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perceived the English approaching, they retired, and
took shelter in Carlscrona, behind the batteries on the
island, at the entrance of that port. Sir Hyde sent in a
flag of truce, stating that Denmark had concluded an
armistice, and requiring an explicit declaration from the
court of Sweden, whether it would adhere to, or abandon,
the hostile measures which it had taken against the
rights and interest of Great Britain ? The commander,
Vice-Admiral Cronstadt, replied, "that he could not
answer a question which did not come within the particu-
lar circle of his duty; but that the King was then at
Maloe, and would soon be at Carlscrona," Gustavus
shortly afterwards arrived, and an answer was then re-
turned to this effect: "That his Swedish Majesty would
not, for a moment, fail to fulfil, with fidelity and sincer-
ity, the engagements he had entered into with his allies ;
but he would not refuse to listen to equitable proposals
made by deputies furnished with proper authority' by
the King of Great Britain to the united Northern Pow-
ers." Satisfied with this answer, and with the known
disposition of the Swedish court, Sir Hyde sailed for
the Gulf of Finland ; but he had not proceeded far be-
fore a despatch boat, from the Russian Ambassador at
Copenhagen, arrived, bringing intelligence of the death
of the Emperor Paul ; and that his successor, Alexander,



'284 The Life of Nelson

had accepted the offer made by England to his father,
of terminating the dispute by a convention; the British
Admiral was therefore required to desist from all further
hostilities.

It was Nelson's maxim that, to negotiate with effect,
force should be at hand, and in a situation to act. The
fleet, having been reinforced from England, amounted to
eighteen sail of the line ; and the wind was fair for Revel.
There he would have sailed immediately, to place himself-
between that division of the Russian fleet and the squad-
ron at Cronstadt, in case this offer should prove insincere.
Sir Hyde, on the other hand, believed that the death of
Paul had effected all that was necessary. The manner of
that death,^ indeed, rendered it apparent that a change
of policy would take place in the cabinet of Petersburg ;
but Nelson never trusted anything to the uncertain events
of time which could possibly be secured by promptitude
or resolution. It was not, therefore, without severe
mortification that he saw the Commander-in-Chief re-
turn to the coast of Zealand, and anchor in Kioge Bay,
there to wait patiently for what might happen.

There the fleet remained, till despatches arrived from
home, on the 5th of May, recalling Sir Hyde, and ap-
pointing Nelson Commander-in-Chief.

Nelson wrote to Earl St. Vincent that he was unable to
hold this honorable station. Admiral Graves also was so
ill, as to be confined to his bed; and he entreated that
some person might come out and take the command. ' ' I
will endeavor," said he, *'to do my best while I remain:
but, my dear lord, I shall either soon go to heaven, I
hope, or must rest quiet for a time. If Sir Hyde were
gone, I would now be under sail. ' ' On the day when this
was written he received news of his appointment. Not
a moment was now lost. His first signal, as Commander-

1. Manner of that death. He was assassinated by conspirators.



The Life op Nelson 285

in-Chief, was to hoist in all launches, and prepare to
weigh : and on the 7th he sailed from Kioge. Part of his
fleet was left at Bornholm to watch the Swedes : from
wdiom he required, and obtained, an assurance, that the
British trade in the Cattegat, and in the Baltic, should
not be molested ; and saying how unpleasant it would be
to him if anything should happen which might, for a
moment, disturb the returning harmony between Sweden
and Great Britain, he apprised them that he was not
directed to abstain from hostilities should he meet with
the Swedish fleet at sea. Meantime he himself, with ten
sail of the line, two frigates, a brig, and a schooner, made
for the Gulf of Finland. Paul, in one of the freaks of
his tyranny, had seized upon all the British effects in
Russia, and even considered British subjects as his pris-
oners. ''I will have all the English shipping and prop-
erty restored," said Nelson, ''but I will do nothing vio-
lently, — ^neither commit the affairs of my country, nor
suffer Russia to mix the affairs of Denmark or Sweden
with the detention of our ships." The wind was fair,
and carried him in four days to Revel Roads. But the
bay had been clear of firm ice on the 29th of April, while
the English were lying idly at Kioge. The Russians had
cut through the ice in the mole six feet thick, and their
whole squadron had sailed for Cronstadt on the 3d.
Before that time it had Iain at the mercy of the English.
— "Nothing," Nelson said, ''if it had been right to make
the attack, could have saved one ship of them in two
hours after our entering the bay."

