Henry Morgan

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Henry Morgan - Privateer (c1635 - 1688)

Henry Morgan was a highly successful Welsh privateer who also carried out piratical acts. He went to Jamaica at a young age, remained there for most of his life, and even became Deputy Governor.

This page details facts about Henry Morgan's life and the events that shaped his history.

Henry Morgan the Privateer - Fun Facts for Kids !
Henry Morgan Fact   1: Henry Morgan was born in Llanrumney, Wales around 1635. He was the eldest son of a farmer, Robert Morgan, although his family was of some importance. He had two famous uncles, Colonel Sir Edward Morgan, who was a Royalist during the English civil war, and Major General Sir Thomas Morgan who fought for Oliver Cromwell.
Henry Morgan Fact   2: Not much is known about Henry Morgan’s early life, until he turns up in Barbados in 1655. There are two conflicting accounts of how Henry Morgan came to be in Barbados. An early version was written in a book by Alexandre Exquemelin, who had been Henry Morgan’s surgeon in Panama, which claimed that he had arrived in Barbados as an ‘Indentured Servant’. However this is doubtful as Exquemelin was forced to retract it after being sued by Henry Morgan. The other version is that in 1654 Henry Morgan was recruited, in Portsmouth, to be part of the force that Cromwell was sending to the Caribbean, to attack the Spanish.
Henry Morgan Fact   3: The force, including Henry Morgan, was commanded by General Venables and Vice Admiral Penn. In 1655 with the intention of invading Hispaniola, they launched an attacked on Santo Domingo, however this was unsuccessful, so they moved on to Jamaica which was less well defended.
Henry Morgan Fact   4: In 1660, After the Monarchy had been restored, Henry Morgan’s uncle Edward was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica. Henry Morgan went on to marry his uncle’s daughter Mary Elizabeth.
Henry Morgan Fact   5: In 1662, Henry Morgan was sailing under Commodore Christopher Myngs and took part in the successful sacking of Santiago in Cuba. In 1663, again under Myngs, he commanded a ship in a successful attack on Campeche, Mexico.
Henry Morgan Fact   6: Later in 1663, Henry Morgan left Port Royal with a small fleet of five privateers. The fleet landed at Frontera in Mexico and Henry Morgan led them 50 miles across Mexico to attack Villahermosa. When they’d returned from their raid, they discovered that their ships had been captured by the Spanish. This resulted in Henry Morgan and his men having to capture two Spanish ships to continue their expedition.
Henry Morgan Fact   7: Henry Morgan went on to raid Trujillo (in Honduras) before heading for the coast of modern day Nicaragua, where he landed and headed inland, successfully raiding the town of Granada. Following their success, Henry Morgan and his men were able to return to Jamaica with great wealth.
Henry Morgan Fact   8: In 1664 Sir Thomas Modyford had arrived on Jamaica as the new Governor. Modyford quickly became friends with Henry Morgan. In 1665 Henry Morgan was appointed Vice Admiral of a fleet under the command of Edward Mansvelt (sometimes known as Mansfield), which set off to capture Providence from the Spanish. The expedition was a success as the Spanish were unprepared and easily defeated. However, not long after, the Spanish managed to recapture Providence.
Henry Morgan Fact   9: In 1667, Modyford appointed Henry Morgan as Colonel of the Port Royal Militia and tasked with strengthening the defences of Port Royal.
Henry Morgan Fact 10: Later in 1667, Modyford appointed Henry Morgan Admiral and Commander in Chief of Jamaican forces. Henry Morgan gathered together a force of around seven hundred men and decided to attack Puerto del Principe, a Cuban town which was approximately 45 miles inland. The raid was a success but Henry Morgan was not satisfied with the amount of plunder they took, so he decided to move on and attack the far larger, and more heavily fortified, town of Portobello.
Henry Morgan Fact 11: The attack on Portobello was a huge success with Henry Morgan losing few men but taking a great deal of plunder. So much coinage was taken that the fabled Spanish ‘Pieces of Eight’ became a legal currency in Jamaica.
Henry Morgan Fact 12: Late in 1688, Henry Morgan assembled a fleet of eleven ships at Cow Island, off the coast of Hispaniola. His intention was to continue his attacks on the Spanish, and the next target was to be Cartagena. After the target was announced, the crews celebrated, and during the celebrations a fuse was accidentally lit. The lit fuse set off the explosives on board the ‘Oxford’, Henry Morgan’s flag ship, resulting in the death of 250 - 300 men and the total loss of the ship.
Henry Morgan Fact 13: On that same night, and Prior to the explosion, Henry Morgan was plotting to take a French privateering vessel the ‘Le Cerf Volant’, which was in the area, to strengthen his fleet. Henry Morgan invited the officers to dine with him, and accused them of piracy when they boarded. Following the demise of the ‘Oxford’, the taking of the French ship became even more desirable, so Henry Morgan also accused the French prisoners of causing the explosion.
Henry Morgan Fact 14: As a result of this accusation, the French ship was searched and Letter of Marque from the Governor of Baracoa was found. This letter allowed the French to prey on English pirates, which gave Henry Morgan his excuse to confiscate the ship. The French were sent to Jamaica, and the ship was renamed ‘Satisfaction’.
Henry Morgan Fact 15: Deciding that Cartagena was too difficult a target after losing so many of his men in the explosion, Henry Morgan headed for Maracaibo in the Lagoon of Venezuela. The narrow entrance to the lagoon was protected by Spanish fort which fired upon Henry Morgan as he approached. That night Henry Morgan landed and led his men overland to attack the fort. When they arrived the Spanish had deserted the fort, leaving a slow burning fuse leading to some powder as a trap. Henry Morgan discovered and removed the fuse before it could take effect, then went on to remove the forts supplies and bury the cannons, to prevent an attack on their way back out.
Henry Morgan Fact 16: Henry Morgan and his men returned to the ship and resumed their voyage to Maracaibo. On arrival they found the town had been deserted, as the Spanish knew of the impending attack and the inhabitants had fled with their valuables. Despite tracking down some of the citizens, not much plunder was to be had so Henry Morgan decided to head to Gibraltar which was further south in the lagoon.
Henry Morgan Fact 17: After plundering Gibraltar, Henry Morgan set sail to exit the lagoon. As they approached the exit, they found it protected by three Spanish ships ‘La Marquesa’, ‘Magdalena’ and ‘San Luis’, and the fort which had been reinforced. Henry Morgan decided to use the ‘Satisfaction’ as a fire ship to destroy the ‘Magdalena’ which was the flagship. He sent a handful of men to sail the ship, which had been loaded with explosive filled logs dressed in pirates clothing, to the ‘Magdalena’ with instructions to attach it to the rigging using grappling hooks. The plan was successful and, after running the ‘San Luis’ aground, Morgan was able to capture the ‘La Marquesa’. Turning his attention to the fort, Henry Morgan managed to convince the Spanish in the fort that he was initiating a land attack against it. Consequently, they turned their cannons to the landward side, allowing Morgan to sail through and escape.
Henry Morgan Fact 18: During 1670 Henry Morgan put together a fleet of 36 ships with around 1800 men, and staged an attack on Panama. Panama was well known as the place where all the riches from the Peruvian silver mines passed through on the way to Spain, and in earlier years, Sir Francis Drake was unsuccessful in a similar attack. This was a difficult undertaking that was fraught with danger. Panama was situated on the Pacific side of the Isthmus, which meant that Henry Morgan and his men would have to land at Chargres and make his away across mountains and through thick jungle to reach Panama. After a difficult battle, Panama fell to Morgan who left with an estimated 400,000 pieces of eight. When Morgan left, the city was in flames. Some records say that the fires been started by the defenders.
Henry Morgan Fact 19: When news of Henry Morgan’s sacking of Panama arrived in London, it was received badly as the political climate had changed. The attack on Panama was in direct breach of the ‘Treaty of Madrid’ which was a peace treaty between England and Spain, signed in 1670. As a result of this breach, Modyford was arrested and brought back to England, where he was imprisoned in the tower. Henry Morgan was also summoned back to England to answer for his crime.
Henry Morgan Fact 20:

Arriving on 4th July 1672, Henry Morgan was able to prove that he had no knowledge of the peace treaty and was left free to travel around England as he pleased. Morgan used this time to make some powerful friends, including the 2nd Duke of Albemarle Christopher Monck, which resulted in King Charles II looking favourably upon him once again.

King Charles II
Henry Morgan Fact 21:

By 1674, relations between England and Spain had soured again. The King knighted Henry Morgan and appointed him Lieutenant General of the armed forces of Jamaica. Modyford had also regained favour and was appointed Chief Justice. On 5th March 1674, Sir Henry Morgan returned to Jamaica.


Picture of King Charles II

Henry Morgan Fact 22: Sir Henry Morgan went on to become a senior member of the Jamaican council and Deputy Governor, however he fell out of favour once again and, in 1681, was removed from office by Thomas Lynch who had become Governor. At this point, Sir Henry Morgan began frequenting the Port Royal rum shops with his old comrades and was drinking heavily.
Henry Morgan Fact 23: In 1684, following the death of Thomas Lynch, Sir Henry Morgan’s friend Christopher Monck became Governor. On 10th April 1688 Monck, after petitioning the King, was successful in having Morgan restored to the Jamaican council. Sir Henry Morgan was not to hold this position for long as died on 25th August 1688. Sir Henry Morgan was buried at Port Royal in the Palisadoes cemetery, which sank beneath the waves during the earthquake that hit Port Royal on 7th June 1692.
Henry Morgan the Privateer (c1635 - 1688) Fun Facts Info for Kids !

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