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The park's mission to preserve and share cultural traditions, historical sites, and natural landscapes means that there's always something interesting going on at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
Although Jean Lafitte was a privateer who illegally traded in slaves and generally defied the law, his assistance during the British invasion that ended in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 was invaluable to the Americans. In 1966 a state park was created at the present site of the Barataria Preserve and named after Lafitte because of his smuggling operations in the area. The name was kept when the state park was combined with the French Quarter Visitor Center and Chalmette Battlefield to form Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
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In Chalmette, six miles southeast of New Orleans, is the Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery, site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans
A Bowie Knife
Piracy in the Caribbean
Pirate & Patriot
Out of Nowhere
The Bayous
Lafitte the Man
England Proposes
Barataria Destroyed
Old Hickory
Battle of New Orleans
The Author Joseph Geringer

Jean Lafitte Tourism Center is located at
799 Jean Lafitte Boulevard, Jean Lafitte, LA 70067

Jean Lafitte Tourist Commission.

Lafitte Animated Museum
Image:Pirate Flag of Thomas Tew.svg


Jean Lafitte pronounced lah FEET,"The Corsair" by E.H. Suydam
Pirate and Patriot


 From about the time of the Louisiana Purchase and into the 1820s. The Lafitte brothers  were as distinguished for how they earned their income as well as how lavishly they spent it. Said to be handsome, intelligent, and charming, the admiral of the pirate fleet, Jean Lafitte was known as the "prince of pirates," "the terror of the Gulf," and the "hero of New Orleans."

Jean, the commanded of a federation of ships larger than that of the US Navy at times has been called "The Corsair,"  "The Terror of the Gulf," and seemed to be brutal, ruthless buccaneers. At other times, they appear as entrepreneurs and savvy businessmen who skillfully navigate the borders of legality during the most interesting days of America's historic multicultural city and greatest Carnaval.

At three separate times, U.S. presidents have condemned, exonerated and again condemned his actions. He is known for his piracy in the Gulf of Mexico, and lauded for his heroism in the Battle of New Orleans. Each personae seems to balance the other. He hated being called "pirate," for, as he saw it, he was a "privateer" serving an economic purpose in an economically frugal time in a new country that needed to economize. When he at last sailed away from American shores, he felt betrayed by a country that didn’t understand the difference.

From the Gulf of Mexico through a vast uncharted maze of waterways to New Orleans, his name was legend even in his day. Entrepreneur and astute diplomat, he took an island-full of bloodied seafarers, rovers and fishermen and turned them into an organization of buccaneers, smugglers and wholesalers. From the ships they plundered off the Caribbean Coast and in the Atlantic he and his "crew of a thousand men" kept a constant cargo of black-marketed and very necessary provisions (including Negro slaves, a very important "commodity" to the early South) moving through the Mississippi Delta to help feed and clothe a part of the nation that the government overlooked. As a result, he won the praise of the local rich and poor alike.

He never attacked an American ship. A man without a country, he nevertheless respected the constitution of American ideals and hoped that what he called his "kingdom by the sea" might someday meld into like ideals.

His self-made kingdom, from the Gulf of Mexico through the villages and plantations to and including New Orleans, was a part of an untamed wilderness that came as part of the package called the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. This delta was a new and lusty territory, overgrown with willows and wildlife. Within its miles and miles of marshlands a man could get lost and wander until he maddened and died of starvation. Unlike anything the government knew; the topography, coupled by its habitation of misunderstood Cajuns and Creoles, confused and perplexed Washington decision makers. Much more, overcome with other, deepening international problems, the nation more or less abandoned this wetland with its foreign cultures to fend for itself.

 Lafitte’s commerce of merchandise -- of cloths and linens, spices and trinkets, furniture and utensils -- sold at discount prices, avoiding high tariffs, to the grateful citizens of New Orleans. In short, Lafitte’s piratical methods, despite their negative connotation, proved to be a survival factor for what was to become a major American city.

Jean Lafitte's diary states he was born in Port-Au-Prince, Saint Domingue, in 1782. His mother died the next year, so Jean and his siblings were raised by their grandmother, the Sephardic Jew Zora Nadrimal. She told them of her flight from Spain to France with their mother to escape the Inquisition, which tortured and murdered their grandfather Abhorad. The brothers later  claimed the Bordeaux region of France as their birthplace to snag French privateering credentials.

