1801 - Armistice with Denmark


 
Contents

Next Page

Previous Page
 
Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1801 British and Danish Fleets 72

was the Amazon who, with the four other ships intrusted to Captain Riou, had most gallantly taken a position (the three frigates in particular) right against the Trekronen batteries.

At the end of a three hours' cannonade, few if any of the Danish block-ships, prames, or rideaus, had ceased firing ; nor could the contest be said to have taken on either side a decisive turn. It was at this time that, in consequence, as is understood, of the pressing solicitations of the captain of the fleet, founded upon information received a full hour before that signals of distress were at the mast-heads of two British line-of-battle ships (the Bellona and Russel), and the signal of inability on board a third (the Agamemnon), coupled with the imperfect view which the London's distance from the scene of action enabled Sir Hyde himself to take of the relative condition of the parties in it; observing, also, the zig-zag course and necessarily slow progress of the Defence, Ramillies, and Veteran, which had been detached as a reinforcement to the vice-admiral, the commander-in-chief was persuaded to throw out the signal for discontinuing the engagement.*

The manner in which Lord Nelson received this signal is very forcibly depictured in a popular biographical work. "About this time," says Mr. Southey, "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 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. Fergusson, 'what is shown on board the commander-in-chief? Number 39 !' Mr. Fergusson asked him what that meant. 'Why, to leave off action.' Then, shrugging up his shoulders, he repeated the words 'Leave off action? Now d--n 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.' Presently he exclaimed, 'D--n the signal! keep mine for closer battle flying! That's the way I answer such signals. Nail mine to the mast.'

* It is but common justice towards Sir Hyde Parker to state, that he made the signal "to discontinue the action," in order that Lord Nelson might withdraw from the contest, if, owing to the different ships unable to reach their station, some being aground, he felt his force insufficient to maintain the attack; for it was evident that Sir Hyde's division could not proffer the least assistance: the signal was made with a generous intention, and Mr. Southey has added a note similar to this in his second edition of his Life of Nelson.-Ed.

Southey's Life of Nelson, vol. ii., p. 124.

^ back to top ^