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The small island of Anholt in the Cattegat, which, it will be recollected, was captured from the Danes in May, 1809, * became this year the scene of a very splendid exploit. The British garrison at present upon it consisted of 350 royal marines and 31 marine artillery ; the marines under the command of Captain Robert Torrens of that corps, and the whole under Captain James Wilkes Maurice of the navy, the governor of the island, and the officer who, six years before, had so distinguished himself in his defence of the Diamond rock. The island of Anholt, in the languishing state of commerce occasioned by the rigorous edicts of Buonaparte, was found very useful to England as a depot and point of communication between her and the continent. Whether Napoleon instigated the Danes to aid his views by expelling the British from Anholt, or that the Danes themselves felt the laudable desire of recovering possession of an island which had formerly belonged to them, certain it is, that preparations for the attack began to be made in the summer of 1810. But, so long as the sea remained open, British cruisers continued to hover round the island ; and the same hard weather, which at length drove the ships into more southern waters, shut up in their lakes and harbours the Danish gun-boats and transports.

The spring came, the ice melted, and the sea of Denmark and its vicinity again admitted the barks of the bold and adventurous to traverse its bosom. So early as on the 23d of March a flotilla, consisting of 12 gun-boats, each mounting two long 24 or 18 pounders, and four brass howitzers, and manned with from 60 to 70 men, having under their protection 12 transport vessels, resembling the gun-boats in appearance, and containing between them, according to the Danish official account, about 1000 troops, including an organized body of 200 seamen, assembled in Gierrild bay. On the 24th the island was reconnoitred, or, in other words, was visited, by an intelligent officer of the Danish navy, first Lieutenant Holstein, in the sacred character of a flag of truce. He soon ascertained that the garrison consisted of less than 400 men, that the lighthouse-fort was the only fortification of importance, and that the sole vessel of war cruising off the island was a small armed schooner. Nothing could be more satisfactory. Accordingly, on the 26th, the flotilla set sail from Gierrild bay ; and on the 27th, at 4 A.M., in the midst of darkness and a heavy fog, the Danish troops disembarked, in perfect order, at a spot distant about four miles to the westward of Fort Yorke, the head-quarters of the garrison, and, being unseen, were of course unopposed.

Since the 10th of February Governor Maurice had received an intimation of the intended attack upon his sovereignty, and had made use of every resource in his power to give a proper reception to the assailant. It was just before dawn on the 26th, that the out-pickets on the south side of the island made the signal for the flotilla's being in sight. The garrison was immediately under arms, and the brigade of four howitzers, covered by 200 rank and file, commanded by the governor in person, having with him Captain Torrens, major-commandant of the battalion, quitted the lines to oppose the landing ; when Captain Maurice, having advanced to a ridge of sand-hills, that runs nearly the whole length of the south side, to reconnoitre, discovered that the Danes had already landed and were then proceeding along the beach beneath him. As the two Danish wings out-flanked the British brigade, and, if the latter continued to advance, would get between the British and their works, Captain Maurice ordered a retreat. Before this could be effected, the corps of 200 Danish seamen, under Lieutenant Holstein, had gained the heights and were advancing with rapidity, cheering the retreat of the howitzers ;

when, a heavy fire from the south-west angle of the Massareene battery obliged them to retire with precipitation to the beach, and soon afterwards to abandon a one-gun battery they had gained, and on which they had hoisted their colours. The Danes then took possession of two houses, and, on being driven from them by the fire of the Yorke and Massareene batteries, sheltered themselves behind the neighbouring sand-hills. Meanwhile the brigade of howitzers, and the British marines that covered them, had regained the works in good order, and without any loss.

As the day opened, the Danish flotilla was observed to have taken a position within point-blank shot of the works. A signal that the enemy had landed, and that the gun-boats had begun the cannonade, was immediately made to the British l8-pounder 32-gun frigate Tartar, Captain Joseph Baker, and 16-gun brig-sloop Sheldrake, Captain James Pattison Stewart, on the north side of the island, where they had only arrived the day before from England ; and who, the instant they heard the firing, had got underway to attack the Danish gun-boats. Captain Maurice having signified, by telegraph, that the Sheldrake would be serviceable on the north side, the Tartar made the signal for the brig to remain behind, and stood on alone. The wind being from the westward, the Tartar had either to run 10 or 11 miles to leeward, to get round the reef extending from the east end of the island, or to beat up a still greater distance, in order to weather that branching off from its north-west part. Rightly considering that the knowledge of the frigate's being near the island, a circumstance of which the Danes were then ignorant, would make a considerable impression, Captain Baker resolved on going to leeward, round the shoal of Knoben, that being a course which would the sooner bring the Tartar in sight of the invaders.

Meanwhile the main division of the Danish army, under the orders of the commander-in-chief, Major Melstedt, had crossed the island and taken up a position on the northern shore, covered by hillocks of sand and inequality of ground. A detachment from this division, consisting, says the Danish official account, of 150 men, under Captain Reydez, advanced with uncommon bravery to the assault : but the discharges of grape and musketry from Forts Yorke and Massareene, which swept the plain and beach, obliged them to approach by degrees from sand-hill to sand-hill. The Danes rallied often and courageously, but were at length beaten back. Lieutenant Holstein's division, on the south side had by this time succeeded in bringing up a field piece, which enfiladed the Massareene battery. The apparent success of this induced Major Melstedt to order a general assault. The Danish troops pushed boldly forward, and the Danish gun boats opened their fire ; but the discharges of grape and musketry from the British batteries were irresistible. Major Melstedt was killed by a musket-ball when gallantly leading on his men ; the next in command, Captain Reydez, had both his legs shot away by a cannon-ball ; and another cannon-shot put an end to the life of the gallant Lieutenant Holstein. The incessant fire from the batteries had already strewed the plain with killed and wounded and just at this moment, the Anholt schooner, a small armed vessel attached to the island, manned by volunteers and commanded by Lieutenant Henry Loraine Baker, anchored close to the northern shore, on the flank of the besiegers. The sand-hills being no longer a protection, and finding it impossible either to advance or retreat, the assailants hung out a flag of truce, and offered to surrender upon terms ; but Governor Maurice would accept of nothing less than an unconditional surrender, and to that, after some deliberation, the Danes acceded.

