Julien Cosmao : biography
Julien Marie Cosmao-Kerjulien (Châteaulin, Finistère, 27 November 1761 – Brest, 17 February 1825) was a French Navy officer, admiral, and hero of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Completing his studies in Châteaulin, young Cosmao-Kerjulien joined the French Royal Navy in 1776, against his parents' will. He served in the Aigrette in the Caraibs. Back to Brest in 1778, he served on the Oiseau with Corentin de Leissegues. In September, after the beginning of the American Revolutionary War, he served on the Nymphe, taking part in two battles against English privateers, near Bordeaux and Belle-Isle.
Between January 1779 and April 1781, he served in Guyana abord the brig Hirondelle, fighting two more English privateers and capturing two East Indiamen. He was promoted to Lieutenant of an auxiliary frigate in September 1781. He served successively aboard the Pégase (February 1782) and the Protecteur (March) before taking command of the Fluyt Fidèle in Terre Neuve from May 1783 to April 1784. In January 1785 he served on the Lourde, on the Vigilante on October and the Dorade in April 1786. He was made a sub-lieutenant on a ship of the line in March 1786.
In September 1787, he was given command of the brig Vaneau, and of the Boulonnaise for November 1787 to March 1790. From October 1790 to January 1791, he was first officer abord the Précieuse.
From February 1791, he served aboard the Orion of the squadron of Laurent Jean François Truguet in Toulon. He was made ship of the line full lieutenant in January 1792, and received command of the corvette Sincère in April. He took part in the landing at Cagliari in January 1793.
In the context of the lack of qualified officers due to the Revolution, he was made Capitaine de Vaisseau in April 1793, serving aboard the , the Centaure and the Duguay-Trouin, under Rear-Admiral Trogoff de Kerlessy. In December 1794 he was transferred to the squadron commanded by Admiral Pierre Martin, where he commanded the 80-gun ship of the line . On 10 June 1795, he captured the English frigate Alceste, and took part in the Battle of Cape Noli in March 1795 (the French and the English both lost two ships of the line) and of Cape Frejus (17 French ships of the line against 23 English; the French lost the 74-gun Alcide).
In June 1797, he was made chief of division, commanding the Jemmapes in the Mediterranean. From 1801 to 1803, he served under Dordelin in Saint-Domingue, commanding the , the Alliance and the .
Back to France, he assumed command of the 74-gun Pluton in the squadron of Admiral Villeneuve in Toulon. He accompanied the squadron to the Caraibs in its seizing of the English fortress of the Diamond Rock, away from Martinique. Back to Europe, he took part in the Battle of Cape Finisterre, on 22 July, saving one Spanish ship which had been cut off for a time by the British.
Battle of Trafalgar
At the Battle of Trafalgar, Pluton was part of the reconnaissance squadron created by Villeneuve and commanded by Spanish Admiral Gravina. She followed the in the line of battle, in the rear. When Admiral Collingwood attacked,Pluton opened fire on , then manoeuvered in order to block HMS Mars, damaged her with artillery fire and attempted to board and seize her. However, the arrival of in her stern forced her to turn. She engaged , already damaged by the fire of Fougueux; again another English ship, , forced her to disengage. She then helped the surrounded of Gravina, and succeeded in freeing her.
However, at this point, the battle was already lost for the French. At sunset, five French ships ( , , and and six Spanish ships tried to return to Cádiz, under dying Admiral Gravina. On 23 October, Cosmao, as the most senior officer present, took command of the squadron, and set back to sea with five ships: Pluton, Héros, Neptune, San Francisco de Asis, and Rayo. He managed to retake Neptuno and Santa Ana, as well as to force the English to scuttle a number of their prizes. Neptuno and Rayo sank during the journey back and the Indomptable was wrecked with the loss of over a thousand men.
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