Aether Salon Morgan!
Edited Transcripts

Morgan! with Wildstar Beaumont

Wildstar Beaumont: Hello everyone! Or even better Yarr!
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach chuckles
Lady Polly d’Ellsmere: YARRRR!!!
Ceejay Writer: YARRRR
Wildstar Beaumont: Today is September 19th and , since 2002, the 19th of September is “talk like a pirate day”
OldeSoul Eldemar: YARRRR
Wildstar Beaumont: (
Wildstar Beaumont: So, what better day to indulge in our annual chat about piracy?
Jimmy Branagh: Yarrrrrr
Wildstar Beaumont: Today’s subject is both one of the most popular figures and the most important success in the history of piracy: Henry Morgan and the capture of Panama.

Wildstar Beaumont: When we speak about pirates, we think about swashbuckling adventures, romantic heroes resembling Errol Flynn, evil types with eye patches peg legs and long black beards, but it rarely associate them to major military accomplishments
Wildstar Beaumont: Even if we have discussed in these past years about Sir Francis Drake, who sailed as a privateer, his major successes (and defeats) took place when he was a flag officer of the royal navy.
Wildstar Beaumont: We also saw, a couple of years ago, the role American Privateers had during the American revolution. But even in that case, their success was mostly due to the part they played as a thorn on the side of the British Empire and how it encouraged the British public opinion to let those troublesome colonies go.
Wildstar Beaumont: The case of Henry Morgan and the capture of Panama is different. It has gained its place as one of the most extraordinary campaigns in military history, and we still speak about it as we might speak of other major military accomplishments.

Wildstar Beaumont: Yet, the ‘army ‘ that reduced the second largest city in the Western Hemisphere to ashes did not act on behalf of any nation, sovereign, religion or political ideology.
No, these were men motivated solely by the spirit of free enterprise. They were, in point of fact, a gang of criminals — pure, unadulterated pirates.
Wildstar Beaumont: The leader of this enterprise was equally remarkable. Indomitably courageous and charismatic Henry Morgan was the eldest son of a wealthy Welsh farmer, in the village of Llanrhymny.

Wildstar Beaumont: Very little is known about his early life other than the fact that by the time he was 20, Morgan was more at home in Jamaica and the Caribbean than he was in Wales.
Wildstar Beaumont: Some historians claim that Morgan so desperately wanted to escape his childhood home that he sold himself into indentured slavery for three years in order to gain passage to the new world.
Wildstar Beaumont: By 1661 Morgan had been given command of a privateer ship in the force of Edward Mansfield, a leading Dutch privateer at that time (the original Dutch name was Mansvelt), and Morgan’s mentor.

Edward Mansfield

Ceejay Writer: Is Wales really that bad?
Liz Wilner: it rains a lot I think
Emilly Shatner-Orr: Not to the Welsh.
Wildstar Beaumont: well .. it was the rural Wales of the XVII century
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: I think the problem the Welsh have is the English.
Wildstar Beaumont: life was not probably easy for the son of a farmer
Wildstar Beaumont: The governor of Jamaica had commissioned their expedition to harass Spanish towns in the new world, and when Mansfield was captured and killed, Morgan was elected admiral by the privateers.
Wildstar Beaumont: As we mentioned in some of my previous Salons, England’s relationship with Spain had always been tenuous when it came to issues of trade and control in the Atlantic and the new world
Wildstar Beaumont: In the middle of the 17th century, Spain possessed the greatest empire in the world. ‘New Spain ‘ included the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico, all of the territory that is now Florida to California; Mexico and all of Central America; the islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola; and all of South America with the exception of Portuguese-owned Brazil. Furthermore, the Spaniards had seemingly ended up with all the territory producing gold and silver. For more than a century they had been shipping it home by the galleon-load.

Wildstar Beaumont: It was little wonder, then, that the other European nations were envious of Spain.
Wildstar Beaumont: England officially sanctioned privateering missions where privateers would raid Spanish ships and towns to frustrate the early Spanish supremacy.
Wildstar Beaumont: The British government avoided having to finance an extensive navy, Spanish holdings were weakened, and the privateers got to divide the loot among themselves and their investors.
Wildstar Beaumont: Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494, Jamaica had been captured by the English from Spain during the course of a campaign in 1655. Because the island lacked gold, the Spanish didn’t consider it important enough to mount a serious retaliation.

