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eighty-eight guns.* The entrance into the Baltic, between Copenhagen and Salthorn, is divided into two channels by a bank, called the Middle Ground, which is situated directly opposite Copenhagen. To defend the entrance on the left of the crown batteries, they placed near the mouth of the channel four shipsof-the-line, one frigate, and two sloops, carrying, in all, 358 guns. To secure the port and city from bombardment from the King's channel, (that between the Middle Ground and town,) a line of floating defences were moored near the edge of the shoal, and manned principally by volunteers. This line consisted of old hulls of vessels, block ships, praams, sloops, rafts, &c., carrying, in all
, 628 guns—a force strong enough to prevent the approach of bomb vessels and gunboats, (the purpose for which it was intended,) but utterly incapable of contending with first-rate ships-of-war; but these the Danes thought would be deterred from approaching by the difficulties of navigation. These difficulties were certainly very great; and Nelson said, beforehand, that “the wind which might carry him in would most probably not bring out a crippled ship.” Had the Danes supposed it possible for Nelson to approach with his large vessels, the line of floating defences would have been formed nearer Copenhagen, the right supported by batteries raised the isle of Amack. “In that case,” says Napoleon, “it is probable that Nelson would have failed in his attack; for it would have been impossible for him to pass between the line and shore thus lined with cannon.” As it was, the line was too extended for strength, and its right too far advanced to receive assistance from the battery of Amack. A part of the fleet remained as a reserve, under Admiral Parker, while the others, under Nelson, advanced to the King's channel. This attacking force consisted of eight ships-of-the-line and thirty-six smaller vessels, carrying, in all, 1,100 guns, without including those in the six gun-brigs, whose armament is not given. One of the seventy-fours could not be brought into action, and two others grounded; but Lord Nelson says, “although not in the situation assigned them, yet they were so placed as to be of great service.” This force was concentrated upon a part of the Danish line of floating defences, the whole of which was not only inferior to it by 382 guns, but so situated as to be beyond the reach of suceor, and without a chance of escape. The result was what might have been expected. Every vessel of the right and centre of this outer Danish line was taken or destroyed, except one or two small ones, which cut and run under protection of the fortifications. The left of the line, being supported by the crown battery, remained unbroken. A division of frigates, in hopes of proving an adequate substitute for the ships intended to attack the batteries, ventured to engage them, but “it suffered considerable loss, and, in spite of all its efforts, was obliged to relinquish this enterprise and sheer off.”
The Danish vessels lying in the entrance of the channel to the city were not attacked, and took no material part in the contest. They are to be reckoned in the defence on the same grounds that the British ships of the reserve should be included in the attacking force. Nor was any use made of the guns on shore, for the enemy did not advance far enough to be within their range.
The crown battery was behind the Danish line, and mainly masked by it. A part only of its guns could be used in support of the left of this line, and in repelling the direct attack of the frigates, which it did most effectually. But we now come to a new feature in this battle. As the Danish line of floating defences fell into the hands of the English, the range of the crown battery enlarged and its power was felt. Nelson saw the danger to which his fleet was exposed, and, being at last convinced of the prudence of the admiral's signal for retreat, “made his mind to weigh anchor and retire from the engagement."
* Some writers say only sixty-eight or seventy; but the English writers generally say cighty.cight. A few, apparently to increase the brilliancy of the victory, make this number -till greater.
To retreat, however, from his present position was exceedingly difficult and dangerous. He therefore determined to endeavor to effect an armistice, and despatched the following letter to the Prince Regent :
“Lord Nelson has directions to spare Denmark, when no longer resisting; but if the firing is continued on the part of Denmark, Lord Nelson must be obliged to set on fire all the floating batteries he has taken, without the power to save the brave Danes who have defended them."
This produced an armistice, and hostilities had hardly ceased when three of the English ships, including that in which Nelson himself was, struck upon the bank. “They were in the jaws of destruction, and could never have escaped if the batteries had continued their fire. They therefore owed their safety to this armistice.” A convention was soon signed, by which everything was left in statu quo, and the fleet of Admiral Parker allowed to procoed into the Baltic.
