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The Bombardment Of Copenhagen






BY ROBERT SOUTHEY.


In the year 1801, Nelson, who had been made vice-admiral of the blue,
was sent to the Baltic, as second in command under Sir Hyde Parker, by
Earl St. Vincent, now first lord of the Admiralty. The three northern
courts had formed a confederacy for making England resign her naval
rights. Of these courts Russia was guided by the passions of its
emperor, Paul, a man not without fits of generosity and some natural
goodness, but subject to the wildest humours of caprice and crazed by
the possession of greater power than can ever be safely, or perhaps
innocently, possessed by weak humanity. Denmark was French at heart;
ready to co-operate in all the views of France, to recognise all her
usurpations, and obey all her injunctions. Sweden, under a king whose
principles were right and whose feelings were generous, but who had a
taint of hereditary insanity, acted in acquiescence with the dictates of
two powers whom it feared to offend. The Danish navy, at this time,
consisted of twenty-three ships of the line with about thirty-one
frigates and smaller vessels, exclusive of guardships. The Swedes had
eighteen ships of the line, fourteen frigates and sloops, seventy-four
galleys and smaller vessels, besides gun-boats, and this force was in a
far better state of equipment than the Danish. The Russians had
eighty-two sail of the line and forty frigates. Of these there were
forty-seven sail of the line at Cronstadt, Revel, Petersburg, and
Archangel; but the Russian fleet was ill-manned, ill-officered, and
ill-equipped. Such a combination under the influence of France would
soon have become formidable; and never did the British cabinet display
more decision than in instantly preparing to crush it.

The British fleet sailed on March 12th and Mr. Vansittart sailed in it;
the government still hoping to obtain its ends by negotiation. Mr.
Vansittart left the fleet at the Scaw and preceded it in a frigate with
a flag of truce. Precious time was lost by this delay which was to be
purchased by the dearest blood of Britain and Denmark; according to the
Danes themselves, the intelligence that a British fleet was seen off the
Sound produced a much more general alarm in Copenhagen than its actual
arrival in the roads; for their means of defence were, at that time, in
such a state that they could hardly hope to resist, still less to repel,
an enemy. On the 21st, Nelson had a long conference with Sir Hyde; and
the next day addressed a letter to him worthy of himself and of the
occasion. Mr. Vansittart's report had then been received. It represented
the Danish government as in the highest degree hostile, and their state
of preparation as exceeding what our cabinet had supposed possible; for
Denmark had profited with all activity, by the leisure which had so
impoliticly been given her. "The more I have reflected," said Nelson to
his commander, "the more I am confirmed in opinion that not a moment
should be lost in attacking the enemy. They will every day and every
hour be stronger; we shall never be so good a match for them as we are
at this moment. The only consideration is how to get at them with the
least risk to our ships."

Of the two courses open to them, that of proceeding past Cronenburg, and
taking the deepest and straightest channel along the middle grounds and
attacking the Danish line of floating batteries, or that of attempting
the passage of the Belt, Sir Hyde Parker preferred the latter, Nelson
and Captain Domett the former, though as Nelson put it, "Let it be by
the Sound, by the Belt, or anyhow, only lose not an hour!" when it was
finally decided to take the passage of the Sound.

The next day was wasted in despatching a flag of truce to the Governor
of Cronenburg Castle, to ask whether he had received orders to fire at
the British fleet, as the admiral must consider the first gun to be a
declaration of war on the part of Denmark. A soldier-like and becoming
answer was returned to this formality. The governor said that the
British minister had not been sent away from Copenhagen but had obtained
a passport at his own demand. He himself, as a soldier, could not meddle
with politics: but he was not at liberty to suffer a fleet--of which the
intention was not yet known--to approach the guns of the castle which he
had the honour to command, and he requested, if the British admiral
should think proper to make any proposals to the King of Denmark, that
he might be apprised of it before the fleet approached nearer. During
this intercourse a Dane, who came on board the commander's ship, having
occasion to express his business in writing found the pen blunt, and,
holding it up, sarcastically said, "If your guns are not better pointed
than your pens you will make little impression on Copenhagen!"

Nelson, who was now appointed to lead the van, shifted his flag to the
Elephant, Captain Foley--a lighter ship than the St. George, and,
therefore, fitter for the expected operations. The two following days
were calm. Orders had been given to pass the Sound as soon as the wind
would permit; and on the afternoon of the 29th the ships were cleared
for action with an alacrity characteristic of British seamen. At
daybreak on the 30th it blew a top-sail breeze from north-west. The
signal was made and the fleet moved on in order of battle; Nelson's
division in the van, Sir Hyde's in the centre, and Admiral Graves' in
the rear.

