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Battle of Copenhagen.
part, the Isis had suffered severely from the superior weight of the Provesteen's fire; and, had it not been for the judicious diversion made by the Desirée, which raked her, and other assistance from the Polyphemus, the Isis must have been destroyed : both that ship and the Bellona had moreover sustained serious injury from the bursting of some of their guns. The Monarch was also suffering severely from the united fire of the Holstein and Seeland. Only two of the bomb-vessels could get to their station on the Middle Ground, and open their mortars on the arsenal, directing their shells over both fleets. Of the squadron of gun-brigs, one only was able to weather the east end of the Middle Ground and to get into action, The division of the commander-in-chief attempted to act according to the preconcerted plan, but found it impossible to do more than menace the entrance of the harbour. The Elephant was warmly engaged with the Dannebrog and two heavy praams--one of them that of Willemoes on her bow and quarter. Signals of distress were flying on board the Bellona and Russell, and of inability in the Agamemnon. Though the enemy's fire was somewhat relaxed, yet at one o'clock the result of the contest still appeared doubtful. The mind of the commander-in-chief, unable to advance to the succour of his brave countrymen, yet near enough to be aware of the accidents which had so materially reduced Nelson's force, was harassed by the most painful uncertainty. Despairing of success, from the long resistance of the enemy, he resolved to make the signal of recall, arguing that Nelson, if he felt confident of victory, would disregard it; if otherwise, it would afford him an opportunity of retreating without disgrace. Such was the feeling with which Sir Hyde Parker ordered the signal to be thrown out for the action to cease.
Lord Nelson was at this time, as he had been
Battle of Copenhagen.
during the whole of the action, walking the starboard side of the quarter-deck; sometimes much animated, at others heroically sublime in his observations. A shot through the main-mast knocked a few splinters about him. • It is warm work,” said he, with a smile, to a bystander, "and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment." Then, stopping short at the gangway, he added with emotion : “ But, mark you, I would not be elsewhere for thousands." The next moment the signal, No. 39, was made on board the London, the flag-ship of the commander-in-chief. The signal-lieutenant reported it to him. He continued his walk apparently without taking notice of it. The lieutenant, meeting his lordship at the next turn, asked if he should repeat
“No," replied Nelson, “ acknowledge it.” As the officer was returning to the poop, his lordship called after him, “Is No. 16 still hoisted ? " This was the signal for close action, which had been hoisted from the beginning. The lieutenant answered that it
“Mind you keep it so," rejoined the admiral. He then paced 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 Mr. Fergusson, surgeon to the forces, “ Do you know what's shown on board the commander-in-chief ? No. 39.” Fergusson asked what that meant. Why, to leave off action. Leave off action!” he repeated; adding with a shrug, “ Now damn me if I do.” He then observed to Captain Foley, “You know, Foley, I have only one eye; I have a right to be blind sometimes ;" and, with an archness peculiar to his character, putting the glass to his blind eye, he exclaimed,
Really, I do not see the signal.” This remarkable signal was therefore only acknowledged on board the Elephant, not repeated. It was repeated, however, by Admiral Graves, who was not able to distinguish
Battle of Copenhagen. the conduct of the Elephant on the occasion ; but, either by a fortunate accident or intentionally, No. 16 was not displaced. The squadron of frigates obeyed the signal and hauled off. That brave officer, Captain Riou, was killed by a raking shot when the Amazon showed her stern to the Three Crowns Battery. Though wounded on the head by a splinter, he was sitting upon a gun encouraging his men. He had expressed his grief at being thus obliged to retreat, without accomplishing with his frigates what three sail of the line had been destined to perform, and nobly observed, “ What will Nelson think of us !” His clerk was killed by his side : another shot cut down several of the marines, while hauling on the main brace, on which Riou exclaimed, “ Come then, my boys, let us die all together!” Scarcely were these words uttered, when a shot severed him in two. The signal for recall probably saved the frigates, which were no match for the Three Crowns Battery, from destruction.
The action now continued with unabated vigour. About two, P.M., the greater part of the Danish line had ceased to fire. Some of the lighter ships were adrift, and the slaughter on board the enemy, who kept reinforcing their crews from the shore, was dreadful. To take possession of such ships as had struck was, however, a matter of extreme difficulty ; partly because they were protected by the batteries on Amak Island, and partly owing to the irregular fire made from the ships themselves upon the British boats as they approached. Such was the course pursued by the Dannebrog, although that ship was not only on fire and had struck, but Commodore Fischer had left her and removed his pendant to the Holstein. A renewed attack on her by the Elephant and Glatton, for a quarter of an hour, not only completely silenced and disabled the Dannebrog, but, by the use
Battle of Copenhagen.
killed nearly every man in the praams ahead and astern of that unfortunate ship. When the smoke cleared away, the Dannebrog was seen drifting in flames before the wind, spreading terror throughout the enemy's line. The British boats rowed up from all sides to save the crew, who were throwing themselves from her at every port-hole ; but the number saved was small, as there were few who had not been wounded by the last broadsides. She drifted to leeward, and blew up about half-past three.
It was about an hour earlier, after the Dannebrog was adrift and had ceased to fire, that the action was found to be over along the whole line astern of the Elephant; though not with the ships ahead and with the Three Crowns Battery. Whether from ignorance of the custom of war, or from confusion on board the prizes, the boats sent to take possession of them were, as it has been just related, repulsed from the ships themselves or fired at from Amak Island. Nelson was naturally irritated at this, and observed that' he must either send on shore and stop this irregular proceeding, or send in our fire-ships and burn them. He accordingly retired to the stern gallery, and there wrote with the greatest despatch the following: • Vice-admiral Lord Nelson has been commanded to spare Denmark when she no longer resists. The line of defence which covered her shores has struck to the British flag. Let the firing cease then, that he may take possession of his prizes, or he will blow them into the air along with their crews who have so nobly defended them. The brave Danes are the brothers and should never be the enemies of the English.” He addressed it “ To the brothers of Englishmen, the brave Danes.” A wafer was presented to him to seal this letter, which he refused, observing that he never closed a letter in his life which Battle of Copenhagen. more demanded formality, and that it should not betray any appearance of hurry. He accordingly asked for wax, sent to the cock-pit for a lighted candle, and, having affixed a larger seal than usual, despatched his aid-de-camp, Sir Frederick Thesiger, on shore with the letter, which was to be delivered to the prince royal, who was found near the sallyport animating his people.
While the boat was absent, the brisk fire of the ships ahead of the Elephant and the approach of the Ramilies and Defence, belonging to the division of the commanderin-chief, caused the remainder of the enemy's line, eastward of the Three Crowns, to strike. That formidable battery continued its fire, but at too long a range to do serious damage to any of the assailants, excepting the Monarch, whose loss in men on this day, including her brave captain, Mosse, exceeded that of any line of battle ship during the war. The plan formed for storming this outwork with 1500 picked men, under the command of the Hon. Colonel Stewart and Captain Fremantle, has been already mentioned; the boats for this service had been kept on the starboard side of each ship during the action: but its execution was rendered unnecessary by the arrival, soon after three o'clock, of the Danish adjutant-general Lindholm, who directed the fire of the battery to cease. The signal for doing the same was made from the Elephant to the British ships engaged ; and the action closed, after lasting five hours, four of which had been warmly contested.
Before Lindholm reached the Elephant, Nelson had consulted his trusty friends, Foley and Fremantle, as to the practicability of advancing with the ships that were least damaged upon that part of the Danish line of defence which was yet uninjured. Their opinions were against this step : they advised, on the other hand, that the fleet should remove, while the