Page images
PDF
EPUB

victory had not declared itself in favour of either country. At this time Colonel Stewart reports—

"The London (Sir Hyde Parker's ship) now made signal for the action to cease.1 Lord Nelson was, at this time, as he had been during the whole action, walking the starboard side of the quarter-deck; sometimes much animated, and at others heroically fine in his observations. A shot through the mainmast knocked a few splinters about us. He observed to me with a smile, 'It is warm work, and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment;' and then stoping short at the gangway he used an expression never to be erased from my memory, and said with emotion, ' but mark you, I would not be elsewhere for thousands.' When the signal, No. 39 (to discontinue the engagement) was made, the Signal Lieutenant reported it to him. He continued his walk, and did not appear to take notice of it. The Lieutenant meeting his Lordship at the next turn, asked, 'whether he should repeat it?' Lord Nelson answered,' No, acknowledge it.' On the officer returning to the poop, his Lordship called after him, ' Is No. 16 (for close action) still hoisted?' the Lieutenant answering in the affirmative, Lord Nelson said, 'Mind you keep it so.' He now walked the deck considerably agitated, which was always known by his moving the stump of his right arm. After a turn or two, he said to me, in a quick manner, 'Do you know what's shewn on board of the Commander-in-chief, No. 39?' On asking him what that meant, he answered, 'Why to leave off action.' 'Leave off action,' he repeated, and then added with a shrug,' Now damn me if I do.' He also observed, I believe to Captain Foley, 'You know, Foley, I have only one eye—I have a right to be blind sometimes;' and then with an archness familiar to his character, putting the glass to his blind eye, he exclaimed, 'I really do not see the signal.' This remarkable signal was, therefore, only acknowledged on board the Elephant, not repeated."2

1 Sir Hyde Parker is conceived to have ordered this signal to be made, fearing that under the intensity of the firing the squadron would be defeated, and that from the state of the wind and current, he would be prevented bringing his division to their assistance.

1 Hon. Colonel Stewart's Narrative.

M. Thiers calls this disregard of Sir Hyde Parker's signal a noble act of imprudence, followed, as it often happens to audacious boldness, by a successful result. "Ce fut la une noble imprudence, suivie, comme il arrive souvent a rimprudence audacieuse, d'un heureux. succes."1 Dean Pellew, in his Life of Lord Sidmouth, has stated, in reference to the interview which took place between the Premier and Lord Nelson on his return, from Copenhagen, that the conversation turning on the circumstance of Nelson having continued the action after the Admiral had made the signal of recall, Mr. Addington told him he was a bold man to disregard the orders of his superior: to which he replied, that any one may be depended upon under ordinary circumstances, but that the man of real value was he who would persevere at all risks, and under the heaviest responsibility; but (he added) in the midst of it all, I depended upon you; for I knew that, happen what might, if I did my duty you would stand by me." The Dean observes, that when relating this anecdote, Mr. Addington used to remark that he felt the confidence thus reposed in him, by such a man, on such an occasion, as one of the highest compliments he had ever received."*

Another hour elapsed and the greater part of the Danish line had ceased to fire. The Dannebrog, with which the Elephant had been particularly engaged, was now drifting in flames before the wind, and spreading terror through the enemy's line. At half past three she blew up, but not before our men and boats were actively engaged in endeavouring to save her crew, who were seen throwing themselves from the port-holes. At half past two Lord Nelson sent a Flag of Truce on shore, which was confided to Captain Thesiger, who had a knowledge of Copenhagen and the Danish language.

The firing from the Crown Battery, and from our leading ships did not cease until past three o'clock, when the Danish Adjutant-General Lindholm3 returning with a Flag of Truce, directed the fire of the battery to be suspended. The action closed after five hours' duration, four of which were warmly contested.

1 Hist, du Consulat. de l'Empire, Tom. ii. Liv. ix. p. 415. 'Life of Lord Sidmouth, Vol. i. p. 465. 3 A Captain in the Danish Navy.

The message sent by Lord Nelson was thus addressed:—

"TO THE BROTHERS OF ENGLISHMEN, THE DANES.

"Lord Nelson, has directions to spare Denmark when no longer resisting; but if the firing is continued on the part of Denmark, Lord Nelson will be obliged to set on fire all the floating batteries he has taken, without having the power of saving the brave Danes who have defended them. Dated on board his Britannic Majesty's ship Elephant, Copenhagen Roads, April 2, 1801.

"Nelson And Bronte.

"Vice-Admiral, under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker."

The Crown Prince of Denmark requested to know more minutely the intention of the message:

"His Royal Highness the Prince Royal of Denmark has sent me, General-Adjutant Lindholm, on board to his Britannic Majesty's Vice-Admiral, the Right Honourable Lord Nelson, to ask the particular object of sending the Flag of Truce."

The Prince received the following reply:—

"TO THE GOVERNMENT OF DENMARK.

"Lord Nelson's object in sending on shore a Flag of Truce is humanity; therefore consents that hostilities shall cease till Lord Nelson can take his prisoners out of the prizes, and he consents to land all the wounded Danes, and to burn or remove his prizes. Lord Nelson, with humble duty to his Royal Highness, begs leave to say, that he will ever esteem it the greatest victory he ever gained if this Flag of Truce may be the happy forerunner of a lasting and happy union between his most Gracious Sovereign and his Majesty the King of Denmark.

