Commemoration of a Hero: Jean Laffite and the Battle of New Orleans

March 6, 2014 in American History, Caribbean History, general history, History, Louisiana History

A “Buccaneer” scene from the Battle of New Orleans, with Yul Brynner as Jean Laffite, at Battery No. 3.

Almost 200 years ago, privateer-smuggler Jean Laffite became a hero because he did something most people wouldn’t have done: in the face of extreme adversity, he had helped save New Orleans for the Americans, even though United States officers had destroyed his home base and seized his property a few months earlier.
Sometimes incorrectly regarded as a pirate, Laffite and his Baratarian associates were actually privateers sanctioned by the Patriot regime of Carthagena to prey on Royalist Spanish shipping in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. They smuggled prize goods past customs at New Orleans through their base ports of both Cat Island and Grande Terre, providing low-priced goods to the populace through both auctions and other sales.
“Though proscribed by my adoptive country, I will never let slip any occasion of serving her, or of proving that she has never ceased to be dear to me” wrote Laffite to Louisiana legislator Jean Blanque on Sept. 4, 1814, in an enclosure that contained British letters he had received from Commodore Nicholas Lockyer of HMS Sophie the day before at Grande Terre. Laffite also said the British represented to him a way to free his brother Pierre from prison. Pierre had been incarcerated at the Cabildo in New Orleans since early summer 1814 after being arrested on a grand jury indictment.
Lockyer had tried to bribe Laffite to aid the British in their plans to seize New Orleans, but Jean had stalled for time about a reply, so he could advise the New Orleans authorities about the imminent threat. Lockyer told his superior, Capt. William Henry Percy, that his mission to secure ships and assistance from Laffite had met with “ill success.”
Blanque gave the letters, including Laffite’s, to Louisiana Governor W.C.C. Claiborne. Perversely, Claiborne’s advisory council decided to allow US Commodore Daniel Todd Patterson and Col. George Ross to proceed with a raid on Grande Terre. On the morning of Sept. 16, US ships and gunboats under the direction of Patterson and Ross blew up Laffite’s home and Grande Terre to bits, confiscated nine ships in the harbor, and all the goods they could find, from wine to German linen to exotic spices. They also pursued fleeing Baratarians, and imprisoned some 80 of them, including Dominique You, who had made sure that none of the Baratarians fired on the American vessels, per Laffite’s instructions.
Almost as soon as the British letters arrived in New Orleans, somehow Pierre escaped from jail and quickly rejoined his brother at Grande Terre, where he, too, wrote a letter to Claiborne to offer allegiance to the US.
Jean and his brother Pierre then had left Grande Terre to hide out at the LaBranche plantation on the German Coast, slightly upriver from New Orleans. They would remain fugitives until a short while after Gen. Andrew Jackson’s arrival at New Orleans in December. Jean was subject to arrest on sight following the raid.
So what did Laffite do right before the raid, and afterward? Here is what he says he did, in his own words, in a letter to President James Madison written Dec. 27, 1815:
“I beg to … to state a few facts which are not generally known in this part of the union, and in the mean time solicit the recommendation of your Excellency near the honourable Secretary of the treasury of the U.S., whose decision (restitution of the seized ships and items in the Patterson raid) could but be in my favour, if he only was well acquainted with my disinterested conduct during the last attempt of the Britannic forces on Louisiana. At the epoch that State was threatened of an invasion, I disregarded any other consideration which did not tend to its safety, and therefore retained my vessels at Barataria inspite of the representations of my officers who were for making sail for Carthagena, as soon as they were informed that an expedition was preparing in New Orleans to come against us.
“For my part I conceived that nothing else but disconfidence in me could induce the authorities of the State to proceed with so much severity at a time that I had not only offered my services but likewise acquainting (sic) them with the projects of the enemy and expecting instructions which were promised to me. I permitted my officers and crews to secure what was their own, assuring them that if my property should be seized I had not the least apprehension of the equity of the U.S. once they would be convinced of the sincerity of my conduct.
“My view in preventing the departure of my vessels was in order to retain about four hundred skillful artillerists in the country which could but be of the utmost importance in its defense. When the aforesaid expedition arrived I abandoned all I possessed in its power, and retired with all my crews in the marshes, a few miles above New Orleans, and invited the inhabitants of the City and its environs to meet at Mr. LaBranche’s where I acquainted them wih the nature of the danger which was not far off…a fews days after a proclamation of the Governor of the State permitted us to join the army which was organizing for the defense of the country.
“The country is safe and I claim no merit for having, like all inhabitants of the State, cooperated in its welfare, in this my conduct has been dictated by the impulse of my proper sentiments; But I claim the equity of the Government of the U.S. upon which I have always relied for the restitution of at least that portion of my property which will not deprive the treasury of the U.S. of any of its own funds.
Signed Jn Laffite”