The Rev. Edward Baines, the able English historian of the wars of the French revolution, in speaking of Nelson's request for an armistice, says: " This letter, which exhibited a happy union of policy and courage, was written at a moment when Lord Nelson perceived that in consequence of the unfavorable state of the wind, the admiral was not likely to get up to aid the enterprise ; that the principal batteries of the enemy, and the ships at the mouth of the harbor, were yet untouched; that two of his own division had grounded, and others were likely to share the same fate.” Campbell says these batteries and ships “ were still unconquered. Two of his own (Nelson's) vessels were grounded and exposed to a heavy fire; others, if the battle continued, might be exposed to a similar fate, while he found it would be scarcely practicable to bring off the prizes under the fire of the batteries.”
With respect to the fortifications of the town, a chronicler of the times says they were of no service while the action lasted. • They began to fire when the enemy took possession of the abandoned ships, but it was at the same time the parley appeared.” The Danish commander, speaking of the general contest between the two lines says: “ The crown battery did not come at all into action.” An English writer says distinctly : “ The works (fortifications) of Copenhagen were absolutely untouched at the close of the action.” Colonel Mitchell, the English historian, says : “ Lord Nelson never fired a shot at the town or fortifications of Copenhagen. He destroyed a line of block ships, praams, and floating batteries that defended the sea approach to the town; and the Crown Prince, seeing his capital exposed, was willing to finish by armistice a war the object of which was neither very popular nor well understood. What the result of the action between the defences of Copenhagen and the British fleet might ultimately have been is therefore uncertain. The BOMBARDMENT OF COPENHAGEN BY NELSON, as it is generally styled, is, therefore, like most other oracular phrases of the day, a mere combination of words without the slightest meaning."
The British lost in killed and wounded 943 men, and the loss of the Danes, according to their own account, which is confirmed by the French, was but very little higher. The English, however, say it amounted to 1,600 or 1,800; but let the loss be what it may, it was almost exclusively confined to the floating defences, and can in no way determine the relative accuracy of aim of the guns ashore and guns afloat.
The facts and testimony we have adduced prove incontestably:
1st. That of the fleet of 52 sail and 1,700 guns sent by the English to the attack upon Copenhagen, two ships of 148 guns were grounded or wrecked ; seven ships-of-the-line and 36 smaller vessels, carrying over 1,000 gans, were actually brought into the action ; while the remainder were held as a reserve, to act upon the first favorable opportunity.
2d. That the Danish line of Hoating defences, consisting mostly of old hulls, Bloops, rafts, &c., carried only 628 guns of all descriptions; that the fixed batteries supporting this line did not carry over 80 or 90 guns at most; and that both these land and fl sating batteries were mostly manned and the guns served by volunteers.
3d. That the fixed batteries in the system of defence were either so completely masked or so far distant, as to be useless during the contest between the feet and floating force.
4th. That the few guns of these batteries which were rendered available by the position of the floating defences repelled with little or no loss to themselves, and some injury to the enemy, a vastly superior force of frigates which had attacked them.
5th. That the line of floating defences was conquered and mostly destroyed, while the fixed batteries were uninjured.
6th. That the fortifications of the city and of Amack island were not attacked, and had no part in the contest.
7th. That as soon as the batteries were unmasked, and began to act, Nelson prepared to retreat; but, on account of the difficulty of doing so, he opened a parley, threatening, with a cruelty unworthy the most barbarous ages, that unless the batteries ceased their fire upon his ships, he would burn all the Danish prisoners in his possession; and that this armistice was concluded just in time to save his own ships from destruction.
8th. That, consequently, the battle of Copenhagen cannot properly be regarded as a contest between ships and forts, or a triumph of ships over forts; that so far as the guns on shore were engaged they showed a vast superiority over those afloat-a superiority known and confessed by the English.
And yet, in the face of all these facts, and in opposition to the accumulated testimony of English, French, and Danish historians, the Apalachicola reporter persists in regarding this as a contest between ships and batteries, in which the latter gained the victory; nay, he goes so far as to rank all the old rotten hulks and rafts of the Danish line as fortifications, for he says; “The British fleet fought only 468 guns afloat against those 986 guns on Amack and crown batteries; yet in four hours they were silenced, and the object gained.” A strange inaccuracy of vision, while looking at well-known and undisputed historical events!
