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Denmark, her ancient engagements with his Majesty, it will in such case be the duty of the said Officer to afford to Sweden every protection in his power against the resentment and attacks of Russia; and Mr. Dundas having also signified that his Majesty, being no less desirous of bringing the existing dispute with Sweden to this latter issue, than he has shewn himself so disposed with respect to Denmark, and upon the same principles, it will therefore be requisite that the said Officer commanding in the Baltic should make such a disposition of his force as may appear best adapted to facilitate and give weight to the arrangement in question, provided it should be concluded with the Court of Denmark, within the forty-eight hours allowed for this purpose, and the proposal of acceding to it, which will be made to that of Sweden, should be entertained by the latter. You are, in pursuance of his Majesty's pleasure, signified as above mentioned, hereby required and directed to proceed, without a moment's loss of time, into the Baltic, and to govern yourself under the different circumstances before stated to the best of your judgment and discretion in the manner therein pointed out, transmitting from time to time to our Secretary, for our information, an account of your proceedings, and such information as you may conceive to be proper for our knowledge. Given under our hands and seals, the 15 th of March, 1801.
Sir Hyde Parker consulted with Lord Nelson on the operations intended to be pursued; and the following letter, in consequence of this consultation, is printed from Nelson's own autograph draft, which differs somewhat, though in no essential particulars, from that which has been given in the work above referred to:—
"St. George, March 25, 1801.
"My dear Sir Hyde, "The conversation we had yesterday, has naturally, from its importance, been the subject of my thoughts; and the more I have reflected, the more confirmed I am in opinion, that not a moment should be lost in attacking the enemy. They will every day and hour be stronger; we never shall be so good a match for them as at this moment—the only consideration in my mind is, how to get at them with the least risk to our ships.
1 Clarke and McArthur, Vol ii. p. 259.
"By Mr. Vansittart's account, the Danes have taken every means in their power to prevent our getting to attack Copenhagen by the passage of the Sound. Cronenburg has been strengthened, the Crown Islands fortified (on the outermost 20 guns pointing mostly downwards), only 800 yards from very formidable batteries placed under the citadel, supported by 5 sail of the line, 7 floating batteries of 50 guns each, besides small craft, gun-boats, &c. &c.; also, that the Revel squadron of 12 or 14 sail of the line are soon expected, as also
5 sail of Swedes. It would appear by what you have told me of your instructions that Government took for granted that you would find no difficulty in getting off Copenhagen, and that in the event of the failure of a negotiation, that you might instantly attack, and that there would be scarcely a doubt but that the Danish fleet would be destroyed, and the capital made so hot that Denmark would listen to reason and its true interest. By Mr. Vansittart's account, their state of preparation far exceeds what he conceives our Government thought possible, and that the Danish Government is hostile to us in the greatest possible degree; therefore, here you are, with almost the safety, certainly the honour of England, more entrusted to you than ever yet fell to the lot of any British officer. On your decision depends, whether our country shall be degraded in the eyes of Europe, or whether she shall rear her head higher than ever. Again do I repeat, never did our country depend so much on the success or defeat of any fleet as on this. How best to honour our country and abate the pride of her enemies by defeating their schemes, must be the subject of your deepest consideration, as Commander-in-chief, and if what I have to offer can be the least useful in forming your decision, you are most heartily welcome.
"I shall begin with supposing that you are determined to enter by the passage of the Sound, as there are those that think if you leave that passage open that the Danish fleet may leave Copenhagen and join the Dutch or French. I own I have no fears on that subject, for it is not likely that whilst the capital is menaced with an attack, that 9000 of her best men would be sent out of the kingdom. I will suppose that some damage may arise amongst our masts and yards, but perhaps not one but can be made serviceable again. You are now about Cronenburg, if the wind is fair, and you determine to attack the ships and Crown Islands, you must expect the natural issue of such a battle—ships crippled—perhaps one or two lost, for the wind which carries you in will most probably not bring out a crippled ship. This mode I call taking the bull by the horns. This will not prevent the Revel ships or Swedes from coming down and forming a junction with the Danes. To prevent this from taking effect, in my humble opinion, a measure absolutely necessary, and still to attack Copenhagen, two modes are in my view—one to pass Cronenburg, taking the risk of damage, and to pass up the Channel, the deepest and the straitest above the middle grounds, and to come down the Caspar, or King's Channel, to attack their floating batteries, &c. &c. as we find it convenient. It must have the effect of preventing a junction between the Russians, Swedes, and Danes, and may give us an opportunity of bombarding Copenhagen. A passage also, I am pretty certain, could be found for all our ships to the north of Southolm, perhaps it might be necessary to warp a small distance in the very narrow part. Supposing this mode of attack ineligible, the passage of the Belt, I have no doubt, would be accomplished in four or five days, then the attack by Draco could be carried into effect, the junction of the Russians prevented, and every probability of success on the Danish floating batteries. What effect a bombardment might have I am not called upon to give an opinion, but I think the way would be cleared for the trial. Supposing us through the Belt, with the wind fresh westerly, would it not be feasible to either go with the fleet (or detach ten ships of two or three decks, with one bomb—two fire-ships, if they could be spared), to Revel, to destroy the Russian squadron at that place? I_do not see the great risk of such a detachment, with the remainder to attempt the business of Copenhagen. The measure may be thought bold, but I am of opinion the boldest measures are the safest, and our country demands a most vigorous exertion of her forces directed with judgment. In supporting you through the arduous and important task you have undertaken, no exertion of head and heart shall be wanting, my dear Sir Hyde, from your most obedient and faithful servant,
"Nelson And Bronte."
