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In 1805, Napoleon looked across the English Channel to his one remaining enemy: the United Kingdom. Her army, although experienced in subduing the citizens of the territories acquired by the British, was no match for the battle hardened and large French Grand Army. In any land battle, Napoleon would almost certainly win. But the British Royal Navy, the strongest and proudest navy in the world, stood in the way. No invasion, or even a threat of invasion, could proceed without weakening the "wooden wall" that protected England, and that would require first of all destroying the fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Admiral Horatio Nelson.
Napoleon turned to his Spanish allies, who agreed to help assemble a massive fleet to deal with the British. Under the overall command of French Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, the combined Franco-Spanish fleet set out from Toulon on August 5, evading the British blockading fleet. Sailing to the West Indies, Villeneuve hoped to lure Nelson to the Caribbean, where he would simply turn around and sail back to Europe with his 32 ships, to break the British blockade of Brest, where another fleet of 21 ships, under the command of Vice-Admiral Ganteaume was held up. Together, the two fleets, plus five ships from Capitan Allemand, would total 58 ships of the line.
When Villeneuve arrived outside of Brest, the Battle of Cape Finisterre commenced on September 7, where, in opposite of our time line, the Franco-Spanish fleet captured two British ships, forcing the blockading fleet of British ships to pull out, allowing the ships in Brest to join the rest of Villeneuve's fleet.
By September 15, Nelson had returned from the West Indies, completely duped by the French. The British Fleet, with only 20 ships of the line, was completely outnumbered by the Franco-Spanish Fleet of 58, But was still divided between the two commanders. Villeneuve, predicting that Nelson would use a tactic that would deviate from the norm of the previous centuries, decided to use both his numbers and the assumption Nelson would do something different to his advantage. He knew that the crew of most of his ships were inexperienced, so a simple plan to start engaging Nelson's fleet as soon as it is sighted, while Ganteaume, when he arrived, would surprise the British from the North, and hopefully destroy Nelson's ships.
On November 1, Nelson finally engaged the Franco-Spanish fleet under Villenuve near Cape Trafalgar, and the battle began. The British fleet reorganized themselves into two columns, one under Nelson himself, the other under Vice-Admiral Collingwood, which were then supposed to sail in the Franco-Spanish line of battle. Admiral Villeneuve was confident this was to happen, and ordered his own fleet to split in half and turn to engage the British alongside each other.The British were surprised by the sudden turn in the French-Spanish fleet, and although the Franco-Spanish fleet was slower to approach, this threw Nelson's plan into disarray, and it would Nelson had been tricked. His belief that the French and Spanish would adhere to the centuries old tradition of the line of battle had made him confident of victory. A French sharpshooter, however, shot Nelson killing him, but most of the British fleet was destroyed or severely damaged. Only the Victory the flagship, escaped with minor damage. It wasn't an easy victory for the French, as 27 of the ships that fought that afternoon were either sunk or had to be cast off.
The Battle of Trafalgar was Napoleon's greatest victory, destroying the stronger and more professional Royal Navy in battle. Now, Napoleon must decide what to do with his victory: invade England, or make peace, and focus on Europe?
Welcome to the World of French Trafalgar, British Waterloomessage me! I'm always open to new ideas and constructive criticism!
Tbguy1992 16:41, October 15, 2010 (UTC)