To understand fully the importance of the Battle of TRafalgar, we need to know something of the earlier battles between Britain and France and Spain. France had made peace with Spain in 1793 and in 1796 Spain became France's ally. The tasks of the British fleet were to protect the country's merchant ships, to cut off ships supplying France and to prevent Napoleon invading Britain. A fleet of Spanish ships was defeated on 14 February 1797 at the Battle of Cape St Vincent. Nelson, in command of a group of frigates, gave invaluable assistance to Admiral Sir John Jervis.
In May 1798, A French fleet left Toulon setting out to enable Napoleon to invade Egypt. Nelson, now with the rank of Rear Admiral, was sent with thirteen ships to pursue the French. Despite the greater strength of the French fleet, Nelson's vessels defeated it on 1 August 1798 at the Battle of the Nile.
Napleon's increasing domination of Europe continued. In 1800 he was able to secure an alliance with Russia. Russia, Sweden, Denmark and Prussia formed a 'League of neutral nations' which set about preventing British merchant shipping in the Baltic. The British retaliated by seizing the merchantmen of the League countries. On 2 April 1801, Nelson's ships defeated the Danish at the Battle of Copenhagen
Read Nelson's report of the battle.
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