1 Apr 2014

Henry Morgan


Sir Henry Morgan (Harry Morgan in Welsh; ca. 1635 – 25 August 1688) was a Welsh privateer, pirate and admiral of the English Royal Navy who made a name for himself 
during activities in the Caribbean, primarily raiding Spanish settlements. He earned a reputation as one of the most notorious and successful privateers in history, and one of 
the most ruthless among those active along the Spanish Main. Henry Morgan was the eldest son of Robert Morgan, a farmer living in the locality of Caerau, Cardiff, Wales, 
near what is now known as Ely, Cardiff, Wales, situated on the Ely River, in south-east Wales, within the historic boundaries of Monmouthshire. Robert Morgan (born 
c.1615) was a descendant from a cadet branch of the ‘Tredegar Morgans’ and had two brothers, Thomas and Edward. Major-General Sir Thomas Morgan (1st Baronet 
1604-79) served in the Commonwealth forces during English civil war from 1642-9, was Governor of Gloucester 1645, fought in Flanders, wounded, and in 1661 retired to his 
estate in Kynnersley, Herts. He was married on 10 September 1632, and had nine sons, of whom the eldest, Sir John Morgan followed in his father's profession.He also had 
a sister Catherine. An entry in the Bristol Apprentice Books showing "Servants to Foreign Plantations" 9 February 1655, included "Henry Morgan of Abergavenny, Labourer, 
Bound to Timothy Tounsend of Bristol, Cutler, for three years, to serve in Barbados on the like Condiciouns." Thomas was recalled in 1665 to become Governor of Jersey, 
and died in St. Helier in April 1679. Colonel Edward Morgan (c. 1616- after 1665) was a Royalist during English Civil War 1642-9, Captain General of the Kings forces in 
South Wales, escaped to the continent, and married Anna Petronilla the daughter of Baron von Pöllnitz, Westphalia, (governor of Lippstadt, a city 20 miles east of Dortmund 
Germany). They had six children, two sons, and four daughters (including Anna Petronilla and Johanna). He was appointed Lt-Gov. Jamaica 1664-65. There was no record of 
Morgan before 1655. He later said that he left school early, and was "more used to the pike than the book."

 Alexandre Exquemelin, Morgan's surgeon at Panama, says that 
he was indentured in Barbados. After Morgan sued the publishers for libel and was awarded £200, Exquemelin was forced to retract his statement. Subsequent editions of 
his book were amended. Exquemelin said that Morgan came to Jamaica in 1658 as a young man,and raised himself to "fame and fortune by his valour". Recent versions of 
his life claim that, despite having had little experience as a sailor, Morgan sailed to the Caribbean to take part in the Western Design, Cromwell's plan to 
invade Hispaniola. His first battle at Santo Domingo ended in a failed attempt to take the island. The fleet moved on to Jamaica, which the English force successfully invaded 
and occupied. His uncle Edward Morgan was Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica after the Restoration of Charles II of England in 1660. Henry Morgan married his uncle's 
daughter Mary, a cousin. Morgan was reportedly the "Captain Morgan" who joined the fleet of Christopher Myngs in 1663. He was part of the expedition of John Morris and 
Jackmann when they took the Spanish settlements at Vildemos (on the Tabasco river); Trujillo, (Honduras) and Granada.
In late 1665 Morgan commanded a ship in the old privateer Edward Mansfield's[10] expedition sent by Sir Thomas Modyford, the governor of Jamaica. They seized the 
islands of Providencia and Santa Catalina Island, Colombia. When Mansfield was captured by the Spanish and executed shortly afterward, the privateers elected Morgan as 
their admiral. Was a Welsh privateer who fought for the English against the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 1660’s and 1670’s. He is remembered as the greatest of the 
privateers, amassing huge fleets, attacking prominent targets and being the worst enemy of the Spanish since Sir Francis Drake. Although he made numerous raids all 
along the Spanish Main, his three most famous exploits were the 1668 sack of Portobello, the 1669 raid on Maracaibo and the 1671 attack on Panama. He was knighted by 
King Charles II of England and died a rich man on Jamaica. Morgan's exact date of birth is unknown, but it was sometime around 1635 in Monmouth County, Wales. He had 
two uncles who had distinguished themselves in the English military, and Henry decided as a young man to follow in their footsteps. He was with General Venables and 
Admiral Penn in 1654 when they captured Jamaica from the Spanish. He soon took up the life of a privateer, launching attacks up and down the Spanish Main and Central 
America. Privateers were like pirates, only legal. They were sort of like mercenaries who were allowed to attack enemy shipping and ports. In exchange, they kept most of 
the loot, although they did share some with the crown in some cases. Morgan was one of many privateers who had a “license” to attack the Spanish, as long as England 
and Spain were at war (they fought off and on during most of Morgan’s life). In times of peace, the privateers either took to outright piracy or more respectable trades such as 
fishing or logging. The English colony on Jamaica, a foothold in the Caribbean, was weak, so it behooved the English to have a large privateer force ready for times of war. 

