It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Crossing the T or Capping the T is a tactic in naval warfare, in which a line of warships crosses in front of a line of enemy ships, allowing them to bring all their guns to bear while receiving fire from only the forward guns of the enemy. It became possible in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with the advent of steam-powered battleships with rotating gun turrets, which were able to move faster and turn quicker than sailing ships, which had fixed guns. The tactic became obsolete when missiles and aircraft allowed long-range strikes.
The Battle of Trafalgar saw the British decisively defeat a combined French and Spanish fleet on 21 October 1805 in the most decisive and important naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars. A Royal Navy fleet of 27 ships of the line destroyed an allied French and Spanish fleet of 33 ships of the line west of Cape Trafalgar in south-west Spain, province of Cádiz. The French and Spanish lost 22 ships, while the British lost none. The British commander Admiral Lord Nelson died late in the battle, by which time he had ensured his place as Britain's greatest naval hero.
Prevailing tactical orthodoxy at the time involved maneuvering to approach the enemy fleet in a single line of battle and then engaging in parallel lines. Before this time the fleets had usually been involved in a melée with the fleets becoming mixed together. One of the reasons for the development of the line of battle was to help the admiral control the fleet. If all the ships were in line, signaling in battle became possible. The line also had defensive properties, allowing either side to disengage by breaking away in formation. If the attacker chose to continue combat their line would be broken as well. Often this latter tactic led to inconclusive battles or allowed the losing side to reduce its losses. Nelson wished to see a conclusive battle.
His solution to the problem was to deliberately cut the opposing line in two. Approaching in two columns sailing directly at the enemy, one near the centre of the opposing line and one near the trailing end, his ships would break the enemy formation in half, surround that half, and force them to fight to the end. Nelson specifically hoped to cut the line just in front of the flagship: the isolated ships in front of the break would not be able to see the flagship's signals, hopefully taking them out of combat while they reformed. The intention of going straight at the enemy echoed the tactics used by Admiral Duncan at the Battle of Camperdown and Admiral Jervis at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, both in 1797