We all have a picture of Captain Morgan in our heads and for most of us itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the same picture. If thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a Ã¢â‚¬Å“typicalÃ¢â‚¬Â pirate then heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it.
ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the first fallacy Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Henry Morgan wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a pirate, he was an English privateer. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not to say that these sea-bound mercenaries were really that much different from pirates. Generally they had some sort of vague order from one country giving them the power to attack the ships and settlements belonging to another; their only pay being what they could loot. MorganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s query was the Spanish.
He was born sometime in the first half of the seventeenth century. His career as a privateer began in the 1660s. When an expedition on which he was serving headed by an older privateer led to the elderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capture Morgan was elected admiral. In 1667 he received his first commission as a privateer. This led to a career so awash with legend that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s difficult to separate fact from fiction. If the stories are only half true he was merciless, bloodthirsty and quite the partier. His military exploits include taking well fortified settlements with tactics such as using Jesuit prisoners as human shields and murdering the inhabitants of a town before burning it to the ground. His partying is equally legendary with one of his ships exploding and burning during one night of merriment when the ammunition depot was lit. Morgan and his officers barely escaped with their lives.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no surprise that such a colorful figure would capture the publicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s imagination. Much like the mafia today, pirates and privateers were at the same time adored and despised. In 1678 the History of the Buccaneers of America was published by an apparent one-time confidant of Morgan. In it some of the CaptainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bloodiest exploits are recounted. Morgan filed a libel suit against the bookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s publisher and won but his legend was already well established. Since his exploits, both true and invented, have been told and retold in books and films right up until today.