Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jean Lafitte

As communications and national maritime strength grew piracy withered. Still, as late as 1813 three thousand acts of piracy were reported in the Gulf of Mexico. It was not until 1850 that piracy finally disappeared from the Western Hemisphere.

One of the greatest pirates of the Gulf was Jean Lafitte. Jean Lafitte was born in France in the year 1780. He was apprenticed as a blacksmith in his youth, a trade which he took up in New Orleans when he and two of his brothers moved to America. Within a few years the smithy had become a clearinghouse for pirate goods.

Lafitte decided to outfit his own ships to bring in more goods. He established a base in Barrataria Bay outside of New Orleans. Soon Lafitte's ships were cruising the coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Holding a privateer's commission from the Republic of Cartagena, Lafitte preyed on Spanish commerce. The merchandise would then be smuggled into New Orleans. All attempts to dislodge the pirates failed. The governor of Louisiana offered the unheard of sum of $5,000 for the capture of Lafitte, dead or alive. Lafitte responded by offering a $50,000 reward for the head of the governor.

The War of 1812 placed Lafitte's pirates in a tenuous position. The Barratarian gulf was an important approach to New Orleans, and in 1814 the British offered Lafitte a huge cash settlement , along with a commission in the Royal Navy for his cooperation in seizing the city. Lafitte alerted American authorities and offered to aid the Americans if the United States would offer a full pardon. General Andrew Jackson accepted Lafitte's offer, and the pirates, in charge of the artillery, rendered distinguished service in the battle of New Orleans. Lafitte and his men received a full pardon, but Lafitte found that he could not endure the monotony of a respectable life. In 1817, Lafitte, with a thousand followers, established a new pirate stronghold on Galveston Island off the coast of Texas. Finally, after several more years of piratical activities an American naval force smashed Lafitte's base. Laffite fled to South America, finally returning to Europe, where he died in 1826.

Most of the treasures hidden by Lafitte are in Louisiana, although Florida and Texas claim their share as well.


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1 comment:

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christena
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