Constantinople.—“Sir John Duckforth forced the passage of the Dardanelles with six ships-of-the-line, and was rebuked because he had not continued on to Constantinople, and with his small force assaulted the city.”—The channel of the Dardanelles is about 12 leagues long, 3 miles wide at its entrance, and about three-quarters of a mile at its narrowest point. Its principal defences are the outer and inner castles of Europe and Asia, and the castles of Sestos and Abydos. Constantinople stands about 100 miles from its entrance into the sea of Marmora, and at nearly the opposite extremity of this sea. The defences of the channel had been allowed to go to decay; but few guns were mounted, and the forts were but partially garrisoned. In Constantinople, not a gun was mounted, and no preparations for defence were made; indeed, previous to the approach of the fleet, the Turks had not determined whether to side with the English or French, and even then the French ambassador had the greatest difficulty in persuading them to resist the demands of Duckforth.
The British fleet consisted of six sail of the line, two frigates, two sloops, and several bomb vessels, carrying 818 guns, beside those in the bomb ships. Admiral Duckforth sailed through the Dardanelles on the 19th February, 1807, with little or no opposition. This being a Turkish festival day, the soldiers of the scanty garrison were enjoying the festivities of the occasion, and none were left to serve the few guns of the forts which had been prepared for defence. But while the admiral was waiting in the sea of Marmora for the result of negotiations, or for a favorable wind to make the attack upon Constantinople, the fortifications of this city were put in order, and the Turks actively employed, under French engineers and artillery officers, in repairing the defences of the
straits. Campbell, in his Naval History, says: “Admiral Duckforth now fully perceived the critical situation in which he was placed. He might, indeed, succeed, should the weather become favorable, in bombarding Constantinople; but, unless the bombardment should prove completely successful in forcing the Turks to pacific terms, the injury he might do to the city would not compensate for the damage which his fleet must necessarily sustain. With this damaged and crippled fleet, he must repass the Dardanelles, now rendered infinitely stronger than they were when he came through them.”
Under these circumstances, the admiral determined to retreat; and on the 3d of April escaped through the Dardanelles, steering midway of the channel, with a favorable and strong current. “This escape, however,” says Baines, only from destruction, but by no means from serious loss and injury. In what instance, in the whole course of our naval warfare, have ships received equal damage in so short a time as in this extraordinary enterprise ?" In detailing the extent of this damage, we will take the ships in the order they descended.
The first had her wheel carrried away, and her hull much damaged, but escaped with the loss of only three men. A stone shot penetrated the second between the poop and quarter deck, badly injured the mizzen mast, carried away the wheel, and did other serious damage; killing and wounding 20. Two shot struck the third, carrying away her shrouds and injuring her masts; loss in killed and wounded, 30. The fourth had her mainmast destroyed, with a loss of 16. The fifth bad a large shot, six feet eight inches in circumferance enter her lower deck; loss 55. The sixth not injured. The seventh a good deal damaged, with a loss of 17. The eighth had 'no loss. The ninth was so much injured that “had there been a necessity for hauling the wind on the opposite tack she must have gone down;" her loss was 8. The tenth lost 12. The eleventh was much injured, with a loss of 8-making a total loss in repassing the Dardanelles of 167, and in the whole expedition 281, exclusive of 250 men who perished in the burning of the Ajax.
Such was the effect produced on the British fleet, sailing with a favorable wind and strong current past the half-manned and half-armed forts of the Dardanelles. Duckforth himself says that, had he remained before Constantinople much longer, till the forts had been completely put in order, no return would have been open to him, and “the unavoidable sacrifice of the squadron must have been the consequence.” Scarcely had the fleet cleared the straits before it (the fleet) was re-enforced with eight sail of the line; but, even with this vast increase of strength, they did not venture to renew the contest. They had effeeted a most fortunate escape. General Jomini says, that if the defence had been conducted by a more enterprising and experienced people the expedition would have cost the English their whole squadron.