Two French honey-colored flints from the Laffite cache at Chalmette

Two French honey-colored flints from the Laffite cache at Chalmette

Diagram shows how the stone flint was positioned in the lock mechanism of a gun.

Diagram shows how the stone flint was positioned in the lock mechanism of a gun.

The interesting thing about Jean’s letter to the President is he considered the aid of his veteran artillery personnel to be the most important contribution to the defense of New Orleans, and he says nothing at all about what was truly his most valuable aid to the Americans_the supply of some 7,500 desperately needed gun flints, flints which Gen. Andrew Jackson himself said later were the only ones he had during the battles against the British at Chalmette. Indeed, in a letter to a friend in 1827, Gen. Jackson flat out stated that the Laffite cache was “solely the supply of flints for all my militia and if it had not been for this providential aid the country must have fallen.”
For those unfamiliar with firearms of that era, most were muskets, fowling pieces, some Kentucky long rifles, and a variety of pistols, all with the flintlock firing mechanism. Flintlocks require small specially shaped squares of flint to spark the charge into the gunpowder to fire the lead shot. Without a flint, the weapon is useless save as a club, and indeed many pistols of the time were fortified with brass wrap-arounds on the stock to make them heavier towards that end. If Jackson’s men had no flints, they would have only had cannons, swords, knives, bayonets and guerilla style hand-to-hand fighting to fall back on, whereas the British were fully supplied with flints and firearms. The British would have easily routed Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans if Jackson’s troops could not have fired back at them. Jackson was correct in his assessment of the value of those flints, he was not exaggerating at all. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest impacts.
It is not known exactly when Laffite delivered the flints to Jackson, but it was sometime after Dec. 22, as the Americans had insufficient flints during the night raid on the British camp on Dec. 23, and were seizing British weapons in that event.
On Dec. 22, Jackson sent Jean Laffite to the Temple area near Little Lake Salvador to assist Major Reynolds with blocking the bayous there, plus setting up fortifications on the ancient Indian shell mound area. He told Jean he wanted him back at Chalmette as soon as possible. On his way back to Jackson’s Line, Laffite and some of his men must have picked up the kegs of flints from a Laffite warehouse in New Orleans, or the immediate vicinity, as the flints were soon being distributed on Jackson’s line.
The combination of Laffite’s flints, the expert cannoneers Dominique You and Renato Beluche, Jackson’s tactical skills and leadership, and the logistical combined nightmare of the swampy ground and unusually cold weather proved overwhelmingly devastating for the British. The Battle of New Orleans was an extremely horrible defeat for them, as at the conclusion, the ground in front of Jackson’s Line at the Rodriguez Canal was called a literal “red sea” of the dead and dying English troops and officers.
The most prominent history of the New Orleans campaign is
”Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana” written by Jean Laffite’s friend and Jackson engineer Arsene Lacarriere Latour. There were some contemporary histories written by British participants in the New Orleans campaign. None of these say anything about receiving any type of assistance whatsoever from Jean Laffite, although British historian Tim Pickles of New Orleans makes the preposterous and undocumented claim that only Jean could have led the British through Lake Borgne to the Bayou Bienvenu. However, neither Jean nor Pierre were anywhere near that vicinity on Dec. 16, 1814. Some Spanish fishermen who knew those bayous thoroughly were there, because that’s where they lived. A few of them, named in Latour’s history, were the ones who aided the British, not either Laffite. History is the art of interpretation of the past, but facts are facts. Jean did not tell Lockyer he would help the British, he did not give them any ships or maps, or even geographical attack advice. He certainly didn’t stay neutral. His sentiments, as clearly stated in his letters in the archives, were wholly with the United States, his adoptive country, as proven by his actions.
In the end, the Laffites never got their ships back for free, or most of the goods that were taken in the raid. Ross had beaten Jean to the punch about approaching Washington authorities regarding proceeds from sales of the raid items, and he successfully lobbied for a congressional bill to approve the award to Patterson, Ross and their soldiers. That was not approved until 1817, by which time Ross had died, so Patterson was the one who benefitted from the $50,000 windfall.
Madison had promised the Baratarians a full pardon for anyone who fought for the US in the New Orleans campaign, but neither Laffite ever applied through the governor for one of these pardons. Medals, swords, and all sorts of praise were heaped on Gen. Jackson after Jan. 8, 1815, but the Laffites only got a few appreciative words from the general in newspaper articles.
Chalmette Battlefield is now a part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, and it will celebrate the 200th anniversary of that glorious victory day on Jan. 8, 1815. Let’s hope the ceremonies include some recognition of Jean Laffite, Pierre Laffite. and the Baratarians. It would be the proper and fitting thing to do.

