From the Archives - Redoubtable Takes a Hit, Trafalgar, October 21, 1805
Capt. Jean-Jacques Lucas, skipper of the 74 gun ship-of-the-line Redoubtable, was one of the rising young men in the French Imperial Navy in 1805. By no means a cerebral sailor, he was a tough brawler, who trained his men well in hand-to-hand fighting. It was in the gap between his ship’s stem and the French 98-gun ship Bucentaure’s stern that Nelson’s column of battleships descended at Trafalgar, closely followed by HMS Neptune,98 guns, and Temeraire, 98. It was just about 12:15 when HMS Victory penetrated between the two ships, cutting loose with both broadsides.
Lucas later described the results.
It would be difficult to describe the horrible carnage caused by the murderous broadside. More than 200 of our brave lads were killed or wounded. I was wounded at the same instant, but not so seriously as to prevent me from remaining at my post . . . . A little later a third ship [HMS Temeraire] came up and stationed herself astern of the Redoubtable and fired into us at pistol range; in less than half an hour our ship was so riddled that she seemed to be no more than a mass of wreckage. In this state the Temeraire hailed us to strike, and not prolong a useless resistance. I ordered several soldiers who were near me to answer this summons with musket-shots, which was performed with the greatest zeal. At the very same minute the mainmast fell on board the Redoubtable. The entire stern was absolutely stove-in, rudder-stock, tiller, and two tiller-sweeps, sternpost, wing transoms, and transom knees were in general shot to pieces.
All the guns were shattered or dismounted by the shots, or from ships having run us aboard . . . . An 18-pounder gun on the main deck and a 36-pounder carronade on the forecastle having burst, killed and wounded many of our people. The two sides of the ship, all the lids and bars of the ports were utterly cut to pieces. Four of our six pumps were shattered, as well as our ladders in general, in such sort that communication between the decks and the upper works was extremely difficult. All our decks were covered with dead, buried beneath the debris and the splinters from the different parts of the ship. Out of the ship's company of 643 men we had 522 disabled, 300 being killed, 222 wounded, amongst whom were almost the entire executive . . . . He who has not seen the Redoubtable in this state can never have any conception of her destruction.
I do not know of anything on board which was not cut up by shot. In the midst of this carnage the brave lads who had not yet succumbed, and whose who were wounded, with whom the orlop deck was thronged, still cried, “Vive I'Empereur! We're not taken yet. Is the captain still alive?”
As the battle grew, if anything, more intense, Redoubtable became entangled with both Victory and Temeraire. Then, at about 1:15 p.m., a marine in Redoubtable’s rigging took aim at an officer walking the deck of Victory, mortally wounding Nelson, albeit that he would not die before the Franco-Spanish fleet had been beaten, and 17 of the enemy taken, including Redoubtable.