Henry Morgan excelled at privateering. His attacks were well-planned, he was a fearless leader, and he was very clever. By 1668 he was the leader of the Brethren of the 
Coast, a group of pirates, buccaneers, corsairs and privateers. In 1667, Morgan had been sent to sea to find some Spanish prisoners to confirm rumors of an attack on 
Jamaica. He had grown legendary, and soon found that he had a force of some 500 men in several ships. He captured some prisoners on Cuba, and then he and his 
captains decided to attack the rich town of Portobello. In July of 1668 Morgan attacked, taking Portobello by surprise and quickly overrunning the meager defenses. Not only 
did they loot the town, but they essentially held it for ransom, demanding and receiving 100,000 pesos in exchange for not burning the city to the ground. He left after about 
a month: the sack of Portobello resulted in huge shares of loot for everyone involved and Morgan's fame grew even greater. By October of 1668 Morgan was restless and 
decided to head once again to the Spanish Main. He sent out word that he was organizing another expedition. He went to Isla Vaca and waited while hundreds of corsairs 
and buccaneers rallied to his side. On March 9, 1669 he and his men attacked the La Barra fort, the main defense of Lake Maracaibo, and took it easily. They entered the 
lake and sacked the towns of Maracaibo and Gibraltar, but they lingered too long and some Spanish warships trapped them by blocking off of the narrow entrance to the 
lake. Morgan cleverly sent a fireship against the Spanish, and of the three Spanish ships, one was sunk, one captured and one abandoned. After that, he tricked the 
commanders of the fort (which had been re-armed by the Spanish) to turn their guns inland and he sailed past them at night. It was Morgan at his most devious. By 1671, 
Morgan was ready for one last assault on the Spanish. Again he gathered an army of pirates and they decided on the rich city of Panama. With about 1,000 men, Morgan 
captured the San Lorenzo fort and began the march overland to Panama City in January of 1671. The Spanish defenders were in terror of Morgan and abandoned their 
defenses until the last moment. On January 28, 1671, the privateers and the defenders met in battle on the plains outside the city. It was an utter rout, and the city 
defenders were scattered in short order by the well-armed invaders. 

Morgan and his men sacked the city and were gone before any help could arrive. Although it was a 
successful raid, much of Panama's loot was shipped away before the pirates arrived, so it was the least profitable of his three major ventures. Panama would be Morgan's 
last great raid. By then, he was very rich and influential in Jamaica and had a great deal of land. He retired from privateering, but the world did not forget him. Spain and 
England had signed a peace treaty before the Panama raid (whether or not Morgan knew of the treaty before he attacked is a matter of some debate) and Spain was furious. 
Sir Thomas Modyford, the Governor of Jamaica who had authorized Morgan to sail, was relieved of his post and sent to England, where he would eventually receive a slap on 
the wrist. Morgan, too, was sent to England where he spent a couple of years as a celebrity, dining in the fancy homes of Lords who were fans of his exploits. He was even 
asked his opinion on how to improve Jamaica's defenses. 

Not only was he never punished, but he was knighted and sent back to Jamaica as Lieutenant Governor. Morgan 
returned to Jamaica, where he spent his days drinking with his men, running his estates and fondly telling war stories. He helped organize and improve the defenses of 
Jamaica and administered the colony while the governor was absent, but he never again went to sea and eventually his bad habits caught up with him. He died on August 
25, 1688 and was given a royal send-off. He lay in state at the King's House in Port Royal, ships anchored in the harbor fired their guns in salute and his body was taken 
through town on a gun carriage to St. Peters church, which he had helped fund. 
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