Sir Thomas Morgan, 1604-79

Welsh soldier who fought for Parliament throughout the civil wars and led English troops in Flanders. Knighted by Richard Cromwell, he gained a baronetcy through his association with General Monck.

Portrait of Sir Thomas MorganThomas Morgan was born at Llangattock Lingoed in Monmouthshire, the eldest son of landowner Lewis Morgan. During the 1630s, Morgan gained military experience in the Netherlands and Germany. He returned to England on the outbreak of the First Civil War to serve as a captain of dragoons under the Fairfaxes in Yorkshire. He was promoted to major after distinguishing himself at the battle of Nantwich in January 1644 and the following year was promoted to colonel of dragoons on the recommendation of Lord Fairfax.

In June 1645, Morgan succeeded Edward Massie as governor of Gloucester, an isolated Parliamentarian stronghold in the Royalist Welsh marches. Morgan succeeded in gaining the respect and co-operation of Massie's unruly troops and of the citizens of Gloucester. He became active in reducing Royalist strongholds, assisting Colonel Rainsborough at the siege of Berkeley Castle in September 1645, capturing Chepstow and Monmouth during October, and collaborating with Colonel Birch in a surprise attack to seize Hereford in December 1645. When Lord Astley marched for Oxford with the last Royalist field army in March 1646, Morgan joined forces with Birch and Sir William Brereton to intercept and defeat Astley at Stow-on-the-Wold, the last pitched battle of the English Civil War.

In April 1646, Morgan was appointed commander of Parliament's forces in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Monmouthshire with orders to reduce remaining Royalist strongholds in the region. Although he was driven back from Worcester, Morgan captured Hartlebury Castle in May and Raglan Castle in August, after a three-month siege. As the war drew to a close, Morgan's troops became mutinous over Parliament's proposals for disbandment without settling arrears of pay, and Morgan himself seems to have fallen from favour. He was superseded as governor of Gloucester in January 1648 and was not given a command in the army sent to Ireland. He retired to the Yorkshire estate of his wife Delariviere, daughter of John Cholmondeley, whom he had married in August 1644.

Morgan returned to military service in 1651 when he joined Cromwell's expedition to Scotland, remaining with General Monck when Cromwell pursued Charles II's army into England. Morgan was present when Monck captured and sacked Dundee in September 1651. When Monck returned to England to recover his health early in 1652, Morgan stayed in Scotland. He took over command at the siege of Dunnottar Castle, defended by Sir George Ogilvy with just 70 men. Ogilvy surrendered to Morgan in May 1652 but the Scottish royal regalia — the crown, sword and sceptre that had been stored at Dunnottar when Cromwell invaded Scotland — were smuggled out and hidden.

Morgan was based at Inverness during Glencairn's Uprising (1653-4) commanding all Commonwealth forces north of the Tay. He co-operated with Monck, who returned to Scotland in April 1654, to intercept Major-General Middleton's Scots-Royalist army in the Highlands. Morgan defeated Middleton at Dalnaspidel near Loch Garry on 19 July 1654 bringing the insurrection to an end. On Monck's recommendation, Morgan was promoted to major-general in February 1655. Despite his short stature, explosive temper and distinctive high-pitched voice, Morgan was popular with his troops. He was almost illiterate, but was praised as a courageous, loyal and efficient officer by Monck.

In April 1657, Morgan was appointed second-in-command to Sir John Reynolds in the English force sent to co-operate with the French army against the Spaniards in Flanders. After Reynolds' death in December 1657, Morgan was appointed governor of Mardyke in his place, but he was considered too blunt and argumentative to take overall command of the English contingent in the Anglo-French army, where diplomacy was often needed in dealing with the French commanders. Sir William Lockhart, Cromwell's ambassador to France, was appointed commander, with the result that Morgan bore a lasting grudge against Lockhart and sometimes attempted to thwart his plans. Morgan led a successful attack on Spanish forts around Gravelines in April 1658 and effectively commanded the English contingent at the battle of the Dunes on 4 June. After the capture of Dunkirk on 25 June, Morgan led the four English regiments that continued to serve with the French army throughout the summer of 1658.

Upon his return to England in November 1658, Morgan was knighted for his services by Richard Cromwell, who had succeeded Oliver as Lord-Protector. Morgan returned to Scotland as Monck's deputy in 1659. He supported Monck during the political manoeuvring that brought about the Restoration in 1660, keeping command of the army in Scotland while Monck marched on London.

Morgan was granted a baronetcy by King Charles II in February 1661. He commanded the infantry in an English expeditionary force to assist the Portuguese against Spain in 1662 and was appointed governor of Jersey in 1665. He died at St Helier in April 1679.


C.H. Firth, The Last Years of the Protectorate, vol. ii, 1909

Basil Morgan, Sir Thomas Morgan, Oxford DNB, 2004