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Chapter 9

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
New Orleans:
The Place and the People

by
Grace King

published by The Macmillan Company
New York, 1926

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 11
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

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The Jolly Rover.

p187 Chapter X
The Baratarians

We read that, on the 11th of March, 1766, the sensibilities of the inhabitants of New Orleans were very much excited by the arrival in port of a Madame Desnoyers, a lady of St. Domingo, who, with her child and servant, were picked up by a French brig in the Gulf, where they had been cast away by pirates. They had been on the open sea seven days when they were rescued. The lady's husband had been murdered, with the crew of the vessel in which she was sailing. "Ah, those pirates!" We can imagine the volubility of the excited sensibilities when Madame Desnoyers related her sad adventures. What a rummaging of memory and experience must have followed! What a fetching forth of other harrowing adventures! No one went to France or to the Islands, in those days, or came from them, safely, but did it by divine grace, and under the protection of the Virgin and all the saints. For the black flag ruled the Mexican Gulf with the impunity of the winds of heaven, and to walk the plank was one of the legitimate terrors of the deep.

We get the bloody horrors of the Spanish Main now p188in books, thrilled, mayhap, with the realism of illustrations. Then, the grim facts were handed from memory to memory, with the red stains fresh upon them, and L'Olonoise, Morgan, and Black Beard were as fresh to the tongue as the news of yesterday, and it was as if, overliving their century, they, in propria persona, and not their progeny, were roaming the Gulf, with the skull and cross bones at their mastheads.

The palmy days of piracy in the Gulf had really ended with the seventeenth century, by which time the rich towns of the Mexican and the Central American coast had been sucked dry, and the gold-freighted caravels had taken to travelling in convoy, or armed like men-of‑war. But the old waters still offered opportunities not to be despised by the enterprising and lawless sea-folk. Spain, France, and England were ever at war with another, and a commission could always be obtained at any one of the little islands they had grabbed in the Caribbean, and privateering included much that even a pirate could rejoice in, and if any one ever overstepped the limits of a commission, who was to testify to it?

In the days of the first settlement of Louisiana there had been some cordiality between Mobile and that privateer's nest, Carthagena, and a proposition had even been made by the enterprising leaders of the latter place to transfer themselves and their business to Mobile, to make it the Carthagena of the Gulf in fact. There is no doubt that there was a promise of profit in it that dazzled Iberville, for it was at the end of his great schemes, as we have seen, to become a privateer, to capture islands for France, and establish himself in Central America. His enemies were even p189then accusing his brother Chateaugay, the sea courier of Mobile, of being a pirate, and the suspicion was general that Bienville and all the Lemoyne connection formed a privateering company, under cloak of their official position.

New Orleans was ever a favourite port of the privateers. They could so easily run into the river, sail up to the city, auction off their cargoes, deposit their prisoners, and, if the authorities were amenable, and they generally were, be off again with the quick despatch of regular liners, to the blue waters and bluer skies of their freehold. But privateers found more and more difficulties thrown in their way by international law and order, more and more trammels cast around their pursuit, as it might well be called, by advancing civilization. When Louisiana became the property of the United States, it seemed as if the whole live industry must cease. But in this, as in other emergencies, only a genius was needed, to cleave a way through circumstance.

The genius made his appearance, and bade fair, for a time, not only to be the benefactor of the privateers-men, but of the whole country, by inventing a good working bridge over the chasm, that has always been a yawning problem in the ethics of thereupon, the chasm between personal and public morality.

The conditions in the city were most favourable for any such experiments. The sudden growth of its population, the heterogeneous mass of it, the national partisanship that prevented any unification in a common public opinion, the easy morality of the dominant classes, and the spread of luxury through all classes; these were all factors, made as if to the order of Jean Lafitte.

p190 The impression is that Pierre and Jean Lafitte came from Bayonne. Whatever their origin, they were men of attractive personality, with a great business capacity, which had evidently been thoroughly trained during their past unknown life and experience. Jean, the younger but more conspicuous of the two, is described by a kind of general authority as a man of fair complexion, with black hair and eyes, wearing his beard clean shaven from the front of his face. He spoke English, French, Spanish, and Italian fluently, and possessed in a high degree that shining substitute for education, and invaluable gift to the unscrupulous money maker, the art of making phrases. He could, at any time, or in any circumstance, phrase a disinterested patriotism and a lofty morality that shamed as flimsy pretensions the expressions of the professional leaders and upholders of it.

