On april 2, 1801, the british fleet under the command of admiral hyde parker, without declaration of war, attacked the danish squadron defending the Copenhagen capital of denmark. The reason for the attack was the accession of denmark to the “union of armed neutrality”, advocating for free trade and against the british-declared naval blockade of continental europe.
In addition to Denmark, the union included russia, prussia and sweden, dissatisfied with the fact that the british drowned or seized civil ships of neutral countries, delivering goods to france or to territories controlled by france. Approaching copenhagen, parker sent the danish crown prince frederik an ultimatum demanding withdrawal from the alliance and destruction or the transfer to the british of danish warships. After being refused, the british opened fire.
The fleet of parker consisted of 18 battleships, five frigates, seven bombardier ships and six small warships of other classes. In the battle took part 12 battleships, frigates and three bombardirskih vessel, the rest of the fleet was in reserve. The direct command of the operation was carried out by parker’s deputy, the famous lord nelson.
Danes could counter this armada seven battleships, 10 non-self-propelled floating battalions and artillery barges, as well as one small coastal (more precisely – island) fort “treknerer”. It should be noted that the british battleships were on average larger than the danish ones and carried more guns. Nevertheless, the battle turned out to be very stubborn. Danes suffered heavy damage, one of their battles caught fire and was abandoned by the crew, and two more ships sank. However, the british battleships also received serious damage, and three of them ran aground.
Despite the losses, the danes refused to lay down their arms and the fight dragged on for several hours. In the end, parker, who was on one of the reserve battleships, lost faith in the success and ordered nelson to give the flags the order to retreat. But the one-eyed lord was no less stubborn than his opponents. According to legend, nelson attached a telescope to an empty eye socket and exclaimed: “to swear by honor, i do not see any order!”
However, the battle for the british became more and more bloody. Killed already 264 officers and sailors, 689 were injured, many guns were out of order, the sails of the first-line ships were torn to shreds. Wishing to achieve success by any means, nelson sent a second ultimatum to the crown prince himself, in which the following was literally said: “if the shooting continues, i will be forced to put the danish ships captured by me and i will not be able to save the lives of those brave men who they valiantly defended it. Brave danes, you are our brothers and should not treat us like enemies! “
Translated from “gentlemanly” into ordinary human language, this meant a direct threat to burn alive danish captives. In any case, the crown prince, having received the message, understood it that way. To prevent brutal reprisals against the captives, he ordered to cease fire. However, frederic did not know that nelson was bluffing: at that time the british had not yet captured a single danish ship and the captured danish sailors had not. In the evening, a 24-hour truce was concluded, later extended for two weeks, and then negotiations began to settle the conflict.
They dragged on for a long time and to no avail, since both sides did not want to make concessions, however, the situation changed dramatically when news of a sudden death from the “apoplectic attack” of tsar paul the first arrived in copenhagen. His successor, alexander the first, was known for his pro-british position. Realizing that russia’s withdrawal from the union is now only a matter of time, the danes accepted british conditions. They handed over to the uk the remaining 12 warships and officially announced the abandonment of the policy of “armed neutrality”. Nelson was able to write down in his asset another victory, although not as brilliant as aboukir.