The family lived a peaceful life in Santo Domingo until the Slave Insurrection of 1791. The Lafitte/Laffite brothers escaped to Martinique where they purchased a Letter of Marque (makes it kosher to seize and loot enemy vessels). Jean married a Danish Jewess, Cristiana Levine, and after four profitable years of privateering the family left for France with everything they owned. On the way their ship was taken by a Spanish Man of War. They were stripped and dumped on a sand cay; days later an American schooner picked them up and took them to New Orleans where Cristiana shortly died of exhaustion and fever.

Meanwhile Jean's brother Pierre, also a privateer, was busted for smuggling. Laffite's older brother Pierre sold slaves openly through notaries in New Orleans, Dominique You and Renato Beluche were his compatriots in what German merchant Vincent Nolte described as a "colony of pirates" infesting the shores of Louisiana. In 1811
Jean Laffite was invited to lead the privateer smuggling establishment at
Barataria Bay. The Baratarian Association formed shortly afterward included Dominique You, Renato Beluche, Chigazola "Nez Coupe" and Vincent Gambie. They obtained privateering commissions from Cartagena to prey on Spanish shipping.

The  brothers had briefly worked for U.S. Customs before back into pirating. Jean bought a blacksmith shop on Bourbon Street to assist in the moving of the purloined merchandise. Pierre and Jean were joined by their brothers René/Renato Béluche and Dominique You, former artillery gunner for Napoleon. They built a headquarters in Barataria Bay.

Battle of New Orleans 1815

By 1811, Barataria was a thriving community with 32 armed warships, more ships than there was in the entire American navy at the start of the War of 1812.

In 1813, Governor William Claiborne of Louisiana offered $500 for Laffite's capture. Jean Laffite responded with a parody proclamation in which he offered $5,000 to anyone who delivered Governor Claiborne to him at Isle au Chat. All efforts to take and prosecute Laffite under the law failed.

In 1814, the British were at war with the United States. They offered Laffite Lafitte 30,000 pounds sterling and a commission in the British Navy if he would guide their troops through the maze of waterways to New Orleans. He asked for two weeks to consider the offer, informed the Louisiana government of the plans, and offered the services of the Barataria smugglers to the United States.

Instead of accepting Jean's help, governor Claiborne let a Commodore Patterson attack Barataria. Patterson destroyed the settlement including Lafitte’s Valhalla and stole loot worth half a million dollars, claiming it as spoils of war -- though none of it was ever seen by the government. He imprisoned 80 of the pirates but most escaped to turn up later at a nearby predetermined island. 

Lafitte's men were needed to keep New Orleans and the entire Mississippi River from enemy hands, if the Governor could not see this perhaps the American Commander, Andrew Jackson could be convinced. 


The British General Pakenham's assault was doomed from the beginning. His men made perfect targets as they marched precisely across a quarter mile of open ground. Hardened veterans of the Peninsular Campaign in Spain fell by the score, including nearly 80 percent of a splendid Scottish Highlander unit that tried to march obliquely across the American front. Both of Pakenham's senior generals were shot early in the battle, and the commander himself suffered two wounds before a shell severed an artery in his leg, killing him in minutes. HisDownload successor wisely disobeyed Pakenham's dying instructions to continue the attack and pulled the British survivors off the field. More than 2,000 British had been killed or wounded and several hundred more were captured. The American loss was eight killed and 13 wounded.

Jean Lafitte

 A grateful Jackson, not yet president, saw to it that Lafitte and his family became American citizens.




He writes that contemporaries described "(Lafitte) as ‘graceful and elegant in manners...accomplished in conversation.’ And yet this was the man who was often described in very different terms as the ‘Prince of Pirates’ or the ‘ferocious’ head of ‘desperadoes.’"

The spent as voraciously as they earned making their rule of the gulf as precarious as a strong attack from the US Navy. They left nothing behind but their legend which continues to grow wherever people gather to enjoy pirate tales.

"He left a corsair’s name to other times,
Linked one virtue to a thousand crimes."

-- Lord Byron

After being run out of New Orleans around 1817, Lafitte relocated to the island of Galveston, Texas establishing another "kingdom" he named "Campeche". In Galveston, Lafitte either purchased or set his claim to a lavishly furnished mansion used by French pirate Louis-Michel Aury, which he named "Maison Rouge". The building's upper level was converted into a fortress where a cannon commanding Galveston harbor were placed. Around 1820, Lafitte reportedly married Madeline Regaud, possibly the widow or daughter of a French colonist who had died during an ill-fated expedition to Galveston. In 1821, the schooner USS Enterprise was sent to Galveston to remove Lafitte's presence from the Gulf after one of the pirate's captains attacked an American merchant ship. Lafitte agreed to leave the island without a fight, and in 1821 or 1822 departed on his flagship, the Pride, burning his fortress and settlements and reportedly taking immense amounts of treasure with him. All that remains of Maison Rouge is the foundation, located at 1417 Avenue A near the Galveston wharf.


