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Royal Naval Biography/Morton, Charles


Is descended from a family who for some centuries have farmed a small patrimony in the West-Riding of Yorkshire. His father being a younger son was educated as a professional man, and practised in the British metropolis.

This officer was born in the vicinity of London; and in Oct. 1807, being then very young, embarked as midshipman on board the Volontaire frigate, commanded by the present Captain-Superintendent Charles Bullen, C.B., under whom he had the honor to serve in every ship to which that officer was subsequently appointed. The following is an outline of the services in which he participated during the war.

In 1807, the Volontaire, after conveying the Duke of Orleans and his brother, Count Beaujolois, to Malta, was first attached to the in-shore squadron off Toulon, and from thence sent to cruise on the coast of Catalonia. In 1808, her amiable and distinguished commander was sent on a mission to the emperor of Morocco, and succeeded in obtaining permission for supplies of cattle, grain, &c., to be exported from his dominions for the support of the allied forces in the European peninsula. In 1809, the island of Pomigue near Marseilles, was taken possession of, after a desperate resistance on the part of the enemy; and Fort Rioux, near Cape Croisette, destroyed by detachments landed from the Volontaire. Her boats subsequently assisted at the capture and destruction of a French convoy in the bay of Rosas, in 1810, she was very actively employed in co-operation with the Spanish patriots, between Rosas and Barcelona.

On the 12th and 14th April, 1811, Captain Bullen, then commanding the Cambrian frigate, took possession of the towns of St. Philon and Palamos, destroyed the batteries of both places, and embarked the guns. On the 16th he reported to his commander-in-chief, the surrender of Figueras to the Spaniards. He afterwards captured nineteen merchant vessels at Cadaques, and received a severe wound while in a battery on shore, at Selva. In June 1811, the Cambrian was employed in the defence of Tarragona; after the fall of which place she brought home a considerable number of French prisoners from Malta.

In 1812, 1813, and 1814, Captain Bullen being on half-pay, Mr. Morton served in the Bulwark and Pompée, third rates. In the beginning of Jan. 1815, he passed his examination; and about the same period, re-joined Captain Bullen, in the Akbar, a double-banked frigate, fitted out for the purpose of coping with the American ships of that description. In April following, he was sent from Flushing to Antwerp, with despatches for Sir T. Byam Martin, then employed on a particular service, by whom ho was appointed acting lieutenant of the Akbar, in which capacity he served until confirmed by the Admiralty, on his return from the Halifax station, Dec. 10th, 1810.

In 1819, Lieutenant Morton exhibited at the Royal Academy, of which he is now an honorary member, a sketch of the tomb of Abelard and Heloise, in the burial ground of Pere la Chaise, near Paris.

In Dec. 1823, Captain Bullen was nominated to the chief command on the African station, and Mr. Morton appointed to accompany him thither in the Maidstone frigate. Between May 1824 and June 1827, that ship captured nineteen vessels, with 2595 slaves on board; and five others, laden with dry goods for slave barter, all of which were condemned as prizes at Sierra Leone. The total number of vessels engaged in this hateful traffic, captured by the squadron under the orders of Commodore Bullen, was fifty-nine, and the number of slaves, ten thousand eight hundred and fourteen. In addition to this, the Maidstone and her consorts rendered very essential assistance to the troops on the Western coast of Africa during the progress of the Ashantee war.

The Maidstone was paid off at Portsmouth, on the 15th Sept. 1827; and her first lieutenant, Mr. Morton, promoted to his present rank on the 6th Oct. following.

This officer is the author of “An Essay on the Electrical Formation of Hail Stones, in opposition to the absurd theories of the learned philosophers,” published, we believe, in the early and middle numbers of the Gentleman’s Magazine, and copied into the London Philosophical Magazine, and other periodical works, for 1822. Among other scientific inventions and improvements, he has proved by experiment the great power and rapidity that may be acquired in swimming by artificially increasing the surface of the hands and feet so as to meet (without impediment) such re-action from the water as to prevent the strength being exerted to disadvantage. Equipped with propelling gloves and slippers, a man might reach the shore from a shipwrecked vessel, with the aid of a log-line, when it would be impossible without such assistance.

Commander Morton has a sister married to a physician in Yorkshire; and a younger brother member of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, London.