It so happened that there was no cause to regret the
opportunity which had been lost, and Nelson immediately
put the intentions of Russia to the proof. He sent on
shore to say, that he came with friendly views, and was.
ready to return a salute. On their part the salute was de-
layed, till a message was sent to them to inquire for what



286 The Life op Nelson

reason : and the officer, whose neglect had occasioned the
delay, was put under arrest. Nelson wrote to the Emperor,
proposing to wait on him personally, and congratulate
him on his accession, and, urged the immediate release of
British subjects, and restoration of British property.

The answer arrived on the 16th : Nelson, meantime, had
exchanged visits with the Governor, and the most friend-
ly intercourse had subsisted between the ships and the
shore. Alexander's ministers, in their reply, expressed
their surprise at the arrival of a British fleet in a Rus-
sian port, and their wish that it should return: they
professed, on the part of Russia, the most friendly dis-
position towards Great Britain, but declined the personal
visit of Lord Nelson, unless he came in a single ship.
There was a suspicion implied in this which stung Nel-
son ; and he said the Russian ministers would never have
written thus if their fleet had been at Revel. He wrote
an immediate reply, expressing what he felt : he told the
court of Petersburg, ^*that the word of a British Admiral,
when given in explanation of any part of his conduct,
was as sacred as that of any sovereign in Europe. ' ' And
he repeated, *Hhat, under other circumstances, it would
have been his anxious wish to have paid his personal
respects to the Emperor, and signed with his own hand
the act of amity between the two countries." Having
despatched this, he stood out to sea immediately, leaving
a brig to bring off the provisions which had been con-
tracted for, and to settle the accounts. ''I hope all is
right," said he, writing to our Ambassador at Berlin;
"but seamen are but bad negotiators; for we put to
issue in five minutes what diplomatic forms would be
■Oyq months doing."

On his way down the Baltic, however, he met the Rus-
sian Admiral Tchitchagof, whom the Emperor, in reply
to Sir Hyde's overtures, had sent to communicate per-



The Life of Nelson 287

sonally with the British Commander-in-Chief. The reply
was such as had been wished and expected: and these
negotiators going, seaman-like, straight to their object,
satisfied each other of the friendly intentions of their
respective governments.. Nelson then anchored off Ros-
tock ; and there he received an answer to his last despatch
from Revel, in which the Russian court expressed their
regret that there should have been any misconception
between them, informed him that the British vessels
which Paul had detained were ordered to be liberated,
and invited him to Petersburg in whatever mode might
be most agreeable to himself. Other honors awaited
him: — ^the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the Queen's
brother,^ came to visit him on board his ship ; and towns
of the inland parts of Mecklenburg sent deputations, with
their public books of record, that they might have the
name of Nelson in them written by his own hand.

From Rostock, the fleet returned to Kioge Bay. Nel-
son saw that the temper of the Danes towards England
was such as naturally arose from the chastisement which
they had so recently received. "In this nation," said he,
"we shall not be forgiven for having the upper hand of
them : I only thank God we have, or they would try to
humble us to the dust." He saw also that the Danish
cabinet was completely subservient to France : a French
officer was at this time the companion and counsellor of
the Crown Prince; and things were done in such open
violation of the armistice, that Nelson thought a second
infliction of vengeance would soon be necessary. He
wrote to the Admiralty, requesting a clear and explicit
reply to his inquiry, Whether the Commander-in-Chief
was at liberty to hold the language becoming a British
Admiral? "Which, very probably," said he, "if I am
here, will break the armistice, and set Copenhagen in a

1. Queen's trother. Brother to Charlotte Sophia, wife of George III.



288 The Life of Nelson

blaze. I see everything wMcli is dirty and mean going
on, and the Prince Royal at the head of it. Ships have
been masted, guns taken on board, floating batteries
prepared, and, except hauling out and completing their
rigging, everything is done in defiance of the treaty. My
heart burns at seeing the word of a Prince, nearly allied
to our good King, so falsified; but his conduct is such,
that he will lose his kingdom if he goes on, for Jacobins
rule in Denmark, I have made no representations yet,
as it would be useless to do so until I have the power of
correction. All I beg, in the name of the future Com-
mander-in-Chief, is, that the orders may be clear; for
enough is done to break twenty treaties if it should be
wished, or to make the Prince Royal humble himself
before British generosity."

