Jan 042015

Battle Honour on The Royal Green Jackets Cap Badge

 ( This page also includes the second battle of Copenhagen 1807 )

The Battle of Copenhagen (Danish: slaget på Reden) was an engagement which saw a British fleet under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker fight and strategically defeat a Danish-Norwegian fleet anchored just off Copenhagen on the 2nd April in 1801. Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson led the main attack. He famously is reputed to have disobeyed Sir Hyde Parker’s order to withdraw by holding the telescope to his blind eye to look at the signals from Parker. But Parker’s signals had given him permission to withdraw at his discretion, and Nelson declined. His action in proceeding resulted in the destruction of many of the Dano-Norwegian ships before a truce was agreed. Copenhagen is often considered to be Nelson’s hardest-fought battle


The battle was the result of multiple failures of diplomacy in the latter half of the 18th century. At the beginning of 1801, during the French Revolutionary Wars, Britain’s principal advantage over France was its naval superiority. The Royal Navy searched neutral ships trading with French ports, seizing their cargoes if they were deemed to be trading with France. It was in the British interest to guarantee its naval supremacy and all trade advantages that resulted from it. The Russian Tsar Paul, after having been a British ally, arranged a League of Armed Neutrality comprising Denmark-Norway, Sweden, Prussia, and Russia, to enforce free trade with France. The British viewed the League to be very much in the French interest and a serious threat. The League was hostile to the British blockade and, according to the British, its existence threatened the supply of timber and naval stores from Scandinavia.

In early 1801, the British government assembled a fleet at Great Yarmouth, with the goal of breaking up the League. The British needed to act before the Baltic Sea thawed and released the Russian fleet from its bases at Kronstadt and Reval (now Tallinn). If the Russian fleet joined with the Swedish and Dano-Norwegian fleets, the combined fleets would form a formidable force of up to 123 ships-of-the-line. The British fleet was under the command of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, with Vice Admiral Lord Nelson as second-in-command. Nelson was in poor favour due to a public scandal involving his relationship with Emma, Lady Hamilton. Parker, aged 61, had just married an eighteen-year-old and was reluctant to leave port in Great Yarmouth.

Frustrated by the delay, Nelson sent a letter to Captain Thomas Troubridge, a friend and a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty. This prompted the Earl of St Vincent (First Lord of the Admiralty) to send a private note, which resulted in the fleet sailing from Yarmouth on the 12th of March. Orders were sent to Parker to go to Copenhagen and detach Denmark from the League by ‘amicable arrangement or by actual hostilities’, to be followed by ‘an immediate and vigorous attack’ on the Russians at Reval and then Kronstadt. The British fleet reached the Skaw (Danish: Skagen) on the 19th of March, where they met a British diplomat, Nicholas Vansittart, who told them that the Danes had rejected an ultimatum.

Although the Admiralty had instructed Parker to frustrate the League, by force if necessary, he was a naturally cautious person and moved slowly. He wanted to blockade the Baltic despite the danger of the combination of fleets; Nelson wanted to ignore Denmark and Sweden, who were both reluctant partners in the alliance, and instead sail to the Baltic to fight the Russians. In the end Nelson was able to persuade Sir Hyde to attack the Danish fleet currently concentrated off Copenhagen. Promised naval support for the Danes from Karlskrona, in Sweden, did not arrive perhaps because of adverse winds. The Prussians had only minimal naval forces and also could not assist. On the 30th of March, the British force passed through the narrows between Denmark and Sweden, sailing close to the Swedish coast to put themselves as far from the Danish guns as possible; fortunately for the British, the Swedish batteries remained silent.

Attacking the Danish fleet would have been difficult as Parker’s delay in sailing had allowed the Danes to prepare their positions well. Most of the Danish ships were not fitted for sea but were moored along the shore with old ships (hulks), no longer fit for service at sea, but still powerfully armed, as a line of floating batteries off the eastern coast of the island of Amager, in front of the city in the King’s Channel. The northern end of the line terminated at the Tre Kroner (Three Crowns — Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, referring to the Kalmar Union) forts armed with 68 guns (equal to twice the broadside of a ship-of-the-line). North of the fort, in the entrance to Copenhagen harbour, were two ships-of-the-line, a large frigate, and two brigs, all rigged for sea, and two more hulks. Batteries covered the water between the Danish line and the shore, and further out to sea a large shoal, the Middle Ground, constricted the channel. The British had no reliable charts or pilots, so Captain Thomas Hardy spent most of the night of the 31st of  March taking soundings in the channel up to the Danish line. Even so, the British ships were not able to locate the deepest part of the channel properly and so kept too far to seaward.



