The Battle of Copenhagen, 2 April 1801
The Battle of Copenhagen on the 2 April 1801, fought to force Denmark out of the hostile 'Armed Neutrality' of the Northern Powers, Russia, Sweden, Denmark and Prussia, was the second of Nelson's great battles and, like the Battle of the Nile, also against an enemy at anchor. Nelson's intention was to concentrate on parts of the Danish defence and defeat it in detail but despite careful preparations the issue remained in doubt. Nelson ignored his superior's signal of recall: 'Leave off action! ... Now damn me if I do. You know, Foley, I have only one eye - I have a right to be blind sometimesâ”œÂ½Ã”Ã»Ãª_.I really do not see the signal.' Eventually he offered a truce to save the Danish wounded in sinking and burning ships. As against this show of humanity, he used diplomacy, threat and bluff to engineer an armistice. With arrival of the news of the assassination the Tsar Paul I of Russia, which in fact preceded the battle, the Armed Neutrality collapsed. Pocock's painting shows Nelson's line anchored and in action against the Danish line, which lies between him and Copenhagen. Nelson's flagship, the 'Elephant', can be seen to the left of centre flying his blue vice-admiral's flag. Bomb vessels anchored on the edge of the Middle Ground shoal at the bottom right fire shells over the heads of both fleets towards Copenhagen. This painting, which is a highly detailed representation of the action, was executed for engraving in Clarke and Macarthur's 'Life of Nelson'(1809).
- Image reference: BHC0529
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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