Wildstar Beaumont: With the benefit of hindsight, noting Jamaica’s domination of the Yucatan Channel and the Windward Passage, two of the principal Caribbean trade routes, Spain’s failure to retake the island seems to have been a serious strategic blunder.
Wildstar Beaumont: In any case, by the mid-17th century was common knowledge that if a suspicious cargo was to show up in Port Royal, Jamaica, few questions would be asked.
Wildstar Beaumont: It is here that Morgan, having survived his indenture in Barbados, was recruited by a pirate crew and eventually prospered to the point to be able to pool resources with a few associates and buy a ship, eventually impressing Mansfield.
Wildstar Beaumont: Mansfield was an ambitious old Dutch pirate from Curacao who was one of the first to gather large enough numbers of freebooters to attack whole towns rather than just individual ships. He became a sort of pirate godfather, in control of numerous ships and hundreds of men.
Wildstar Beaumont: His pirates had attacked Cartegena and had been known to raid overland as far as the Pacific coast of South America.
Wildstar Beaumont: After a fallout with a Governor of Jamaica (he had the tendency to accept privateering commissions but then pursue his own interests) Mansfield made the little Island of Tortuga, his base.
Wildstar Beaumont: The isle of Tortuga first and nominally had been settled by the Spaniards, but they had been driven out by French squatters, who made a living planting tobacco and hunting the wild hogs with which the island was infested. The hunters were known as boucaniers, which might be translated as pork purveyors, or “bacon-eers, “ and is the origin of the word “buccaneer. “
Wildstar Beaumont: After Mansfield’s death, Morgan thrived. By 1668, his power and prestige were sufficient to assemble 12 vessels and 700 men, both British and French, for the sack of the Cuban town of Puerto del Principe (now called Camagüey). The raid yielded a satisfactorily profitable 50,000 pieces of eight (Spanish silver coins).
Wildstar Beaumont: Then, after a post-raid interlude in Jamaica, Morgan sailed for Portobelo with nine ships and 500 men. Portobelo was the eastern terminus for Panamanian trade, and all the gold from Peru passed through that port on to Spain. Its harbor entrance was flanked by two fortresses, manned by a permanent garrison of at least 300 soldiers.

Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan landed at Puerto Pontin, about 25 miles west of Portobelo. Leaving 100 men behind to handle the ship, 400 pirates marched through the jungle and, attacking Portobelo from the landward side, achieved complete surprise. The first fortress was quickly taken, its defenders massacred and the magazine blown up.

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Always the problem with seaward-facing fortifications.
Wildstar Beaumont: The commander of the second fortress, however, had time to organize his defenses, so Morgan ordered his men to fabricate scaling ladders. Self-sacrifice was not a characteristic pirate trait, so local priests and nuns were conscripted to carry the ladders.

Wildstar Beaumont: Even so, many of Morgan’s men were killed or wounded in the assault, but they successfully stormed the fortress.
Wildstar Beaumont: The Spanish commander fought to the end, threatening to pistol any of his men who tried to surrender, but to no avail. He was eventually killed and the pirates took possession of the town.
Wildstar Beaumont: These attacks helped Morgan’s reputation grow, both as an effective privateer, but also as a ruthless pirate. The English authorities must have appreciated the detriment that Morgan’s raids worked on Spain, but his attacks were accompanied by countless acts of atrocity against civilians and innocent townsfolk. Morgan’s reputation as a bloodthirsty pirate served to strain his relationship with the English authorities who had sanctioned his privateering.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan’s next objective was a raid on the Venezuelan port of Maracaibo. The Spaniards had only three ships, but they were proper naval warships with properly trained crews and their flagship alone packed more firepower than the pirates’ entire fleet.

Wildstar Beaumont: On the morning of April 30, 1669, the pirates attacked. Stripped of its armament, filled with combustible and disguised with wooden guns and a scarecrow crew, a fire ship led the pirate fleet.
Wildstar Beaumont: At the last moment, the fire ship’s 12-man skeleton crew set it alight, grappled the Spanish flagship and abandoned their own vessel. With their flagship ablaze, the Spaniards were thrown into confusion.

Wildstar Beaumont: The pirates boarded and captured one of the Spanish ships and the remaining one was scuttled by its crew.
Wildstar Beaumont: The fortress’ discouraged garrison who had witnessed the entire debacle, soon surrendered. The Maracaibo raid grossed the pirates 250,000 pieces of eight in ransom money alone — not counting pillage.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan’s destruction of the Spanish ships at Maracaibo in 1669 cemented him as a household name in both the new world and the old. It also stoked the Spanish desire for revenge.
Wildstar Beaumont: The English had revoked privateering permissions in the Caribbean because of a treaty, but Spain had finally begun to offer privateering commissions of its own. While Morgan stayed at his Jamaican plantation and enjoyed the spoils of victory, Spanish privateers began to harm English interests in the Caribbean.

Wildstar Beaumont: In short order, England called again on the services of its most feared privateer. Morgan was commissioned with the defense of Jamaica. For Morgan, however, the best defense was in attack.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan and his crew decided to attack the Spanish holding at Panama.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan probably held an old grudge against the governor of Panama, Don Juan Perez de Guzman, who, years before had destroyed the pirate stronghold in the island of St. Catherine, where Edward Mansfield had intended to create his own independent “state” from which he could rule and raid as he pleased.
Wildstar Beaumont: Panama City lay on the Pacific side of the isthmus, thus, the privateers would have to traverse the dense jungle in order to get there.

Wildstar Beaumont: The Chagres River would allow the force to make at least part of the journey to Panama City on water, but the imposing Spanish fortress of San Lorenzo sat at the river’s mouth.
Wildstar Beaumont: On 6 January 1671, Morgan’s forces made quick work of the fortress, killing 300 of the fort’s garrison and leaving only 23 alive. Morgan opted to leave 300 of his own men behind to hold control of the fortress as their base of operations, and on 19 January, a force 1,400-strong began up the Chagres River, destined for Panama City.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan’s force reached the gates of Panama City on 28 January 1671. Don Juan Pérez de Guzmán, organized a defense. He had wished to confront Morgan’s men at the river but as his own soldiers refused, Don Juan was forced to organize a defense on the plain directly outside the city.
Wildstar Beaumont: On the next morning 3,600 Spanish troops marched out of the city of Panama facing one of the strangest armies ever assembled — 1,200 criminals, Englishmen, Dutch, French, blacks, Indians and even a few renegade Spaniards.
Wildstar Beaumont: The Spanish superiority on paper turned into a rout. Morgan secured the high ground early, and by battle’s end, over 500 Spaniards had fallen compared to only 15 privateers.

Wildstar Beaumont: With victory secured, Morgan’s men entered the city. The Spaniards that had survived the initial battle set about burning the city in a bid to keep it from being occupied, an attempt in which they were largely successful.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan’s men were further dismayed to see the city’s wealth had been removed. Several ships sailed into the distance as Morgan’s men debated whether to give chase. In the end, they decided to celebrate their capture of the city rather than attempt to catch the fleeing ships. The loot gained from the sack of Panama City was small compared to what they had expected, but it still required 175 mules to carry the treasure back to San Lorenzo.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan and his men returned to Jamaica as heroes. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, Spain protested that the treaty had been violated.
Wildstar Beaumont: Yes, England had authorized Morgan to defend Jamaica, but Spain demanded that his attack on Panama City be punished.
Wildstar Beaumont: Both Morgan and the governor of Jamaica were recalled to England to ‘answer’ for their actions, but neither was ever seriously punished.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan spent two years in England under a so-called ‘house arrest,’ but he was free to do as he pleased.
Wildstar Beaumont: Morgan, true-to-form, used his reputation to gain access to the wealthy circles of society. Most of his time was spent as a celebrity and social guest of wealthy politicians.
Wildstar Beaumont: He was never punished for his actions as a privateer. Relations with Spain deteriorated once again, and in 1674 he was made a baronet.
Later that year, he returned to Jamaica as Lieutenant Governor Sir Henry Morgan, even serving as acting governor from 1680 to 1682.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: ‘Sir’ is the form of address for an English Baronet, which is effectively a form of knighthood, not nobility.
Wildstar Beaumont: He died in 1688 — rich, respectable and an enduring contradiction to the adage that crime does not pay.
Wildstar Beaumont: The old Panama City – renamed Panama Viejo – the ruin of which we can see in the photo – was never rebuilt.
Wildstar Beaumont: and this is all for today 🙂

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Any questions for the Admiral?
Liz Wilner: did he have any family? a wife or children?
Wildstar Beaumont: he did
Wildstar Beaumont: he did marry and had children and grandchildren

Liz Wilner: the Captain Morgan Rum….was that just something named after him? or was that at somepoint from his family getting into the rum business?
Wildstar Beaumont: the rum was definitely named after him … not sure whether there was any family relation
Mary Layton: It came into being in the 1940s I think, made by Seagram’s, so unless he had any family involved with Seagrams, I dunno
OldeSoul Eldemar: Captain Morgan is a brand of flavored rums (including, in Europe, some rum-flavored “premium spirit drinks”) produced by British alcohol conglomerate Diageo. It is named after the 17th-century Welsh privateer of the Caribbean, Sir Henry Morgan.[1] Since 2017, the label has used the slogan “Live like the Captain”.

Wildstar Beaumont: on one side being a pirate was definitely a bad thing , but it was also living a “free” life that Europe did not permit
Wildstar Beaumont: even when getting together for expeditions pirates were at heart, deeply individualist
Wildstar Beaumont: so, yes, great stamina, but from a certain point of view they were living their dream life
Wildstar Beaumont: after the capture of Panama, for instance, Morgan’s army started to break up right away
Wildstar Beaumont: many tried to get capture Spanish ships and continue pirating independently in the Pacific
Ceejay Writer: Was his army anxious to settle into the good life for themselves? Or did they move on?
Wildstar Beaumont: basically they were okay to be organized for a single expedition
Wildstar Beaumont: but after that their nature was to go back to do thing each on their own
Wildstar Beaumont: the pirate culture were deeply egalitarian
Wildstar Beaumont: plunder was typically divided evenly

Liz Wilner: what happened to any of the soldier left alive from some of the raids? the Spanish soldiers, I mean
Wildstar Beaumont: I am not sure, Liz
Wildstar Beaumont: but I suspect nothing good, unless they ran away
Emilly Shatner-Orr: Captains generally got a larger share, but a lot of that went back into ship upkeep
Wildstar Beaumont: after all the accusation of atrocities were numerous
Katie: looting and pillage and lotsa blood spillage
Wildstar Beaumont: maybe next time we can explore more of Tortuga and the Brethren of the Coast
Wildstar Beaumont: makes another interesting topic that we haven’t covered yet
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Danke for attending and participating, all of you.

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