Parker gave Nelson the twelve ships-of-the-line with the shallowest drafts, and all the smaller ships in the fleet. Parker himself stayed to the north-east of the battle with the heavier ships – whose deeper drafts did not allow them to safely enter the channel – screening Nelson from possible external interference and moving towards Copenhagen to engage the northern defences. Nelson transferred his command from the large 98-gun HMS St George to the shallower 74-gun HMS Elephant for this reason.

On March 30th Nelson, and his second-in-command, Rear Admiral Thomas Graves, accompanied by Captain Domett and the commanding officer of the troops (who?) sailed in the hired lugger Lark to reconnoitre the Danish defences at Copenhagen. They found the defences to be strong and so spent the evening discussing the plan. Fixed batteries had a significant advantage over ship borne cannon owing to their greater stability and larger guns, and the Danes could reinforce their ships during the battle. On the other hand, their ships were a motley collection, many of them small, and out-gunned if engaged by the whole of Nelson’s force.

Nelson’s plan was for the British ships to approach the weaker, southern end of the Danish defences in a line parallel to the Danish one. As the foremost ship drew alongside a Danish ship, it would anchor and engage that ship. The remainder of the line would pass outside the engagement until the next British ship drew alongside the next Danish ship, and so on. The frigate HMS Desirée, together with small gun-brigs, would rake the Danish line from the south, and a force of frigates, commanded by Captain Edward Riou of HMS Amazon, would attack the northern end of the line. Troops would land and assault the Tre Kroner fortress once the fleet had subdued the Danish line of ships. Bomb vessels would sit outside the British line and bombard the Danes by firing over it. Should the British be unable to subdue the stronger, northern defences, the destruction of the southern ships would be enough to allow the bomb vessels to approach within range of the city and force negotiations to prevent the bombardment of the city.


With a southerly wind on 2nd of April, Nelson picked his way through the shoals. However, HMS Agamemnon ran aground before entering the channel, and took no part in the battle. Then HMS Russell and HMS Bellona ran aground on the Middle Ground, severely restricting their role in the battle. The loss of the three vessels required hurried changes in the line and weakened the force’s northern end.

The Danish batteries started firing at 10:05 am, the first half of the British fleet were engaged in about half an hour, and the battle was general by 11:30 am. Once the British line was in place there was very little manoeuvring. The British ships anchored by the stern about a cable from the line of Danish ships and batteries, which was relatively long range, and the two exchanged broadsides until a ship ceased firing. The British encountered heavy resistance, partly because they had not spotted the low-lying floating batteries, and partly because of the courage with which the Danes fought. The northern Danish ships, which were rigged and manned, did not enter the battle but remained on station as reserve units, even though the wind direction forced Parker’s squadron to approach only slowly.

At 1 pm, the battle was still in full swing. Prøvesteenen ’​s heavier fire would have destroyed HMS Isis if it hadn’t been raked by Desirée, assisted by HMS Polyphemus. HMS Monarch suffered badly from the combined fires of Holsteen and Sjælland.

Signal to retreat

Admiral Parker could see little of the battle owing to gun smoke, but could see the signals on the three grounded British ships, with Bellona and Russell flying signals of distress and Agamemnon a signal of inability to proceed. Thinking that Nelson might have fought to a stand-still but might be unable to retreat without orders (the Articles of War demanded that all ranks ‘do their utmost’ against the enemy in battle), at 1:30pm Parker told his flag captain, “I will make the signal of recall for Nelson’s sake. If he is in condition to continue the action, he will disregard it; if he is not, it will be an excuse for his retreat and no blame can be imputed to him.”

Nelson ordered that the signal be acknowledged, but not repeated. He turned to his flag captain, Thomas Foley, and said “You know, Foley, I only have one eye — I have the right to be blind sometimes,” and then, holding his telescope to his blind eye, said “I really do not see the signal!” Rear Admiral Graves repeated the signal, but in a place invisible to most other ships while keeping Nelson’s ‘close action’ signal at his masthead. Of Nelson’s captains, only Riou, who could not see Nelson’s flagship HMS Elephant, followed Parker’s signal. Riou withdrew his force, which was then attacking the Tre Kroner fortress, exposing himself to heavy fire that killed him.