After their arrival in New Orleans, the Lafittes were soon surrounded by a wide circle of friends and dependants. They evidently had means, for they owned the large force of slaves which they worked in their blacksmith shop, on St. Philip street, between Bourbon and Dauphine; they themselves lived on the north corner of St. Philip and Bourbon. As it is left to the imagination or reason of posterity to infer the process by which they changed their methods of money making, imagination or reasons suggests that from the first the blacksmith shop was but a stalking horse for a more profitable speculation, and that their large circle of friends and dependants were linked together and to them by other than the primitive ties of sociability and sympathy.

Smuggling, as well as privateering, had been always a regular branch of the commerce of Louisiana. In p191the old French colonial days the uncertainty of supplies from the mother country had rendered it almost a necessity of existence: under the ironclad tariff policy of Spain it was quite a necessity. By the time of the cession of the territory to the United States, smuggling prices and smuggling relations had been so long established in the community that they had become a part of the habits of life there. The prices of smuggled goods were far cheaper than they could possibly have been if the customs duties had been levied upon them, and the relations with the purveyors of cheap goods were, what they will always be between consumers and purveyors of cheap goods, confidential and intimate; and there was in addition a general feeling that a laudable principle of conservatism and independence, rather than otherwise, was shown in ignoring the American pretensions of moral superiority over the old standard.

And from time immemorial, Barataria had been associated with pirates, privateers, contrabandists and smugglers. It will be remembered that Barataria was the name of the island presented by the frolicsome duchess to Sancho Panza, for his sins, as he learned to consider it. How or when the name came to Louisiana is still to be discovered, whether directly from Don Quixote, or from the source which supplied LeSage with it, the etymology of the word; Baratear, meaning cheap, Barato, cheap things. The name includes all the Gulf coast of Louisiana between the mouth of the Mississippi and the mouth of the Bayou LaFourche, a considerable stream and the waterway of a rich and populous territory. A thin strip of an island, Grand Terre,º six miles long and three wide, screens from the Gulf the Great Bay of Barataria, whose entrance is a pass with a constant, p192sure depth of water. Innumerable filaments of stealthy bayous running between the bay and the two great streams, the Mississippi and the LaFourche, furnished an incomparable system of secret intercommunication and concealment. The shore of the bay is itself but a concourse of islands, huddling all around, as if they too, like the vessels of the first discoverers of Barataria, had been driven in there by a storm and had never cared to sail out again. On the islands are those inexplicable mammoth heaps of shell, covered by groves of oaks, chênières they were called, which were selected by the aboriginal inhabitants as sites for their temples. A prominent group of these heaps, on one of the larger islands, was the notorious Great Temple, the privateers' chief place of deposit and trade. It is a land of promise for light o' law gentry, and when the British fleet finally cleaned the islands of the Gulf of them, and broke up their nests, they trimmed their sails for Barataria. They soon found that, disguised as necessity, a brilliant stroke of fortune had been dealt them. They were in the easiest and safest reach of the great mart of the Mississippi Valley, where thousands of their kith and kin, driven also out of the islands by the English, walked the streets of the city, looking for a livelihood.

From his first subordinate relation as agent and banker, Jean Lafitte increased his usefulness to the Baratarians, until, through success in managing their affairs, he obtained a complete control over them, and finally ruled them with the authority of a chief. This was when his genius had compassed their complete organization, had united all their different and often rival efforts and interests into one company, or, as we would say to‑day, formed one vast "concern" of all the pirates, p193privateers, and freebooters of the Gulf. Lafitte, however, did not gain his supremacy by purely logical and business methods. An old survivor of the Baratarians, "Nez Coupé," who lived at Grand Terre, used to tell that among them was one, Grambo, who boldly called himself a pirate and flouted Lafitte's euphemism of privateer, and his men were so much of his kind, that, one day, one of them dared an opposition to the new authority. Lafitte drew a pistol and shot him through the heart, before the whole band.


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Although during the embargo of 1808, Lafitte opened a shop on Royal street and assumed the insignia of legitimate trade, there was no serious attempt to deceive any one. He took and gave orders for merchandise at Barataria, as he would have done for Philadelphia. As p194a business venture his scheme became so brilliant a success that it made its own propaganda; and it, not the law, became a converting power in the community.