The whole force consisted of fifty-one sail of various descriptions, of
which sixteen were of the line. The greater part of the bomb and gun
vessels took their stations off Cronenburg Castle, to cover the fleet;
while others on the larboard were ready to engage the Swedish shore. The
Danes, having improved every moment which ill-timed negotiation and
baffling weather gave them, had lined their shore with batteries; and as
soon as the Monarch, which was the leading ship, came abreast of them
a fire was opened from about a hundred pieces of cannon and mortars. Our
light vessels immediately in return opened their fire upon the castle.
The enemy's shot fell near enough to splash the water on board our
ships; not relying upon any forbearance of the Swedes they meant to have
kept the mid channel, but when they perceived that not a shot was fired
from Helsinburg and that no batteries were to be seen on the Swedish
shore, they inclined to that side, so as completely to get out of reach
of the Danish guns. The uninterrupted blaze which was kept up from them
till the fleet had passed served only to exhilarate our sailors and
afford them matter for jest, as the shot fell in showers a full cable's
length short of its destined aim.

About mid-day the whole fleet anchored between the island of Huen and
Copenhagen. Sir Hyde, with Nelson, Admiral Graves, some of the senior
captains, and the commanding officers of the artillery and the troops,
then proceeded in a lugger to reconnoitre the enemy's means of defence;
a formidable line of ships, radeaux, pontoons, galleys, fire-ships, and
gun-boats, flanked and supported by extensive batteries, and occupying,
from one extreme point to the other, an extent of nearly four miles.

A council of war was held in the afternoon. Nelson offered his services
for the attack, requiring ten sail of the line and the whole of the
smaller craft. Sir Hyde gave him two more line-of-battle ships than he
asked for and left everything to his judgment.

The enemy's force was not the only, nor the greatest, obstacle with
which the British fleet had to contend: there was another to be overcome
before they could come in contact with it. The channel was little known
and extremely intricate; all the buoys had been removed; and the Danes
considered this difficulty as almost insuperable, thinking the channel
impracticable for so large a fleet. Nelson himself saw the soundings
made and the buoys laid down, boating it upon this exhausting service,
day and night, till it was effected. When this was done, he thanked God
for having enabled him to get through this difficult part of his duty.
"It had worn him down," he said, "and was infinitely more grievous to
him than any resistance which he could experience from the enemy."

On the morning of April 1st the whole fleet removed to an anchorage
within two leagues of the town and off the north-west end of the Middle
Ground: a shoal lying exactly before the town, at about three-quarters
of a mile distance, and extending along its whole sea front. The King's
Channel, where there is deep water, is between this shoal and the town;
and here the Danes had arranged their line of defence, as near the shore
as possible: nineteen ships and floating batteries, flanked, at the end
nearest the town, by the Crown Batteries, which were two artificial
islands at the mouth of the harbour--most formidable works; the larger
one having, by the Danish account, sixty-six guns; but, as Nelson
believed, eighty-eight. The fleet having anchored, Nelson, with Riou in
the Amazon, made his last examination of the ground; and about one
o'clock, returning to his own ship, threw out the signal to weigh. It
was received with a shout throughout the whole division; they weighed
with a light and favourable wind. The narrow channel between the island
of Saltholm and the Middle Ground had been accurately buoyed; the small
craft pointed out the course distinctly; Riou led the way: the whole
division coasted along the outer edge of the shoal, doubled its further
extremity, and anchored there off Draco Point, just as the darkness
closed--the headmost of the enemy's line not being more than two miles
distant. The signal to prepare for action had been made early in the
evening; and, as his own anchor dropped, Nelson called out, "I will
fight them the moment I have a fair wind." It had been agreed that Sir
Hyde, with the remaining ships, should weigh on the following morning,
at the same time as Nelson, to menace the Crown Batteries on his side
and the four ships of the line which lay at the entrance of the arsenal,
and to cover our own disabled ships as they came out of action.

