Battle of Copenhagen, 1801

Contemporary painting of the Battle of Copenhagen by Nicholas Pocock. The English ships are in the foreground, with the Danes shoreward. Original in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

Location Copenhagen, Denmark

In 1801, Britain was a little worried. Tsar Paul I had formed The League of Armed Neutrality, an alliance between Denmark-Norway, Prussia, Russia, and Sweden, which was designed to protect the signatories ability to trade with Napoleonic France, and could potentially overwhelm even the Royal Navy with weight of numbers. So, before they could join forces, the British decided to deal with them individually. Denmark was first. Admiral Sir Hyde Parker was sent in with a large fleet to negotiate, but if that failed, an attack on the Danish fleet in Copenhagen would have to happen. Of course, negotiations failed. 2 April, 1801, Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson was sent in. The Danes had arranged their ships, some thirty-seven strong, under the protection of a shore battery. Nelson brought along thirty ships, including twelve sail of the line. The fighting devolved into a slugging match, as was the norm for the period. Admiral Parker gave Nelson permission to retreat about 1:30 in the afternoon, due to the appearance of a standstill. Nelson acknowledged the signal, but felt that the situation was still favorable. Half the Danish line had ceased fire by 2 pm, and Nelson sent an envoy to offer a truce to the Danes shortly after. Both sides were in poor shape, but each with a sizeable portion of reserves; the Danes probably had a numbers advantage. However, with hints of bombarding the city, the Danish prince agreed to a ceasefire, and a formal armistice was signed on 8 April. The League dissolved shortly after with the death of Tsar Paul. Nelson was made Viscount of the Nile for his actions.