It was at this time that the battle swung decisively to the British, as their superior gunnery took effect. The guns of the dozen southernmost Danish ships had started to fall silent owing to the damage they had sustained, and the fighting moved northward. According to British eyewitness accounts, much of the Danish line had fallen silent by 2 pm. The cessation of firing left the way open for the British bomb vessels to approach Copenhagen. In addition, the reinforcements of the ships from the shore batteries were causing the latter to become ineffective.

Nyborg tried to leave the line with Aggershuus in tow, but both sank. The most northerly ship, the frigate Hjælperen, successfully withdrew. The Danish commander, Commodore Olfert Fischer, moved from Dannebrog at 11:30 am, when it caught fire, to Holsteen. When Indfødsretten, immediately north of Holsteen, struck its colours at about 2:30 pm, he moved on to the Tre Kroner fortress. There he engaged three of Parker’s ships, which had lost their manoeuvrability after being badly damaged and had drifted within range. Indfødsretten resumed firing after Captain Schrodersee was ferried to it and took command of the ship.

Perhaps because of inexperienced crews, several Danish ships fired on British boats sent out to them after their officers had signalled their surrender. Nelson said that he “must either send on shore and stop this irregular proceeding, or send in our fire ships and burn them” and went to his cabin to write a note to the Danes. He sent it with a Danish-speaking officer, Captain Sir Frederick Thesiger, under a flag of truce to the Danish-Norwegian regent, Crown Prince Frederik, who had been watching the battle from the ramparts of the Citadel.

To the Brothers of Englishmen, the Danes

Lord Nelson has directions to spare Denmark when she is no longer resisting, but if firing is continued on the part of Denmark, Lord Nelson will be obliged to set on fire the floating batteries he has taken, without having the power of saving the brave Danes who have defended them.


Some British and Danish officers[who?] thought the offer of a truce a skilful ruse de guerre, and some historians who? have suggested that the battle would have been lost if it had not been adopted. Many of the British ships, like many of the Danish ships in the battle, could not carry on fighting much longer. Furthermore, neither side had deployed the ships which they both held in reserve, of which the Danish reserve was arguably the larger, and the truce effectually prevented this deployment at a moment where the British fleet was exposed. Though the British had lost no ships, most were severely damaged and three ships of the line had lost all their manoeuvrability and had at the time of the truce drifted within the range of Tre Kroner ’​s heavy guns which, like the other fortresses, had until then been out of range of the British ships. All action ceased when Crown Prince Frederick sent his Adjutant General, Hans Lindholm (a Danish member of parliament), asking for the reason for Nelson’s letter. He who? was asked to put it in writing, which he did, in English, while making the joke:

If your guns are not better pointed than your pens, then you will make little impression on Copenhagen.

In reply, Nelson wrote a note:

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 Sovereign, and His Majesty the King of Denmark.


which was sent back to the Crown Prince. He then referred Lindholm to Parker on HMS London. Following him there at 4 pm, a twenty-four hour ceasefire was agreed.


After fighting had ended, the Danish flagship Dannebrog exploded at 4:30 pm, killing 250 men. By the end of the afternoon, three more badly-damaged British ships ran aground, including Elephant. The Danish-Norwegian ships had been partly manned by volunteers, many having little or no naval experience, and as they were not all listed after the battle, it is uncertain what the exact Danish-Norwegian losses were. Estimates vary between 1,135 to 2,215 captured, killed or wounded. The official report by Olfert Fischer estimated the Danish-Norwegian casualties to be between 1,600 and 1,800 captured, killed or wounded.[citation needed] According to the official returns recorded by each British ship, and repeated in dispatches from Nelson and forwarded by Parker to the Admiralty, British casualties were 264 killed and 689 wounded.

Of the Danish ships engaged in the battle, two had sunk, one had exploded, and twelve had been captured. The British could not spare men for manning prizes as they feared that further battles were to come. They burned eleven of the captured ships, and only one, Holsteen, was sailed to England with the wounded under surgeon William Fergusson. Holsteen was then taken into service with the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Holstein.

Subsequent events

The next day, Nelson landed in Copenhagen to open negotiations. Colonel Stewart reported that “the population showed an admixture of admiration, curiosity and displeasure”. In a two-hour meeting with the Crown Prince (who spoke English), Nelson was able to secure an indefinite armistice. He then tried to convince first Fischer (whom he had known in the West Indies), and then the Prince, of British protection against the Russians. Negotiations continued by letter and on the 8th of April Nelson returned in person with a formal agreement.

