Report on the Battle by Sjællands Odde

The Captain, C. W. Jessen, of Prinds Christian Frederik’s report on the Battle by Sjællands Odde.

by Claus Christiansen

My most humble report

After weighing from the Rods of Helsinore in the morning on March 21st, sailing between the Hasteens Ground and Sjælland’s Reef in the afternoon; I saw three ships, of which two were identified as warships. The third, sailing towards them, was considered a war-ship as well, although I was not sure. Even though I had the wind from it, it was not favourable to continue to my destination, I then anchored in the evening between the island of Sejerø and Røsnæs.

On the morning of March 22nd, I weighed. The two anchoring warships joined by the third ship, which by now was identified as a frigate, weighed as well. The strength of this frigate could not be recognised, but I estimated the two ships to be at least strong frigates and the third to be a smaller frigate. The wind was easterly, as I weighed. I steered towards the Belt, but shortly after the wind turned to southeast. I decided, being my duty, to head north again in order to seek reinforcement at the Road of Copenhagen. This was the only way to fulfil my obligation. I thereby wanted the enemy ships to chase me.

Shortly after noon I saw two ships coming from the north. The wind became more northerly than easterly, and as I assumed one of the ships to be a 3-deck warship, I tried to sail windward of them, after I had passed between the Ground of Hasteen and Sjælland’s Reef, in order to return to the Sound. I did not succeed. One ship stayed windward of me, the other one sailed before my wake.

Towards 7 p.m the warship STATELY was at my wake within firing range. I fired my guns astern, presumably with good effect. The other warship approached from the north. The frigates beat up against the wind, and I foresaw that PRINDS CHRISTIAN FREDERIK, which I had the honour of commanding, would be victimised. As I could not avoid fighting this massive superior force, I tried to steer for the ground.

Towards 8 p.m. the men of war STATELY and NASSAU, each of the same strength as I, and even stronger as their carronades were 32-pdrs., fired upon me almost simultaneously, one from my starboard, the other from my port side. This heavy attack from two sides lasted for more than 2½ hours. It was returned by us, with such a power, that I am sure it honours all my brave officers and men. Even under the so honourable Danish flag.

For a short period during the battle both ships [STATELY and NASSAU] broke off due to necessary repair. They fell back, but approached again soon afterwards. This did not give us the time to repair the suffered damage. The rudder was shot off, the whole rigging almost entirely destroyed and both sides severely damaged, but I returned another full broadside from the enemy ships. As I was so close to the ground that I was sure that the entrusted ship would not end up as prey of the enemy, I considered it inhuman to sacrifice more brave officers and men under my command. Both the hostile ships approached from land, STATELY close forward at my port side and NASSAU behind at my starboard side.

The ship was almost totally destroyed. I surrendered to STATELY, and in the evening before the 23rd, the ship was set on fire shortly after it hit the ground.

Feeling proud, having the honour of commanding such a brave crew, my heart bleeds reporting that the brave navy officers: First lieutenant Willemoes, Second lieutenant W. Dahlerup, and First lieutenant Soland of the Marines, together with 61 men of the good crew were killed. That commander Rothe, whose steadfastness and bravery is well known to the high Admiralty, together with the brave and zealous lieutenant Top and almost 80 men are severely wounded.

Commander Rothe’s left arm is crushed and his left side severely bruised. Lieutenant Top has lost his right leg. Less significantly wounded are first lieutenant Ferry, who distinguished himself with cold bravery, and the brave Thostrup together with some 40 men.

I am not aware of the enemy loss of men, but the ships’ masts, hulls and rigging have suffered considerably I know. STATELY has to have new masts, and both ships have, in spite of great effort, not finished their repair after 5 days, before weighing for sea again. I know their loss of men was not insignificant.

On the night before the 23rd and during the whole day of 23rd, when the crew of PRINDS CHRISTIAN FREDERIK were to be taken onboard, the onshore wind was hard. This had to be done in such a hurry, (but with due care for the wounded) that neither officers nor crewmen were given time to recover their belongings. For myself only some odd linen and wearing apparel was saved, everything else was burned together with the ship.

On the English ships, officers crewmembers and I have been treated with such care that gives great honour to the commanders and their subordinates. On April 1st the weather was favourable for bringing the fresh crewmembers ashore into the suburbs of Gothenburg. On April 10th the weather allowed bringing the wounded ashore. Together with these, all the gentlemen officers were landed. The superior officers as well as the citizens pay us all due respect. The English consul, Mr. Smith, deserves my thanks. He does the utmost of what his abilities and allowances permit, to comfort the crew.

I am very sad to report that the young cadet Lütken, who showed great manliness during the battle, has lost his life, due to a tragic fall on board the ship STATELY.

As I ask the high Admiralty to forward this humble report to the throne of his Majesty, I have confidence in being recommended as one who has done his most humble duty together with all my brave officers and the rest of the crew. My most humble application is to be, the sooner exchanged the better, in order to serve the most gracious king.

The suburb of Gothenburg, April 13th, 1808.
Most humbly
C. W. Jessen

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Related articles: Kampen ved Sjællands Odde

The weekly newspaper Dannebrog, Saturday July 1st, 1882, No. 40, 2 year.
Published in Dannebrog 1881-1882, by C.E.Gads boghandel, printed at Nielsen and Lydiche, Copenhagen, 1882.