|Birth: ||Apr. 22, 1782|
Jean Lafitte (ca. 1776 – ca. 1823) was a French pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his elder brother, Pierre, spelled their last name Laffite, but English-language documents of the time used "Lafitte." The latter has become the commonly seen spelling in the United States, including for places named for him.
Lafitte is believed to have been born either in France or the French colony of Saint-Domingue. By 1805, he operated a warehouse in New Orleans to help disperse the goods smuggled by his brother Pierre Lafitte. After the United States government passed the Embargo Act of 1807, the Lafittes moved their operations to an island in Barataria Bay. By 1810, their new port was very successful; the Lafittes pursued a successful smuggling operation and also started to engage in piracy.
Though Lafitte tried to warn Barataria of a British attack, the American authorities successfully invaded in 1814 and captured most of Lafitte's fleet. In return for a pardon, Lafitte helped General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British in 1815. The Lafittes became spies for the Spanish during the Mexican War of Independence and moved to Galveston Island, where they developed a pirate colony called Campeche.
Lafitte continued attacking merchant ships as a pirate around Central American ports until he died around 1823 trying to capture Spanish vessels. Speculation about his life and death continues among historians
The following is from the Louisiana Historical Ass0ciation website.
LAFFITE, Jean, freebooter, buccaneer. Born, Port-au-Prince, Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti), April 22, 1782; son of a French father and Spanish Jewish mother. Jean the youngest of eight children; Alexandre Frédéric Laffite (alias Dominique You [q.v.]) and Pierre Laffite (q.v.) were his brothers. Early life confused and contradictory; he and Pierre started freebooting operation in New Orleans area; Pierre operated blacksmith shop as a front at corner of Bourbon and St. Phillip streets for selling their contraband from Gulf of Mexico, 1810-1814. Legendary treasure caches buried in several Louisiana areas, some located—some still buried. Laffite and his Baratarians played a major role in Gen. Andrew Jackson's defense of New Orleans from December 14, 1814, through January 8, 1815. He furnished powder, lead, cannons, and cannoneers. For this patriotic service Jean and his men were pardoned by President James Madison. Jean returned to former activities; ran slaves from Galveston to Louisiana; disappeared from public view in the early 1820s; it was rumored he died; many myths were spawned to explain the remainder of his life. According to The Journal of Jean Laffite (1958), Jean changed his name to John Lafflin. The Journal maintains that he died at Crève Coeur, Mo., May 5, 1854; interred Wesleyan Cemetery, St. Louis. M.P. Sources: Jane Lucas de Grummond, The Baratarians and the Battle of New Orleans (1961); Jean Laffitte, The Journal of Jean Laffitte, The Privateer-Pirate's Own Story (1958); Lyle Saxon, Lafitte [sic] the Pirate (1930); Stanley Clisby Arthur, Jean Laffite, Gentleman Rover (1952); Lyle Saxon et al., Gumbo Ya-Ya (1945); Dictionary of American Biography (1946); David C. Roller and Robert W. Twyman, eds., Encyclopedia of Southern History (1979).
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Record added: Nov 08, 2012
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