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New Orleans

New Orleans, for the most part, missed the Golden Age of Piracy and doesn't figure into the scope of this site. Founded in 1717 by France, it was for the most part a non-profiable port and France ceded New Orleans to Spain in 1762. A few years later, the American colonist had a rebellion and formed a new nation. The new founded nation had expanded as far west as the Mississippi and saw it as a logical way to move goods to the Atlantic Ocean. These Americans, were known as "Kaintucks" (Slang for Kentuckian) by the people of New Orleans and for some reason the local inhabitants didn't like these foreigners and often placed embargoes on their shipment. This did little to make New Orleans a profitable port for Spain and so Spain decided to secretly give New Orleans back to France in 1800. The French were no dummies and so in 1803, they decided they would trick President Thomas Jefferson into buying New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, and in turn they could use the money to fight a war with most of Europe. The history books refer to little swindle as the Louisiana Purchase.

Once France sold the New Orleans to the United States, it began to grow in size and population. Its also became one of the most vibrant melting pots in America, consisting of French, Canadians, Spaniards, Run-away slaves, Native Americans, and finally Americans from the former English colonies. With the river trade that came from other nations and their colonies in the Americas, New Orleans finally started to turn a profit. This led to and increase in smuggling and piracy.

Probably the most famous of all American Pirates was New Orleans' Jean Laffite. Laffite carried a Letter of Marque from the government of Colombia and consider himself a Privateer. He and his brother Pierre owned a blacksmith shop around Barataria Bay. The shop was actually a front for their illicit smuggling business. Besides slaves, Laffite also moved stolen goods from the numerous pirates who operated within the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. On occasion Laffite would also go on the account and pillage a Spanish ship but for the most part he considered it safer and more profitable to just receive the stolen goods and act as a middle man for their disposal.

His claim to fame came during the War of 1812. Laffite was offered £30,000 Sterling and a Letter of Marque by the British to use his base as a staging area for the Royal Navy. Laffite, always the scoundrel took the money, betrayed the British and informed the Americans of the British plan. At first the Louisiana officials didn't believe him and they attacked Laffite's stronghold at Barataria Bay destroying some of his ships but not his business. Shortly after this attack it became clear that Laffite had been telling the truth. Laffite once again approached the American with information. General Andrew Jackson asked Laffite to help defend the city and Laffite agreed, but only after getting unconditional pardons for himself and his associates. The Baratarians, as Laffite and his men came to be known, fought with distinction. Jackson personally commended Laffite as "one of the ablest men" of the battle, and President James Madison issued a public proclamation of pardon for the group

But once a smuggler and pirate, always a smuggler and pirate. By 1817, Laffite was once again smuggling while operating under the Letter of Marque from Colombia. He had moved his base of operation to Campeche (now Galveston, Texas) and with a following of some 1,000 men continued to raid ships throughout the Gulf of Mexico. In 1820 some of his followers had the gall to attack a U. S. Ship and the American government decided it had had enough. Seeing his days numbered, Laffite hand picked some of his favorite men, boarded his ship the The Pride burned Campeche to the ground. and headed south to calmer waters and easier pickings along the coast of South America. He was still operating in this area around 1825 but nothing is known of his final fate.

Profile picture for user Tobias Gibson

The only author and editor of all pages on the site. Most of what I write about is based on years of book reading on the topic. My first web page was published back in 1994.

Updated: 04 September 2022