The Danes, meantime, had not been idle: no sooner did the guns of
Cronenburg make it known to the whole city that all negotiation was at
an end, that the British fleet was passing the Sound, and that the
dispute between the two crowns must now be decided by arms, than a
spirit displayed itself most honourable to the Danish character. All
ranks offered themselves to the service of their country; the university
furnished a corps of twelve hundred youths, the flower of Denmark. It
was one of those emergencies in which little drilling or discipline is
necessary to render courage available: they had nothing to learn but how
to manage the guns, and were employed day and night in practising them.
When the movements of Nelson's squadron were perceived, it was known
when and where the attack was to be expected, and the line of defence
was manned indiscriminately by soldiers, sailors, and citizens.

This was an awful night for Copenhagen--far more so than for the British
fleet, where the men were accustomed to battle and victory, and had none
of those objects before their eyes which render death terrible. Nelson
sat down to table with a large party of his officers; he was, as he was
ever wont to be when on the eve of action, in high spirits, and drank to
a leading wind and to the success of the morrow. After supper they
returned to their respective ships, except Riou, who remained to arrange
the order of battle with Nelson and Foley, and to draw up instructions:
Hardy, meantime, went in a small boat to examine the channel between
them and the enemy, approaching so near, that he sounded round their
leading ship with a pole, lest the noise of throwing the lead should
discover him. The incessant fatigue of body as well as mind which Nelson
had undergone during the last three days had so exhausted him that he
was earnestly urged to go to his cot; and his old servant, Allen, using
that kind of authority which long and affectionate services entitled and
enabled him to assume on such occasions, insisted upon his complying.
The cot was placed on the floor and he continued to dictate from it.
About eleven Hardy returned and reported the practicability of the
channel and the depth of water up to the enemy's line. About one the
orders were completed; and half a dozen clerks in the foremost cabin
proceeded to transcribe them, Nelson frequently calling out to them from
his cot to hasten their work, for the wind was becoming fair. Instead of
attempting to get a few hours of sleep he was constantly receiving
reports on this important point. At daybreak it was announced as
becoming perfectly fair. The clerks finished their work about six.
Nelson, who was already up, breakfasted, and made signal for all
captains.

Between eight and nine the pilots and masters were ordered on board the
admiral's ship. The pilots were mostly men who had been mates in Baltic
traders, and their hesitation about the bearing of the east end of the
shoal and the exact line of deep water gave ominous warning of how
little their knowledge was to be trusted. The signal for action had been
made, the wind was fair--not a moment to be lost. Nelson urged them to
be steady, to be resolute, and to decide; but they wanted the only
ground for steadiness and decision in such cases, and Nelson had reason
for regret that he had not trusted to Hardy's single report.

Captain Murray, in the Edgar, led the way; the Agamemnon was next in
order; but, on the first attempt to leave her anchorage she could not
weather the edge of the shoal, and Nelson had the grief to see his old
ship, in which he had performed so many years' gallant services,
immovably aground at a moment when her help was so greatly required.
Signal was then made for the Polyphemus; and this change in the order
of sailing was executed with the utmost promptitude; yet so much delay
had thus been unavoidably occasioned, that the Edgar was for some time
unsupported, and the Polyphemus, whose place should have been at the
end of the enemy's line where their strength was the greatest, could get
no further than the beginning, owing to the difficulty of the channel;
there she occupied indeed an efficient station, but one where her
presence was less required. The Isis followed, with better fortune,
and took her own berth. The Bellona, Sir T. Thompson, kept too close
on the starboard shoal, and grounded abreast of the outer ship of the
enemy; this was the more vexatious, inasmuch as the wind was fair, the
room ample, and three ships had led the way. The Russell, following
the Bellona, grounded in like manner; both were within reach of shot,
but their absence from their intended stations was severely felt. Each
ship had been ordered to pass her leader on the starboard side, because
the water was supposed to shoal on the larboard shore. Nelson, who came
next after these two ships, thought they had kept too far on the
starboard direction, and made signal for them to close with the enemy,
not knowing that they were aground; but when he perceived that they did
not obey the signal, he ordered the Elephant's helm to starboard, and
went within these ships, thus quitting the appointed order of sailing
and guiding those which were to follow. The greater part of the fleet
were probably, by this act of promptitude on his part, saved from going
on shore. Each ship, as she arrived nearly opposite to her appointed
station, let her anchor go by the stern and presented her broadside to
the Danes. The distance between each was about half a cable. The action
was fought at the distance of nearly a cable's length from the enemy.