Nelson was not deceived in his judgment of the Danish
Cabinet, but the battle of Copenhagen had crippled its
power. The death of the Czar Paul had broken the con-
federacy ; and that Cabinet, therefore, was compelled to
defer, till a more convenient season, the indulgence of its
enmity towards Great Britain. Soon afterwards, Vice-
Aclmiral Sir Charles Maurice Pole arrived to take com-
mand. The business, military and political, had by that
time been so far completed, that the presence of the Brit-
ish fleet soon became no longer necessary. Sir Charles,
however, made the short time of his command memorable,
by passing the Great Belt, for the first time, with line
of battle ships; working through the channel against
adverse winds. When Nelson left the fleet,^ this speedy
termination of the expedition, though confidently ex-

1. Left the fleet. Nelson was relieved on June 19. "I never saw the
man," wrote St. Vincent at this time, "excepting yourself and Trou-
bridge, who possessed the magic art of infusing the same spirit into
others, which inspired their own actions ; exclusive of other talents
and habits of business, not common to naval characters." — Mahan,
Life of Nelson, Vol. II, p. 116.



The Life of Nelson 289

pected, was not certain ; and he, in his unwillingness to
weaken the British force, thought at one time of travers-
ing Jutland in his boat, by the canal, to Tonningen on
the Eyder, and finding his way home from thence. The
intention was not executed ; but he returned in a brig,
declining to accept a frigate : which few admirals would
have done, especially if, like him, they suffered from sea-
sickness in a small vessel. On his arrival at Yarmouth,
the first thing he did was to visit the hospital, and see the
men who had been wounded in the late battle: — that
victory which had added a new gloiy to the name of Nel-
son, and which was of more importance, even than the
battle of the Nile, to the honor, the strength, and security
of England.

The feelings of Nelson's friends, upon the news of his
great victory at Copenhagen, were highly described by
Sir William Hamilton, in a letter to him. ' ' We can only
expect," he says, ''what we know well, and often said
before, that Nelson was, is, and to the last ivill ever he^
the first. Emma did not know whether she was on her
head or heels — in such a hurry to tell your great news,
that she could utter nothing but tears of joy and tender-
ness. I went to Davison, and found him still in bed, hav-
ing had a severe fit of the gout, and with your letter,
which he had just received ; and he cried like a child :
but what was very extraordinary, assured me that, from
the instant he had read your letter, all pain had left him,
and that he felt himself able to get up and walk about.
Your brother, Mrs. Nelson, and Horace dined with us.
Your brother was more extraordinary than ever. He
would get up suddenly, and cut a caper; rubbing his
hands every time that the thought of your fresh laurels
came into his head. In short, except myself (and your
Lordship knows that I have some phlegm), all the com-
pany, which was considerable after dinner, were mad



290 The Life of Nelson

with joy. But I am sure that no one rejoiced more at
heart than I did. I have lived too long to have ecstasies !
But with calm reflection, I felt for my friend having
got to the very summit of glory ! the ne plus ultra .f^ that
he has had another opportunity of rendering his country
the most important service, and manifesting again his
judgment, his intrepidity, and his humanity."

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 prepara-
tions, upon a great scale, for invading England r 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 suc-
cess, 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 ap-
pointed to a command extending from Orfordness to

1, JSfe plus ultra. Nothing further ; the uttermost point.

2. Invading England. Napoleon collected at Boulogne an army of
1^0,000 men and a great number of flat-boats and barges, and exercised
the troops in embarking and disembarking, preparatory to an expedition
against England. Whether he actually intended to make the attempt
is uncertain ; but the control of the Channel necessary to prevent It
was the constant concern of the British fleet up to the victory of
Trafalgar, Oct. 21, 1805. In August of that year, however, Napoleon
was forced to march against an Austrian army approaching through
Bouthern Germany.