The Buccaneer,1938

The film was released by Paramount Pictures Corp., in 1938.  Impeccably French accented Fredric March’s Jean Lafitte and his pirate gang (including a scene-stealing Akim Tamiroff as a former Napoleonic gunner) trade amnesty for aid to Andrew Jackson as a British invasion looms during the War of 1812.
This was a very good version and a colorful  DeMille swashbuckler  topped by a spectacular recreation of the Battle of New Orleans.
In the War of 1812, the British have sacked Washington and hope to capture New Orleans, where pirate Jean Lafitte romances blueblooded Annette de Remy and openly sells his loot in a pirates' market. But he never attacks American ships.
Can the British bribe Lafitte to help them? Can Lafitte persuade American authorities of his loyalty? Will a love triangle between Annette and pretty Dutch girl Gretchen (survivor of a pirates' prize) bring about Lafitte's undoing?

The Buccaneer, was DeMille's first attempt at this tale of Jean Lafitte. Another version was done in 1958 and was produced by Demille but due to his poor health was directed by his son-in-law, Anthony Quinn.

Featured actors in the film included Frederic March, Franciska Gaal, Akim Tamiroff, Margot Grahame, Walter Brennan and Anthony Quinn.

The DVD Missing in Action List


Lafitte's family immigrates from Haiti to New Orleans as Africans revolt in France's most successful colonial enterprise

Napoléon  in the Caribbean

North American ties to Hispaniola; the first island discovered by Columbus and long the most troubled island of  the Amercian hemisphere includes the story of the first colony to declare independence.

Napoléon Bonaparte (born Napoleone di Buonaparte) (August 15, 1769 Ajaccio, Corsica - May 5, 1821 St. Helena) became Toussaint Louverture's main enemy after he came to power in 1799. The French emperor tried to re-establish slavery in the Caribbean colony Saint-Domingue through his brother in law General Leclerc. He had Toussaint Louverture captured by deceit and transferred to a dungeon in the French Alps where the Haitian revolutionary leader later died.

The French after helping the fledging multicultural nation of 13 states defeat the British in 1776 continued their own quest for world domination under the great General Napoleon until the new World's first slave revolt resulted in France's 2nd great gift to the dream of liberty in the Americas.

 wikipediaNapoleon was faced with the defeat of his armies in Saint-Domingue (present-day Republic of Haiti) where an expeditionary force under his brother-in-law Charles Leclerc was attempting to reassert control over a slave rebellion that threatened France's most profitable colony. Political conflicts in Guadeloupe and in Saint-Domingue grew with the restoration of slavery on May 20, 1802, and the defection of leading French officers, like the black general Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the mulatto officer Alexandre Pétion in October 1802, within the context of an ongoing.
 guerrilla war. The French had successfully deported Toussaint L'Ouverture to France in June 1802, but yellow fever was destroying European soldiers and claimed Leclerc in November.
The American negotiators were prepared to spend $10 million for New Orleans but were dumbfounded when the entire region was offered for $15 million. The treaty was dated April 30, 1803,

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Zorro meets Lafitte -soon to be a major motion picture
ZORRO - the first American trickster hero
While Lafitte aspired to be considered a hero the facts get in the way of his compelling myth. As a pure work of fiction this is not a problem for the early California hero Zorro. His early years were delightfully reworked in 2005 by author Isabel Allende who has Lafitte marry the great love of Zorro's life following his capture at sea.
Allende's ZORRO is her version of the story that was originally introduced in 1919. Zorro's beginnings is the focus of Allende's novel, which is also going to be the basis of the third in the ZORRO trilogy of movies starring Antonio Banderas. Allende stays true to the original story, tracing Zorro's roots from his birth in Alta California (as Diego De La Vega, the son of the Alcalde of Pueblo de Los Angeles and an Indian woman) in the late 1700's.