At five minutes after ten the action began. The first half of our fleet
was engaged in about half an hour; and by half-past eleven the battle
became general. The plan of the attack had been complete, but seldom has
any plan been more disconcerted by untoward accidents. Of twelve ships
of the line, one was entirely useless, and two others in a situation
where they could not render half the service which was required of them.
Of the squadron of gun-brigs only one could get into action: the rest
were prevented, by baffling currents, from weathering the eastern end of
the shoal, and only two of the bomb-vessels could reach their station on
the Middle Ground, and open their mortars on the arsenal, firing over
both fleets.

Nelson's agitation had been extreme when he saw himself, before the
action began, deprived of a fourth part of his ships of the line; but
no sooner was he in battle, where his squadron was received with the
fire of more than a thousand guns, than, as if that artillery, like
music, had driven away all care and painful thoughts, his countenance
brightened; and, as a bystander describes him, his conversation became
joyous, animated, elevated, and delightful. The commander-in-chief,
meantime, near enough to the scene of action to know the unfavourable
accidents which had so materially weakened Nelson, and yet too distant
to know the real state of the contending parties, suffered the most
dreadful anxiety. To get to his assistance was impossible; both wind and
current were against him. Fear for the event, in such circumstances,
would naturally preponderate in the bravest mind; and at one o'clock,
perceiving that after three hours' endurance the enemy's fire was
unslackened, he began to despair of success. "I will make the signal of
recall," said he to his captain, "for Nelson's sake. If he is in a
condition to continue the action successfully he will disregard it; if
he is not, it will be an excuse for his retreat, and no blame can be
imputed to him." Under a mistaken judgment, therefore, but with this
disinterested and generous feeling he made the signal for retreat.

Nelson was at this time, in all the excitement of action, pacing the
quarter-deck. A shot through the main mast knocked the splinters about;
and he observed to one of his officers with a smile, "It is warm work,
and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment;" and then
stopping short at the gangway, added with emotion--"But mark you! I
would not be elsewhere for thousands." About this time the signal
lieutenant called out, that No. 39 (the signal for discontinuing the
action) was thrown out by the commander-in-chief. He continued to walk
the deck and appeared to take no notice of it. The signal officer met
him at the next turn, and asked him if he should repeat it, "No," he
replied, "acknowledge it." Presently he called after him to know if the
signal for close action was still hoisted; and being answered in the
affirmative, said, "Mind you keep it so." He now paced the deck, moving
the stump of his lost arm in a manner which always indicated great
emotion. "Do you know," said he to Mr. Ferguson, "what is shown on board
the commander-in-chief? No. 39!" Mr. Ferguson asked what that
meant,--"Why, to leave off action!" Then, shrugging up his shoulders, he
repeated the words--"Leave off action? Now, hang me if I do! You know,
Foley," turning to the captain, "I have only one eye--I have a right to
be blind sometimes;" and then, putting the glass to his blind eye, in
that mood of mind which sports with bitterness, he exclaimed, "I really
do not see the signal! Keep mine for closer battle flying! That's the
way I answer such signals! Nail mine to the mast!" Admiral Graves, who
was so situated that he could not discern what was done on board the
Elephant, disobeyed Sir Hyde's signal in like manner: whether by
fortunate mistake, or by a like brave intention, has not been made
known. The other ships of the line, looking only to Nelson, continued
the action. The signal, however, saved Riou's little squadron but did
not save its heroic leader. This squadron, which was nearest the
commander-in-chief, obeyed, and hauled off. "What will Nelson think of
us!" was Riou's mournful exclamation when he unwillingly drew off. He
had been wounded in the head by a splinter, and was sitting on a gun
encouraging his men, when, just as the Amazon showed her stern to the
Trekroner battery, his clerk was killed by his side, and another shot
swept away several marines who were hauling in the main-brace. "Come,
then, my boys!" cried Riou, "let us die all together!" The words had
scarcely been uttered before a raking shot cut him in two. Except it had
been Nelson himself, the British navy could not have suffered a severer
loss.

The action continued along the line with unabated vigour on our side and
with the most determined resolution on the part of the Danes. They
fought to great advantage because most of the vessels in their line of
defence were without masts: the few which had any standing had their
top-masts struck, and the hulls could only be seen at intervals.