11 responses to Commemoration of a Hero: Jean Laffite and the Battle of New Orleans

  1. Why anyone like Pickles would have a motive to discredit Jean Laffite is beyond me, unless it is to make a name for himself as a historical revisionist. Unfortunately, in the past it was not the British, but American politicians and career military like Commodore Patterson who had a motive to besmirch the name of Laffite so that they could justify keeping the property they took from him by force — property that was sold for a profit and was not even made available to defend New Orleans against the British. It’s a good thing Patterson did not find those flints before Jean Laffite had a chance to give them to Jackson.

  2. The only question really concerning Jean Lafitte is, “where was he during the battles?” Contrary to the movie versions of Jean standing atop the parapet valiantly urging his comrades on, to borrow a phrase from above, “facts are facts”.

    “Jackson also sent Lafitte to advise Morgan about the possible canals and passages by which the enemy might penetrate the swamps to the city.” Brooks, Charles B (1961). “The Siege of New Orleans”, page 246. Seattle: University of Washington Press. OCLC 425116.
This passage is immediately followed by a reference (“48”) which leads to page 309 in the “Notes” section: “48. Henry Adams, “History of the United States of America during the Second Administration of James Madison (New York: Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1904), II, 377-79. Morgan, “General Morgan’s Defense,” p.24. Latour, “Historical Memoir”, pp. 173, 175. “Major Howell Tatum’s Journal,” pp. 127-28. Gayarre, “History of Louisiana”, p. 493. Jackson, “Correspondence”, II, 132-33 (Jackson to Morgan, Jan. 8).
    “Only two gun crews of Baratarians, under Dominique You and Renato Beluche, were employed in Line Jackson on Dec 28 and Jan 1 and 8. These were the only Baratarians who saw any action. Jackson sent Lafitte himself with Major Michael Reynolds to “The Temple” on the west bank of the river to secure it. On Dec 25 Lafitte came back in time to make a recommendation to Livingston about extending Line Jackson into the swamp, (34) but he took no other part until Jan 8, when Jackson sent him again to the west bank, to Morgan.” (ref 34: Livingston to Jackson, Dec 29, 1814, Jackson Papers, L.C.) Brown, Wilburt S, Major General USMC (Retired) (1969). “The Amphibious Campaign for West Florida and Louisiana, 1814-1815”, pages 86-87, University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817351000.
    “He also dispatched Jean Lafitte to the west bank to help plan a defense against a British advance…”. Patterson, Benton Rains “The Generals, Andrew Jackson, Sir Edward Pakenham, and the road to New Orleans”. Page 253. 2008 ISBN 0-8147-6717-6 Ninety3rd (talk) 15:05, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