THE MARK OF ZORRO - The prototype of future generations' comic-strip heroes

(1920, FRED NIBLO) Sword-slashed Z’s keep popping up on the bad guys as the mysterious masked Zorro starts righting wrongs in Olde California. The first of Douglas Fairbanks Sr.’s legendary swashbucklers —
“Established Fairbanks as the first action hero — lightly self-mocking, casually romantic and breathtakingly athletic — and created a template for decades of films and film actors to follow.” – Stephen Whitty, The Newark Star-Ledger

The people of New Orleans are as strange and wondrous a mix as the city itself, reveling in its French heritage and its segregation from American culture. Early in its history, France would rid itself of scoundrels and prostitutes by shipping them off to New Orleans.

The Buccaneer
"Some considered him a rapacious rogue, a man of unmitigated violence. Others, many of whom were young women, regarded him as a charming person. He was seductive, perhaps deceptive, but always elegantly gracious."
 Jack C. Ramsay, Jr. from his excellent and concise Jean Laffite, Prince of Pirates,
Avast me hearties!
 It be nearing that time fer our ships to weigh anchor!
Birth of Jean Lafitte
No authenticated record of Jean Lafitte's birth has been found, but it is generally believed that he was born sometime around 1780. The Lafitte Society of Galveston Texas believes it likely that in 1772 on April 12 Pierre Laffite was born in Bordeaux, France.
1774 May 6 Alexandre Laffite in Bordeaux who is believed by some members of the Laffite Society to have been the French gunnery officer Dominique You and in 1782
August 15--Birth of Jean Laffite in Bordeaux, France.
They point out the possibility that these may be a different set of Lafitte brothers as the name was common.

"Our family, originally named Lefitto, lived in the Iberian Peninsula for centuries. When Ferdinand and Isabella reconquered Spain and expelled the Muslims and the Jews in 1492, most of the Jews fled to North Africa. Others went to the Balkans or to Greece and Turkey. But some Sephardi Jews, my ancestors among them, crossed the Pyrenees and settled in France, where Jean was born in about 1780. He moved to French Santo Domingo during the Napoleonic period. However, a slave rebellion forced him to flee to New Orleans.

Melvyn J. Lafitte to Professor Edward Bernard Glick in a moment of serendipity [source]

When he applied for a French privateer commission in 1813 he claimed to be 32 years old; Pierre was believed to be about 40 in 1816. Their contemporaries nearly always distinguished between the two Laffite brothers as "the elder" and "the younger" The senior brother was considered the brains of the operation.  Pierre, was most likely born in Bordeaux, France, around 1770. His half-brother Jean followed about 12 years later.

Jean and Pierre Lafitte were known to have been in New Orleans as early as 1805, some say that they were natives of Marseilles, France, while others claim that they hailed from Port au Prince in Santo Domingo. The brothers claimed the Bordeaux region of France as their birthplace circa 1780-85 in order to be entitled to French privateer's credentials, This may be true, since the eldest Lafitte brother, Alexandre, known as Dominique You, was the famed diminutive artillery officer of Napoleon.

Final Resting Place
one of the few buccaneers who didn't die in battle, in prison or on the gallows

Did he die still practicing his trade as a pirate in the Yucatan in the middle 1820s or as a middle-class American citizen of the 1850s?

Some say Jean Lafitte's Brother Pierre died in Missouri in 1844 and was buried in St. Louis. Pierre's children have been quoted as saying that their "esteemed" uncle changed his name to Jon Lafflin and dropped out of sight in 2007 claims Pierre Laffite's death is well documented and that he perished on the northern coast of the Yucatan peninsula in the fall of 1821. They also report Jean Laffite disappeared into the "fog of history" after he escaped from prison in Puerto Principe, Cuba, in February, 1822. Further that a
n American historical group erected a monument to the pirate in 1976 at a grave-site at the village of Dzilam de Bravo, near Merida, on the Yucatan peninsula. They believe that Jean died of yellow fever off the coast of Yucatan in 1826

We tend to agree with the  theory, supported by republication of a "journal," is that when the camp in Galveston was destroyed by a hurricane, Lafitte married and moved up to Alton, Illinois. There he became passionate about furthering the cause of the working man.
The Lafitte descendents also support this version of the final chapter in the celebrated life of the Caribbean's most legendary pirate.

Lafitte's journal
In the nineteenth century it was popular practice for notorious figures to fake their death, change identity and location and then live a relatively normal life. So it was with the Privateer Jean Lafitte. After his announced death in the 1820's he lived in several states in the U.S., raised a family and wrote his journal.