The Bellona lost seventy-five men; the Iris, one hundred and ten;
the Monarch, two hundred and ten. She was, more than any other
line-of-battle ship, exposed to the great battery, and supporting, at
the same time, the united fire of the Holstein and the Zealand, her
loss this day exceeded that of any single ship during the whole war.
Amid the tremendous carnage in this vessel some of the men displayed a
singular instance of coolness: the pork and peas happened to be in the
kettle; a shot knocked its contents about; they picked up the pieces,
and ate and fought at the same time.

The prince-royal had taken his station upon one of the batteries, from
whence he beheld the action and issued his orders. Denmark had never
been engaged in so arduous a contest, and never did the Danes more nobly
display their national courage. A youth of seventeen, by name Villemoes,
particularly distinguished himself on this memorable day. He had
volunteered to take the command of a floating battery, which was a raft
consisting merely of a number of beams nailed together, with a flooring
to support the guns: it was square, with a breastwork full of
port-holes, and without masts--carrying twenty-four guns and one hundred
and twenty men. With this he got under the stern of the Elephant,
below the reach of the stern-chasers; and, under a heavy fire of small
arms from the marines, fought his raft till the truce was announced,
with such skill, as well as courage, as to excite Nelson's warmest
admiration.

Between one and two the fire of the Danes slackened; about two it ceased
from the greater part of their line, and some of their lighter ships
were adrift. It was, however, difficult to take possession of those
which struck, because the batteries on Amak Island protected them, and
because an irregular fire was kept up from the ships themselves as the
boats approached. This arose from the nature of the action; the crew
were continually reinforced from the shore, and fresh men coming on
board, did not inquire whether the flag had been struck, or, perhaps,
did not heed it; many, or most of them, never having been engaged in war
before.

By half-past two the action had ceased along that part of the line
which was astern of the Elephant, but not with the ships ahead and the
Crown Batteries. Nelson, seeing 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 galley, 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.

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 not a shroud standing; there was a
double-headed shot in the heart of her fore mast 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 Desiree 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 havoc 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
would have to mourn. 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.
Seventeen sail of the Danes were taken, burnt, or sunk in this battle.

The boats of Sir Hyde's division were actively employed 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 their exertions, and then pushed off to the prizes which had
not yet been removed. The English spent the day in refitting their own
ships, securing the prizes, and distributing the prisoners; the Danes,
in carrying on shore and disposing of the wounded and the dead. It had
been a murderous action. Our loss, in killed and wounded, was nine
hundred and fifty-three. The loss of the Danes, including prisoners,
amounted to about six thousand. The negotiations, meantime, went on; and
it was agreed that Nelson should have an interview with the prince the
following day. The preliminaries of the negotiation were adjusted at
this interview. During the repast which followed, Nelson, with all the
sincerity of his character, bore willing testimony to the valour of his
foes. He told the prince that he had been in a hundred and five
engagements but that this was the most tremendous of all. "The French,"
he said, "fought bravely, but they could not have stood for one hour the
fight which the Danes had supported for four." He requested that
Villemoes might be introduced to him; and, shaking hands with the youth,
told the prince that he ought to be made an admiral. The prince replied:
"If, my lord, I am to make all my brave officers admirals, I should have
no captains or lieutenants in my service."

For the battle of Copenhagen, fought on April 2nd, 1801, Nelson was
raised to the rank of viscount; an inadequate mark of reward for
services so splendid and of such paramount importance to the dearest
interests of England. There was, however, some prudence in dealing out
honours to him step by step; had he lived long enough he would have
fought his way up to a dukedom.

He had not been many weeks on shore before he was called upon to
undertake a service for which no Nelson was required. Bonaparte, who was
now first consul and in reality sole ruler of France, was making
preparations upon a great scale for invading England; but his schemes
in the Baltic had been baffled; fleets could not be created as they were
wanted; and his armies, therefore, were to come over in gun-boats and
such small craft as could be rapidly built or collected for the
occasion. From the former governments of France such threats have only
been matter of insult or policy: in Bonaparte they were sincere; for
this adventurer, intoxicated with success, already began to imagine that
all things were to be submitted to his fortune. We had not at that time
proved the superiority of our soldiers over the French, and the
unreflecting multitude were not to be persuaded that an invasion could
only be effected by numerous and powerful fleets. A general alarm was
excited, and, in condescension to this unworthy feeling, Nelson was
appointed to a command extending from Orfordness to Beachy Head, on both
shores--a sort of service, he said, for which he felt no other ability
than what might be found in his zeal. This zeal he continued to display
without abatement until the Peace of Amiens gave him leisure to return
home again.





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