    • Hi, My point in the article is not about exactly where Jean Laffite was during the battles, but that he aided only the Americans, and that is borne out by primary evidence in correspondence, field notes, etc. On Jan. 8, 1815, it was Pierre Laffite, not Jean, who accompanied General Humbert to the West Bank to advise Morgan. See David B. Morgan to Jackson, Jan. 8, 1815. In this letter, Morgan refers to Mr. Lafeete senr., meaning it was the elder brother, Pierre, that accompanied Humbert. Pierre Laffite also was the one who helped guide the American guerillas around the Delaronde plantation during the Dec. 23 night attack. That night, Jean was in the area of the Temple at upper Barataria helping Major Reynolds fortify it.
      True, the top illustration from the Buccaneer is not accurate in that Jean Laffite was not at Chalmette during the Battle of New Orleans, but he definitely visited his compatriots at the two Baratarian batteries frequently throughout the time they were there, except for when he was away at the Temple. He had both his brother, Pierre, and his close friends Dominique You, Renato Beluche and Vincent Gambie in action on the battlefield. He would not have abandoned them. It was Jean who brought the flints in from the warehouse to the battleground, and the Baratarians distributed them. The second illustration, of two of the Laffite flints, is genuine in all respects. They were among the flint cache given to Jackson by Jean Laffite. They were among the little items that mattered the most.
      One will find lots of history books with all sorts of interpretations of historic events, but the best way to really understand what did happen is to read the primary source materials in archives, and pay careful attention to how the puzzle pieces fit.

  3. I forgot to include in the article a statement from a British participant in the New Orleans campaign re how the British accomplished their approach through Lake Borgne to Bayou Bienvenu. According to the participant’s accoun in the Naval Chronicle, the Contemporary Record of the Royal Navy at War, “The place we landed in the Americans say was never explored but by alligators, and wild ducks; it was up a creek, so narrow, and so completely hid by the canes, that I believe it had never before been discovered by the Americans; it was pointed out by some Spanish fishermen, who had appropriated one part of it for the purpose of smuggling. The head of this creek was distant from the Mississippi about three miles; from the high-road to New Orleans a mile and a half; from the city six or eight.” Pickles’ assertion that Jean Laffite gave the British the guidance to this bayou is manifestly false and is proven so in contemporary accounts.

  4. I see various replies were left a year ago, I would have replied myself but I did not know of the publication of the article and, considering the authors’ opinion that my theory on how the British got through the bayous is “preposterous and undocumented” undocumented, agreed; if it were documented it would not be a theory after all. Preposterous? Hardly thought had the author paid more attention to my theory she would be aware that I never at any time said that Jean or Pierre Lafitte PERSONALLY showed the British the way. but if they did not tell locals in their pay to do it, who did?
    Let us remember that Andrew Jackson had no idea of the lay out of the bayous, no maps were in existence at the time and the fact that he could no know a ‘choke point’ led to his order that all the canals leading from the bayous to the plantations were to be blocked by the plantation owners. How interesting that the only canal which was not blocked was the one to the Villerie plantation, the very one the British used. So who did know the way through the bayous and the back doors to the plantations? The kings of the bayous of course, the Lafitte brothers who used it as a back door to deliver goods to their well heeled customers.

    So if the American commander himself did not know the back door how could the British possibly find it out? Well the British themselves tell us, when they arrive at lake Bourgne they are approached by Spanish fishermen local to the area and shown the way through the bayous which were impenetrable to anyone not born to them. But, through a fascinating piece of research unearthed by Samantha Cavell in recent years we now know that before Admiral Cockburn left Jamaca he took with him all the shallow draft boats he could find. In other words for some reason Cochraine KNEW he was going to be navigating the bayous before he departed. So who was it who could possibly have passed on the information and ensured that guides would meet the British fleet to show them the way, to my mind there is only one answer, Jean Lafitte.

    So if this theory is true, why would he have done it, having already turned down Admiral Cochraine’s offers through Captain Lockyear (he was not a Commodore, a Commodore is a Captain with command of more than one ship, Lockyear only had command of HMS Sophie). Well one has to remember that the Lafitte brothers were working full full time on the preservation of their piratical operations in general and themselves in particular. Lafitte had approached Jackson, even after his base on Grand Terre had been destroyed by Commodore Patterson USN and promised essential powder and flints for Jackson so an American victory would be no problem for them, but what if the British won? The Lafittes were highly intelligent, if they had got information to Cochraine that he would have help when he arrived they would be able to turn up at British headquarters after a British victory and reveal themselves as the suppliers of vital information, and be welcomed as friends. Of course to make this work they would have to avoid the battle itself which of course they did, though they sent Dominique You with some artillerymen. Meanwhile the brothers Lafitte sat back and waited to see who won.

