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BATTLE OF COPENHAGEN.
the manner in which his boats were fired upon, when they went to take possession of the prizes, became angry, and said he must either send on shore to have this irregular proceeding stopped, or send a fire-ship and burn them. Half the shot from the Trekroner, and from the batteries at Amak, at this time struck the surrendered ships, four of which had got close together; and the fire of the English, in return, was equally or even more destructive to these poor devoted Danes. Nelson, who was as humane as he was brave, was shocked at this massacre—for such he called it; and, with a presence of mind peculiar to himself, and never more signally displayed than now, he retired into the stern gallery, and wrote thus to the Crown Prince—“ 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 ; but if the firing is continued on the part of Denmark, he must set on fire all the prizes that he has taken, without having the power of saving the men who have so nobly defended them. The brave Danes are the brothers, and should never be the enemies of the English.” A wafer was given him ; but he ordered a candle to be brought from the cockpit, and sealed the letter with wax, affixing a larger seal than he ordinarily used. “ This,” said he, “is no time to appear hurried and informal.” Captain Sir Frederick Thesiger, who acted as his aide-de-camp, carried this letter, with a flag of truce. Meantime the fire of the ships ahead, and the approach of the Ramilies and Defence from Sir Hyde’s division which had now worked near enough to alarm the enemy, though not to injure them, silenced the remainder of the Danish line to the eastward of the Trekroner. That battery, however, continued its fire. This formidable work, owing to the want of the ships which had been destined to attack it, and the inadequate force of Riou's little squadron, was comparatively uninjured. Towards the close of the tion it had been manned with nearly fifteen hundred men; and the intention of storming it, for which
every preparation had been made, was abandoned as inpracticable.
During Thesiger's absence, Nelson sent for Freemantle, from the Ganges, and consulted with him and Foley whether it was advisable to advance, with those ships which had sustained least damage, against the yet uninjured part of the Danish line. They were decidedly of opinion that the best thing which could be done was, while the wind continued fair, to remove the fleet out of the intricate channel from which it had to retreat. In somewhat more than half an hour after Thesiger had been despatched, the Danish Adjutant-General Lindholm came, bearing a flag of truce ; upon which the Trekroner ceased to fire, and the action closed, after four hours' continuance. He brought an inquiry from the Prince, What was the object of Nelson's note ? The British admiral wrote in reply, “Lord Nelson's object in sending the flag of truce was humanity ; he therefore consents that hostilities shall cease, and that the wounded Danes may be taken on shore. And Lord Nelson will take his prisoners out of the vessels, and burn or carry off his prizes as he shall think fit. Lord Nelson, with humble duty to his Royal Highness the Prince, will consider this the greatest victory he has ever gained, if it may be the cause of a happy reconciliation and union between his own most gracious Sovereign and his Majesty the King of Denmark.” Sir Frederick Thesiger was despatched a second time with the reply ; and the Danish adjutant-general was referred to the commander-in-chief for a conference upon this overture. Lindholm, assenting to this, proceeded to the London, which was riding at anchor full four miles off; and Nelson, losing not one of the critical moments which he had thus gained, made signal for his leading ships to weigh in succession : they had the shoal to clear, they were much crippled, and their course was immediately under the guns of the Trekroner.
The Monarch led the way. This ship had received six-and-twenty shot between wind and water. She had
CLOSE OF THE ACTION.
not a shroud standing; there was a double-headed shot in the heart of her foremast, and the slightest wind would have sent every mast* over her side. The imminent danger from which Nelson had extricated himself soon became apparent. The Monarch touched immediately upon a shoal, over which she was pushed by the Ganges taking her amid-ships ; the Glatton went clear; but the other two, the Defiance and the Elephant, grounded about a mile from the Trekroner, and there remained fixed for many hours, in spite of all the exertions of their wearied crews. The Desirée frigate also, at the other end of the line, having gone toward the close of the action to assist the Bellona, became fast on the same shoal. Nelson left the Elephant, soon after she took the ground, to follow Lindholm. The heat of action was over; and that kind of feeling which the surrounding scene of bavoc was so well fitted to produce pressed heavily upon his exhausted spirits. The sky had suddenly become overcast; white flags were waving from the mast-heads of so many shattered ships; the slaughter had ceased, but the grief was to come ; for the account of the dead was not yet made up, and no man could tell for what friends he might have to
The very silence which follows the cessation of such a battle becomes a weight upon the heart at first, rather than a relief; and though the work of mutual destruction was at an end, the Danbrog was, at this time, drifting about in flames. Presently she blew up; while our boats, which had put off in all directions to assist her, were endeavouring to pick up her devoted crew, few of whom could be saved. The fate of these men, after the gallantry which they had displayed, particularly affected Nelson ; for there was nothing in this action of that indignation against the enemy, and that impression of
* It would have been well if the fleet, before they went under the batteries, had left their spare spars moored out of reach of shot. Many would have been saved which were destroyed lying on the booms; and the hurt done by their splinters would have been saved also. Small craft could have towed them up when they were required; and, after such an action, so many must necessarily be wanted that, it those which were not in use were wounded, it might thus have rendered impossible to refit the ships.
