After three hours of intense fighting at the Battle of Copenhagen, Danish resistance began to slacken. By half past two, most of the fighting had stopped, but there was still some intermittent resistance. Unwilling to inflict unnecessary destruction on the danes, he had the following note sent to Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark with the hope that it would lead to an end to the fighting.
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 firing is continued on the part of Denmark, he must set on fire all the prizes he has taken, without having the power of saving the men who have so nobly defended them. The brave Danes are the brother, and never should be the enemies, of the English.
Dated on board His Britannic Majesty’s ship Elephant, Copenhagen Roads, 2 April 1801.
Nelson and Bronte, Vice-Admiral, under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker.
After sending the letter, the British position had worsened. Danish gun batteries were still firing, and Nelson had considered withdrawing. However, the Danish position was worse, and at three in the afternoon an emisary arrived from the Crown Prince announcing a truce and asking why Nelson had sent his first letter. This note was Nelson’s response. It achieved its objective, resulting in an end to the fighting.
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 and carry off his prizes as he shall see fit.
Lord Nelson, with humble duty to His Royal Highness the Prince of Denmark, 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 Soveriegn, and His Majesty the King of Denmark.
Nelson and Bronte
Elephant, April 2nd 1801
Intros and analysis by J. Rickard. Courtesy of History of War.
Image: Nelson’s First Letter to the Crown Prince of Denmark, April 2nd 1801. Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.
Dr. Maturin suggests further reading: