Captain Henry Morgan, Part 3 – Captain Henry Morgan’s Later Years

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Sir Henry Morgan

Morgan’s pirating career winds down. A title and post as lieutenant governor is conferred upon him. Now wealthy, he is one of the few pirates who ends up retiring.

In the previous article, part two, we left off with Morgan victorious against the Spanish following the Maracaibo campaign.

Morgan’s next major engagement was in 1670. At the head of 36 ships and almost 2,000 men representing the combined strength available at Port Royal and Tortuga, Morgan returned to the Isthmus of Panama. Here he captured the Spanish fort San Lorenzo at the head of the Chagres River. With the fort secured, he headed up the Chagres toward the big, rich-daddy prize of them all, the city of Panama replete with rich houses to be sacked, well-fed merchants to be relieved of their valuables and, more importantly, immense quantities of very appetizing Inca gold to be intercepted on its way from Peru.

After a two-week trek through the jungle and mountains of the Isthmus of Panama (a feat Sir Francis Drake attempted but was unsuccessful in doing several decades earlier), Morgan arrived within sight of the city of Panama. Here he defeated a larger Spanish force; the mere presence of Morgan, whose reputation preceded him, demoralized many of the Spaniards, making them ripe for defeat.

After overcoming the Spanish forces, Morgan successfully entered Panama, but not before a thorough looting and pillaging. Also, all surviving Spaniards were said to have been slaughtered.

While on the return trip home, in a move that must have endeared him to his men, the rascally Morgan left his men behind and went on ahead to Port Royal in Jamaica with something more than his fair share of the loot.

Morgan himself was also soon to be the recipient of a back-stabbing, in 1672, when he was arrested and shipped back to England. Up to this point he’d more or less been acting as a privateer; that is to say, as a legally commissioned pirate authorized by the British to attack Spanish interests. However, during his expedition to Panama, England and Spain had technically been at peace.

But as with two people in a bad marriage who have temporarily patched things up, the Spanish and English soon quarrelled again, which led to Morgan’s release in 1674. To add icing to the cake, Morgan was actually knighted by King Charles II (Morgan parting with some of his vast treasure to seal the deal, however) and then appointed the new deputy governor of Jamaica, where he lived out the rest of his days in relative peace and prosperity, drinking hard, carousing hard and filling out to Orson Welles proportions. His final years were marked by illness, but his fame was already well established.

A person knows he has it made it as a noteworthy pirate when he’s had a bottle of rum named after him, as in Morgan’s Spiced Rum, which is today sold throughout Jamaica and Puerto Rico.