The one sticking point out of the seven articles was a sixteen-week armistice to allow action against the Russians. At this point Stewart claims that one of the Danes turned to another and said in French that disagreement might lead to a renewal of hostilities. “Renew hostilities!” responded Nelson, and turning to his interpreter said “Tell him that we are ready in a moment; ready to bombard this very night!” Hurried apologies followed (the British fleet now occupied positions that would allow the bombardment of Copenhagen) and agreement was reached and signed the next day. The armistice was reduced to fourteen weeks, but during it Armed Neutrality would be suspended and the British were to have free access to Copenhagen. Danish prisoners were also paroled. In the final hour of negotiations, the Danes found out (but not the British) that Tsar Paul had been assassinated. This made the end of the League of Armed Neutrality very likely and freed the Danes from the fear of Russian reprisals against them, allowing them to easily come to agreement. The final peace agreement was then signed on the 23rd of October 1801.

On the 12th April, Parker sailed to Karlskrona and on the British approach, the Swedish fleet returned to the port where Parker attempted to persuade them to also leave the League. Parker refused to sail into the eastern Baltic and instead returned to Copenhagen, where he found that news of his lack of vigour had reached London. On the 5th of May he was recalled and ordered to hand his command over to Nelson. Nelson sailed eastwards again and leaving six ships-of-the-line at Karlskrona, he arrived at Reval on the 14th of May to find that the ice had melted and the Russian fleet had departed for Kronstadt. He also found out that negotiations for ending the Armed Neutrality had started and so withdrew on 17 May. As a result of the battle, Lord Nelson was created Viscount Nelson of the Nile.

This was not to be the end of the Danish-Norwegian conflict with the British. In 1807 similar circumstances led to another British attack, in the Second Battle of Copenhagen.

Ships involved
United Kingdom
Nelson’s squadron
Polyphemus 64 (Captain John Lawford)
Isis 50 (Captain James Walker)
Edgar 74 (Captain George Murray)
Ardent 64 (Captain Thomas Bertie)
Glatton 54/56 (Captain William Bligh)
Elephant 74 (flag of Vice-Adm. Lord Nelson, Captain Thomas Foley)
Ganges 74 (Captain Thomas Francis Fremantle)
Monarch 74 (Captain James Robert Mosse
Defiance 74 (2nd flag of Rear-Adm. Thomas Graves, Captain Richard Retalick)
Russell 74 (Captain William Cuming)
Bellona 74 (Captain Thomas Boulden Thompson)
Agamemnon 64 (Captain Robert Devereux Fancourt)
Désirée 36 (Captain Henry Inman)
Amazon 38 (Captain Edward Riou
Blanche 36 (Captain Graham Eden Hamond)
Alcmène 32 (Captain Samuel Sutton)
Jamaica 24 (Captain Jonas Rose)
Arrow (ship-sloop, Captain William Bolton)
Dart (ship-sloop, Captain John Ferris Devonshire)
Cruizer (brig-sloop, Cmdr. James Brisbane)
Harpy (brig-sloop, Cmdr. William Birchall)
Discovery (bomb, Cmdr. John Conn)
Explosion (bomb, Cmdr. John Henry Martin)
Hecla (bomb, Cmdr. Richard Hatherhill)
Sulphur (bomb, Cmdr. Hender Whitter)
Terror (bomb, Cmdr. Samuel Campbell Rowley)
Volcano (bomb, Cmdr. James Watson)
Zebra (bomb, Cmdr. Edward Sneyd Clay)
Otter (fireship, Cmdr. George M’Kinley)
Zephyr (fireship, Cmdr. Clotworthy Upton)

Parker’s reserve
London 98 (flag of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, with 1st Captain William Domett and 2nd Captain Robert Walker Otway)
St George 98 (Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy)
Warrior 74 Captain Charles Tyler)
Defence 74 (Captain Henry Paulet)
Saturn 74 (Captain Robert Lambert)
Ramillies 74 (Captain James William Taylor Dixon)
Raisonnable 64 (Captain John Dilkes)
Veteran 64 (Captain Archibald Collingwood Dickson)