It was in 1813 that the Baratarians reached such a pinnacle of prosperity that not only the United States felt its loss of revenue, but the shipping in the port diminished, commerce languished, and the banks weakened under the continual lessening of their deposits from the draining off of the trade to Barataria. There the blue waters of the bay were ever gay with the sails of incoming and out-going vessels; there the landing-places bustled and swarmed with activity, and capacious warehouses stood ever gorged with merchandise, and the cargoes of slaves multiplied, for the contraband slavers were always the keenest of the patrons of Barataria. The farms, orange groves, and gardens of the family homes of the privateers transformed Grande Terre and the islands around the Grand Pass into a pastoral beauty which, with the marvellous witchery overhead and about, of cloud and sea-colouring, might be truly called heavenly. A fleet of barges plied unceasingly through the maze of bayous between the LaFourche and the Mississippi; under cover of night their loads were ferried over the river and delivered to agents in New Orleans and in Donaldsonville, the distributing point for the upper river country, and for the Attakapas region. And, en passant, as there must, in every place and time, be a form of suspicion against the purity of rapid money making, many a notable fortune of that day was attributed to an underhand connection with Lafitte. So perfect had the system and discipline become under Lafitte's extraordinary executive ability, that it was a mere question of time p195when he would hold in his hands the monopoly of the import trade of Louisiana, and, in a great measure, that of the entire Mississippi Valley.

The national government made several attempts to assert its authority, but the few seizures it made damaged the privateers very little, if it did not benefit them directly by advancing the prices of the goods that escaped. Every now and then a revenue cutter was sent to surprise Barataria, but it always found that a timely warning had preceded it, and not a trace was to be discovered of the rich booty expected. And as each expedition returned discomfited, the government agents themselves began to be suspected of a secret partnership with Lafitte.

During the spring of 1813 the scandalous notoriety of the prosperity of the Baratarians drew from Governor Claiborne a proclamation against them. He qualified the business roundly as piracy, and cautioned the people of the state against any commerce with it. But the governor only gained the experience of the naïve in attempting the unpopular experiment of raising public morality to a personal standard. No one paid so little attention to his proclamation as the Lafittes themselves. They made their appearance in the streets as unconcernedly as usual, surrounded as usual by admiring friends; their names appeared as usual among the patrons of the public entertainments, and, as usual, auctions of slaves and goods were advertised to take place at Barataria.

During the summer the British patrol of the Gulf tried a hand against the Baratarians. One of its sloops of war attacked two privateers at anchor off Ship Island; but it met with such a spirited reception, p196and suffered such loss, that it was glad to beat a retreat with all haste, the prestige as ever remaining with the privateers.

Claiborne launched another proclamation, offering a reward of five hundred dollars for the arrest of Lafitte and his delivery to the sheriff of the parish prison, or to any sheriff in the state. Notwithstanding this, the cargoes of the privateers' prizes and slaves, four hundred and fifty at one time, were still auctioned at Grand Terre, and still the goods were delivered in city and country. The agents went now, however, well armed, for although Lafitte deprecated and deplored violence, force was met with force, and in one attempt to execute the law, a revenue collector had one of his men killed and two wounded.

The governor, owning himself baffled, appealed to the legislature, then in session, to take some measures to vindicate the outraged law of the State and of the national government. He asked the necessary authority and appropriation to raise a volunteer company to send against Barataria. Lafitte only strengthened his guards, and made his deliveries with his wonted exactitude. They deferred all action in the matter for want of funds.

The governor then, as the only satisfaction possible, secured the criminal prosecution of his adversaries. Indictments for piracy were found against Jean Lafitte and the Baratarians; and Pierre Lafitte, charged with being an aider and abettor, was arrested in New Orleans and lodged in the Calaboose without bail.

Jean Lafitte snapped his fingers at this, by retaining at a fee of twenty thousand dollars apiece, two of the p197most distinguished members of the bar, for his defence; Edward Livingston and John R. Grymes. Grymes, at the time, was district attorney, but he resigned his office for the fee, and when his successor taunted him in open court with having been seduced out of the path of honour and duty by the blood-stained gold of pirates, Grymes defended his honour by sending his arraigner a challenge, shooting him through the hip and crippling him for life.


