drawn up the following report, containing the reasons and circumstances which occasioned the loss of the Redoutable.

On the 21st of October (29th Vendémiaire), at half-past eleven, the Combined Fleet found itself to windward of the enemy, forming in line of battle. The Redoutable, according to the order of seniority, was third ship astern of the admiral's flagship, the Bucentaure. The two intermediate ships, in the course of an evolution, owing to want of wind, were out of station and left the admiral's ship exposed just at the moment when the enemy had made his disposition for attacking our centre. The Victory, of 110 guns, under Admiral Nelson, and The Téméraire, of the same rate, were at the head of the division which bore down upon the admiral's ship to cut it off and surround it. Captain Lucas, soon perceiving the enemy's design, immediately took measures to take post close up in wake of the Bucentaure, in which he happily succeeded. Although the flag-captain from on board that ship hailed us several times to shorten sail, we kept close astern. We had all unanimously determined rather to lose our own ship than witness the capture of our admiral.

At a quarter before twelve firing opened on both sides between the ships that were within gun-shots. The Enemy's two three-deckers directed all their efforts to forcing in our line in wake of the Bucentaure, and to drive the Redoutable foul of her, so as to make our admiral's ship cease firing. They were, however, unable to move us. We determined to range ourselves alongside the enemy's admiral, and in that situation we gave and received a number of broadsides. The enemy, however, could not prevent us from lashing ourselves fast to the Victory. Our captain then gave orders to board, whereupon our brave crew, with their officers at their head, instantly made ready for the onset. The conflict was begun with small arms, and upwards of two hundred hand grenades were flung on board the Victory.

Admiral Nelson fought at the head of his crew, but still, as our fire was much more vigorous than that of the English, we silenced them about a quarter of an hour . The deck of the Victory was strewn with dead, and Admiral Nelson was killed by a musket shot. It proved, however, unexpectedly difficult to board the Victory; her upper deck stood so much higher than that of the Redoutable. Ensign Yon, however, and four seamen, climbing up by an anchor, succeeded. They would have been followed by the rest of their brave comrades, but, at that moment, the English ship Téméraire, perceiving that the fire of her admiral's flagship had ceased, and that she must inevitably be taken, immediately fell upon us on our starboard side, after first raking us with a heavy fire. The slaughter that ensued is indescribable. More than two hundred of our men were killed. The captain now ordered the remainder to go below and fire at the Téméraire with what guns were not disabled. Immediately after that there came up astern another of the enemy's ships, within pistol-shot of us; in which station she remained till we had to strike our colours.

That calamity took place about half-past two p.m., for the following reasons:
1. Because, out of a crew consisting of six hundred and forty-three men, five hundred and twenty-two were no longer in a situation to continue the fight. Three hundred had been killed, and two-hundred and twenty-two were badly wounded. Among the latter were the whole of the Etat Major and ten juniors officers.
2. Because the ship was dismasted: the main and mizzen masts had gone by the board. The former fell on the Téméraire, and the yards of that ship fell on board the Redoutable.
3. Because the tiller and helm and rudder gear and the stern-post itself had been entirely destroyed.
4. Because nearly all our guns were dismounted partly in our coming into collision with the two three-deckers, partly by their shot, and several of the guns dismounted, and in consequence of the bursting of an eighteen-pounder gun on the lower deck, and a thirty-six-pounder carronade on the forecastle.
5. Because the poop had been entirely smashed in and the counter timbers and deck beams shattered and wrecked so that the whole of the after part of the ship formed practically a gaping cavity.
6. Because almost all the port lids had been smashed and the ports destroyed by the fire of the Victory and Téméraire.
7. Because both sides of the ship and the decks were shot through and riddled in such a manner that numbers of the wounded below on the orlop, and as they lay in the cockpit, were being killed helplessly.
8. Because the ship was on fire astern.
9. Because, finally, the ship was leaking in many places, and had several feet of water in the hold, and nearly all the pumps had been destroyed by shot. We had cause to fear that she might go down under our feet.

Throughout the whole of the battle, the Victory and Téméraire never ceased their attacks upon the Redoutable; nor did we separate from each other for some time after the battle had ceased between the rest of the fleets. The Victory lost her mizzen-mast, her ringing was nearly cut to pieces, and a great part of her crew were disabled. Admiral Nelson was killed by a musket shot during the attempt to board.

At seven in the evening the Swiftsure took us in tow, and next morning sent a party on board to take charge and remove Captain Lucas, Lieutenant Dupotet, and M. Ducrest. By noon the leaks had increased so much, that the prize-master signalled for assistance. The Swiftsure sent her boats to save the remainder of our crew, but they had only the time to remove one hundred and nineteen Frenchmen. About seven that evening the whole of the stern being under water, the Redoutable went down with all the wounded on board.

On the 23rd (1ère Brumaire) the captain of the Swiftsure seeing some people at a distance on a wreck, caused them to be brought in, to the number of fifty, but, including sixty-four of the wounded, who were taken out, not more than one hundred and sixty-nine were saved out of four hundred and sixty-three.

On board the Swiftsure.
Signed by the Officers of the quarter-deck and confirmed by Captain Lucas.

Share it