Gripping Depiction of an Authentic "Epic Sea Battle"...
Curious about why the might of Napoleanic France could never bring
England to her knees in the aborning years of the 19th century? Ever
wonder why all of England owes a fanatical debt of eternal gratitude to
Lord Viscount Horatio Nelson, Vice Admiral, that century's first true
military "celebrity?" "Traflagar, Countdown to
Battle" answers in eminently readable detail these and related
queries about the events leading up to one heck of an authentic
"epic sea battle."
This is a book the serious history reader can
enjoy for it's compactness and reference, while prodding the neophyte to
potential further study. As a whole, "Countdown" describes the
Royal Navy's critical role in keeping France's voracious Emperor and his
mighty legions "safely" on the Continent - and thus away from
England's shores. Equally enlightening are the subplots to this
The heart of the study reveals an unbeatable
combination: The on-shore British Admiralty - a body of experienced
fighting seamen - executing a flawless naval strategy over months and
years, across Channel and seas; and the audacious at-sea Fleet
commander, Lord Viscount Nelson. Nelson, famous and hero-hailed even
before his capstone battle at Trafalgar, emerges naturally as
"Countdown's" central figure of towering naval skill and
Schom's portrayal of Nelson, a hugely
successful commander in a navy full of battle-toughened winners, exposes
the Admiral's passionate hatred for the French and his contempt for
their Navy. It fairly discusses his human triumphs and human flaws.
Schom whets the reader's appetite by recounting Nelson's agonizing
months-long and oceans-crossing pursuit to bring the reluctant French
Admiral Villenueve's fleet to battle. Along the way, the reader
discovers enough personalities and naval trivia to set the final awful
battle - where scores of heavily-armed ships hurled iron and shot at one
another for five hours - in gripping relief.
Historians and casual
reader alike will appreciate Schom's description of the joy Nelson feels
as he finally corners the French and their Spanish allies at the Spanish
port of Cadiz in 1805. At Nelson's deadly thoroughness in formulating
his bold plan - which annihilated the French threat to the British
Isles. At Nelson's glee as his flagship "Victory" glides
headlong and under galling fire into the very center of the combined
French and Spanish line of battle as it sails - hopelessly overmatched -
off Cape Trafalgar.
Finally, at the height of Nelson's glory in the
ghastly battle, the actions and events that immortalized the Lord
Viscount, who, with the likes of Drake, Wellington, and Churchill, holds
a dear and hard-earned place among England's military immortals and in
the hearts of her people.
-- Rich Sheppard