Charles William Paterson

1756-1841. He was born at Berwick-on-Tweed, the son of James Paterson, a captain in the 69th Regiment and of his wife, a daughter of Major Charles William Tonyn.

In 1765, under the patronage of his relative and a previous M.P for Berwick, the Earl of Marchmont, Paterson was entered to the books of the Shannon 36, Captain Philip Boteler, and three years later he was placed on the books of the San Antonio 60, commanded by his uncle, Captain George Anthony Tonyn. In 1769 he went to sea aboard the Phoenix 44, serving on the Guinea Coast with his uncle who was by now flying his broad pennant as a commodore. He thereafter served in home waters, at Newfoundland, and in North America from 1772 with the Flora 32, Captain George Collier, and the Rose 20, Captain James Wallace. By 1776 he was aboard the Eagle 64, Captain Henry Duncan, the flagship of Vice-Admiral Lord Howe in North America, being present at the capture of New York in July.

On 3 February 1777 he was commissioned lieutenant of the fireship Strombolo, Commander Samuel Clayton, in which he was present at the capture of Philadelphia in September, and in 1778 he commanded the galley Philadelphia at the defence of New York in July and the operations off Rhode Island in August. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed to the Brune 32, Captain James Ferguson, prior to returning to England on that frigate under the command of Captain William Peere Williams at the end of the year.

In June 1779 Paterson was appointed the first lieutenant of the Ardent 64, Captain Philip Boteler, which ship was captured by the Franco / Spanish fleet off Torbay on 17 August during the Channel Fleet Retreat. Having been released, he joined the Alcide 74, Captain John Brisbane, going out to the Leeward Islands in May 1780 and to New York with Admiral Sir George Rodney’s fleet in the summer. The Alcide was still with the fleet when it returned to the Leeward Islands in November, and she was present at the capture of St. Eustatius on 3 January 1781. Paterson was soon taken aboard the flagship Sandwich 90, Captain Walter Young, and after returning with Admiral Rodney to England aboard the Gibraltar 80, Captain John Symons, he transferred with these officers to the new flagship Formidable 90, which went back out to the Leeward Islands in the winter.


Paterson was first lieutenant of the Ardent 64 at the time of her capture in 1779

At the end of February 1782 he was appointed the acting-captain of the armed ship St. Eustatius, and on 8 April he was promoted commander of the sloop Blast 16, which witnessed the Battle of the Saintes four days later and sailed for Jamaica with Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood’s squadron at the end of May. After serving at the blockade of Cap François, she returned home from Jamaica at the peace and was paid off in April 1783.

After ten years of unemployment, Paterson’s career resumed on the renewal of hostilities with France in 1793 when he was appointed to the store-ship Gorgon 44 on 22 April. She was still taking in stores at Woolwich in June, prior to arriving in the Downs at the beginning of August, and she then went out with the Gibraltar convoy from Portsmouth on the 20th of that month. Most of September appears to have been spent in Devonshire waters before the convoy arrived at Falmouth in early October, from where it finally left for the Mediterranean on 15 October. Paterson was subsequently present in December at the attempted destruction of French fleet following the occupation of Toulon, and his command played a significant part in the evacuation of French royalists from the town after it had been captured by the Republicans.

He was posted captain of the sixth-rate Ariadne 24 on 20 January 1794, and following the successful Corsican Campaign which began in February, he was appointed to the Melpomene 38 after she was captured from the French in August, and which he brought into Portsmouth on 12 November with Vice-Admiral Phillips Cosby’s convoy.

Paterson subsequently experienced five years of shore-going appointments, becoming the inspecting-captain of the Kirkcudbright quota men in 1797, and superintending the refitting at Chatham of the Admiral De Vries 68 in the following year after she had been taken from the Dutch at the Battle of Camperdown. This ship did not in the event join the Navy but was instead taken into the transport service. He returned to active service aboard the Montagu 74 as acting captain for the indisposed Captain John Knight in the Channel from December 1799, and he served as that officer’s flag-captain once Knight returned from illness and raised a commodore’s broad pennant.

In the first week of 1801 Paterson was appointed to the frigate San Fiorenzo 40, joining her at Plymouth and immediately sailing for Portsmouth. After a brief visit to London to get married, he spent some time off St. Helens in February awaiting a fair wind with the Lisbon and Mediterranean convoy, and when it did get away the convoy had to put into the Portland Roads before eventually departing for Portugal from Plymouth on 31 March. Unfortunately, four of his charges were captured by Spanish gunboats in the Gut of Gibraltar when the convoy reached the Mediterranean in the middle of the following month. The San Fiorenzo returned to Portsmouth on 13 July from Malta via the Downs, and days later one of her lieutenants and the sailing master were court-martialled, found guilty, and reprimanded for dereliction of duty in respect of their watch-keeping.

On 9 August 1801 the San Fiorenzo sailed for a brief cruise off Le Havre before returning five days later, and by 18th August she was off Weymouth to attend the royal family on their annual holiday. She was released on 3 September to embark on another cruise off Le Havre, and after a brief return to Portsmouth she was in the Downs by 19 October. Here she remained until 11 November before sailing for Spithead, and she spent some weeks at the anchorage prior to going out on a cruise in February 1802.

In April 1802 reports began circulating regarding the illicit selling of old stores from the San Fiorenzo, a situation that had occasioned the frigate’s crew to complain to the Admiralty. Paterson was immediately superseded and a court martial was ordered both on him and the subordinate officers suspected of being involved in the fraud. Concurrently, two Bow Street Runners were dispatched to Weymouth to apprehend the purchasers of the stores, but upon being threatened they fled back to London. The frigate was ordered around to Torbay and on 13 April Paterson was brought to a court martial for neglect of duty, being found partly guilty of allowing a boat to go onshore with ‘His Majesty’s stores’. He was sentenced to be dismissed the frigate and was mulcted two months’ pay. The San Fiorenzo’s boatswain was found guilty of embezzlement and dismissed the Navy, and the first lieutenant was found guilty of failing to prevent the fraud, and was also dismissed the ship.

Paterson was not re-employed following the re-commencement of war with France in 1803, but in 1810 he was appointed the commandant of Porchester Castle, Portsmouth, which incarcerated French prisoners of war, and where he remained until he joined the guard ship Puissant 74 at Spithead in January 1811. He was obliged to leave that vessel when he was advanced to flag rank on 12 August 1812, he was further promoted vice-admiral on 12 August 1819, and he became an admiral on 10 January 1837. During his retirement he was frequently to be found at social events in the Portsmouth area.

Admiral Paterson died on 10 March 1841 at his residence in East Cosham, Hampshire.

In February 1801 at St. Pancras, he married Jane Ellen Yeates, the daughter of his first cousin, David Yeates, who had served as the registrar for East Florida. They had two sons who joined the Navy, one of whom, George Yeates Paterson, became a lieutenant, whilst a daughter, Charlotte Jane, married Rear-Admiral Sir William Wiseman.

Paterson was an officer who believed in firm discipline, and his efforts in restoring the Montagu to efficiency were praised by his seniors. He was popular with the French prisoners of war at Porchester Castle and when he left the post they put on a theatre performance in his honour.