Friday, August 20, 2010

Nelson at Trafalgar

There is a reason that Adm. Nelson is well remembered and lauded for his direction of the fleet during the battle at Trafalgar. In a nut shell, he punched through the line of opposing ships and in the ensuing chaos, exercised the abilities of his captains and the expertise and marksmanship of their crews to sieze the advantage over a superior force. Among historians, it is recognized that the cultural attitude of the opposing commanders were complicit in his success. They espoused the regularity of formation and treated the ensuing struggle much the same as setting up a board game. Most able military commanders acknowledge that the most capable battle plan goes out the window upon the occasion of the first shot.

The British commander well understood in advance their predisposition for order in a situation which turned to absolute disorder in practice. The excuse for that strategy may be made by the existence of a superior number of guns collectively on the combined French and Spanish fleets which would have given them the advantage in a “set-piece” encounter. That was more than offset by the lack of proper crewing of the vessels with men lacking sufficient training and experience. Nelson made this assumption, saw the advantage for his better trained and experienced crews, and continued to an historic victory.

The wisdom of the commander is demonstrated by the comparative losses. The combined French and Spanish fleet lost, through capture or sinking, 23 of the 44 ships which entered the fray with a loss of 13,781 casualties. The British on the other hand lost no ships and suffered total casualties of only 1,666 men, including Adm. Nelson. This extraordinary victory begs the question of where Nelson learned his valuable lesson.

Thirty-two years earlier at Lexington, Mass. a huge force of British regulars marched toward Concord, Massachusetts and a supposed supply of cannon and other supplies. There they faced a tiny militia contingent of roughly 70 men of all ages and training who delayed their progress. They approached the green at Lexington in what is best described as a “parade” formation. In their bright red tunics and white breeches they presented an outstanding target. When they finally reached Concord and proceeded to cross the narrow bridge to the storehouse, they were repulsed in that confinement by a vastly smaller contingent of militia and were forced to return to Boston. During the battle for the bridge and on the return to Boston the total casualty count escalated to 300 for the British and 93 for the defenders.

Nelson may have gathered from that lesson of humiliation for the British that the European style of formational assault was of little value in a guerilla style encounter. At Concord and the road back, men hiding behind rocks and trees had a definite defensive advantage. While an organized unit may have a formidable appearance, it is hidebound to structure and in its reaction time and effectiveness, as opposed to the benefits of individuals acting with a common goal but not necessarily tactics. We find it of note that there are individual heroes mentioned in relating the story of Lexington and Concord but no single commander is credited with the success of the operation as a whole. Rather this successful commencement of the battle for the liberty of the United States was accomplished by an entire force of those who clearly understood the goals.

Here we fast forward a couple of hundred years and look at today’s challenges and equate today’s “militia” and Nelson’s victory in a modern context. Today’s Democrat party is currently operating with the organizational type of culturally driven structure which proved disastrous for the French/Spanish at Trafalgar and the British regulars in April, 1775. Although politically unable to front an assault upon the numerical superiority of the governing bodies, those who support the Constitution continue to engage and damage the rigidity of the progressive message. Rather than have a conspicuous leader to attack and defame, they are left to attack the people as a body.

In the case of socialized medicine, the people have reacted with a generally accepted 60 plus percent in opposition. As the widely accepted leader of polling accuracy reports—Rasmussen--the Democrat leader is failing by a -19 in the strongly disapprove/strongly approve category. In the general he is behind by -9. Nearly a quarter of those polled even believe, despite vigorous denials, that he is a devout Muslim. This may be coupled with incompetence in the gulf oil spill, diplomatic gaffes, seizure of manufacturing interests, inability to address high unemployment figures nationwide, and a failing economy generally. These figures represent a change of heart on the part of individual citizens and are not directed by a cabal of leadership. In spite of a sympathetic media, they have done their own research and come to their own conclusions.

Instead of addressing these issues head on we hear an endless litany of “not my job,” “time for another vacation,” “it’s BP’s fault,” “bible clinging,” and “blame Bush.” With the president’s record so far, one might assume that God has answered our prayers for assistance to rid us of this scourge or at least provided sufficient ammunition (Ed: a metaphorical reference) for patriots to do the job themselves. This formula, which requires extreme citizen involvement, may well prove as it did for Nelson and the patriots of Concord and Lexington the avenue to continued freedom.

The commemorative statue at the Minute Man Memorial Park at the North Bridge near Concord celebrates an American with a rifle in one hand and the other on a plow. This memorial underlines the fact that he was not in a regular army. He, like you, was just an average guy with an overarching love of his country and he stood up and fought for it. Fight he did and; fight we must.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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