Great as was the damage done to the fleet, the forts themselves were uninjured. The English say their own fire did no execution, the shot in all probability not even striking their objects—“the rapid change of position, occasioned by a fair wind and current, preventing the certainty of aim.” The state of the batteries when the feet first passed in is thus described in James's Naval History: “Some of them were dilapidated, and others but partially mounted and poorly manned.” And Alison says: “They had been allowed to fall into disrepair. The castles of Europe and Asia, indeed, stood in frowning majesty, to assert the dominion of the Crescent at the narrowest part of the passage, but their ramparts were antiquated, their guns in part dismounted, and such as remained, though of enormous calibre, little calculated to answer the rapidity and precision of an English broadside.”
With respect to the " rebuke" mentioned in the Apalachicola report, we have been unable to ascertain by whom it was given. We can find no account of it in the several histories of the British navy. The House of Commons rejected a motion to call for the papers; the board of admiralty made no charges or complaints; and, in the public estimation, says James, “Sir John rather gained than lost credit for the discomfiture he had experienced.” Much has been said because the fortifications of the Dardanelles did not hermetically seal that channel, (an object they were never expected to accomplish, even had they been well armed and well served;) but it is forgotten, or entirely overlooked, that twelve Turkish line-of-battle-ships, two of them three-deckers, with nine frigates, were, with their sails bent and in apparent readiness, filled with troops," and lying within the line of fortifications; and yet this naval force effected little or nothing against the inruders. It is scarcely ever mentioned, being regarded of little consequeuce as a means of defence; and yet the number of their guns, and the expense of their construction and support, could hardly have fallen short of the incomplete and half-garrisoned forts, some of which were as ancient as the reign of Amurath.
Algiers.—The attack upon Algiers, in 1816, has been frequently alluded to as a great instance of naval success, and is discussed at considerable length by the board of officers appointed by Mr. Poinsett, on the subject of national defence. But this board confessed themselves uninformed on several important facts; and their report, on this account, is less satisfactory than it otherwise would have been. The Apalachicola reporter has paraded this attack as entirely decisive of the superiority of guns afloat; but we cannot find that his account is sustained by any authority whatever.
The following narrative is drawn from the reports of the English and Dutch admirals, and other official and authentic English papers :
The attack was made by the combined fleets, consisting of five sail of the line, eighteen or twenty frigates and smaller vessels, besides five bomb vessels and smaller rocket boats, mounting in all about 1,000 guns. The armament of some of the smaller vessels is not given, but the guns of those whose armaments are known amount to over 900. The harbor and defences of Algiers had been previously surveyed by Captain Warde, royal navy, under Lord Exmouth's direction; and the number of the combined fieet was arranged according to the information given in this survey—just so many ships, and no more, being taken, as could be employed to advantage against the city, without being needlessly exposed. Moreover, the men and officers had been selected and exercised with reference to this particular attack.
From the survey of Captain Warde, and the accompanying map, it appears that the armament of all the fortifications of Algiers and the vicinity, counting the water fronts and parts that could flank the shore, was only 284 guns of various sizes and descriptions, including mortars. But not near all of these could act upon the fleet as it lay. Other English accounts state the number of guns actually opposed to the feet at from 220 to 230. Some of these were in small and distant batteries, whereas nearly all the fleet was concentrated on the inole-head works. Supposing only one broadside of the ships to have been engaged, the ratio of forces, as expressed by the number of guns, must have been about five to two. This is a favorable supposition for the ships; for we know that several of them, from their position and a change of anchorage, brought both broadsides to bear. The Algerine shipping in the harbor was considerable, including several vessels-of-war, but no use of them was made in the defence, and nearly all were burnt. The attacking ships commanded some of the batteries, and almost immediately dismounted their guns. The walls of the casemated works were so thin as to be very soon battered down. Most of the Algerine guns were badly mounted, and many of them were useless after the first fire. They had no furnaces for heating shot, and, as "they loaded their guns with loose powder, put in with a ladle," they could not possibly have used hot shot, even had they constructed furnaces. 'l'he ships approached the forts, and many of them anchored in their intended positions, without a shot