Nelson wanted a conflict that was indescribable, not in the sense of moral revulsion, but as a plain narrative fact. The pell-mell battle, the anarchy in which the individual fighting energies of individual ships and men were released, could not submit to narrative convention. The fleets become their ships, the ships their men, the men their instinct. Decision-making, moves from admirals to captains, to gun captains, to the powder-monkeys, the surgeons and their assistants buried in the bloody dark of the cockpits. Life—and deat—in Nelsonian battle is atomized, broken into its constituent parts, made to rely not on the large-scale maneuvering of destructive force, but the will to kill and to live. . . . Every ship in all fleets considered that they fought Trafalgar almost entirely on their own.
It's a similar decentralization to what enabled Grant to win in the American Civil War: you find good subordinates, make sure they understand the overall goals, and turn them loose.
Seize the Fire is a sharp book, and it's getting better towards the end, as Nicolson reveals himself to be very good at illuminating important and interesting details of the battle. It reminds me, yet again, that everything about war is hideous and repugnant, and it leaves me, again, wondering how anyone can actually go through it sane, let alone, as some people seem to, come out wanting more.