Since I love to write about life in the 1800s, and I have written a pirate book, I thought I'd combine the two topics and tell you about a real-life pirate.
One of the most fascinating rogues in the New World was a buccaneer named Jean Lafitte. He was viewed by many in a variety of ways--gallant, guileful, heroic, and treacherous.
During his career, he opposed the Spanish, frustrated the British, and finally so annoyed the Americans that they banned him from U. S. waters.
His early years were spent in France, but he went to the Caribbean island of Martinique, where he eloped with the ward of a Spanish official. After that official annuled the marriage and imprisoned Lafitte, the girl committed suicide. Lafitte came out of prison plotting revenge on the Spanish.
He arrived in New Orleans in 1804. At that time, the town was a haven for pirates and cutthroats. My book, Pirate's Prize, is set during this period, and my characters visited New Orleans.
Lafitte and the other smugglers and pirates preyed on Spanish galleons in the Gulf of Mexico. During the War of 1812, the British offeredLafitte a commission in the Royal Navy so he could aid in the attack on New Orleans.
Instead, Lafitte informed the Louisiana governor of the coming invation. During the ensuing battle, Lafitte and his cohorts fought so valiantly for the United States that President Madison pardoned him for all past crimes.
Lafitte then set up his base on Galveston Island and continued to attack Spanish ships in the Gulf of Mexico. His campaign against them virtually swept the Spanish from the area. In addition to these activities, Lafitte was also a slave trader.
The United States claimed Galveston Island as its own, and having Lafitte there soon became a thorn in the side of the U. S. Navy. In 1821, a warship put into Galveston harbor to oust Lafitte from the island. He was given 60 days to leave.
When they returned, the pirate held a lavish banquet for the Americans, telling them that he was at peace with everyone but the Spanish. His men then set fire to their town, and Lafitte set sail for Yucatan. No one really ever saw him again, but his ships kept giving his enemies misery.
Historians surmise that he lived about five more years on the Yucatan.
Information gathered from The Spanish West one of the Time Life The Old West series, copyright 1979.
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