At his request the publication of the journal was delayed for 100 years. In the 1950's the journal was translated from French to English and published. The original manuscript was purchased by Texas' Governor Price Daniel and is on display at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Archives located in Liberty, Texas  at amazon

Lafitte, Jean. The journal of Jean Laffite : the privateer-patriot's own story. Hemphill, TX: Dogwood Press, 1994.The Memoirs of Jean Laffite

Location: F 374 .L123 (Special Collections)


His parents escaped from the Inquisition of Spain to Bordeaux, France while he escaped from the slave revolt of Haiti to the shores of the gulf.

The accuracy of some accounts of his life are open to doubt, and an autobiographical journal is suspected of being a forgery by some historians. His father was said to be French and his mother either a Spaniard, or Sephardi. His mother's family allegedly fled from Spain to France in 1765 after his maternal grandfather was put to death for Judaism. In his alleged journal, Lafitte describes childhood in the home of his Jewish grandmother, who was full of stories about the family's escape from the Inquisition.
Pirates get more booty!
 "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
William Faulkner

"He left a corsair’s name to other times,
Linked one virtue to a thousand crimes."

-- Lord Byron

 "Audacity, more audacity, and always audacity!"
-- Georges Jacques Danton

"Do your duty, and leave the rest to the gods."

-- Pierre Corneille

"Gentlemen, the British are below the city! We mist fight them tonight."

-- Gen. Andrew Jackson

Pirates of  the Caribbean

"Bring me that horizon!

Jack Sparrow

Jack Sparrow is the Pirate Lord of the Caribbean Sea and enjoys the freedom that his occupation provides, drinking rum, and seducing women while searching for supernatural treasures. Although he can be treacherous, Sparrow survives mostly by using wit and negotiation over weapons and force. He prefers to flee dangerous situations, but will fight if necessary.
The thousands of islands in the Caribbean made it almost impossible for authorities to police and very easy for pirates to pounce.
 Actor Johnny Depp, who created the character Captain Jack Sparrow, compared pirates to rock stars in that their legendary status preceded them, which may help fuel Sparrow's enormous ego

Initially, Sparrow was conceived for the first film as a trickster who guides the hero, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), but Johnny Depp's performance changed that concept. His eccentric characterization, partially inspired by Pepe LePew and Keith Richards, turned Sparrow into the breakout character and earned Depp his first Academy Award

An initial costume concept for Jack Sparrow before Depp's ideas took hold

An initial costume concept for Jack Sparrow before Depp's ideas took hold.

 "With piercing black eyes surrounded by kohl, beads in his hair, a beard with tiny braids and enough gold and platinum in his mouth to earn Dr. Rick Glassman, DDS, a credit for "Dental Special Effects for Johnny Depp," the actor looks less the nautical outlaw than a thrift store refugee about to go clubbing in Hollywood."
-Kenneth Turan -LA Times

 nomination. Sparrow became an iconic anti-hero, and in a case of life-imitates -art, Richards played a cameo role as Sparrow's father in the third film. Depp partly based the character on Pepe Le Pew, a womanising skunk from Looney Tunes. Sparrow claims to have a "tremendous intuitive sense of the female creature", although his conquests are often left with a sour memory of him. Former flames, usually slap him or anyone looking for him. His witty charm easily attracts women.

Johnny Depp talked about these 2 influences:
he greatest rock n' roll star of all time, the coolest rock n' roll star of all time is Keith Richards, hands down. So, yeah, I kind of incorporated the idea of Keith. Not like an imitation of Keith or anything but just that wisdom that he carries, that sort of confidence that he has, that attack that he has. So I got that on one side and on the other side I took a little bit of this cartoon character that I've always loved when I was a kid, his name was Pepe Le Pew. Yeah, the skunk, Pepe Le Pew who was the skunk who smelled horrible, but was absolutely convinced that he was the ultimate ladies' man. You know the guy, he'd fall in love with this cat The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.and the cat quite clearly despised him but Pepe Le Pew sort of read it as, 'Oh she's just playing hard to get. Oh she's just shy.' And then I thought of Jack as this constantly moving organism that would shape himself to whatever situation you were in to see what he would get out of the situation."

A survey of more than 3,000 people showed Jack Sparrow was the most popular Halloween costume of 2006, and a 2007 poll held by the Internet Movie Database showed Sparrow to be the second most popular live action hero, after Indiana Jones

These days the pirates treasure has been found by Disney with their Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. On St. Vincent, the film’s set for Port Royal, Jamaica is still standing at Wallilabou Bay. And on Grand Bahama and in the Exumas, where film crews for the second and third films set up camp for 10 months, you’ll find pirate-themed meals and souvenirs.  [see wikipedia for more including sources]