Jean LaFitte

Ch. 5: Jean Lafitte
Houston, Texas

SOLVED by Chris Cunningham - Stay tuned to find out when the Winner will receive their prize.

Our Story:

Jonathan Hodges has recently lost his father, having found him again in Texas after years of estrangement. Going through his dad’s things, he finds several strange documents that bring many things to light about his family’s past, and have serious bearing on Jonathan’s own present and future. He is torn between following the lead of his ancestry, which includes the notorious brigand and privateer Jean Lafitte, and joining his wife and child in a loving and present reality.

The Real Story Behind Jean Lafitte

 The smuggler Jean Lafitte was one of the last men to make a name for himself as a pirate of the Caribbean; by the time of his death in the 1820’s, the peace between Spain and the United States had done away with much of the lawlessness that had permitted Lafitte and his famous predecessors Blackbeard, Henry Morgan, and Captain Kidd to ply their trade in the Gulf of Mexico for two centuries. Despite the growing strength of the young American nation in his day, Lafitte was able to take advantage of the Caribbean “western frontier” in order to accumulate riches that may still be buried around the bayous and islands that he knew so well.
 
Lafitte and his brother Pierre first gained notoriety when they organized a community of smugglers on one of the small delta islands near New Orleans. Because the United States had issued a trade embargo, the people of the newly-acquired Louisiana Territory were grateful that Lafitte and his merchants were able to provide luxurious foreign imports that were otherwise unavailable. While Lafitte’s primary business at the time was smuggling, he also took certain vessels captive in order to strip them of their cargo or to use the ships in his growing commercial fleet. He gained a reputation for letting crew go unharmed, and he often returned ships to their owners if he found he could not use them.
 
For some time, the local authorities turned a blind eye to his activities, but the War of 1812 prompted the federal government to crack down on Lafitte, whose smuggling was reducing customs revenue that could bolstered the outmatched United States Navy.  In one of the clashes that followed, a commodore captured several of Lafitte’s ships, 80 of his men, and about half a million dollars. At first, then-General Andrew Jackson applauded the commodore — but when Jackson discovered that the New Orleans was woefully unprepared to defend itself against the British, he offered a pardon for Lafitte’s men if they would agree to man their confiscated ships and fight the British. Lafitte and all his men distinguished themselves in battle, helping to defeat the British and ultimately receiving their pardons.
 
After this glorious success, Lafitte and his brother moved their base of operations to Galveston, Texas, where they could act as spies for Spain and build up another community of smugglers. Even after a hurricane devastated the island in 1818, Lafitte continued raking in the profits from smuggling, selling contraband slaves, and open piracy.
 
Lafitte voluntarily left Galveston in 1821 when one of his men attacked an American vessel, but he took the trouble to burn the town to the ground first. Soon afterward he seized a Spanish ship in the Gulf, and his men buried some of its cargo near Galveston; while the American authorities eventually discovered this particular stash, the incident suggests that Lafitte was accustomed to burying loot — and indeed, many have speculated that there might be other undiscovered stashes around Galveston or New Orleans. It’s unclear exactly when and how Jean Lafitte died or what became of his remaining wealth — but nobody has ever claimed to have found any of the riches that might have been stashed away by the last great American pirate.


The Chapters: 12 Lost Treasures

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