Battle of Zealand Point

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Battle of Zealand Point
Part of the English Wars and the Gunboat War in context of the Napoleonic Wars
Battle of Zealand Point.jpg
Artist's rendition of the Battle at Zealand Point
Date 22 March 1808
Location Sejerø
Result British victory
United Kingdom United Kingdom Denmark Denmark–Norway
Commanders and leaders
George Parker Carl Wilhelm Jessen
3 ships of the line,
1 frigate
1 ship of the line
Casualties and losses
5 dead, 48 wounded and 1 missing 55 dead and 88 wounded

The Battle of Zealand Point was a naval battle of the English Wars and the Gunboat War. Ships of the Danish and British navies fought off Zealand Point on 22 March 1808; the battle was a British victory.


The Danish ship of the line Prins Christian Frederik was stationed in Kristiansand, Norway from 7 August 1807, patrolling waters between Norway and Denmark where Britain had imposed a blockade. In February 1808, Prins Christian Frederik pursued the British ship HMS Quebec into hiding. Having learned of the Danish ship, the British admiralty sent a squadron consisting of HMS Nassau (the former Danish ship-of-the-line Holsteen, taken during the Battle of Copenhagen), HMS  Stately, HMS Vanguard, and two brigs, HMS Constant and HMS Kite, to secure the waters. While this was going on Prins Christian Frederik became frozen in at fredericksværn, near Kristiansand. She therefore did not set sail for Denmark until 4 March.[1]

By the time Prins Christian Frederik reached Denmark, epidemic typhus had broken out among her crew. Ice in the Danish harbours prevented her from docking, and crew were replaced over the ice. On 17 March morale deteriorated further when news arrived that King Christian had died. She was ordered into the Great Belt (Storebælt) strait to provide cover for a crossing of a French army corps consisting of Spanish soldiers ordered by Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte (later King of Sweden) to attack Skåne. Having been alerted to the Danish plan, the British ships give chase. The British ships intended to outmanoeuvre, corner and overpower Prins Christian Frederik; Captain Carl Jessen, after conferring with his officers, decided to take a stand in order to gain enough of a tactical advantage to move into familiar waters and within the protective range of the cannon at Kronborg.


Danish Commemorative stone for the Battle of Zealand Point

In the hours before the battle the Danish ship-of-the-line was within sight of two British warships – the frigate Quebec and the sloop Lynx. At 2 [pm] the sloop, Falcon, who recorded the signal from Quebec ”Danish Line-of-battle-ship to windward”, joined them and cleared for action. Shortly after 4 [pm] Stately and Nassau were sighted to the North East, and the signal, "inforced with a (signal) gun", of the presence of the enemy led to all ships making ”all sail, in chace”. Falcon recorded in her logbook, from a safe distance of five miles, that the battle opened at 7:50 [pm].[2]

At about 7 pm, Stately and Nassau flanked Prins Christian Frederik, which opened fire on Stately. The two British ships returned fire. The initial engagement lasted for two hours, and resulted in the death of one of the Danish officers, Peter Willemoes. After a brief pause, the British ships attacked again and succeeded in driving Prins Christian Frederik onto the sandbar.[citation needed]

The Danish officers surrendered and prisoners were transferred to the British ships. The dead were dumped overboard; the transfer of wounded took until the next morning. After failing in their attempts to tow Prins Christian Frederik off the sand, the British set her on fire; she exploded in the evening of 23 March. The British had evacuated all the Danish prisoners and wounded before they set fire to her.[3]

Stately had four men killed, and 31 officers and men wounded. Nassau lost one man killed, 17 officers and men wounded, and one man missing. Prins Christian Frederik lost 55 men killed and 88 men wounded.[3] In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasps "Stately 22 March 1808" and "Nassau 22 March 1808" to any still surviving crew members of those vessels that chose to claim them.[4]


Prins Christian Frederik was the last of the Danish ships of the line during the Napoleonic Wars. Its loss meant the end to any Danish challenge to British supremacy in Danish territorial waters.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Danish Military History website (in Danish)
  2. ^ Reference: Captain's log of the FALCON 22 March 1808 (National Archives, Kew, London Ref ADM 51/4446)
  3. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 16137. p. 536. 16 April 1808.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 20939. pp. 241–243. 26 January 1849.

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