LAFITTE, THE LOUISIANA PIRATE AND PATRIOT. "He left a corsair’s name to other times, Linked one virtue to a thousand crimes." -- Lord Byron.
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"He left a corsair’s name to other times, Linked one virtue to a thousand crimes."
-- Lord Byron
Who was Jean Lafitte? He was born in 1782, and came to Louisiana in 1803 with his brother Pierre. They were raised by their grandmother after their mother died. She told them of her flight from Spain to France with their mother to escape the Inquisition, which tortured and murdered their grandfather. Jean and Lafitte became pirates, or privateers, and eventually moved to New Orleans, where they bought a blacksmith shop. You can still see the blacksmith shop in New Orleans today.
Of all the pirates to hoard treasures in Louisiana, there were two brothers that had the most success: Jean and Pierre Lafitte. The Lafitte brothers ruled over 1,000 pirates, 50 ships, and after ten years of smuggling, had $10,000,000. In today's terms, that would be about $100 million.
Like pirates in stories, Jean and Pierre buried their treasure. They made treasure maps with secret symbols. The Lafitte brothers and their fellow pirates are said to have buried treasure all over, including places near Baton Rouge, and beneath the floor in Lafitte's blacksmith shop in New Orleans.
Although many people disliked the Lafitte brothers (they were pirates, after all), they were never arrested. In 1813 the governor of Louisiana offered $500 for Lafitte's capture, but Lafitte turned around and offered $1,500 as a bounty for the governor's head, which ended Lafitte's problem with the governor.
In 1814 Great Britain dispatched an armada and 8,000 men to take Louisiana. The British offered Lafitte 30,000 pounds sterling and a commission in the British Navy if he would help them take New Orleans, with his band of pirates and ships. Lafitte pretended to accept the British offer but instead sent word to New Orleans that invasion was imminent. In exchange for a governor's pardon he and his buccaneers would help defend the city.
Jean and Pierre guided the American forces through the marshland maze. An assortment of 4,000 Tennesseans, Choctaw tribesmen, free blacks, Creoles and of course pirates defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans. President James Madison gave presidential pardons to Jean Lafitte and the buccaneers.
In the swamp lands around Barrataria Island, Lafitte and 1000 of his pirates built a pirates paradise home. They lived there for several years, preying on ships that passed on the way to New Orleans.