    • Re who showed the British the way to the Villere plantation bayou, the answer can be found in the British archives, through Robert Cavendish Spencer’s words. He was the spy who reconnoitered the area along with Major John Peddie right after the Battle of Lake Borgne. From my subsequent Historia Obscura article The Spy Who Led the British to the Back Door of New Orleans in 1814, “Captain Spencer was selected to reconnoitre Lac Borgne (sic), in company with Major (John) Peddie, for the purpose of discovering where a landing could be best effected. Having obtained considerable influence over the emigrated Spaniards and Frenchmen settled as fishermen, & c., he prevailed on one of them to take Major Peddie, himself, and coxswain in a canoe up the creek; and this party actually penetrated to the suburbs of New Orleans, and walked over the very ground afterwards taken up by General Jackson as the position for his formidable line of defense.” Capt. Spencer says he bribed the fishermen to help. Nowhere in his report does he mention either the Laffites, or Baratarians, and there would have been no reason to omit that information if it had been true.
      As for maps of the bayous, etc., General James Wilkinson had prepared maps of the whole area at least as early as 1812, and perhaps earlier.
      Per your assertion that the Laffites were the likely ones who made sure the Villere canal was unblocked to allow the British to advance their forces that way, there is no proof of this. At the time, Gabriel Villere went through a court martial hearing by Jackson after the battle and was exonerated of any wrong doing. Don’t you think Jackson would have gotten to the bottom of anything that caused disobeyment of his direct orders? It was probably nothing more than that the plantation owner didn’t want to block his canal as it would have been costly and time consuming to unblock it. There were many ways the British could have advanced, and Villere’s plantation was probably not the only one that didn’t have a blocked agricultural canal. Attention is focused on it because that’s the one the British used.
      As for the belief that only the Laffites knew about all the circuitous paths close to New Orleans, that is a gross overgeneralization. Yes, they did know about them. But so did many prominent people in New Orleans, including merchant and banker Beverly Chew. In the early 1800s before the Laffites started operations, Chew and his partner Richard Relf had operated a very lucrative smuggling operation along the same bayou pathways the Laffites later incorporated.
      Re Cockburn requisitioning the shallow draft boats, that was just common sense in order to maneuver the shoal waters along the Louisiana coast. The British particularly wanted Laffites’ shallow draft schooners because they didn’t have anything similar. If they had had light craft, the Hermes sure wouldn’t have gotten stuck on the sand bar near Ft. Bowyer, as they would have used lighter ships for that attack in shoal waters.
      The Laffite brothers did not avoid the American side during the British invasion. Pierre Laffite was definitely there at Chalmette on Dec. 23 and Jan. 8, and Jean Laffite brought the flints and powder to Jackson at Chalmette sometime after Dec. 23. Jackson credited both brothers for their help. He would not have done so if he had not been assisted by them. The Laffite brothers did not just sit back and wait to see who won the battle. They actively took part in the American side. To accuse them of helping the British out in any way is very much incorrect and without substantiation in any archive.

