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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Sir Henry Morgan

MORGAN, Sir Henry, buccaneer, born in Wales in 1637; died in Jamaica in 1690. Although the son of a wealthy farmer, he shipped as a common sailor for Barbadoes and afterward went to Jamaica, where he joined the crew of a pirate vessel. The expeditions in which he took part were fortunate, and, aided by his comrades, he purchased a ship, was elected captain, and, becoming famous for his exploits in the Bay of Campeche, was taken into favor by Mansfield, an old buccaneer, who appointed him vice-admiral. On the death of Mansfield in 1668, the buccaneers made Morgan their leader, and he soon became one of the most formidable of the chiefs. Having made some valuable captures, he persuaded his followers not to waste their money foolishly, but to reserve it for great enterprises. Many of them accepted his advice, and in a few months he had a fleet of twelve vessels manned by 700 men. He first attacked a Cuban city, which he forced to pay a heavy ransom, and then took Porto Bello, where he committed great excesses. The freebooters, having re-embarked without meeting any resistance, transported their treasures to Jamaica. Their booty brought them new companions, and Morgan, by the favor of the governor, obtained a vessel of thirty-six guns. He sailed to the coast of Santo Domingo and gained possession of a large French ship by stratagem. While celebrating his victory the vessel blew up, and 350 Englishmen and all the French prisoners were thrown into the sea. Morgan escaped with thirty of his followers. His fleet still numbered fifteen vessels and 960 men, but he lost seven ships and 400 men in a tempest. These reverses prevented him from attacking a rich Spanish flotilla which was expected at Samana. Instead he sailed to Maracaibo, seized the fort, which he destroyed, carried off the artillery, forced Gibraltar and Maracaibo to pay ransoms, burned a fleet that was superior to his own in the bay, and then safely regained the ocean. A storm forced him to repair to Jamaica in order to refit in 1669. He had now acquired a fortune and wished to live quietly for the rest of his days; but his companions, who had quickly spent their booty, pressed him so eagerly to engage in new enterprises that he set out on 24 October, 1670, with a fleet of thirty-seven sail, the largest that any buccaneer had ever commanded in these seas. Morgan, who had assumed the title of admiral, raised the royal flag of England on his main-mast. Regulating beforehand the method of dividing the booty and the measures to be taken, he announced his intention of attacking Panama, and, in order to procure guides across the isthmus, it was resolved to seize the island of Santa Catalina, on the coast of Nicaragua. The attempt succeeded without the loss of a man. Leaving a garrison in the fort, he took three prisoners for guides and sent forward part of his forces to carry a fort at the mouth of the Chagres. He began the march on Panama on 18 January, 1671, with 1,300 picked men. After enduring great hardship, experiencing all the horrors of famine, and engaging in several battles, the buccaneers carried Panama by assault. The capture was followed by a general pillage, and the town was reduced to ashes by order of Morgan. He then fitted out a vessel as a cruiser, which made many rich captures, and sent detachments in every direction, who returned with many prisoners and much booty. He put several Spaniards to the torture in order to make them declare where their valuables were concealed, and his cruelties were so atrocious as to excite the indignation of some of his companions, who formed a plot to abandon him, but it was rendered ineffective by his vigilance. After four weeks he abandoned the ruins of Panama, carrying with him more than 600 prisoners who were not able to pay the ransom that he demanded. He afterward sent them to Porto Bello, threatening at the same time that he would destroy the city if they were not ransomed, he met with a refusal and carried out his threat. In the division of the booty, which exceeded 4,000,000 piastres in value, Morgan appropriated a great quantity of precious stones and thereby excited the discontent of his companions to such a point that, fearing a mutiny, he abandoned them secretly. He next conceived the idea of taking possession of the island of Santa Catalina, fortifying it, and carrying on buccaneering on a grand scale. On the eve of executing the plan he learned that there was peace between England and Spain, and that the king of England forbade any buccaneer to leave Jamaica for the purpose of attacking the possessions of the latter power. The governor of the colony was recalled to give an account of his conduct in protecting Morgan, and the pirate himself was ordered to return to Europe to answer the complaints of the Spanish court. He found no trouble in exculpating himself, probably by a judicious use of his ill-gotten riches, for he was knighted and appointed commissary of admiralty for Jamaica, whither he returned soon afterward. He married there and ended his days in peace.

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