The Life of Nelson 291

Beacliy 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.

To this service, however, such as it was, he applied with
his wonted alacrity, though in no cheerful frame of mind.
To Lady Hamilton, his only female correspondent, he
says at this time — ' ' I am not in very good spirits ; and
except that our country demands all our services and
abilities to bring about an honorable peace, nothing
should prevent my being the bearer of my own letter.
But, my dear friend, I know you are so true and loyal an
Englishwoman, that you would hate those who would not
stand forth in defense of our King, laws, religion, and
all that is dear to us. — It is your sex that makes us go
forth, and seems to tell us, 'None but the brave deserve
the fair;' — and if we fall, we still live in the hearts of
those females. It is your sex that rewards us, it is your
sex who cherish our memorfes ; and you, my dear honored
friend, are, believe me, the first, the best of your sex.
I have been the world around, and in every corner of it,
and never yet saw your equal, or even one who could be
put in comparison with you. You know how to reward
virtue, honor, and courage, and never to ask if it is
placed in a prince, duke, lord, or peasant." Having
hoisted his flag in the Medusa frigate, he went to recon-
noitre Boulogne; the point from which it was supposed
the great attempt would be made, and which the French,
in fear of an attack themselves, were fortifying with
all care. He approached near enough to sink two of their
floating batteries, and destroy a few gun-boats which
were without the pier; what damage was done within
could not be ascertained. ''Boulogne," he said, "was

1. Orfordness to Beacliy Head, on 'both shores. Including the mouth
of the Thames, the Straits of Dover, and the eastern extremity of the
Channel, from the English to the French coast.



292 The Life of Nelson

certainly not a very pleasant place that morning : — ^but,*'
he added, "it is not my wish to injure the poor inhabi-
tants; and the town is spared as much as the nature of
the service will admit." Enough was done to show the
enemy that they could not, with impunity, come outside
their own ports. Nelson was satisfied, by what he saw,
that they meant to make an attempt from this place,
but that it was impracticable ; for the least wind at
W.N."W„, and they were lost. The ports of Flushing and
Flanders were better points : there we could not tell by
our eyes what means of transport were provided. From
thence, therefore, if it came forth at. all, the expedition
would come: — ''And what a forlorn undertaking!" said
he: ''consider cross tides, etc. As for rowing, that is
impossible. It is perfectly right to be prepared for a
mad government: but with the active force which has
been given me, I may pronounce it almost impracticable. "
That force had been got together with an alacrity
which has seldom been equalled. On the 28th of July we
were, in Nelson's own words, literally at the foundation
of our fabric of defense : and twelve days afterwards
we were so prepared on the enemy's coast, that he did not
believe they could get three miles from their ports. The
Medusa, returning to our own shores, anchored in the
rolling ground^ off Harwich; and when Nelson wished
to get to the Nore in her, the wind rendered it impossible
to proceed there by the usual channel. In haste to be at
the Nore, remembering that he had been a tolerable pilot
for the mouth of the Thames in his younger days, and
thinking it necessary that he should know all that could
be known of the navigation, he requested the maritime
surveyor of the coast, Mr. Spence, to get him into the
Swin, by any channel : for neither the pilots whom he had

1. Rolling ground. An exposed anchorage In shallow water, subject
to a heavy grouiul swell.



The Life of Nelson 293

on board, nor the Harwich ones, would take charge of the
ship. No vessel drawing more than fourteen feet had
ever before ventured over the Naze. Mr. Spence, how-
ever, who had surveyed the channel, carried her safely
through. The channel has since been called Nelson's,
though he himself wished it to be named after the
Medusa: his name needed no new memorial.

