Royal Naval Biography/Morgan, James (b)
JAMES MORGAN (b), Esq.
Is a son of the late Rev. Patrick Morgan, rector of Killybegs, co. Donegal, Ireland. On the 30th Jan. 1806, in consequence of Admiral Lord Keith having recommended him for meritorious conduct, a commission was signed appointing him to the Lynx sloop. Commander John Willoughby Marshall, in which vessel we find him very actively employed on the North Sea station. He subsequently served in the Agincourt 64, Resolution 74, Nymphe 38, Neptune 98, Elk sloop, and Hyperion 32, of which latter ship he appears to have been senior lieutenant.
In 1811, the Hyperion touched at Gonaives, St. Domingo, to complete wood and water, when an English merchant, named Simpson, who was detained there as a prisoner, for an alleged breach of blockade, immediately claimed the protection of the British flag. This was readily granted, but he had not been many hours on board the frigate when the batteries, without any previous notice, fired simultaneously on her boats, killed three men, and compelled her captain (____ Brodie), marine officer (George Pattoun), and a master’s-mate (____ Dillon), to surrender. It being then nearly dark, nothing could be done till next morning, but at the first dawn of day, the ship was under a press of sail, beating up against the land wind, through an intricate channel; after anchoring her with a spring on the cable, in four fathoms water, not more than musket shot from the shore, with one broadside presented to the batteries, and the other to a Haytian frigate. Lieutenant Morgan sent an officer (Lieutenant George Bissett) to acquaint the black commandant, that if, in fifteen minutes from the time of the boat landing, the captain and his companions were not set at liberty, the town would be destroyed, and the man-of-war taken to Jamaica; this threat had the desired effect, and the three officers were restored to their ship without further bloodshed.
In Mar. 1812, Lieutenant Morgan, who had been obliged to return home for the recovery of his health, was appointed to the command of the Barbara schooner, of 111 tons, mounting ten 12-pounder carronades, with a complement of fifty men, in which vessel he cruised on the N.W. coast of Ireland during the remainder of that year, and was subsequently employed off Boulogne.
On the morning of Feb. 11th, 1813, at daybreak, being then about three miles from Boulogne pier. Lieutenant Morgan observed a lugger of 14 guns at anchor on the Barbara’s lee-beam, and immediately made sail with the intention of running her on board. To avoid this measure, the Frenchman cut his cable, and hastened to close with six other luggers, mounting from eight to fourteen guns each. Having succeeded in forming a junction, the whole of these vessels stood out, in two divisions, to cut off the retreat of the Barbara; notwithstanding which, and although her rigging was much damaged by shot from the land batteries, she continued to approach them under a smart fire, and at 8-10 a.m. commenced action within pistol shot. At 9-15, after making two ineffectual attempts to board her, and sustaining a loss of four men killed and eleven wounded, two of whom mortally, the enemy wore round and stood in shore, evidently in confusion, leaving the Barbara nearly unrigged, but without a single person either slain or wounded. On the following day. Lieutenant Morgan, after a short action, drove on shore and destroyed a lugger. In the ensuing month, he was placed under the orders of Rear-Admiral (afterwards Sir (George) Hope, whose squadron he accompanied to the Baltic.
On the 13th April 18I3, the Barbara stood into Aalbourg, and cut out from that anchorage a ship of 400 tons, two galliots, and a sloop, laden with corn for the Norwegian market. These prizes she brought off in triumph, although closely pursued by nine Danish armed vessels, which were at times barely out of gun-shot. She was afterwards stationed at the entrance of the Cattegat, and frequently engaged with the enemy’s flotilla and flying artillery along shore. On the 18th June, she brought to and examined a licensed Danish merchantman, under the fire of three national brigs and five gunboats, close in shore off Christiansand. On the 3d July, she engaged the Norge, a cutter-rigged praam, mounting two long 32-pounders and six 18-pr. carronades, with a complement of 80 men, supported by several other armed vessels, near Fladstrand; and next day drove a sloop on shore near the Scaw. In the course of the same month, she was sent to Fladstrand with a flag of truce, and during her stay there lay close to the Norge, the commander of which vessel, a captain in the Danish navy, observed that now he had seen her actual force he should know how to treat her in future In consequence of this remark, Lieutenant Morgan obtained permission to exchange two of his carronades for long 6-pounders.
On the 11th Aug. following, the boats of the Barbara, containing 26 men, under the command of the second-master, a midshipman, and Lieutenant Morgan’s clerk, were sent to destroy the signal station, and a 2-gun battery, on the Great Grasholm island, which service was executed in the most admirable style, and without any loss, the enemy offering no resistance. On the same day the Barbara had her foremast shot away, her other spars, hull, sails, and rigging much cut up, and one man severely wounded, in action with the Norge and nine gun-boats. Thus disabled, and with three feet water in her hold, she put into Hawk roads, Gottenburg, and, whilst undergoing the process of heaving down, made so much water that the relieving tackles gave way, when she upset and sunk, but was weighed and again at sea in a very few days after. On revisiting Fladstrand, with a second flag of truce. Lieutenant Morgan was informed by a Danish officer, one of his late opponents, that the loss sustained by the Norge, in her last rencontre with the Barbara, amounted to three men killed and six wounded.
On the 6th Oct. in the same year, at sun-set, Lieutenant Richard Banks, commanding the Forward gun-brig, then in company with the Barbara, received information that a small Danish armed vessel was standing towards an anchorage much frequented by English merchantmen, about four miles to the southward of Wingo Sound, to which he immediately proceeded in a 5-oared boat, having with him a Swedish pilot, and accompanied by Lieutenant Morgan, in the schooner’s 4-oared gig. At 9 p.m., the boats got sight of the enemy, under sail with a light breeze, and at 9-15 simultaneously attacked her on the starboard bow and larboard quarter: a desperate conflict ensued, which ended in the capture of the Dane, a cutter mounting one howitzer, and having on board, at the commencement of the action, twenty-five well armed men, of whom five were killed, and her commander, a lieutenant in the Danish navy, very badly wounded. On the part of the assailants, one man belonging to each British vessel was slain: Lieutenant Morgan and two of his gallant crew were severely wounded.
Want of space prevents us from making particular mention of every service performed by the Barbara, whilst on the Baltic station, a period of nine months, during which she captured and destroyed no less than 2,544 tons of the enemy’s shipping, navigated by 136 seamen; and, in conjunction with the Hawke privateer, of Hastings, captured a Danish privateer, and retook a ship from under the batteries on Lessee island and the fire of ten gun-boats. It is almost superfluous to add, that the activity and gallant conduct of her commander were highly approved by Rear-Admiral Hope and his successor, the present Sir Graham Moore.
On his return from the Baltic, Lieutenant Morgan was ordered to Plymouth, on which station he continued until July 1814, when the deranged state of his affairs, occasioned by the failure of his prize-brokers at Gottenburg, obliged him most reluctantly to resign the command of the Barbara, in order, if possible, to obtain some kind of settlement. During the usurpation of Napoleon Buonaparte, in 1815, he commanded the Aggressor gun-brig, to which vessel he was appointed through the kind intervention of Sir George Hope; and subsequently, for a period of nearly two years and a half, the Pictou schooner, of 16 guns, on the Irish station. His promotion to the rank of commander took place July 19th, 1821. We here subjoin the copy of a letter addressed to him by Sir Graham Moore, dated at Cobham, Surrey, Mar. 14th, 1827:–
“Sir,– I yesterday received your letter dated the 5th inst., in which you request of me to give you a certificate of my opinion of your conduct in command of the Barbara schooner, whilst under my orders in the Baltic, in 1813, or that I would represent to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty my opinion of you as an officer.
“I am unwilling to intrude myself on their Lordships without a reasonable pretext for so doing; but I have no scruple in expressing to you, in answer to your letter, that your conduct while under my orders was that of an active, brave, and zealous officer, and that you stood high in my estimation for your conduct in the Barbara, which made an impression on my memory, though, at this moment, I do not remember the particular facts, notwithstanding they were such as gave me a pleasure when I heard of your promotion. As I had no acquaintance with you before we met in the Baltic, the favourable opinion I then formed of you, and which I have ever since retained, was entirely owing to your conduct as an officer. If you conceive that my good opinion of you can be of any service, you are welcome to make use of this letter in furtherance of your views. I remain, with esteem, your obedient and faithful servant.
In 1827, this officer was appointed an inspecting commander in the preventive service; and in June 1830, the officers of the Whitby coast guard district presented him with a very elegant piece of plate, “as a grateful testimony of his kind and gentlemanly conduct towards them,” whilst under his superintendence. Since Mar. 1831, he has been employed as inspecting commander of the coast guard at Newhaven. One of his brothers, Dr. Hill Morgan, is a member of the medical board at Bombay; and another, Hugh, a lieutenant in the royal artillery. Lieutenant William Moore Morgan, R.M., who fell at the battle of Algiers, while serving on board the Granicus frigate, was also similarly related to him.