Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Daniel Morgan

Daniel Morgan (July 6, 1736 – July 6, 1802) was an American pioneer, soldier, and United States Representative from Virginia. One of the most gifted battlefield tacticians of the American Revolutionary War, he later commanded troops during the suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion.

Most authorities believe that Morgan was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. All four of his grandparents were Welsh immigrants who lived in Pennsylvania. Morgan was the fifth of seven children of Joseph Morgan (1702–1748) and Elizabeth Lloyd (1706–1748). When Morgan was 16, he left home following a fight with his father. After working at odd jobs in Pennsylvania, he moved to the Shenandoah Valley. He finally settled on the Virginia frontier, near what is now Winchester, Virginia.

Morgan was a large man, poorly educated, and enjoyed drinking and gambling. He worked clearing land, in a sawmill, and as a teamster. In just a year, he saved enough to buy his own team. Morgan had served as a civilian teamster during the French and Indian War. During the advance on Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) by General Braddock's command, he was punished with 499 lashes (a usually fatal sentence) for punching his superior officer. Morgan thus acquired a hatred for the British Army.

He later served as a rifleman in the Provincial forces assigned to protect the western border settlements from French-backed Indian raids. Some time after the end of the war, he purchased a farm situated between Winchester and Battletown. By 1774 he had grown so prosperous that he owned ten slaves. That year he served in Dunmore's War taking part in raids on Shawnee villages in the Ohio Country.

After the American Revolutionary War began at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the Continental Congress created the Continental Army. They called for the formation of 10 rifle companies from the middle colonies to support the Siege of Boston, and late in June 1775 Virginia agreed to send two. The Virginia House of Burgesses chose Daniel Morgan to form one of these companies and serve as its commander with the rank of captain. Morgan had served as an officer in the Virginia Colonial Militia since the French and Indian War. He recruited 96 men in 10 days and assembled them at Winchester on July 14. He then marched them 600 miles (970 km) to Boston, Massachusetts in only 21 days, arriving on Aug. 6, 1775. He led this outstanding group of marksmen nicknamed "Morgan's Riflemen." What set Morgans Riflemen apart from other companies was the technology they had with their rifles. They had rifled barrels with thin walls and curved grooves inside the barrels which made them light and much more accurate than the British muskets. Morgan used this advantage to initiate guerrilla tactics by which he first killed the Indian guides the British used to find their way through the rugged terrain and also to kill the British officers that led the troops. While this tactic was viewed as dishonorable by the British elites, it was in fact an extremely effective method that created chaos and discord for the British Army.

The invasion of Canada

Later in 1775, Congress authorized an invasion of Canada. Colonel Benedict Arnold convinced General Washington to send an eastern offensive in support of Montgomery's invasion. Washington agreed to send three rifle companies from among his forces at Boston, if they volunteered. All of the companies at Boston volunteered, so lotteries were used to choose who should go, and Morgan's company was among those chosen. Arnold selected Captain Morgan to lead all three companies as a unit. The expedition set out from Fort Western on Sept. 25, with Morgan's men leading the advance party.

At the start, the Arnold Expedition had about 1,000 men, but by the time they arrived near Quebec on Nov. 9 it had been reduced to 600. When Montgomery arrived, they launched their disastrous assault, the Battle of Quebec, on the morning of Dec. 31. The Patriots attacked in two thrusts, the two groups commanded by Montgomery and Arnold.

Arnold led the attack against the lower city from the north, but went down early with a bullet in his leg. Morgan took over leadership of this force, and they successfully entered the city following him over the first barricade. Montgomery's force was attempting to storm the wall, unfortunately in the midst of a terrible blizzard. Montgomery and most of the front line, with the exception of the young Aaron Burr, were killed or wounded in the first volley. When Montgomery fell, his attack faltered, and the British General Carleton led hundreds of local Quebec militia to encircle the second attack. He moved cannons and men to the first barricade, behind Morgan's force. Split up in the lower city, subject to fire from all sides, they were forced to surrender piecemeal. Shortly before surrendering, Morgan surrendered his sword to a local French priest, refusing to give it up before Carleton for a formal surrender, which Morgan viewed as humiliating to him. Morgan was among the 372 men captured. He remained a prisoner of war until exchanged in January 1777.

11th Virginia Regiment

When he rejoined Washington early in 1777, Morgan was surprised to learn that he had been promoted to colonel for his efforts at Quebec. He was assigned to raise and command a new infantry regiment, the 11th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line.

On June 13, 1777, Morgan was also placed in command of the Provisional Rifle Corps, a light infantry unit of 500 riflemen selected primarily from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia units of the main army. Many were drawn from his own permanent unit, the 11th Virginia Regiment. Washington assigned them to harass General William Howe's rear guard, and Morgan followed and attacked them during their entire withdrawal across New Jersey.

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