Thomas Louis - Trafalgar and San Domingo

Trafalgar and San Domingo

In 1805, Louis and Austen joined Nelson's fleet in the Mediterranean, taking over HMS Canopus. Canpous participated in the chase across the Atlantic after Villeneuve's fleet and the ensuing blockade of Cadiz. On 2nd October, Nelson dispatched Canopus to Gibraltar to collect supplies for the fleet, despite strenuous objections from Louis that they would miss the forthcoming battle. Despite Nelson's assurances that they would not, on 21 October the Franco-Spanish fleet sallied out and was destroyed at the Battle of Trafalgar without Louis.

Disappointed at these events, Louis was sent under John Thomas Duckworth in late 1805 to pursue a French squadron that had reached the West Indies. The British force reached the French in February 1806 off the coast of San Domingo and in a lengthy battle drove the French flagship and another ship of the squadron ashore in flames and captured the rest. In reward of his service at this action, Louis was presented with a gold medal (his second after the Nile) and made a baronet. He returned to the Mediterranean later in the year, but had contracted an illness and spent sometime convalescing. This period was disturbed in November 1806 however when Duckworth was sent by Lord Collingwood to reconnoitre the Dardanelles.

Three months later Louis led a division of Duckworth's force in a major attempt to force passage of the channel in what later became known as the Dardanelles Operation. Although Duckworth's force reached Constantinople they were heavily battered by enemy fire and were forced to withdraw soon afterwards, Canpous suffering severely from massive stone shot fired from Turkish cannon. For his service in this operation, Louis was highly praised by Duckworth.

Louis returned with the fleet to rejoin British forces in Alexandria, Egypt, but the unidentified sickness that had plagued him in the West Indies returned and he became gravely ill. He died in May 1807 and his body was transferred to Malta for burial, being interred at Manoel Island. His death was widely mourned in the fleet, particularly among the common sailors, with whom he had always been popular.

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