A most dangerous and evil pirate king was a Frenchman named Jean Lafitte. He was known for leading a pirate island in Louisiana. He captured ships and smuggled stolen goods into New Orleans. Lafitte was sly and tricky so when the Governor of Louisiana put a price of $300 on the pirate’s head, the pirate put a price of $1,000 for the capture of the governor.
Authorities considered Lafitte to be a dangerous mastermind and mass murderer. The word got out and in 1814 he was asked by the British if he would join their side offering him citizenship and landholdings. The British warned him if he did not accept their offer they would break up his island and sell the pieces for scrap. Lafitte asked for some time to consider the offer but did not think long instead he went to New Orleans to warn the Americans that the British were coming. Even though he was not American he was on their side.
His pirate fleet was ordered never to attack an American ship. When a pirate made the mistake Lafitte killed him on the spot. If he discovered that a captured ship was not fit for pirating he actually returned it. The people of New Orleans considered him to be a hero because due to his smuggling they could buy things they otherwise could not afford. When Lafitte warned the Americans about the British they raided his island and locked up his men thinking that he was just bluffing. When future president Andrew Jackson stepped in saying that New Orleans was not prepared for an attack from the British Lafitte and his pirates were released as long as they agreed to help the U.S. Navy making use of their pirate fleet.
As it turned out it was due to the pirates that New Orleans didn’t fall into the hands of the British. In this case, Lafitte was a great help. Once the Battle of New Orleans was over the pirate king returned to his old ways only this time he had almost 1000 followers. Lafitte organized a commune known as Campeche on the island where today you can find the city of Galveston, Texas. For a while, in 1819 he was even governor. From there he continued his pirating mostly against the Spanish. In 1820 his men attacked U.S. ships and he was under pressure to end his operation.
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What was a pirate to do? Lafitte chose a pirate crew to man his favorite vessel, The Pride. First, he burned down the town and then sailed away along the coast of Spanish America continuing to terrorize the seas for some more years.
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In Jefferson Parish in the U.S. state of Louisiana, you’ll find the town named after this privateer Jean LaFitte on Bayou Barataria.