"nelson And Bronte.1

"Elephant, April 2, 1801."

1 This and the preceding messages are printed from the MS. in Lord Nelson's Papers, and the words in Italics were so marked by Lord Nelson. In connexion with the letter addressed to the Danes, Mr. Ferguson has told an anecdote which must not be omitted here, as it is so strongly characteristic of Nelson's coolness and intrepidity. When the writing of it was concluded, a wafer was presented to him to secure it, upon which he immediately remarked, " No; bring me wax, and a match: this is no time to appear hurried and informal."

Lord Nelson also directed the Adjutant-General to the Commander-in-chief, then at anchor four miles off, for conference; by which he gained time for our ships, much crippled, to clear off the shoals. This was an important measure for several of the vessels, and among the rest the Elephant ran aground. Nelson went on board the London, and with the Commander-in-chief, and the Adjutant-General Lindholm was engaged in negotiation for an honourable peace. A suspension of hostilities for twenty-four hours was the result, and the wounded Danes were taken ashore. Nelson, after the conference on board the London, returned to the St. George.

The Surgeon of the Elephant, Mr. Ferguson, has borne his excellent testimony to the conduct of Nelson on this occasion: "At the Battle of Copenhagen (says Mr. Ferguson) I was amongst the companions of the hero. The attempt was arduous in the extreme, no common mind would have dared to conceive it; but it was suited to the exalted enterprise of Lord Nelson. As his was the invigorating spirit of the Council that planned the attack, so in the execution he only could have commanded success. During the interval that preceded the battle, I could only silently admire, when I saw the first man in all the world spend the hours of the day and night in boats, amidst floating ice, and in the severest weather; and wonder when the light shewed me a path marked by buoys, which had been trackless the preceding evening." Sir Hyde Parker also, in his official dispatch to the Admiralty, says: "Was it possible for me to add any thing to the wellearned renown of Lord Nelson, it would be by asserting, that his exertions, great as they have heretofore been, never were carried to a higher pitch of zeal for his country's service."

The Danish force consisted of six sail of the line, eleven floating batteries, mounting from twenty-six 24-pounders to eighteen 18-pounders, and one bomb-ship, besides schooner gun-vessels. These were supported by the Crown islands, mounting eighty-eight cannon and four sail of the line, moored in the harbour's mouth, and some batteries on the island of Amak. Of these vessels, seventeen sail, that is, seven of the line, and ten floating batteries, were sunk, burnt, or taken. Our force consisted of twelve sail of the line, four frigates, four sloops, two fire-ships, and seven bombs. Three of the sail of the line were not in action, being on shore; they were, however, exposed to the fire of the enemy. The killed and wounded on our side amounted to 943. Killed: officers, 20; seamen, marines, and soldiers, 234. Total 254. Wounded: officers, 48; seamen, marines, and soldiers, 641. Total 689. Among the killed were Captain Mosse1 of the Monarch, and Captain Riou2 of the Amazon. For his services in this action Nelson was raised to the dignity of a Viscount. He was also

1 Captain Mosse was the officer commanding the Sandwich at the Nore at the time of the mutiny in 1797. His name is honourably associated with that of Captain Riou on the monument in St. Paul's.

2 Captain Edward Riou, the officer so highly esteemed by Lord Nelson, was made a Lieutenant, Oct. 28, 1780, and drew upon him deserved attention and regard for his conduct in the Guardian frigate of 4 4 guns, when conveying stores to the British Settlement at Botany Bay towards the close of the year 1789. This vessel was saved by the cool and intrepid behaviour of her Commander, when she had struck on an island of ice, and was taken, after having been the sport of the wind and waves for three weeks, into the Cape of Good Hope. Several of those who were on board of her had quitted the vessel for the preservation of their lives. Being placed in False Bay for repairs, a hurricane came on, and the ill-fated vessel was destroyed. Lieutenant Riou, upon his return to England, was promoted to the rank of Commander, and made Post Captain in 1791. In 1793, he commanded the Rose, 28 guns, and afterwards distinguished himself in the Beaulieu frigate by his services in the West Indies, whence he was compelled to return by the ill state of his health in August, 1795. His health restored, he was appointed to the Amazon of 38 guns in 1799, and served with Nelson in the attack on Copenhagen. Here death put an end to his career, but his merits have been duly appreciated by his country, and recorded on his monument in St. Paul's Cathedral. Lord Nelson was very much pleased with the order and condition of Captain Riou's frigate, and the very superior discipline and seamanship exhibited by her on the day of action. The Hon. Colonel Stewart tells us the Captain was killed by a raking shot when the Amazon shewed her stern to the Trekroner. "He was sitting on a gun, encouraging his men, and bad then been wounded by a splinter. He had expressed himself grieved at being thus obliged to retreat, and nobly observed, 'What will Nelson think of us?' His clerk was killed by his side; and by another shot, several of the marines, while hauling on the mainbrace, shared the same fate. Riou then exclaimed, 'Come then, my boys, let us die all together!' The words were scarcely uttered, when the fatal shot severed him in two. Thus, in an instant, was the British service deprived of one of its greatest ornaments, and society of a character of singular worth, resembling the heroes of romance."

« PreviousContinue »