Charles Morris papers 1801-1861
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Biography

Charles Morris was born on July 26, 1784, in Woodstock, Connecticut, the son of Charles Morris and Miriam Nichols. His father’s position as a purser for the Navy in the Quasi-War with France allowed Charles to get an appointment as a midshipman in 1799, when he was 15. Morris was onboard the Constitution as it sailed to Tripoli in 1803 and Stephen Decatur selected him to participate in the raid to destroy the captured Philadelphia , whose deck Morris was the first to reach.

By the outbreak of the War of 1812, Morris was first lieutenant under Captain Isaac Hull on the Constitution . Morris famously aided in evading a British squadron by suggesting kedging and towing the Constitution ; later he was badly wounded during the ship's battle with the HMS Guerriere , and received a promotion to captain for his efforts. After his recovery, he commanded the Adams in raiding expeditions against British merchant ships.

After serving on the Congress from 1815 to 1817, Morris commanded the Portsmouth Navy Yard until his appointment to the Navy Board of Commissioners in 1823. He also succeeded Oliver Hazard Perry on an 1819 mission to promote friendly relations with Venezuela after Perry died of yellow fever. Morris then served as navy commissioner from 1823-1827 (except for a mission transporting Lafayette back to France in 1825-1826) and from 1832-1841, and was instrumental in instituting a number of naval reforms. For the last five years of his life, he was chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography. He died on January 27, 1856.

Charles Morris married Harriet Bowen in February 1815, and the couple had four sons and six daughters. One son, Charles W. Morris also served in the United States Navy. He was flag lieutenant under Commodore David Connor and perished in the Mexican-American War from wounds received in an attack on Tabasco, October 1846.