The gun-boats on the south side, observing the approach of the Tartar, had in the mean while got under way and steered to the westward. Thus abandoned, and having no means of retreat, the Danes on this side also hung out a flag of truce. An officer from the works went to meet it, and must have smiled when he found the object of the truce was to call upon the British to surrender. However, the Danes very soon withdrew their claim ; and consented themselves to surrender as prisoners of war ; making, with those that had surrendered on the north side, a total of 520 officers and men, exclusive of 23 wounded. The remaining half of the assailants had fled towards the west end of the island, whither the gun-boats and transports had proceeded, in order to embark them. Captain Maurice, accompanied by Captain Torrens, immediately marched in that direction, with the brigade of howitzers and about 40 men, all that could be spared with reference to the safety of the prisoners ; but the formidable appearance of the Danes preserved them from molestation, and they embarked without further loss. That previously sustained amounted to between 30 and 40 killed, including four principal officers and the wounded as already enumerated ; and the loss on the British side amounted to two men killed and 30 wounded, including among the latter Captain Torrens, slightly.

Being enabled to sweep directly to windward, and from their light draught of water, to pass within the western reefs, the gun-boats were at the point of embarkation long before the Tartar could get near them ; nor could the Sheldrake molest them, she being to leeward. Having re-embarked the remainder of the troops, the flotilla, at about 4 P.M., made sail in the direction of the Sheldrake, but shortly afterwards separated, eight of the gun-boats and nearly the whole of the transports steering for the coast of Jutland and the remaining four gun-boats and an armed transport running before the wind towards the coast of Sweden.

While the Tartar stood after the division standing for Jutland the Sheldrake pursued that endeavouring to escape to Sweden. At 4 h. 30 m. p.m. the Sheldrake opened a heavy, fire, and presently captured No. 9 gun-boat, mounting two long 18-pounders and four brass howitzers, with a lieutenant of the Danish navy and 64 men. Having removed the prisoners, the brig resumed the chase, and at 8 p.m. overtook, and after the exchange of a few shot captured, a large lugger No. 1, mounting two long 24-pounders and four brass howitzers, with a lieutenant and 60, out of a complement of 70 men. Another gun-boat, as declared by several of the Sheldrake's people, and acknowledged to be missing by the Danes, was sunk by the brig's shot. The Sheldrake, on her part, sustained no loss and very slight damage.

The division, of which the Tartar was in chase, separated, and three of the transports steered for the island of Lessoe. These the frigate pursued, and succeeded in capturing two ; one with 22 soldiers and a considerable quantity of ammunition on board, the other laden with provisions. Soon afterwards the shoal water to the southward of the island obliged the Tartar to haul off and discontinue the chase. Thus ended the Danish expedition to Anholt ; an expedition, in the conduct of it, highly creditable to both parties ; for, if the British gained honour by their victory, the Danes lost none by their defeat.

Captain Maurice, in his official letter, computes the whole Danish force employed in this expedition at 4000 men. The private letter of a British officer present at the attack reduces that amount to one half. Our contemporary states the number at 1590 men ;* and, although Captain Brenton gives the Danes more gun-boats and transports than, it appears, they had with them, we see no objection to his estimate of the aggregate number of troops and seamen.


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<h2>Governor of Anholt</h2>

Maurice was made Governor of Anholt in August 1810, a Danish island in the Kattegat captured in May the previous year during the Gunboat War.[17][18] He had a force of 400 marines under his command, while British frigates patrolled the approaches to the island. These patrols prevented any Danish attack, except possible for a few weeks during the beginning and end of the winter freeze, when the supporting ships would be off station.[17][18] It was expected that the Danes or French would attempt to recapture it, and Maurice was forewarned of a Danish attack that began on 27 March 1811.[17]Maurice recorded that the enemy force attacked the British in their well prepared positions, but were driven off after four and a half hours of fighting. The Naval Chronicle recorded

It is proper to mention, that the assaulting force consisted of a Danish flotilla, of 33 sail, amongst which, according to our Gazette account, were 18 heavy gun-boats, carrying nearly 3,000 men. Our little garrison, including officers, seamen, marines, &c, amounted to only 350 men; yet with the loss of only two killed and 30 wounded, we killed the Danish commander, three other officers, and 50 men; and took prisoners, besides the wounded, five captains, nine lieutenants, and 504 rank and file! Three pieces of artillery, 500 muskets, and 6,000 rounds of cartridge, also fell into our possession; and two gunboats, and 250 more prisoners, were taken by his Majesty's ships Sheldrake and Tartar, in their retreat!

<cite>—The Naval Chronicle, volume 25, pp. 343-9</cite>

Though this account was probably exaggerated, the battle remained a crushing defeat for the Danes, who were unaware of the presence of the two frigates, HMS Tartar and HMS Sheldrake, when they made their attack.[18] Maurice was presented with a sword by the garrison, and continued at Anholt until September 1812.[17][18]


Sidst opdateret:  20:29 23/09 2014

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