By 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte was the undisputed master of Europe. He had humbled the great powers of Austria and Russia by the Battle of Austerlitz, and was effectively the master of mainland Europe. Only Great Britain still opposed him with a naval and economic blockade. Napoleon resolved to invade Britain, but the Royal Navy would first have to be destroyed. That same year a combined Franco-Spanish fleet of 33 ships was assembled. Opposing him was Nelson's fleet of 27 ships of the line.
The prevailing tactic of the time was to engage an enemy fleet by a parallel line of ships, and exchanging fire. However, such a naval maneuver was inconclusive, as each fleet could break away at any time. Nelson was determined to force a decisive engagement. His then-revolutionary tactic was to approach Napoleon's fleet directly and "cutting the line" of the enemy column, effectively splitting the Franco-Spanish fleet in half, surrounding one of the halves and destroying it. Nelson's overwhelming victory prevented a French invasion of Britain and guaranteed British naval dominance for the 19th Century.
THE GREAT COMMANDERS SERIES: Every epoch produces a general of exceptional brilliance. Six of the most pivotal battles in history are recreated and analyzed by military historian David Chandler using contemporary sources, 3D animation, re-enactment and expert commentary. Other Commanders examined in this series include Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ulysses S. Grant and Georgi Zhukov.
Absolutely splendid. --Independent on Sunday
Spellbinding. --Daily Telegraph
Absorbing. --The Sunday Times