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The Battle of Copenhagen, 2nd April 1801
By the time the news of Nelson's great victory at the Nile had reached England, his reputation as a strategist had already been made. An even greater triumph would follow at Trafalgar whilst in between was another, somewhat overshadowed, victory known to history as the Battle of Copenhagen.
With Nelson as second-in-command to Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, a fleet was sent to the Baltic early in 1801 following Denmark's decision to join the 'Armed Neutrality' against British interests. Parker's orders were to capture or destroy the Danish fleet lying off Copenhagen and he conveyed his outline strategy to Nelson well in advance. Nelson, however, had his own more radical ideas for the assault and, on the evening of 1st April 1801, entertained his officers to discuss the plan he had formulated with his flag-captain Thomas Foley. Nelson had christened Foley and those other veterans of the Nile his 'Band of Brothers' and their personal loyalty to him was unflinching. Together they agreed what had to be done to secure victory and battle was joined the next morning shortly before 10 o'clock. It began well but the Danes were in a strong position. British losses mounted alarmingly and at about 1.00p.m., Hyde Parker signalled H.M.S. Elephant, Nelson's flagship, to discontinue the engagement. In one of the most famous gestures in the history of the Royal Navy, Nelson placed his telescope to his blind eye, turned to Foley and said, "I really do not see the signal." The battle duly continued and after prolonged fighting, a ceasefire was eventually agreed aboard Elephant in the late afternon. It was a costly British victory won only by Nelson's perseverance. That he was encouraged by Foley and the 'Band of Brothers' is certain and the ultimate success of the plan served only to bind Nelson and his officers more closely together in readiness for the final encounter at Trafalgar.
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