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When the two eminent counsellors had cleared their client, and brushed the cobwebs of the law out of his future path for him, Lafitte invited them to visit him at Barataria, and personally receive their honorarium. Grymes, a Virginian, an easy moralist and adventurous, accepted readily and heartily; Livingston, the conventionally correct New Yorker, excused himself, deputing his colleague, at ten per cent commission, to collect his fee for him. Old diners-out of the time say that it was ever afterwards one of Mr. Grymes's most delectable post-prandial stories, the description of his trip to Barataria, and the princely hospitality of the innocent, persecuted Baratarians. Lafitte kept him through a week of epicurean feasting and conducted him to the mouth of the Mississippi in a superb yawl, laden with boxes of Spanish gold and silver. "What a misnomer," Grymes would exclaim, to call the most polished gentlemen in the world pirates!" Par parenthèse, there is always added to this the reminiscence, that by the time Mr. Grymes reached the city, running the gauntlet of the hospitality of the planters of the lower coast, and of their card-tables, not a cent of his fee remained to him.

Whether prompted by a hint from his counsel, or by his own confidence in the inflexibility of Governor Claiborne's purpose against him, Lafitte was preparing to change his base and establish his Barataria in some more secure coast, when his good fortune threw another rare opportunity across his path.

On an early September morning of 1814, Barataria was startled by a cannon-shot from the Gulf. Lafitte darting in his four-oared barge through the pass, saw just outside in the Gulf a jaunty brig flying the British colours. A gig, with three officers in uniform, immediately advanced from her side towards him, and the officers introduced themselves as the bearers of important despatches to Mr. Lafitte.

Lafitte, making himself known, invited them ashore, and led the way to his apartments. The description of the entertainment that followed vies with that of Mr. Grymes. It was such as no one but Lafitte knew how to give, and, without irony, no one could afford to give so well as himself, — the choicest wines of Spain and p199France, tropical fruits, game, and the most tempting varieties of Gulf fish, all served in the costliest silver. And the host displayed as lavishly all the incomparable grace and charm of manner and brilliancy of conversation which, among the appreciative people of Louisiana, had been accepted as legal tender for moral dues. Over the cigars, the rarest of Cuban brands, the packet of despatches was opened. The letter addressed to Mr. Lafitte, of Barataria, from the British commander at Pensacola, contained, without periphrase, an offer to Lafitte of thirty thousand dollars, payable in Pensacola or New Orleans, the rank of captain in the British army, and the enlistment of his men in the navy, if he would assist the English in their proposed invasion of Louisiana. Enclosed with the letter was a printed proclamation addressed to the natives of Louisiana, calling upon them to "arise and aid in liberating their paternal soil from a faithless and imbecile government."

Lafitte, affecting to consider the proposition, asked permission to go and consult an old friend and associate whose vessel, he said, was then lying in the Bay. During his absence, a band of Baratarians, who had been on watch, seized the officers and carried them to a strong place, where they were kept prisoners, under guard, all night. The next morning Lafitte returned, and with good dramatic surprise was loud in indignant blame of his men; releasing the officers, instantly with profuse apologies, he escorted them himself through the pass, and left them safe aboard their brig.

But the English letter and proclamation were already on their way to a friend, a member of the legislature, with an epistle conceived in the privateer chief's best style:—

p200 "Though proscribed in my adopted country, I will never miss an opportunity of serving her or of proving that she has never ceased to be dear to me. . . . I may have evaded the payment of duties to the custom house, but I have never ceased to be a good citizen, and all the offences I have committed have been forced upon me by certain vices of the law. . . . Our enemies have endeavoured of work upon me by a motive which few men would have resisted. . . . A brother in irons, a brother who is very dear to me and whose deliverer I might become; and I declined the proposal, well persuaded of his innocence. . . ."

He did his brother and himself injustice. Pierre Lafitte, as Jean knew, had long since been given leg-bail, the other having been refused him, and was even then enjoying his wonted security and comfort in New Orleans.

