Cotton, Charles (1753-1812) (DNB00)

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COTTON, Sir CHARLES (1753–1812), admiral, grandson of Sir John Hynde Cotton [q. v.], fourth baronet, of Madingley in Cambridgeshire, and third son of Sir John Hynde, fifth baronet, by Anne, daughter of Alderman Parsons of London, was educated at Westminster. When seventeen years old he became a member of Lincoln's Inn; went for a voyage to the East Indies in a merchant ship; and on his return entered the navy on board the Deal Castle on 24 Oct. 1772. After three years in the Deal Castle he was moved to the Niger, in which he went to North America, and on 29 April 1777 was made lieutenant by Lord Howe. On 3 April 1779 he was promoted to be commander, and on 10 Aug. of the same year was posted to the Boyne, which he brought home and paid off on 17 Nov. 1780. In April 1781 he was appointed to the Alarm, which was ordered to the West Indies, and was one of the repeating frigates in the memorable actions of 9 and 12 April 1782. At the peace the Alarm returned to England, and Cotton had no naval employment till, on 1 March 1793, he was appointed to the Majestic for service in the Channel fleet. In the action of 1 June 1794 the Majestic was next astern of the Royal George, flagship of Sir Alexander Hood, by whom he was personally thanked for his gallant support during the engagement. His name was nevertheless omitted from Howe's despatches, and the gold medal was consequently not awarded to him, an indignity which he shared with many of his brother officers [cf. Caldwell, Sir Benjamin; Collingwood, Cuthbert, Lord]. On 1 Oct. Cotton was moved into the Impregnable, and on 28 Nov. was appointed to the Mars of 74 guns. By the death of his father on 23 Jan. 1795, and the still earlier death of his elder brothers, he succeeded to the baronetcy, but was still commanding the Mars on 16 June 1795, when the squadron under the Hon. William Cornwallis [q. v.] fell in with the French fleet off the Penmarcks. In the retreat which won reputation and fame for Cornwallis, the Mars was for long the sternmost ship, and thus more exposed to the enemy's fire, from which she suffered much damage. On 20 Feb. 1797 Cotton was advanced to flag rank, and in March 1799 hoisted his flag in the Prince as third in command in the Channel fleet. In June, when the French fleet escaped from Brest, Cotton followed it to the Mediterranean, whence he returned off Brest in company with Lord Keith [see Elphinstone, George Keith, Lord Keith]. On 29 April 1802 he was advanced to the rank of vice-admiral, and on the renewal of the war was again appointed to a command in the Channel fleet, in the first instance under Cornwallis, and afterwards under St. Vincent. In 1807 he was appointed commander-in-chief in the Tagus, in which capacity he strongly remonstrated against the convention of Cintra, 22 Aug. 1808, and positively refused to accept it so far as related to the stipulation in favour of the Russian fleet then lying in the Tagus, by which they were to have the option of remaining or returning to Russia without being pursued for a specified time. A special convention was therefore made between Cotton and the Russian admiral, by which the ships were delivered to Cotton, to be restored within six months after the conclusion of peace. Cotton returned to England in December 1808, in which year he was made full admiral, and in March 1810 was appointed to command in the Mediterranean in succession to Lord Collingwood. In May 1811 he was recalled to take command of the Channel fleet in succession to Lord Gambier, and was at Plymouth when, on 23 Feb. 1812, he died suddenly of apoplexy.

He married in 1798 Philadelphia, daughter of Admiral Sir Joshua Rowley, bart., by whom he had two daughters and two sons, the elder of whom was St. Vincent [q. v.]

[Naval Chronicle (with a portrait), xxvii. 354; Ralfe's Nav. Biog. ii. 215.]

J. K. L.