Fischer’s division in the King’s Deep
(order south – north. Only Siælland and Holsteen were in good condition, also note the age of the ships.)
Prøvesteenen 52/56 (3-decker battleship, rebuilt as a two-deck defensionsskib (“Defense-ship”), Kaptain L. F. Lassen
Wagrien 48/52 (2-decker ship of the line, 1775), Kaptajn F.C. Risbrich
Rendsborg 20 (pram), Kaptajnløjtnant C.T.Egede
Nyborg 20 (pram) Kaptajnløjtnant C.A. Rothe
Jylland 48/54 (Originally 70 gun 2-decker ship of the line, 1760), Kaptajn E.O.Branth
Sværdfisken 18/20 (radeau, 1764),Sekondløjtnant S.S. Sommerfeldt
Kronborg 22 (frigate, 1779), Premierløjtnant J.E. Hauch
Hajen 18/20 (radeau, 1793), Sekondløjtnant J.N. Müller
Dannebrog 60 (flag, 2-decker ship of the line, 1772), Kaptajn F.A. Bruun
Elven 10 (frigate, 1800), Kaptajnløjtnant H. Holsten
Flådebatteri No. 1 20 (Grenier’s float/Floating Battery No. 1 1787), Søløjtnant Peter Willemoes
Aggershus 20 (Defensionsfartøj “Defence vessel”) 1786), Premierløjtnant T. Fassing
Siælland 74 (2-decker ship of the line, 1776), Kaptajn F.C.L. Harboe
Charlotte Amalia 26 (Old Danish East Indiaman), Kaptajn H.H. Kofoed
Søehesten 18 (radeau 1795), Premierløjtnant B.U. Middelboe
Holsteen 60 (ship of the line, 1772), Kaptajn J. Arenfelt
Indfødsretten 64 (2-decker ship of the line, 1778), Kaptajn A. de Turah
Hielperen 16 (frigate), Premierløjtnant P.C. Lilienskiold

Fischer’s division in the Inner Run
(These ships did not see action)
Elephanten 70
Mars 74
Sarpen 18-gun brig
Nidelven 18-gun brig
Danmark 74
Trekroner 74 (not to be confused with Tre Kroner fortress)

Sea battery TreKroner 68 guns.
Sea Battery Lynetten ? guns.
Land battery Sixtus ? guns.
Land battery Quintus ? guns.
Fortress Kastellet ? guns.

Steen Bille’s division
These ships did not see action, the list is incomplete. Around 14 modern ships of the line and the same number of smaller ships were kept in the harbour.
Iris 40


The death of Tsar Paul of Russia changed the diplomatic scene and reduced the political importance of the battle, and material losses in the battle were of little importance to the fighting strength of either navy (the Danish side had taken great care to spare its first-class ships), it did however demonstrate that British determination to ensure continued naval superiority in the war against France was supreme.


The Second Battle of Copenhagen (or the Bombardment of Copenhagen) from the (16th August – 5th September 1807) was a British bombardment of Copenhagen in order to seize the Dano-Norwegian fleet, during the Napoleonic Wars. The attack gave rise to the term to Copenhagenize.


Despite the defeat and loss of many ships in the first Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, Denmark-Norway, possessing Schleswig-Holstein and Iceland, still maintained a considerable navy. The majority of the Danish army under the Crown Prince was at this time defending the southern border against possible attack from the French.

There was concern in Britain that Napoleon might try to force Denmark to close the Baltic Sea to British ships, perhaps by marching French troops into Zealand. The British believed that access to the Baltic was “vitally important to Britain” for trade as well as a major source of necessary raw materials for building and maintaining warships, and that it gave the Royal Navy access to help Britain’s allies Sweden and (before Tilsit) Russia against France. The British thought that after Prussia had been defeated in December 1806, Denmark’s independence looked increasingly under threat from France. George Canning’s predecessor as Foreign Secretary, Lord Howick, had tried unsuccessfully to persuade Denmark into a secret alliance with Britain and Sweden.

The reports of French diplomats and merchants in northern Europe made the British government feel uneasy and by mid-July the British believed that the French intended to invade Holstein in order to use Denmark against Britain. Some reports suggested that the Danes had secretly agreed to this. The Cabinet decided to act and on the 14th July Lord Mulgrave obtained from the King permission to send a naval force of 21 to 22 ships to the Kattegat for surveillance of the Danish navy in order to pursue “prompt and vigorous operations” if that seemed necessary. The Cabinet decided on the 18th of July to send Francis Jackson on a secret mission to Copenhagen to persuade Denmark to give its fleet to Britain. That same day the Admiralty issued an order for more than 50 ships to sail for “particular service” under Admiral James Gambier. On 19th of July Lord Castlereagh, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, ordered General Lord Cathcart at Stralsund to go with his troops to the Sound where they would get reinforcements.