A few days later Lafitte sent, in a second letter to his friend, an anonymous communication from Havana, giving important information about the intended operations of the British. He also enclosed a letter to Governor Claiborne: "In the firm persuasion," he wrote, "that the choice made of you to fill the office of first magistrate of this city was dictated by the esteem of your fellow citizens, and was conferred on merit, I offer to you to restore to this State several citizens who perhaps in your eyes have lost their sacred title. I offer you them, however, such as you would wish to find them, ready to exert their utmost efforts in defence of their country. . . . The only reward I ask . . . is that a stop be put to the proscription against me and my adherents, by an act of oblivion for all that has been done hitherto. . . . I am the stray sheep wishing to return to the sheep-fold. If you were thoroughly acquired with the nature of my offences, I should appear to you much less guilty and still worthy to discharge the p201duties of a good citizen. . . . Should your answer not be favourable to my ardent desires, I declare to you that I shall instantly leave the country, to avoid the imputation of having co‑operated toward an invasion on this point, which cannot fail to take place, and to rest secure in the acquittal of my own conscience." The governor, to whom the entire correspondence was forwarded, submitted it to a council of the principal officers of the army, navy, and militia; they recommended no intercourse nor correspondence whatever with any of the people. Governor Claiborne alone dissented.

One of the many Lafitte episodes, transmitted through feminine memories of the time, may be inserted here. It was related by a grandmother, whose grandmother lived on a plantation through which Lafitte, called her a flibustier, always passed on his route between Barataria and New Orleans; and he seldom passed without taking supper with Madame: "I assure you he was a fascinating gentleman of fine appearance, and although described by the Americans as a pirate, was in reality a privateer, furnished with letters of marque from the French government. The fact that my grandmother received him as a friend, is a sufficient answer to any doubts as to his qualifications. The very day of Claiborne's proclamation putting a price upon Lafitte's head, in fact it was a reward for his arrest, he made his appearance at the plantation of my grandmother. She, with extreme agitation and anxiety, told him of the governor's act. 'You must not go to the city. You must return at once after supper. Your life, I tell you it's your life that is in danger.' Lafitte laughed her fears to scorn. In the midst of her arguments and his gay expostulations, the servant announced another p202rival, another guest. My grandmother turned her head, and at the instant was embraced by her most intimate friend, Mrs. Claiborne, the wife of the governor, the most beautiful of Creoles, the most coquettish, the most charming woman in the city. In great perplexity, but conquering nevertheless all traces of it, my grandmother, with quick presence of mind, introduced Monsieur Lafitte as Monsieur Clément, and then hurriedly went out of the room, leaving her guests together. She called Henriette, her confidential servant. 'Henriette,' she said, looking straight into the eyes of the devoted negress, 'Henriette, Governor Claiborne has put a price upon M. Lafitte's head. Any one who takes him prisoner and carries him to the governor will receive five hundred dollars, and M. Lafitte's head will be cut off. Send all the other servants away, all the children. Do you set the table and wait upon us yourself alone, and remember to call Monsieur Lafitte Monsieur Clément — Monsieur Clément, and be careful before Madame Claiborne.' The woman responded as was expected of her, and acted with perfect tact and discretion.

"The supper passed off brilliantly. The beautiful, fascinating woman instantaneously made an impression on the no less handsome and fascinating man, who never appeared bolder, more original, more sure of himself. The repartees were sparkling, the laughter continuous, the conversation full of entrain, and so pleasing to both as to render them oblivious of all my grandmother's efforts to put an end to the meal. And afterwards she could not separate the new acquaintances until late bedtime.

" 'My friend,' she then said to Lafitte,'return, p203return immediately. Indeed, your life is in danger. Go where you can defend yourself.' "

Lafitte promised and took his leave, but it was always supposed that he spent the night on the plantation, held by the glamour of the presence of the wife of the governor, his great enemy.

The next day, Madame Claiborne returned to the city, voluble in praise of the most remarkable man she had ever met as she called him. She was sitting in her boudoir, which opened on the corridor leading into her husband's office, when raising her eyes from her sewing at the sound of a step, she there saw passing the object of her thoughts, her conquest of the evening before. "Ah! Monsieur, I am charmed to meet you. . . ." After a moment's effusion on both sides, he asked permission to go into her husband's office. "Certainly, Monsieur, certainly." She led the way herself, and, piqued by curiosity, she remained not out of eyesight or earshot of the interview.

On crossing the threshold, Lafitte put his hands to a concealed belt, and drew two pistols, cocked them, and holding them in readiness, introduced himself:—

"Sir, I am Lafitte."

"Sir. . . ."

"One moment, Sir. You have put a price upon my head."

"Upon the head of a pirate."