Colonel Stewart, in the Narrative before alluded to, says, that when Lord Nelson arrived at Yarmouth, his "plan would have been to have proceeded with the utmost dispatch, and with such ships as were in readiness, to the mouth of Copenhagen harbour; then and there to have insisted on amity or war, and have brought the objects of Messrs. Drummond and Vansittart's negotiation to a speedy decision. He would have left orders for the remainder of the fleet to have followed in succession, as they were ready, and by the rapidity of his proceedings have anticipated the formidable preparations for defence which the Danes had scarcely thought of at that early season. The delay in Yarmouth Roads did not accord with his views." The fleet sailed on the 12th of March, and after encountering a heavy gale of wind, which in some measure scattered the vessels, it did not reach Elsinore until the 24th. On the 29th,1 he changed his flag from the St. George to the Elephant, a lighter ship, and on the following day proceeded through the Sound, anchoring at noon between Huen and Copenhagen.
On the 1st of April, an anchorage only two miles from Copenhagen was effected, the division of ships under the command of Nelson weighed, and in the evening was off Draco. The following day (April 2nd), the battle was fought, and on the succeeding day he re-hoisted his flag on board the St. George.
In a letter2 to the Dean of Norwich, Lord Bexley, formerly Mr. Vansittart, says, that upon the reported resignation of Mr. Pitt, and Mr. Addington being appointed Prime Minister in January *J, 1801, he, Mr. Vansittart, was selected by the Premier, and recommended to Lord Hawkesbury, Secretary of the Foreign Department, to be a confidential Minister to Denmark, the Government having received a secret communication from Prince Charles of Hesse, intimating that the Danish Government might be detached from the Northern Coalition, formed under the Emperor Paul, if a confidential person, with full powers, and conciliatory instructions, were sent to it. Prince Charles being brother-in-law to the King of Denmark, rendered the Government anxious to attend to the suggestion as speedily and as secretly as possible. Mr. Vansittart went, accompanied with Dr. Beeke as his Secretary, and met Prince Charles at Sleswick, who immediately, however, expressed his fears that the French influence, combined with the fear of the Emperor Paul at Copenhagen, would be too great to render the mission successful.
1 See preceding Letter, March 30th. Vol. i. p. 452.
3 Life and Correspondence of Lord Viscount Sidmouth, Vol. i, p. 368.
The Danes refused to receive Mr. Vansittart as a Minister, unless he would undertake for the unconditional restitution of the Danish ships, detained under embargo in England, as a preliminary to all negotiation. No intercourse, therefore, took place until the arrival of the Blanche frigate, Captain Drummond, who announced the immediate approach of the British fleet under Sir Hyde Parker and Lord Nelson, and brought instructions to Mr. Vansittart from the British Court, authorising him, in case of non-compliance or delay, to demand his passport, and embark immediately on board the fleet. Sir William Drummond, the resident Minister, who had held no communication for some time with the Danes, was with Mr. Vansittart. They proceeded by land to Elsinore, and then by the Blanche with the British Consul and British subjects to the fleet. On board the Admiral (Sir Hyde Parker's) ship, Mr. Vansittart had a conference with the Admiral and with Lord Nelson, and what is described as "a very interesting conversation" with the latter in the stern gallery, whilst Sir Hyde Parker prepared his letters for England by the Kite which conveyed Mr. Vansittart home.
On the 25th Mr. Vansittart and Mr. Drummond, the British Charge d'Affaires left for England. Lord Nelson was exceedingly impatient of the several delays which occurred" prior to reaching Copenhagen, giving to the enemy so much time for preparation. This appears not to have been neglected, for Colonel Stewart writes: "We soon perceived that our