Lot 6
  • 6

Naval Logs--Battle of Trafalgar.

15,000 - 20,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • "A Journal of the Proceedings of HM Ship Atalante [and HMS Temeraire] ... Commencing July 28th 1802 and Ending [January 9th 1806] Kept by James Eaton Mid."

  • ink on paper
including a first-hand account of Trafalgar from the signal midshipman on the "fighting Temeraire": the first man to receive the most famous signal in naval history, 5 volumes, the first two on board the brig sloop Atalante under Commander J.O. Masefield, 28 July 1802-10 March 1804, the final three on board the second-rate ship of the line HMS Temeraire under Captain Eliab Harvey, 10 March 1804 to 9 January 1806, with the usual daily entries of a ship's log (winds, course, position, bearing) on versos and daily "Remarks" on the opposite recto sometimes expanded well beyond the usual comments, most notably in its account of Trafalgar, 64, 52, 72, 66, and 45 pages, plus title pages and blanks, folio, limp marbled paper wrappers, the final volume lacking title page

Catalogue Note

"...at Daylight saw the Enemies Fleet in the SE Quarter Consisting of 33 sail of the Line 4 Frigates and two sloops Cleared ship for Action and made all sail standing for the Enemies Fleet at 1/2 past 11 the Victory made 1st Telegraph Signal England Expects Every Man will do his Duty..."

James Eaton (1783-1857) entered naval service in 1799 on the Quebec. From 1802 to 1804 he served as a midshipman on the Atalante, which was involved in combatting smuggling, before transferring to HMS Temeraire, part of Nelson's Mediterranean fleet and the ship later immortalised by Turner. At Trafalgar the Temeraire sailed just astern of the Victory at the van of the weather column. She was therefore the first to receive Nelson's rousing signal and it was Eaton's duty, as signal midshipman, to receive and relay Nelson's patriotic call as the British sailed towards more than thirty enemy battleships, at the opening of what Eaton must have known would be a battle of decisive historic importance. 

The ship played a crucial role at Trafalgar. In the words of a recent book on her career, "the Temeraire had followed the Victory as she smashed through the enemy's line, engaged the largest ship in the world, saved Victory from capture and taken two prizes, one of them the best-trained ship in the entire French navy." (Sam Willis, The Fighting Temeraire (2009), p.171). Eaton gives a remarkably clear and detailed account of this extraordinary action, in which forty-seven of his fellow crew were killed with another seventy-six wounded, writing in hurried prose in the immediate aftermath of the battle and without yet knowing the names of most of the enemy ships he had fought.

"...the ship on the starboard side engaging the Victory [i.e. the French Redoubtable] fell alongside of us ... the yard arms locked and immediately after struck and was boarded by some of the Officers and Part of the Crew of the Temeraire at the same time being Closely engaged with one of the Enemie on the Starboard side a Spanish three deck ship [Santa Ana]..."