"Wait, Sir, I have come voluntarily to you, to make a personal offer of my services in repelling the British. I have a company of men, brave, disciplined, armed, and true to the death. Will the State accept of their services against the enemy or not?"

p204 The governor looked at the man, and considered. Madame Claiborne who, as you may believe, had rushed in from the corridor, was standing by her husband, darting her brilliant black eyes anxiously from his face to that of her handsome conquest.

"Sir," said the governor, "I accept."

"The men, Sir, will at daylight to‑morrow be awaiting your orders at Madame ________'s plantation."

Saluting deferentially, he walked proudly out of the room.

At that very time, as it happened, the national government had at last managed to organize an expedition against Barataria, which had some prospect of success. It was commanded by Commodore Patterson of the U. S. Navy, and Colonel Ross, of the army, stationed at New Orleans, awaiting the British invasion, and they, the gossip goes, were lured to energy by the glittering booty of gold and silver and precious treasures known to be at the pirates' retreat.

Supposing that the military and naval preparations were intended for the British, the Baratarians were for once completely surprised. Only the two Lafittes and a few followers escaped, fleeing to the German coast,º where they found refuge. The settlement at Barataria was destroyed, and the two United States officers returned to New Orleans in triumph, with a large number of prisoners, who were lodged in the Calaboose, and a fleet of vessels loaded with the rich spoils, which they claimed as prizes. In the booty was some jewelry which was identified as the property of a Creole lady who had sailed from New Orleans seven years before, and had never been heard of afterwards. This circumstantial evidence was the only p205proof ever produced that a rigid line had not always been drawn between piracy and privateering by the Baratarians.

When Lafitte's letters, documents, and offer were forwarded to General Jackson, then at Mobile, he spurned them with scorn, having already by proclamation denounced the British for their overtures to "robbers, pirates, and hellish bandits." Nevertheless, on the General's arrival in New Orleans, Jean Lafitte waited on him in person, and firmly renewed his offer. By this time Jackson was conscious of the feebleness of the resources at hand to defend the country, and the strength of the armament coming against it; and he saw the man. The offer was accepted. Jackson's general orders of the 21st of January, 1815, after his victory, give the sequel:—

"Captains Dominique and Beluche, lately commanding privateers at Barataria, with part of their former crews . . . were stationed at batteries Nos. 3 and 4. The General cannot avoid giving his warm approbation of the manner in which these gentlemen have uniformly conducted themselves while under his command, and the gallantry with which they redeemed the pledge they gave at the opening of the campaign, to defend the country. The brothers Lafitte have exhibited the same courage and fidelity, and the General promises that the government shall be duly apprized of their conduct."

On the part of the government, so apprised, the President, in his message on the Battle of New Orleans, issued a full and free pardon "to the violators of revenue, trade, and commerce by the inhabitants of the Island of Barataria," concluding handsomely, as became the President of the United States after so glorious a victory:—

p206 "Offenders who have refused to become the associates of the enemy in war upon the most seducing terms of invitation, and who have aided to repel his hostile invasion of the territory of the United States, can no longer be considered as objects of punishment, but as objects of generous forgiveness."


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Old sword of Lafitte the Pirate.
During the rejoicings and festivities over the victory the two Lafittes made a last brief appearance in the social life of the city, in token of which there are two anecdotes. In an affair of honour between two noted citizens, Pierre Lafitte was selected as the second by the one, M. de St. Gème by the other. The latter, who had distinguished himself during the recent campaign as captain of one of the Creole companies, had no social superior in the city, and on points of honour was looked upon by the whole population as a Chevalier Bayard. His consenting, therefore, to act with Lafitte, was accepted as recognition, ample and complete, of the latter's social rehabilitation. At a ball given by the officers of the army, General Coffee and Jean Lafitte were both among the guests. On their being brought together and introduced, General Coffee showed some uncertainty, or hesitation, of manner. The Baratarian, lifting his head and advancing p207haughtily, repeated with emphasis, "Lafitte, the pirate."

