Berkeley County, West Virginia Biography of General Daniel MORGAN


         General Daniel MORGAN was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, in 1736 or 1737 (sources differ) and was of Welsh descent. He worked for his father on an herb farm and received no education. He moved to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1753 and, when 18, moved to Charlestown, Berkeley County, Virginia, where he worked for a farmer named Roberts. He was an experienced teamster or wagoner, which was the only mode of freight transportation in those days. He was one of the drivers of the teams in transporting General Braddock’s munition wagons on that memorable march to Fort Duquesne. He acquired the nickname of “Old Wagoner.” In 1753 a British officer struck him with a sword and Morgan knocked him down, for which 500 lashes were laid on his bare back. In 1757 he was with the militia sent to quell an Indian uprising at Edwards Fort on the Cacapon River. As an ensign, he took part in the Indian campaign of 1758.

         While on the way to Winchester, he became engaged in a fight with Indians in which most of his comrades were slain and a musket ball passed through the back of his neck, knocking out all the teeth on the left side of his jaw. In 1762, he received a grant of land in Frederick County, Virginia, and devoted himself to farming, naming his place “Soldier’s Rest,” in to which place he later retired. He was married about this time to Abigail Bailey, daughter of a farmer.

         He served as lieutenant of militia during the Pontiac war; in 1763-64, he was captain of militia, and in 1773 served against the Indians. In June 1775, he was appointed captain of one of the 10 Virginia rifle companies raised to join Washington’s army at Boston, which reached the American camp at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in July 1775, having traveled 600 miles in 21 days, one of the first companies to report. On September 13, 1775, he went on the expedition to Quebec under Benedict Arnold, and was the first to cross the St. Lawrence River November 13, 1775. He led the assault on the lower town, took the battery, and fought his way into the town, where for lack of support his command was captured. He was a prisoner of Quebec until August 10, 1776, when he was discharged on parole, sailed for New York, stayed for a time at his home, and in November 1776 was commissioned colonel of the 11th Virginia Regiment. When his parole expired he was instructed to recruit men for his regiment. Before his enlistment was complete he was ordered to the army at Morristown, New Jersey, and arrived there with 180 riflemen in April 1777. He was placed in command of 500 sharpshooters (Morgan’s rangers). On June 13, 1777, upon the advance of Lord Howe from New Brunswick, New Jersey, Morgan’s rangers had several encounters and upon Howe’s retreat toward Amboy, Morgan was sent forward to annoy him and followed Howe to Philadelphia. He found Gen. Gates at Stillwater in August 1777, was a prominent figure at Freeman’s Farm, September 19, and at the surrender of Burgoyne, October 7. He was complimented by both Gates and Burgoyne, the latter characterizing his rangers the finest regiment in the world. He refused to listen to Gates’ criticism of Washington’s conduct of the war and assured him that he would serve under no other man as commander-in-chief. At Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania, he rejoined Washington, who met Howe’s army and compelled him to retire to Philadelphia, after which the Americans went into winter camp at Valley Forge, and Morgan returned to Virginia.

         Daniel Morgan entered the Continental Army with the position of Captain of Infantry, aided in the capture of Burgoyne’s Army at Saratoga, October 17, 1777; defeated Tarleton at Cowpens, for which action the Continental Congress voted him a gold medal, but not until 1790. He had command of the Virginia Militia during the “Whiskey Rebellion” in western Pennsylvania and was detailed for some time in that affected region to see that the agitation did not start again.

         During June 1778, he served in the Monmouth campaign, but was not present at the battle. He was commissioned colonel of the 7th Virginia Regiment in March 1779 and, in June 1779, congress having promoted inferior officers over him, he resigned on the appointment of Gates to the command of the southern army. After the battle of Camden, he joined Gates at Hillsborough, was promoted brigadier-general October 13, 1780 and served under Gates and Greene, and in December 1780 was sent by Greene to threaten the inland posts of August and Ninety-Six. The British army was put to flight, but the direction taken by Cornwallis obliged Morgan to cross the fords of the Catawba in order to join Greene, and by a brilliant march he reached the river first and warned Greene of the situation. He took part in the maneuvers leading to the battle of Guilford Court House, which resulted in Cornwallis’ retreat into Virginia, but before the battle in February 1781 he was incapacitated from further service by an attack of rheumatism. In 1781, he joined in the suppression of the Tory rebellion in Virginia, subsequently reported to Lafayette near Jamestown, Virginia, and was given command of the light troops in Lafayette’s command, but illness compelled him to retire in August 1781.

         Under President John Adams’ administration, when the prospect of a war with France seemed imminent and a provisional army was organized, the President strongly advocated Daniel Morgan as Commander-in-Chief, but General Washington favored the appointment of Alexander Hamilton, to which President Adams assented but with reluctance.

         General Morgan was elected from the district composing the counties of Berkeley and Frederick, Virginia, to a seat in the 5th Congress. But he was a better soldier than a statesman. He was a rough, uneducated man, knew how to vote if he did not know how to make a speech and always adhered to the principles of his party. He engaged in cultivation of his farm and became wealthy. A statue was dedicated to him at Spartansberg, South Carolina, in 1881. He died in Winchester, Virginia, July 6, 1802. He was 65.


    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from History of Berkeley County, West Virginia, 1928, the Encyclopedia of Virginia Biographies, Volume II, 1915

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