One of the greatest injustices present within our modern world is the habit of forgetting the experiences of our late ancestors. It is all too common today, to have the argument made, that we are in a world of unique dialogue, occurrences and lifestyles. It goes without saying that many today view the path walked by our ancestors is irrelevant to their way of operating. This unfortunate reality is present within all elements of our modern society and yet we all wantonly seek guidance on the endeavors we so vigorously pursue. That is what this new series of content from Arthur Shulsky is bound to defeat, the stigma that just because my ancestors from era’s before never experienced life through the lenses of an iPhone camera, doesn’t mean that they themselves don’t have experiences worth offering to all of us today. Specifically, in the field of entrepreneurship and business, the struggles experienced today are all too common from the lives of those long past. It is the fool who assumes that our struggles are unique and that our adversities superior to those of the men and women who have fought and won the battle for historical significance.
While the history of the world is full of conflict and drama, one period sets itself apart from the others due to its timing as a global conflict. A time when the rights of man existed but nobility flourished, global powers existed and the ability for a single person to voyage the globe was becoming a more common occurrence. Military engagements due to nationalism were prevalent, the characters in the director’s seat were truly defining of an era. Napoleon being the centrifuge of global strife and conflict, the British Empire always living up to its pretentious power, and an entire generation of people subject to the awareness that mortality is a very real thing. 1805 was, at the very least, a year that defined the lives of men and women for generations to come. The Battle of Trafalgar is one engagement that can be easily be awarded as a top pivotal moment in all of world history.
Napoleon was just starting to catch his stride as the Emperor of a conquerable world. With one of the most insatiable appetites for power, conflict was sought more so than any other human in history up until this point since Alexander or Caesar. Few men have caused such a stir compared to that of Napoleon, and the British Empire was firmly in the sights of the Napoleonic French. The state of Europe at this time was truly at the whim of Napoleon, and in 1803 he began plans to attempt an invasion of Great Britain directly. The French were far superior to that of the English on land, while the English were kings of the sea. For Napoleon to strike at the heart of the British he needed to cross the English Channel, that required a window of opportunity only able to be acquired through naval action. The British were all to aware at the threat of fighting the French on English soil, there was no other option than to maintain naval power at all costs. One man, Admiral Horatio Nelson was as much a genius on the water as Napoleon was on land. He relentlessly defeated the French at every opportunity, Napoleon had to act to overcome Nelson in order to afford the opportunity of invasion.
There were three powers involved in this attempt by the French. The French fleet, commanded by Admiral Villeneuve was joined by the Spanish naval power to combat the British fleet under Nelson. The French and Spanish fleets were effective and comparable in size but the British under Nelson were experienced, hardened and had the genius of Nelson to lead and encourage. It was a showdown unlike any other and the both sides intended to win at all costs.
The engagement was a long series of chases that spanned the entire Atlantic before occurring. In early 1805, the French fleet was blockaded in the Mediterranean by Nelson but with some luck they were able to evade the blockade and start the long voyage to the Caribbean in order to join forces with the Spanish fleet. Napoleon had intended that the combined fleet would sail directly for France in order to commence with the invasion right away. After a few minor defeats during some skirmishes, Villeneuve had decided to move his fleet to Northern Spain, eventually concluding the long journey in the port city of Cádiz. Nelson knew that the fleet was anchored here and set about preparing an intricate system of alarms and warning signals in order to spot the enemy fleet when it was to leave Cádiz.
After a month of deliberation, Villeneuve had become pressured to make sail out of Cádiz in order to obey Napoleons orders. The decision to leave Cádiz was finally made more for the purpose of self-preservation and pride rather than logic. For Villeneuve had become privy to a replacement Admiral for himself. As the French and Spanish sailed out of Cádiz, Nelson was fast to respond. The situation looked like this, the large French and Spanish fleet numbered 41 ships, while the British had brought 33 ships to the bout.
The hesitation in decision making did not stop with the timing of departure for the French and Spanish. Villeneuve had changed the formation in which his fleet was traveling a few times, paired with poor winds, had caused the fleet to have a sloppy organization once the British were on them. The final act of Villeneuve was to reverse course and return to Cádiz, which put his ships directly in the engagement range of the British pursuit. On October 21st, after many months of chasing and counter-tactics, the battle that would determine the fate of Europe began.
