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 A warning from Lafitte

 

 

 

On Sept 3, 1814, Captain Nicholas Lockyer in the HMS Sophie arrived off Grand Terre the privateer base of Jean Lafitte with a letter from Colonel Nicholls which offered $30,000 and other inducements for permission to Barataria as a point of invasion and to use the Baratarians as guides to attack the city.

 

 

The story of the French pirate Jean Lafitte.

 

Despite the bribe and the Americans holding his brother  Pierre in jail for smuggling and expecting an American attack on his base and small fort on Grande Terre,  Laffite sent a warning to New Orleans  with his fastest courier, who could arrive in a day. He sent a copy of the British offer and a plea for the release of his brother and a stop to the 'persecution' of his privateers and even volunteered himself, his men and supplies for the defense of New Orleans to Jean Blanque, who gave it to Gov Claiborne. Pierre Lafitte then 'escaped' from prison and returned to Grande Terre with the messenger .

 

 Letter from Colonel Nicholls to Lafitte

Click for larger image .

From Historical memoir of the war in

West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15 Latour

 

The Pirates Lafitte 

William C. Davis

Davis provides an excellent history of the

Laffites and piracy on the gulf coast in general

 

 

Lafitte's reply to the British, stalling for time .

 

Click for larger image .

From Historical memoir of the war in

West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15 Latour

 

The Buccaneer 

Movie about Jean Lafitte

starring Yul Brynner

 

 

Jean Lafitte's letter to Jean Blanque, who served in the state legislature, to ask him to contact Claiborne and show him the British letter .

 

Click for larger image .

From Historical memoir of the war in

West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15 Latour

 

Jackson was suspicious of Lafitte, and regarded him as a criminal as can be seen in part of a  proclamation of Sept 21, 1814. It took convincing by Livingston to convince him otherwise. When Jackson meet Laffite, he was impressed.

 

Click for larger image .

From Historical memoir of the war

in West Florida and Louisiana in 1814-15 Latour

 

 

Gov Claiborne

 

Gov Claiborne held a meeting with the leaders of the defense of New Orleans: Major-General Jacques Villere of the Louisiana militia, Commodore Daniel T. Patterson of the U.S. Navy, Colonel George T. Ross of the 44th Infantry and Pierre Dubourg of the U.S. Customs . Patterson, Ross and Dubourg thought the letters were a ruse to evade the planned attack on Grand Terre. Villere thought the letters were authentic and that Lafitte's men should be employed for the defense of New Orleans . Patterson said he was under orders to attack the Lafitte base . The Gov also thought the letters were real, but reluctantly agreed to Patterson's planned attack.

 

Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith shop in New Orleans  

( a front for smuggling ) , now a bar .

 

 

 Dr. Chaz visits Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar, a must-see stop in the French Quarter, and one of the cooler bars housed in a colonial-era building in New Orleans. Jean Lafitte is one of the most well-known historic characters in New Orleans history, and there are many legends surrounding him which are total nonsense . Click play to watch the video to find out what is legend and what is truth!

 

The planned assault on the Lafitte base on Grande Terre by the United States, went on as planned. Jean was made aware of the upcoming attack on Sept 15, and urged his men to submit to the authorities when they arrived. He argued that the men would get their ships and goods back from the Americans, in return for attacking the British. Jean left Grande Terre that night, going to hide out among the plantations of friends on the Mississippi above New Orleans .

Attack on Laffite's Base 

 

 

 

The destruction of Lafitte's fort on Grande Terre from

  The Buccaneer (1958) with Yul Brynner .

 

On Sept 11, 1814, The Carolina, a schooner with 14 guns under command of Commdore Daniel Patterson and six gunboats left New Orleans, sailed down the Mississippi River and attacked Grande Terre on Sept 16. Lafitte's men, not knowing if the attacking fleet was British or American, took battle stations.The Carolina raised a flag offering pardon for deserters. The Baratarians abandoned their vessels .

 

 

 The Buccaneer  No Surrender

 

The Americans seized 8 ships, 20 canons and an estimated $500,000 worth of goods and captured 80 Baratarians . The seized goods never were returned, and became part of a protracted suit by Lafitte against the U.S. for its return. Despite going to Washington and writing to President Madison, the goods were never returned nor any compensation given, causing Lafitte much bitterness years later .Most of the 500 or so Baratarians escaped. Ironically, the Carolina was to play a decisive role in the Battle of New Orleans, and would not have been there except for the attack on Grande Terre.

 

Jean Lafitte(l), Pierre Lafitte(center) and Dominique You from a 1812 painting  in 1812 attributed to John Wesley Jarvis.

 

After two weeks, a British brig-of-war appeared off Barataria Pass awaiting Jean's reply to the British offer . No ship from Lafitte came to meet it and it sailed off, no doubt cursing the Lafitte's and the time they had wasted . Now the British knew they could not count on Lafitte .

Jean Lafitte (c1776-1823) . Jean Laffite did not participate in the main battle, he may have been reconnoitering to the south at Grand Isle. Dominique You (1775-1830) who was a privateer with Laffite commanded the Baratarian artillery at the battle with great effect. President James Madison gave full pardons to the Barataria privateers for their actions. However, Lafitte was not able to reclaim his goods, vessels and slaves seized by Commodore Patterson and the war materials he provided to the under funded and ill equipped Jackson, even after writing a letter to President Madison himself and going to Washington to pleas his case . All attempts failed and Lafitte became very bitter .

 

Why did Laffite chose to aid the Americans ? Possibly a combination a reasons, hatred for the English and their war with Napoleon and a belief that it was better to be a privateer under American rule with its weaker rule, than British, with the strongest navy in the world. According to others he was inspired by American democracy and owed a debt to Americans, who rescued him as a child. The knowledge Laffite had of the bayous leading into New Orleans from Barataria bay and his being the leader or bos of the Baratarian privateers and smugglers on Grand Terre island and made him an import player to the British and Americans. The Laffite's also had well trained gun crews and large stores of flints, gunpowder and other supplies .

For more information on Jean Laffite.

 

 

 

 

 

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