Captain Nathaniel Blatchford's background and information
Nathaniel James Blatchford was born in 1781 as the heir to his father, Lord Edward Blatchford, the second Viscount Trentham. Following in his father's footsteps, like his father before him, he wished to pursue a career as a Royal Navy officer, and the Viscount Trentham glady used his influence to ensure that Nathaniel had every advantage. Having already been entered into his father's ships using false muster from when he was a boy, Nathaniel would serve only a short time as a midshipman before taking his lieutenant's examination. Standing before senior officers firmly in Lord Trentham's sphere of influence, Nathaniel passed as a matter of course. Entering service as 3rd Lieutenant aboard H.M.S. Montagu in 1792, he participated in the Glorious First of June victory in 1794. Using Nathaniel's participation in that battle to the best of his abilites, Lord Trentham managed to have his son promoted to Master and Commander later that year.
By this time, Nathaniel felt that his father's meddling had made a gap between his actual abilities and the skill required of him as a captain of a ship. Growing resentful and discouraged, he nevertheless accepted command of the sloop Amelia, spending the following year uneventfully escorting convoys in the channel. In January 1797, as swiftly as his father could arrange it, he was made Post-Captain and given the frigate H.M.S. Beaulieu, being present during the Battle of Camperdown. As the Dutch rear guard collapsed, Nathaniel boarded and seized the Dutch frigate Monnikkendam, already heavily battered by the British ships of the line. In the aftermath of the battle, Lord Trentham swiftly made sure that his son was dubbed into the Order of the Bath for his actions.
This was to be the last card Lord Edward Blatchford would play in accelerating his son's career however, as his ship foundered off Cape of Good Hope in 1810, with all hands lost. His titles and estates then went to Nathaniel, making him the third Viscount Trentham and the third Baronet Blatchford. Taking his father's seat in the House of Lords demanded much of Nathaniel's time, and several years were spent attending to his estates with his family at Trentham Hall. Longing for the sea again, and determined to win recognition for himself without outside help, Nathaniel decided to go to sea once more. After having requested to be transferred to the same squadron that his late grandfather served with on the West Indies Station, Nathaniel was commissioned the H.M.S. Resolve and set sail for the Caribbean.
During July 1816, following his orders to harass and disrupt the Spanish trade off the western coast of Cuba while in temporary command of the post ship H.M.S. Banterer, Nathaniel captured a great number of enemy merchantmen. The resulting prize money made him very rich indeed, enabling him to save his dismal finances back in England, and gaining him increased influence in financial and political circles. He also hired architects to enlarge Trentham Hall, adding a new servant wing, an orangery, a new façade in the more modern taste, and a bigger courtyard.
His successful prize hunting continued in August, and although he earned considerable sums by capturing merchantmen, he longed for a fair fight against a warship of the same class as the Banterer. This would prove that the ship, her captain and her crew could fight men-of-war as well, and would not shy away from a chance at glory. His chance came during the days of the 15th, 16th and 17th August. The Spaniards, no doubt in reaction to the increased presence of British cruisers in the area, began patrolling the northern coast of the Isle of Youth with warships. During the aforementioned dates, the Banterer went into single-ship actions with a 20-gun Niagara brig, a 20-gun Mercury brig and a 18-gun Navy Brig of the Spanish Navy, sinking the first and capturing the two latter. These actions, fought honourably and with very few losses among the banterers, semented her captain's love for his ship. The ship's display of potential reached a new peak on August 21st, when the Banterer, unsupported, overtook a Spanish 30-gun Renommee frigate and promtly boarded and carried her. Lord Blatchford would later receive the Distinguished Service Order for these engagements, an honour much cherished by the Banterer's crew.
