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  • Writer's pictureSi Biggs

Lt Charles Morgan - the ‘boat action’ before New Orleans 1814

Charles Morgan was first Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, Royal Marines on 11th Sept 1805. Promoted Lieutenant on 11th Nov 1808, he was appointed to HMS Ruby as a supernumerary on 17th Mar 1813.


Throughout 1813/14, Ruby was in Bermuda but did not go to sea and during this period, Morgan’s whereabouts in the America’s is unknown, although his supernumerary position may well indicate that he was with one of the Marine Battalions.


Discharged to HMS Armide, 20 May 1814, he took part in the ‘boat action’ before New Orleans on 14th December, which proved a successful but a very bloody affair for the British.



During this action Lieutenant Morgan action is confirmed as being in the pinnacle alongside Captain Henry Montresor. According to the Royal Marine Museum, he was lent to the Army during his period of Service with Armide.


Morgan was also one of the few Royal Marine Officers who took part in the battle of New Orleans on the 8th Jan.


100 Marines and 100 seaman under Captain Rowland Money, along with 3 Companies of the 85th - the whole under the Command of Colonel Thornton , a combined force of about 560 men made a successful assault on the American guns, capturing 17 guns - only British success of the day! The British force suffered heavy casualties of 72 killed and wounded.


Lt Morgan was Wounded in the head by a musket ball during this action see related 'dits' below


Royal Marines Officer’s Naval General Service 1793 Pair To A Lieutenant Who Was In Captain Montresor’s Boat During The Costly Boat Action Against The American Gun-Boats On Lake Borgne, 14 December 1814. Three Weeks Later He Was Wounded In The Head By A Musket Ball, During The Gallant Bayonet Charge On American Guns At The Battle Of New Orleans, 8 January 1815. Shipwrecked In April 1816 And Taken Prisoner By A Spanish Royalist Corvette, Between 1836-7 He Served With The Royal Marine Battalion During The Carlist Was, Taking Part In The Battle Of Hernani And Awarded The First Class Spanish Order Of San Fernand For His Service

The Battle of Lake Borgne was a coastal engagement between the Royal Navy and the U.S. Navy in the American South theatre of the War of 1812. It occurred on December 14, 1814 on Lake Borgne. The British victory allowed them to disembark their troops unhindered nine days later and to launch an offensive upon New Orleans on land.



Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, British Commander-in-Chief of the North American Station, ordered HMS Seahorse, Armide and Sophie from Pensacola to the anchorage within Ship Island (Mississippi).[15] This location, known today as Bayou Bienvenue, at the head of the lake, situated 60 miles (97 km) from the troopship anchorage of Cat Island, was to be the disembarkation point for the British soldiers.


Cochrane put all the rowboats of the British fleet under the command of Commander Nicholas Lockyer of Sophie, with orders to pursue the American flotilla,[15] in waters too shallow for an attack by a ship of the line. The British deployed forty launches and barges with one 12, 18 or 24 pounder carronade each, two further launches with a long 9 pounder and a long 12 pounder respectively, as well as three unarmed gigs.


The force consisted of some 980 sailors and Royal Marines. The largest amount of men embarked in any one of the barges was 31.


After rowing for about thirty-six hours, the British approached the five American vessels drawn up in line abreast to block the channel between Malheureux Island and Point Claire on the mainland. At daybreak, Jones noticed the British rowboats nine miles to the east. As the British advanced, they spotted Alligator, immediately sent a few rowboats under Roberts to cut her off and the British quickly captured her at 9:30am.


At 10 o'clock on the morning of December 14, the British boats had closed to within long gunshot by St. Joseph's Island. At this point Lockyer ordered the boats' crews to breakfast


Lockyer formed the boats into three divisions. He took command of the first, gave Montresor of Manly command of the second, and Roberts of Meteor command of the third. When the British had finished their breakfast they returned to their oars and pulled up to the line of American gunboats. The main battle came at 10:39 am. The British were rowing against a strong current and under a heavy fire of round and grapeshot.




The American sailors killed or wounded a number of the rowboat crews in the process, including most of the men in Lockyer's boat. Eventually the range closed and the British sailors and marines began to board the American vessels. At 11:50am Lockyer personally boarded Gunboat No. 156, Jones's vessel. Both Lockyer and Jones sustained severe wounds. One rowboat from Tonnant, commanded by Lieutenant James Barnwell Tattnall grappled the gunboat and was sunk, all of its boarding party transferred to the other rowboats.


Jones states that at 12:10pm the British captured Gunboat No. 156 and turned her guns against her sister ships. The gunboat fired her broadsides and assisted the capture of the remaining American craft. One by one, the British took the other four American gunboats. The engagement was over at 12:30pm. Lockyer had hypothesised that boarding and capturing the rest of the American flotilla took five minutes, rather than the twenty minutes in Jones's account.


Later Service of Captain Morgan


Appointed to HMS TAY 13th April on 1816, on 11th Nov 1816 Tay was shipwrecked, off Campeachy, Gulf of Mexico, with 2 million dollars on board. A Spanish Royalist corvette attacked the shipwrecked men seeking shelter on Crane's Island and Captain Roberts and crew were made prisoner of War and money stolen! Spain and Britain were not at War at the time so presumably this could have caused a major International incident. Included with the medals research are the 300 page proceedings of the Court Marshal of Captain Roberts and Officer of HMS Tay.


In 1824 he was serving as Adjutant of the Bermuda division and according to the Navy lists from 11th March 1826 until October 1830 He was serving on HMS Forte in South America. On 26th August 1827 the boats of Forte captured a pirate vessel and its prize, Morgan would almost certainly have taken part in this operation. Promoted Captain on 17th March 1831, he was on unattached service up until 1836. However between 1836 and 1837, he commanded a Company of initial RM Battalion embarked with Lord Hay's squadron to assist in the Carlist War in Spain. The Battalion was made up of seven Companies each of 83 Officers and men.


They took part in many actions but were conspicuous in their steadfastness at the Battle of Hernani. Although Britain did not formally take part in the War, the Royal Navy and the RM Battalion were sent to extract De Lacy Evans British mercenary force. After over a year hard fighting in Spain Captain Morgan Retired on full pay in December 1837. He was Awarded the First Class Spanish Military Order of San Fernando for his Service in Spain Charles Morgan was the Cousin of Captain George Haye RN (Medal sold at Spink 2010), who applied for this medal on behalf of Morgan, who was I'll.


In a letter from Haye to the issuing authorities, he tells them That Morgan received the medal just before his death on 7th June 1849. It is also noted on the NGS application, that Lieutenant Morgan was in pinnacle with Captain Henry Montresor during the December 14th boat action. Charles Morgan’s obituary:



Related Royal Marines 'Dits'



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