MILITARY: Battle of Trafalgar

In 1805 the  First French Empire, under Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821 (leader from 1804-1814, and briefly in 1815) was the dominant military land power on the European continent. The British controlled the seas. Napoleon was determined to invade Britain and end the blockade of the waterways.

18,000 plus individuals  fought in the Battle of the Trafalgar on the side of the British Royal Navy. A Gillespie has been identified as part of that force.

The Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805) was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies during the War of Third Coalition (Aug-Dec 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).

Admiral Lord Nelson led the British forces of 27 British ships aboard MHS Victory. He defeated 33 French and Spanish ships by an ingenous plan that was not prevelant in that day. The battle took place in the Atlantic Ocean off the southern coast of Spain, just west of Cape Trafalgar. The British lost no ships but the Franco-Spanish fleet lost 22 ships. However, Nelson was shot by a French musketeer and died soon afterwards. His body was returned to England, where he is entombed in St Paul’s Cathedral. Several monuments of him were built, as he is greatly honoured as  military leader.

Dr Leonard Gillespie (1758-1842) was one of two doctors assigned to Nelson’s ship, Victoria, but was absent in London, having resigned,  and laid up with gout and unable to help Nelson at his end. This doctor’s history is provided in a link from his name.

The victory over the combined fleets of France and Spain, as a result of the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805, is considered one of Britain’s greatest and most significant military victories. It thwarted Napoleon’s plans to invade Britain at the time, and it laid the foundation of Britain’s undisputed mastery of the sea into the twentieth century.

The Napoleonic Wars continued for another ten years after Trafalgar. The French launched a major invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812. … The Allies then invaded France and captured Paris in the spring of 1814, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April. He was exiled to the island of Elba off the coast of Tuscany, and the Bourbon dynasty was restored to power. However, Napoleon escaped and tried to regain power, but failed. Napoleon was subsequently exiled to the island of Saint Helena off the coast of Africa. Six years later, he died, most likely of stomach cancer, and in 1840 his body was returned to Paris, where it was interred in the Hotel des Invalides.

Participant at the Battle of Trafalagar

JOHN GILLESPIE, aged 20, born Co Antrim, Ireland.

On Ship: HMS Leviathan

Rank/Rating: Ordinary Seaman

Ship’s pay book number: (SB 922) 18 November 1803
Rank/rating: Ordinary Seaman

Comments: To haslar

Note about the ship: The HMS Leviathan was a 74-gun third rate vessel launched in 1790. She fought at the Battle of Trafalgar, was used as a convict ship from 1816, and was sold in 1848. 


Source of Information: The National Archives, Kew, England; Wikipedia, US National Library of Medicine website.

Website for Gillespie records world-wide