Among the eyewitnesses to one of the great battles of the Age of Nelson was a ten-year-old destined to lead an eventful life during the Napoleonic wars and beyond.
It seems paradoxical that most great sea battles have not been fought at sea—at least, if “at sea” is understood to signify far offshore. The paradox is easily explained. The ultimate objective of war at sea is to influence events on land, especially with regard to military undertakings dependent on naval support. Traditionally this has tended to focus naval operations in more or less coastal waters, where collisions occurred when one force sought to frustrate another’s designs, as at the battles of the Chesapeake, Lissa, and Leyte Gulf.