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Captain Sir Henry Morgan, privateer and Governor of Jamaica



Sir Henry Morgan, was a brilliant tactician and piratical businessman, able to command the loyalty of privateers, who followed him into battle.




Captain Sir Henry Morgan was a pirate buccaneer who turned privateer, and later became the Governor of Jamaica. Sir Henry Morgan was born in 1635 at Llanrhymney, Glamorgan (now Cardiff), Wales. He died on August 25, 1688, thought to have been at his mountaintop home at Lawrencefield in Jamaica. He was buried in the Palisadoes cemetery. The Welsh buccaneer was the most famous of the adventurers who plundered Spain’s Caribbean colonies during the late 17th century. Operating with the unofficial support of the English government, he undermined Spanish authority in the West Indies.

Morgan’s origins and early career are obscure. He was probably a member of the expedition that in 1655 seized Jamaica from the Spanish and converted it into an English colony. He may have participated in an expedition against Cuba in 1662; and, during the second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–67), he was second in command of the buccaneers operating against Dutch colonies in the Caribbean.

Morgan arrived at Barbados in 1655 as a junior officer in Cromwell’s forces and took part in the unsuccessful attack on Santo Domingo before taking Jamaica from the Spanish, a then largely undeveloped but strategically positioned island with a large natural harbour. Life on Jamaica was hard, with diseases such as yellow fever and attacks on the British by Maroons (runaway slaves), yet Morgan survived.

As commander of the buccaneers in 1668, Morgan captured Puerto Príncipe (now Camagüey), Cuba, and - in an extraordinarily daring move - stormed and sacked the well-fortified city of Portobelo on the Isthmus of Panama. In 1669 he made a successful raid on wealthy Spanish settlements around Lake Maracaibo on the coast of Venezuela. Finally, in August 1670, with 36 ships and nearly 2,000 buccaneers, Morgan set out to capture Panamá, one of the chief cities of Spain’s American empire. Crossing the Isthmus of Panama, he defeated a large Spanish force (January 18, 1671) and entered the city, which burned to the ground while his men were looting it. On the return journey he deserted his followers and absconded with most of the booty. Much of which is assumed to be Aztec gold, or derived therefrom.

Because Morgan’s raid on Panamá had taken place after the conclusion of a peace between England and Spain, he was arrested and transported to London (April 1672). Nevertheless, relations with Spain quickly deteriorated, and in 1674 King Charles II knighted Morgan and sent him out again as deputy governor of Jamaica, where he lived as a wealthy and respected planter until his death.








An exaggerated account of Morgan’s exploits, written by his surgeon, created his popular reputation as a bloodthirsty pirate.

It is believed he spent his childhood in Wales but how he came from Wales to the West Indies is uncertain.

In one version he was ‘barbadosed’ or kidnapped and sent to work as an indentured servant in Barbados. This version was put forward by Alexandre Exquemelin, Morgan’s surgeon in Panama, in his writings which were translated into English, …the Unparallel’d Exploits of Sir Henry Morgan, our English (sic) Jamaican hero. However when Morgan heard of these publications, he sued and Exquemelin was forced to retract this version. (This book is also responsible for Morgan’s notorious reputation, as Exquemelin alleges horrific atrocities on Spanish civilians by the privateers.)

The most accepted version is that in 1654 Henry joined Cromwell’s troops under General Venables in Portsmouth. Cromwell had decided to send an army to the Caribbean to attack the Spanish.

In 1666 he was made Colonel of the Port Royal Militia and elected Admiral by his fellow privateers. The ‘king of the privateers’ was then appointed Commander-in-chief of all Jamaican forces in 1669, and by 1670 he had 36 ships and 1800 men under his command.

For political reasons he was arrested, leaving Jamaica in disarray.

Without their leader the privateers were reluctant to engage the enemy and England was now at war again with Holland. Hearing of the troubles in the Caribbean and the risks to the very lucrative sugar and tobacco trades, King Charles II enlisted the help of the notorious Captain Morgan. The charismatic ‘pirate’ Morgan was knighted by the King and returned to Jamaica in 1674 as Lieutenant Governor.







Morgan spent the rest of his life in Jamaica in Port Royal, a city infamous as the capital of piracy, where he spent his time on politics, his sugar plantations and drinking rum with his old privateer comrades. The exact cause of his death on August 25th 1688 aged 53 is uncertain; some sources say tuberculosis, whilst others cite acute alcoholism. At the time of his death he was a very wealthy man indeed, with large sugar plantations and 109 slaves. He was buried at Palisadoes cemetery.


Due to his early career as a buccaneer, and his association with the pirates under his command, it is believed that he buried much of his accumulated wealth as gold and gemstones. Leaving a Map and Code key, telling the whereabouts of his hoard in two documents. The aim being that only he would know how to find the treasure.


His Map came into the possession of Edward Teach after the death of Sir Henry. But not the Code, as to how to use it.


Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the British navy, had helped themselves to some of Blackbeard's loot, Maynard being more interested in the documents in a small locked wooden chest - that Teach seemed to cherish.


Lieutenant Maynard's descendants passed the chest on, until it came into the possession of Lord Huntington. However, the Code necessary to decipher the map, eluded all efforts to secure the location.


Not until it was discovered by John Storm, Captain of the artificially intelligent, Elizabeth Swann.











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Captain Morgan died in 1688, taking with him the secret location of his buried treasure. Except that Edward Teach also knew of Skeleton Island, but unlike Sir Henry, he never recorded nor shared that information.


Blackbeard was one of the most feared pirate captains operating in the Caribbean Sea. When he resumed pirating, the British made it their business to capture him as an example to other would be renegades.









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