At this propitious moment, the Lafittes left New Orleans forever, and nothing so well as this leaving of it proves their verbal assurances of love for the city, and their desire to stand well in the estimation of the community. They formed a settlement at Galvezton,º and, under letters of marque from some South American state, they preyed, for a brief space, right royally upon the commerce of Spain. Summoned by the United States to produce the national authority by which he occupied the harbour of Galvezton,º Lafitte answered that he had found the port abandoned, and had taken possession of it with the idea of preserving and maintaining it at his own cost. His words are not unworthy ofº quotation:—

"In so doing I was satisfying the two passions which imperiously predominate in me; that of offering an asylum to the armed vessels of the party of independence, and of placing myself in position (considering its proximity to the U. S.) to fly to their assistance should circumstances demand it. . . . I know, Sir, that I have been calumniated in the vilest manner by persons invested with certain authority, but, fortified by a conscience which is irreproachable in every respect, my internal tranquility has not been affected, and in spite of my enemies, I shall obtain the justice due me."

Shortly afterwards, a United States cruiser having been attacked in the Gulf and robbed of a large sum of money, the Galveztonº settlement was broken up. Beyond a stray indication that they were going to attach themselves to the government of Buenos Ayres, nothing further is definitely known of the Lafittes. But tradition still cherishes them, and there has been no p208lack of stories about their after career. Until 1821, pirates were the terror of the Gulf, and every pirate was feared as a Lafitte; and, without any apparent authority whatever, it is still fondly believed that the beautiful Theodosia, the daughter of Aaron Burr, who met an unknown fate in the open seas, was made to walk the plank under his command.

About 1820, a United States revenue cutter, after a rattling engagement, captured a pirate schooner, with her prize, in the lakes. They were carried through the Bayou St. John, to New Orleans. The crew were tried, and three of them hanged in the Place d'Armes, as the oldest inhabitant of not so long ago saw, and ever afterwards loved to tell about.

Dominique You held to his regenerated citizenship p209in New Orleans. When Jackson paid his ever memorable visit to the city seven years after the battle, one of his first inquiries was for his friend Dominique, and it is said that no feature of that triumphal re-celebration more gratified him than the breakfast given him, with true privateer's hospitality and cheer, by the whilom "hellish bandit."

When, after a rare old age, Dominique You died, he had a funeral procession which, for years, was a local standard for size and impressiveness. His tomb can be seen in one of the St. Louis cemeteries, and if one doubts the virtues, respectability, of Dominique, or General Jackson's esteem for him, one can do no better than to fortify one's convictions than make a pilgrimage to his tomb and read his epitaph. It is from no less source than Voltaire and "La Henriade": —

"Intrépide guerrier, sur la terre et sur l'onde,

Il sut, dans cent combats, signaler sa valeur

Et ce nouveau Bayard, sans reproche et sans peur

Aurait pu sans trembler, voir s'écrouler le monde."


[image ALT: zzz.]
Grave of Dominique You.

Captain Beluche, who was a Creole by birth, passed into the service of Venezuela, as commander of her navy.

The Baratarians drifted back to their old haunts, became fishermen and oyster men; and, bandits though they ever appeared in face and dress, peddled their Gulf delicacies peaceably enough through the streets of the city to the cry of "Barataria! Barataria!" Their descendants still live in the "Chênières," a hardy, handsome race of men and women, speaking a strange mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, and French. Over and over again, cyclonic Gulf storms have swept them p210with their habitations, a wild ruin of drift and corpses, far out into the Gulf; and over and over again they have seemed to resurrect; a year or two and Barataria would be once more peopled and rebuilt.

Lafcadio Hearn describes the Grand Terre of to‑day, "a wilderness of wind-swept grasses and sinewy reeds waving away from a thin beach, ever speckled with drift and decaying things; — wormriddled timbers and dead porpoises. Sometimes, of Autumn evenings, when the hollow of heaven flares like the interior of a chalice, and waves and clouds are flying in one wild rout of broken gold, you may see the tawny grasses all covered with something like husks. . . . But if you approach, those pale husks will break open to display strange splendours of scarlet and seal brown with arabesque mottlings in white and black; they change into wondrous living blossoms, which . . . rise in the air and flutter away by thousands to settle down farther off, and turn again into wheat-covered husks once more . . . a whirling flower drift of sleepy butterflies."


[image ALT: A map of the lower part of Louisiana.]

The Gulf of Mexico.

Thayer's Note: The engraving as printed is only 75 mm wide; scanning reveals geographical names not readable in the print edition. They are:

A: Chênière Compound

B: Grand Isle

C: Barataria Bay

D: Mississippi River

E: Southwest Pass


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Page updated: 25 Sep 05