On 21st of January 1808, Lord Hawkesbury told the House of Lords that he received information from someone on the Continent “that there were secret engagements in the Treaty of Tilsit to employ the navies of Denmark and Portugal against this country”. He refused to publish the source because he said it would endanger their lives. During the night of 21/22 July Canning received intelligence from Tilsit that Napoleon had tried to persuade Alexander I of Russia to form a maritime league with Denmark and Portugal against Britain. Spencer Perceval, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, wrote a memorandum setting out the government’s case for sending forces to Copenhagen: “The intelligence from so many and such various sources” that Napoleon’s intent was to force Denmark into war against Britain could not be doubted. “Nay, the fact that he has openly avowed such intention in an interview with the E[mperor] of R[ussia] is brought to this country in such a way as it cannot be doubted. Under such circumstances it would be madness, it would be idiotic… to wait for an overt act”.

The British assembled a force of 25,000 troops, and the vanguard sailed on 30th of July; Jackson set out the next day. Canning offered Denmark a treaty of alliance and mutual defence, with a convention signed for the return of the fleet after the war, the protection of 21 British warships and a subsidy for how many soldiers Denmark kept standing. On 31st of July Napoleon ordered Talleyrand to tell Denmark to prepare for war against Britain or else Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte would invade Holstein. Neither Talleyrand nor Jackson persuaded the Danes to end their neutrality so Jackson went back to the British fleet assembled in the Sound on the 15th of August. The British published a proclamation demanding the deposit of the Danish fleet; the Danes responded with “what amounted to a declaration of war”.

On the 12th of August the 32-gun Danish frigate Frederiksværn sailed for Norway from Elsinor and Admiral Lord Gambier sent the 74-gun third rate Defence and the 22 gun sixth rate Comus after her, even though war had not yet been declared. Comus was much faster than Defence in the light winds and so outdistanced her. On the 15th of August 1807 Comus caught Frederiksværn off Marstrand and captured her. The British took her into service as Frederikscoarn.


The British troops under General Lord Cathcart were organised as follows:

Cavalry Brigade : Major General von Linsing–en, 1st, 2nd, 3rd Light Dragoons King’s German Legion
Artillery & Engineers : Major General Bloomfield, 84 field guns & 101 siege guns
First Division : Lieutenant General Sir George Ludlow
Guards Brigade : Major General Finch, 1/Coldstream Guards, 1/3rd Guards
1st Brigade : Brigadier General Warde, 1/28th, 1/79th
Second Division : Lieutenant General Sir David Baird
2nd Brigade : Major General Grosvenor, 1/4th, 1/23rd
3rd Brigade : Major General Spencer, 1/32nd, 1/50th, 1/82nd
4th Brigade : Brigadier General Macfarlane, 1/7th, 1/8th
Reserve : Major General Sir Arthur Wellesley
Brigadier General Stewart, 1/43rd, 2/52nd, 1/92nd, 5 coys. 1/95th, 2/95th
KGL Division : Major General van Drechel
1st Brigade : Colonel du Plat, 6th, 7th, 8th Line Batts.
2nd Brigade : Colonel von Drieburg, 3rd, 4th, 5th Line Batts.
3rd Brigade : Colonel von Barsse, 1st and 2nd Line Batts.
4th Brigade : Colonel von Alten, 1st and 2nd Light Batts.
The Danish forces in the city amounted to 5,000 regular troops and a similar number of militia. Most of the civilian inhabitants of Copenhagen were evacuated in the few days before Copenhagen was completely invested.

On the 26th of August General Wellesley was detached with his Reserve and two light brigades of British artillery, as well as one battalion, eight squadrons and one troop of horse artillery from the KGL to disperse a force which had been sent to relieve the beleaguered city. On the 29th of August, at the rivulet of Køge, this significant British force swiftly overpowered the Danish troops which amounted to only three or four regular battalions and some cavalry.

The Danes rejected British demands, so the British fleet under Admiral Gambier bombarded the city from the 2nd to the 5th September 1807. In addition to the military casualties, the British bombardment of Copenhagen killed some 195 civilians and injured 768.

The bombardment had included 300 Congreve Rockets, which caused fires.[a] Due to the civilian evacuation, the normal firefighting arrangements were ineffective; over a thousand buildings were burned.

On the 5th of September the Danes sued for peace and the capitulation was signed on the 7th of September. Denmark agreed to surrender its navy and its naval stores. In return the British undertook to leave Copenhagen within six weeks.

Peymann had been under orders from the Crown Prince to burn the Danish fleet, which he failed to do, though the reason for his failure to do so is unknown.

Thus, on the 7th of September 1807 Peymann surrendered the fleet (eighteen ships of the line, eleven frigates, two smaller ships, two ship-sloops, seven brig-sloops, two brigs, one schooner and twenty-six gunboats). In addition, the British broke up or destroyed three 74-gun ships-of-the-line on the stocks, along with two of the aforementioned ships-of-the-fleet and two elderly frigates.