Nelson's eye was upon Flushing : — ''To take possession
of that place," he said, "v/oulcl be a week's expedition
for four or five thousand troops." This, however, re-
quired a consultation with the Admiralty ; and that some-
thing might be done meantime, he resolved upon attack-
ing the flotilla in the mouth of Boulogne Harbor. This
resolution was made in deference to the opinion of others,
and to the public feeling which was so preposterously
excited. He himself scrupled not to assert, that the
French army would never embark at Boulogne for the
invasion of England; and^he owned, that this boat-war-
fare was not exactly congenial to his feelings. Into Hel-
voet or Flushing he should be happy to lead, if Govern-
ment turned their thoughts that way. ' ' "While I serve, ' ^
said he, ''I will do it actively, and to the very best of
my abilities. — I require nursing like a child, ' ' he added ;
''my mind carries me beyond my strength, and will do
me up : — but such is my nature. ' '

The attack was made by the boats of the squadron in
five divisions, under Captains Somerville, Parker, Cot-
grave, Jones, and Conn. The previous essay had taught
the French the weak parts of their position; and they
omitted no means of strengthening it, and of guarding
against the expected attempt. The boats put off about
half an hour before midnight; but, owing to the dark-
ness, and tide and half-tide,^ which must always make

1. Tide and half-tide. When the tide continues to flow upward in a
river or inlet after it has reached liigli water on the coast.



/294 The Life of Nelson

night-attacks so uncertain on the coasts of the Channel,
the divisions separated. One could not arrive at all;
another not till near daybreak. The others made their
attack gallantly; but the enemy were fully prepared:
every vessel was defended by long poles, headed with iron
spikes, projecting from their sides : strong nettings were
braced up to their lower yards ; they were moored by the
bottom to the shore, and chained one to another;* they
were strongly manned with soldiers, and protected by
land-batteries, and the shore was lined with troops.
Many were taken possession of; and, though they could
not have been brought out, would have been burned, had
not the French resorted to a mode of offense, which they
have often used, but which no other people have ever
been wicked enough to employ. The moment the firing
ceased on board one of their own vessels, they fired upon
it from the shore, perfectly regardless of their own men.
The commander of one of the French divisions acted
like a generous enemy. He hailed the boats as they ap-
proached, and cried out in English, '^Let me advise you,
my brave Englishmen, to keep your distance : you can do
nothing here ; and it is only uselessly shedding the blood
of brave men to make the attempt. ' ' The French official
account boasted of the victory. ''The combat," it said,
''took place in sight of both countries; it was the first of
the kind, and the historian would have cause to make this
remark." They guessed our loss at four or five hundred :

♦ In tbe former editions I had stated, upon what appeared anthen-
tic information, that the boats were chained one to another. Nelson
Wmself believed this. But I have been assured that it was not the
case, by M. de Bercet, who, when I had the pleasure of seeing him
in 1825, was (and I hope still is) Commandant of Boulogne. The word
of this brave and loyal soldier is as little to be doubted as his worth.
He is the last survivor of Charette's band ; and his own memoirs, could
he be persuaded to write them (a duty which he owes to his country
as well as to himself) would form a redeeming episode in the history
of the French Revolution. — S'out'hey's Tot''.



The Life of Nelson 295

— it amounted to one hundred and seventy-two. In his
private letters to the Admiralty, Nelson affirmed that
had our force arrived as he intended, it was not all the
chains in France which could have prevented our men
from bringing off the whole of the vessels. There had
been no error committed, and never did Englishmen dis-
play more courage. Upon this point Nelson was fully
satisfied ; but he said he should never bring himself again
to allow any attack wherein he was not personally con-
cerned ; and that his mind suffered more than if he had
had a leg sho.t off in the affair. He grieved particularly
for Captain Parker, — an excellent officer, to whom he
was greatly attached, and who had an aged father look-
ing to him for assistance. His thigh was shattered in the
action, and the wound proved mortal, after some weeks
of suffering and manly resignation. During this in-
terval, Nelson's anxiety was very great. ''Dear Parker
is my child," said he, "for I found him in distress."
And, when he received the tidings of his death, he re-
plied: — "You will judge of my feelings: God's will be
done. I beg that his hair may be cut off and given me ;
—it shall be buried in my grave. Poor Mr. Parker!



Online LibraryRobert SoutheySouthey's Life of Nelson → online text (page 23 of 29)