Nelson was seriously out-numbered in both sips and guns. He took a direct perpendicular line approach at the enemy fleet as they sailed back towards Cádiz. This formation was in two lines and was intended to split the Franco-Spanish fleet as they sailed in a straight line. This tactic avoided the chance for the French to easily out-gun the British if a singular line engagement was pursued. This tactic worked very well and Nelson had put his fleet in optimum position for the ensuing battle. The air was tense in those moments before the battle, for both fleets were massive and both sides knew what was at stake.
The fight was slow, due to winds, and brutal beyond imagination. As British ships engaged their enemies, both sides employed a number of techniques for the battle. Cannons were loaded with kegs of musket balls to ‘rake’ enemy gundecks. Sharp shooters were positioned within high masts in order to take out key people below. Grenades, cannon balls and other instruments of carnage were exchanged constantly. Large melees would ensue on the decks of ships as they struggled to overwhelm their opponents. The British tactic of cutting directly through the Franco-Spanish line was a success and allowed a more isolated target opportunity for their guns.
The most notoriously iconic moment during the battler was Nelson’s presence on the deck of his 104-gun ship, yelling orders as intense close engagements were ensuing. A French sniper took a shot at Nelson and hit his mark, Nelson was hit in the shoulder and laid bleeding during the brutal melee that ensued. The British aware brought Nelson below deck and administered to his wounds. Within the decks below his flag-ship, Nelson passed. As the news of his victory was explained to him, his final words were “Thank God I have done my duty”.
The French and Spanish had experienced a total defeat at the hands of Nelson and the British. Many ships were captured by the British and this conclusion ensured that Napoleon would never be able to compete for naval superiority again during his reign as Emperor. This decisive victory was earth shattering though for the British moral abroad, with the news of the death of Admiral Nelson while fulfilling his honorable duty. There was an outcry among the public, Nelson was more than just a hero, he was a foundation for the British efforts against the imperialist French. As news came to Napoleon about the loss, his plans for an invasion of Great Britain were quelled and never again in his lifetime would he be presented with an opportunity for an invasion.
For most outside observers, this victory by the British was absolute. In reality though the loss of one of the greatest military minds in human history could not be ignored. For Napoleon and the French, the loss of an opportunity would signal cataclysmic levels of pain over the next 10-year span, as the British would be at the forefront of rallying European dissent towards the Napoleonic French. These losses by both sides were staggering. With any defeat, great men and women must find the opportunity to move forward.
Exemplarily of the character of a great person, Napoleon turned his attention towards his continental plans. This turn of events can be awarded one of the main causes for Napoleons invasion of Austria, Prussia, Russia and all of continental Europe. For the British, a formal honoring of Nelson and his achievements occurred. A significant amount of resources was spent in hoisting Nelson up as a savior to all of England and her people. This inspiration was harnessed in order to give the British people a needed boost to morality, for the ten years in front of them would require every ounce of energy in order to stop Napoleon from his ultimate victory. While both sides experienced terrible defeat, the workings of great people move beyond the surface level, embrace the opportunity and move forward with new plans of action.
It can easily be said that out of any defeat, previously unforeseen opportunity can be realized. This can be an immense struggle and at times can seem impossible to achieve. We pursue tasks with the intent that all things will turn out as a successful conclusion, when defeat looms its ugly head there is truly only one way to get on top of that struggle. The ability to engage in a task with the diligence to see it through to completion is a crucial step in any endeavor. The ability to take failure and turn it into an additional opportunity is beyond a doubt what will give you the needed strength to accomplish an everlasting dream. No one is able to achieve one’s goals with this thought process, no one can achieve success without constant defeat and only the embracers of defeat can ever achieve anything great.
I remember there was a period in my wife’s business pursuit when she found out a key variable that had up until this point been a major component not assumed prior to the onset of the pursuit. She was attempting at designing a new website for her business but had not taken into consideration the need for a very specific system for the monetary needs of the process. This needed integration was so minor at the onset that very few people, without the experience of having already done this same task, would have known that this step was needed. Two months of labor and the money invested into the project was truly at a loss. It was a very devastating day of realization that I can remember intently. Immediately upon finding out about this loss, the desire to persist was embraced and research was conducted to find a fix or an alternative. After a few days of deliberation, an alternative was labeled, and the old site thrown out. The new way was better, cheaper and eventually allowed for a more optimum experience overall. Out of defeat comes a new opportunity for success, one just has to pursue this ideology of persistence and optimism. Remember the Battle of Trafalgar, realize that your defeats are just as conquerable.