After her capture, one ex-Danish ship-of-the-line, Neptunos, ran aground and was burnt on or near the island of Hven. Then, when a storm arose in the Kattegat, the British destroyed or abandoned twenty-three of the captured gunboats. The British added the fifteen captured ships-of-the-line that reached Britain to the British Navy but only four — Christian VII 80, Dannemark 74, Norge 74 and Princess Carolina 74 — saw subsequent active service.

On the 21st of October 1807, the British fleet left Copenhagen for the United Kingdom. However, the war continued until 1814, when the Treaty of Kiel was signed.


The news of what happened did not reach Canning until 16 September. He wrote to Rev. William Leigh: “Did I not tell you we would save Plumstead from bombardment?” One week later he wrote: “Nothing ever was more brilliant, more salutary or more effectual than the success [at Copenhagen]” and Perceval expressed similar sentiments. The Times said that the confiscation of the Danish fleet was “a bare act of self-preservation” and noticed the short distance between Denmark and Ireland or north-east Scotland. William Cobbett in his Political Register wrote that it was “vile mockery” and “mere party cavilling” to claim that Denmark had the means to preserve her neutrality. William Wilberforce MP said the expedition could be defended on grounds of self-defence. Thomas Grenville wrote to his brother Lord Grenville that he could not help feeling “that in their [the government’s] situation we should very probably have given the same order without being able to publish to Parliament the grounds on which we had believed in the hostile mind of Denmark”. Lord Erskine condemned it by saying “if hell did not exist before, Providence would create it now to punish ministers for that damnable measure”.

The opposition claimed the national character was stained and Canning read out in Parliament the previous administration’s plans in 1806 to stop the Portuguese navy falling into the hands of France. Canning and Castlereagh wished to hold Zealand and suggested that when the British evacuated it as part of the peace they should immediately occupy it again. This was strongly opposed by Sir Arthur Wellesley, however, and it did not happen. The opposition claimed that the attack had turned Denmark from a neutral into an enemy. Canning replied by saying that the British were hated throughout Europe and so Britain could wage an “all-out maritime war” against France without worrying who they were going to upset.

The opposition did not at first table a vote of censure on the battle and instead on the 3rd of February 1808 demanded the publication of all the letters sent by the British envoy in Denmark on information regarding the war-readiness of the Danish navy. Canning replied with a three hour speech which Lord Palmerston described as “so powerful that it gave a decisive turn to the debate”. Lord Howick said the speech was “eloquent and powerful” but that it was an “audacious misrepresentation” and “positive falsehood” of the correspondence between himself and Benjamin Garlike. The three motions on this subject were heavily defeated and on the 21st of March the opposition tabled a direct motion of censure on the battle. It was defeated by 224 votes to 64 after Canning made a speech “very witty, very eloquent and very able”.

The British bombing frustrated the first attempt to have a modern edition of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf when the subsequent fire destroyed the 20-year work of scholar Grímur Jónsson Thorkelin. Two manuscripts, however, were recovered and Thorkelin eventually published the poem in 1815.

Ships involved

The following ships sailed with Gambier from England on the 26th of July 1807:

Prince of Wales 98 (flag of Admiral James Gambier, 1st Captain Sir Home Riggs Popham, 2nd Captain Adam Mackenzie)
Pompee 74 (Vice-Admiral Henry Edwyn Stanhope, Captain *Richard Dacres)
Centaur 74 (Commodore Sir Samuel Hood, Captain William Henry Webley)
Ganges 74 (Commodore Richard Goodwin Keats, Captain Peter Halkett)
Alfred 74 (Captain John Bligh)
Brunswick 74 (Captain Thomas Graves)
Captain 74 (Captain Isaac Wolley)
Goliath 74 (Captain Peter Puget)
Hercule 74 (Captain John Colville)
Maida 74 (Captain Samuel Hood Linzee)
Orion 74 (Captain Sir Archibald Collingwood Dickson)
Resolution 74 (Captain George Burlton)
Spencer 74 (Captain Robert Stopford)
Vanguard 74 (Captain Alexander Fraser)
Dictator 64 (Captain Donald Campbell)
Nassau 64 (Captain Robert Campbell)
Ruby 64 (Captain John Draper)
Surveillante 38 (Captain George Collier)
Sibylle 38 (Capt. Clotworthy Upton)
Franchise 36 (Capt. Charles Dashwood)
Nymphe 36 (Capt. Conway Shipley)
The following vessels joined on the 5th of August off Helsingor:

Superb 74 (Captain Donald M’Leod)
The following further vessels joined on 7 August off Helsingor:

Minotaur 74 (Rear-Admiral William Essington, Captain Charles John Moore Mansfield)
Valiant 74 (Captain James Young)
Inflexible 64 (Captain Joshua Rowley Watson)
Leyden 64 (Captain William Cumberland)
The following vessels joined on 8 August or later:

Defence 74 (Captain Charles Ekins)
Mars 74 (Captain William Lukin)
Agamemnon 64 (Captain Robert Devereux Fancourt)
Africaine 32 (Capt. Richard Raggett)
Lieutenant-General Lord Cathcart arrived in the Africaine on the 12th of August to take command of the ground forces.

In addition, there were another three dozen smaller frigates, sloops, bomb vessels, gun-brigs and schooners (e.g.HMS Rook attached to the British fleet), and a very large number of merchant or requisitioned ships carrying troops or supplies.

Ships surrendered

The Danes surrendered the following warships on the 7th of September under the terms of the capitulation following the attack:


Christian den Syvende 84 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Christian VII 80
Neptunus 80 – sailed for Britain, but wrecked and burned en route
Valdemar 80 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Waldemar 80
Danmark 76 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Danmark 74
Norge 78 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Norge 74
Fyen 70 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Fyen 74
Kronprins Friderich 70 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Kron Princen 74
Tre Kroner 74 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Tree Kronen 74
Arveprins Friderich 70 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Heir Apparent Frederick 74
Skjold 70 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Skiold 74
Odin 74 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Odin 74
Justitia 74 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Justitia 74
Kronprinsesse Maria 70 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Kron Princessen 74
Prindsesse Sophia Frederica 74 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Princess Sophia Frederica 74
Prindsesse Caroline 66 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Princess Carolina 74
Ditsmarsken 60 – not sailed to Britain, but deemed useless and burnt
Mars 64 – not sailed to Britain, but deemed useless and burnt on Saltholm
Sejeren 64 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Syeren 64

Perlen 46 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Perlen 38
Rota 40 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Rota 38
Freja 40 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Freya 36
Iris 40 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Iris 36
Najaden 44 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Nyaden 36
Havfruen 40 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Hasfruen 36
Nymfen 36 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Nymphen 36
Venus 36 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Venus 36
Frederiksten 26 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Frederickstein 32
St Thomas 22 – not sailed to Britain, but deemed useless and burnt
Triton 24 – not sailed to Britain, but deemed useless and burnt on Saltholm or the Swedish coast.
Lille Belt 20 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Little Belt 20
Fylla 22 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Fylla 20
Eyderen 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Eyderen 18
Elven 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Elvin 18
Glückstadt 12 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Gluckstadt 16

Nidelven 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Nid Elven 16
Sarpen 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as HMS Sarpen 18

Glommen 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Glommen 16
Mercurius 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Mercurius 16
Delphinen 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Delphinen 16
Allart 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Allart 16

Brevdrageren 18 – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Brev Drageren 12
Flyvende Fiske 14 (brig-rigged cutter)– sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Flying Fish 14
Ørnen 10 (schooner) – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Ornen 12


Stege 2 (gunboat) – sailed to Britain, added to Royal Navy as Warning 2
There were a further 25 gunboats similar to the Stege, of which 23 were lost in the October storm in the Kattegat or destroyed rather than be sailed to Britain – these lost were

the Aalborg, Arendal, Assens, Christiansund, Flensborg, Frederiksund,Helsingør, Kallundborg, Langesund, Nakskov, Middelfart, Odense, Roskilde, Rødbye, Saltholmen, Staværn, Svendborg, and Wiborg.
Six gunboats (Faaborg, Holbek, Kjerteminde, Nestved, Nysted and Nykjøbing) abandoned or stranded in the Kattegat were recovered by the Norwegians or Danes and returned to naval use.
Stubbekjøbing had been destroyed by a mortar fired from the land at Svanemølle Bay on 26 August.
Gun Barges

Four barges (stykpram), floating gun platforms each with 20 cannon, were incapable of being moved far and so were scuttled by the British during their occupation of Copenhagen. Of these four barges (Hajen, Kiempen, Lindormen and Sværdfisken) only Hajen was not raised and refurbished by the Danes after the British departure. A further “unsinkable” floating battery ( Flaadebatteri No 1) of twenty four 24-pound cannon was rendered inoperable and decommissioned the following year.

Sourced from Wikipedia