Nathaniel Bateman took over as captain of HMS Northumberland under Commodore Alexander, Lord Colvill, in 1760. He remained with the ship, of which James Cook was the master, until she returned to Britain in November 1762.
Nathaniel Bateman was baptised on 10 March, 1723, at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney. He was the son of Joseph and Grace Bateman. Joseph was a bricklayer from Wapping.
According to a biography of Admiral Rodney, “Nathaniel Bateman… had been raised from the lower deck as a reward for conspicuous gallantry – in his case during Mathews’ ill-starred Battle of Toulon,1 which took place in 1744.
Bateman began his naval career as an able bodied seaman (AB) in HMS Chichester and Marlborough, both of which were present at Toulon, where he impressed sufficiently to be rewarded. However, it would be 12 years, and at least eight other ships, before Bateman received his lieutenant’s commission on 5 July 1756. That was despite him having sat his examination in May 1755—his reward had been a long time coming.
In pursuance, etc of the 27 May 1755, we have examined Mr. Nathaniel Bateman who by certificate appears to be more than 32 years of age, & find he has gone to sea more than thirteen years in the Ships and qualities undermentioned viz
He produceth Journals from the Worcester, Invincible, Raven and Rye. He produceth Certificates from Captains Andrews, Bentley and Saunders of his diligence, etc. He can splice, knot, reef a sail, etc and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman. Dated the 4 June 1755
E.F., J.C., Captain Samuel Cornish
Bateman was promoted commander on 22 September, 1759, immediately after the siege of Quebec, and given command of the sloop Hunter. He was further promoted to post-captain on 31 March, 1760, and appointed captain of HMS Eurus. He remained with the her until 14 August, 1760. A month later Bateman replaced William Adams as captain of Northumberland on 22 September, 1760, under Colvill.
Bateman remained with Colvill and Cook in Northumberland based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, until August 1762, when they all took part in the relief of St. John's, Newfoundland. Bateman left the ship on 8 December, 1762, after she had returned to Britain. Early in the new year, on 24 February, 1763, Bateman moved as captain to HMS Ludlow Castle, remaining with her until 18 July, 1764.
HMS Ludlow Castle: assigned 'Nathaniel Bateman' and 'John Crane'; Africa, W Coast and West Indies.2
Bateman may have commanded Bellona, a guardship at Plymouth, from 1765 to 1767. On 20 February, 1776, he transferred to Winchelsea, being her captain until 25 July, 1778.
Captain Nathaniel Bateman, the Winchelsea at Sheerness. Is ordered to be fitted for sea and no Master, Surgeon or Surgeon's Mate has yet appeared.3
Bateman was next appointed to HMS Yarmouth. On 17 April, 1780, he was still in command of her under Admiral Sir George Rodney when the British engaged the French under Admiral de Guichen off Martinique in the West Indies. Rodney sent out directions and signals that virtually all of his captains found difficult to understand and implement. As a result, the battle proved indecisive. Rodney blamed his captains for not delivering him a famous victory, and was very critical of most of them. Bateman was singled out for a court martial. Effectively, he was a scapegoat. At the court martial in New York, Bateman was found guilty. He apparently insulted the judges after being sentenced.4 He was dismissed from the navy but, on 13 November, 1780, his name appeared on the superannuated captain’s list.
Nathaniel married Hannah Sall (1742-1797) at Marylebone on 29 September, 1767. Together, they had three children, all baptised at Wormley, Hertfordshire: Frances Augusta Bateman (1772 -1801); Mary Ann Bateman (1773-1851); and Charles Philip Boteler Bateman (1776-1857). Charles entered the navy and rose to be a vice-admiral.
Nathaniel Bateman died on 21 March, 1798, at his house in Cowley Street, Westminster. His death being reported in the True Briton newspaper. Bateman left a will.5
It is often stated, without any proper evidence, that James Cook named Bateman’s Bay on the south New South Wales coast to honour his previous captain. However, it is more probable that it was to honour John Bateman, who had been a Lords Commissioner of the Navy in the mid-1750s. Other Lords Commissioners were honoured at the same time, and had Cook wanted to honour a former captain I feel sure it would have been John Simcoe.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 40, volume 46, number 2 (2023).
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