The aforementioned frigate which Lord Blatchford captured was later bought into the service as H.M.S. Greyhound, and was commissioned to Captain Blatchford in September. It was decided by the Commander-in-Chief of the Jamaica Station that the Greyhound should be stationed at Key West, as the warships and merchantmen found in that area were usually much larger than the common 18-gun Royal Navy vessels crusing around Cuba. It was therefore supposed that the 26-gun Greyhound would seize or destroy said enemy ships more efficiently. She arrived at Key West on September 11th, and captured a Spanish merchant brig as her first prize on her way there. Upon taking command of her, Captain Blatchford brought with him most of the officers and able seamen from the Banterer, making sure that every gun had at least one veteran from his many cruises along the Cuban shores. On September 13th and 14th, the Greyhound conducted her first independent cruise as a Royal Navy man-of-war, and captured three Spanish merchantmen of various sizes and armament. This brought the crew together wonderfully, and whetted their appetite for more prize money.
During the night before September 15th, while sailing along the Cuban shore towards Tumbado, the Greyhound was intercepted by a Spanish 38-gun frigate carrying 12-pounders. This was to be her first single ship action against another warship. The two ships became entangled during a tack, and the enemy was boarded across her forecastle before being carried and taken possession of. This did wonders to the crew's confidence in the ship and her captain, and made her captain very much attached to his ship and her crew. Any division between the old banterers and the new greyhounds dissipated, and the ship's company fought excellently in the actions on September 15th. In these engagements, the Greyhound and H.M.S. Archer, under Captain Sir James Thomson, met with and captured three Spanish warships off Baja, one them a 50-gun frigate. Several successful cruises followed this, and on October 1st 1816, Lord Blatchford received the George Cross, the Squadron's highest medal for gallantry in combat, for his significant string of actions since arriving on the Barcos station in July. Lord Blatchford's good fortune continued well into the new year, and while in command of the Greyhound he conducted a string of cruises off the coast of northern Cuba, capturing a substantial number of large armed merchant ships and indiamen. The Greyhound also continued to prove her worth against several Spanish frigates, including the taking of a 50-gun frigate in a single-ship action off Mariel on October 18th 1816.
At the end of February 1817, the Greyhound was recalled to Port Royal, there to be drydocked and thoroughly repaired. Lord Blatchford had by now published his action reports, and his thoughts on the merits of boarding combat, to the Squadron. On April 2nd 1817, due to his involvement in the Squadron leadership and his combat record, it was announced that Lord Blatchford had been elevated to the grand title and dignity of an Earl. He was granted the earldom of Stafford in Staffordshire, and after being bullied by the Lady Blatchford to acquire a new estate suited to his new title, he bought the run-down Tamworth Castle, near Tamworth town in southeastern Staffordshire. Spending almost the entirety of his hard-earned prize money on restoring and refurbishing the castle, Lord Blatchford spent the next years there while taking care of the particulars of his new earldom. In June 1819, he used his connections to gain command of the H.M.S. Exuberant, waiting for him on the La Mona Station in the West Indies. With no delay, he joined aboard a packet bound for the Caribbean.
The Blatchford Family Tree
Record of Achievement
- June 27th 1819 - Resumes duties as Squadron Commissioner.
- April 2nd 1817 - Promoted to Earl of Stafford, in the County of Staffordshire, due to his combat record and his involvement in the Squadron leadership.
- October 3rd 1816 - Steps down as Chief of Naval Operations.
- October 1st 1816 - Awarded the George Cross for his significant number of victories against enemy vessels between July and October.
- September 1st 1816 - Awarded the Distinguished Service Order for a string of successful engagements off the southern coast of Cuba.
- June 5th 1816 - Awarded a Parliamentary Commendation due to his work on presenting and explaining the Squadron's hierarchy.
- May 5th 1816 - Appointed Chief of Naval Operations.
- May 5th 1816 - Appointed Squadron Commissioner.
- March 1st 1816 - Transferred to the West Indies Station and the St. George Squadron of the White.
Certificates and Letters Patent
- H.M.S. Exuberant, 5th-Rate Frigate, 50 guns
Earlier Commissions of Note: