Dates of Service: -
Cotton was born in Massachusetts. His date of birth is unknown.
Charles Cotton joined Constitution’s crew as a surgeon’s mate on February 18, 1811. He was transferred to the Boston Navy Yard on April 27, 1812. He was stationed on USS Hornet. He re-entered Constitution on April 11, 1813. He had the watch assignment of idler and was assigned to the cockpit, where he assisted in tending the wounded. He received his commission as surgeon on July 24, 1813.
Surgeon’s mates assisted the surgeon in his duties (see Surgeon). The surgeon’s mate was akin to the modern medical student gaining valuable on-the-job training. Surgeon’s Mates berthed in the cockpit (or steerage) and ate there with the warrant officers. They received $30.00 per month plus two rations per day.
Surgeons were responsible for the health of the crew and shipboard hygiene. It was the surgeon’s duty to oversee the procurement of medicines and stores for the ship’s hospital department. He was to visit his patients at least twice a day and inform the captain of their progress. He also kept two journals, one of his surgical practice and one of his physical practice, and sent them to the Navy Office at the end of each cruise. When the ship beat to quarters, the surgeon and his mate’s repaired to the cockpit, on the orlop deck, where they laid out the operation tables and instruments. When battle was not imminent, the surgeon could usually be found in the sick bay, located forward on the berth deck. The surgeon’s expertise was appreciated and he was paid accordingly- $50.00 per month with the option of taking two rations per day. Many surgeons provided their own instruments and paid for medicines from their own pocket. They expected to be reimbursed for these expenses, however. A passage in Amos Evans’ journal suggests the procedure: “Went on shore to the Navy agent’s with a requisition & from thence to the Apothecary shop and bargained for the medicines.”
Battles and Engagements
During his first time on board, the ship was in overhaul at the Washington Navy Yard. During his second time on board, the ship made a war cruise, capturing a small British man-of-war and three merchantmen.
Cotton transferred to Newport Station in Newport, Rhode Island on June 10, 1814. He exchanged places with John A. Kearney. He resigned on December 10, 1823.