retributive justice, which at the Nile had given a sterner temper to his mind, and a sense of austere delight in beholding the vengeance of which he was the appointed minister. The Danes were an honourable foe; they were of English mould as well as English blood ; and, now that the battle had ceased, he regarded them rather as brethren than as enemies. There was another reflection, also, which mingled with these melancholy thoughts, and predisposed him to receive them. He was not here master of his own movements, as at Egypt. He had won the day by disobeying his orders; and, in so far as he had been successful, had convicted the commander-in-chief of an error in judgment. “Well,” said he, as he left the Elephant, “I have fought contrary to orders, and I shall, perhaps, be hanged. Never mind; let them !"
This was the language of a man who, while he is giving utterance to an uneasy thought, clothes it half in jest, because he half repents that it has been disclosed. His services had been too eminent on that day, his judgment too conspicuous, his success too signal, for any commander, however jealous of his own authority, or envious of another's merits, to express anything but satisfaction and gratitude; which Sir Hyde heartily felt, and sincerely expressed. It was speedily agreed that there should be a suspension of hostilities for four-and-twenty hours; that all the prizes should be surrendered, and the wounded Danes carried on shore. There was a pressing necessity for this; for the Danes, either from too much confidence in the strength of their position and the difficulty of the channel, or supposing that the wounded might be carried on shore during the action, which was found totally impracticable, or, perhaps, from the confusion which the àttack excited, had provided no surgeons ; so that, when our men boarded the captured ships, they found many of the mangled and mutilated Danes bleeding to death, for want of proper assistance-a scene, of all others, the most shocking to a brave man's feelings.
The boats of Sir Hyde's division were actively em
TAKES POSSESSION OF THE ZEALAND.
ployed all night in bringing out the prizes, and in getting afloat the ships which were on shore. At daybreak, Nelson, who had slept in his own ship, the St. George, rowed to the Elephant; and his delight at finding her afloat seemed to give him new life. There he took a hasty breakfast, praising the men for heir exertions, and then pushed off to the prizes, which had not yet been removed. The Zealand, 74 guns, the last which struck, had drifted on the shoal, under the Trekroner; and relying, as it seems, upon the protection which that battery might have afforded, refused to acknowledge herself captured; saying that, though it was true her flag was not to be seen, her pendant was still flying. Nelson ordered one of our brigs and three long-boats to approach her, and rowed up himself to one of the enemy's ships, to communicate with the commodore. This officer proved to be an old acquaintance, whom he had known in the West Indies : so he invited himself on board; and, with that urbanity as well as decision which always characterised him, urged his claim to the Zealand so well that it was admitted. The men from the boats lashed a cable round her bowsprit, and the gun-vessel towed her away. It is affirmed, and probably with truth, that the Danes felt more pain at beholding this than at all their misfortunes on the preceding day; and one of the officers, Commodore Steen Bille, went to the Trekroner battery, and asked the commander why he had not sunk the Zealand, rather than suffer her thus to be carried off by the enemy?
This was, indeed, a mournful day for Copenhagen! It was Good Friday; but the general agitation, and the mourning which was in every house, made all distinction of days be forgotten. There were, at that hour, thousands in that city who felt, and more perhaps who needed, the consolations of Christianity; but few or none who could be calm enough to think of its observances. The English were actively employed in refitting their own ships, securing the prizes, and distributing the prisoners; the Danes, in carrying on shore and dispos