      • While I agree with your assessment of who had reconnoitered for Cockburn he was in no way a ‘spy’ he was an officer of the British invasion force reconnoitering a position AFTER the British had arrived and been offered help. It is all very well to say that the Spanish and French in the area were bribed, but the fact that these agents presented themselves to the fleet rather than hiding and giving warning in the first instance might be a clue as to their intentions. They were not captured and forced to speak, they rowed up and offered information. And even if the Lafitte’s did not guide the British personally (an assertion I have never made) there is nothing to say it was not done on their orders indeed their is no proof that they did NOT personally guide the British in disguise, not that I think they did but if we are going to speculate let’s speculate! To think that the Lafitte’s who we know controlled the smuggling operations around the city had only one area which was not under their control which the British accidentally ran into rather stretches sedulity to its breaking point. Wether or not General Wilkinson (the Spanish spy now living in comfort in Madrid) had maps or not is immaterial, according to all the US accounts I have read (though doubtless I have not read them all) Jackson did NOT have maps, hence his order to block the canals. As for exonerating Villerie, remember Jackson had won and had bigger fish to fry convicting the son of the commanding General of the local militia might have been a move best avoided. I personally have no doubt Villerie was not involved with any overt plot to allow the British in, his fault was in not riding down his fathers canal and checking the work had been done. That said one has to remark it is a strange co-incidence that this was the only canal not blocked and Villerie was only British prisoner taken during the campaign to escape, if ones mind chooses to run in those directions. It is quite true that people others than the Lafitte’s knew the routes, but that is not the question, the question is who controlled them? Who had men who could prevent or allow access who cold give orders concerning them and have those orders obeyed? In short who was ‘The Boss?’

        As for Cockburn ‘s requisitioning of shallow draft boats being standard, no it wasn’t. Indeed the request was supposed to be kept secret and Cockburn was highly displeased when a poster was stuck up requesting them and thus revealing the idea. The original British plan, one to which they returned after leaving New Orleans was to capture Mobile and land all men and supplies there, march overland to Baton Rouge (British West Florida’s New Richmond) and after capturing it advancing down river to attack New Orleans. So something caused Cochraine to change this plan and try an attack directly on New Orleans before he left Jamaica. What I wonder? Mention of the fate of HMS Hermes is a complete red herring, Hermes was a line of battle ship being used as a fixed battery which ran aground when a lucky American shot cut her anchor cable and she drifted for the sandbank, not at all comparable to a shallow draft rowing boat.
        I have also never claimed that Lafitte was a British partizan, my whole premise is that he didn’t care who won so long as he was safe hence he obviously helped Jackson, then secretly helped the British meaning that whoever won, he couldn’t loose. You make the statement that they ACTIVELY took part in the battle, please reference this. I can find no account of them being on the field for ‘the battle’ or indeed any battle during the month long campaign. Obviously the Lafittes would not want it known that they were helping the British, I have no doubt that they used surrogates and made shire that there was nothing which could be traced back to them hence the lack of proof. BUT and it is a big but, we know that the British were helped and that no one suffered any retribution for helping them, we know that the Lafittes controlled the smuggling in the city and the backroads of the bayous were a vital part of the smuggling business so who DID help the British?

        • Re Wilkinson and his maps of the area around New Orleans, it is an important issue, considering Arsene Lacarriere Latour was the mapmaker for Wilkinson, drawing from surveys he and Lafon had done in 1803. Wilkinson gave the maps to the Spanish at Pensacola, and when the British took over Pensacola, they got those maps. Latour had his original surveys, and Latour was Jackson’s engineer, so of course Latour shared his original survey maps with Jackson, else why would Jackson even know about all the waterways that needed blocking? Citation, by the way, is the Gene A. Smith edited version of Latour’s “An Historical Memoir of the War in West Florida and Louisiana” p. xvi.

          There were many people in “control” in the New Orleans area at the time of the Laffites. Beverly Chew and Edward Livingston were chief among them. There were even “controllers” in absentia, in Philadelphia.

          There were more than a few English sympathizers in the New Orleans area who could have aided and abetted them. One of the most interesting was in the US Army and was stationed at Fort St. Phllip during the campaign against New Orleans. He actually had to fight against his countrymen.

          Re citations proving the Laffites were actively involved with Jackson and his men:
          Dec. 22, 1814, Jackson sent Jean to Major Michael Reynolds to go fortify the Temple area. Jackson to Reynolds, Dec. 22, 1814, Parsons Collection, Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin.
          Pierre was at Fort St. Jean with Baratarians until Jackson ordered Pierre to Chalmette on Dec. 22, 1814. James Parton, Life of Andrew Jackson, II, pp 119-20.
          Pierre and Denis de LaRonde acted as guides for Gen. Coffee as he and troops advanced on the British forces during the night raid of Dec. 23, 1814. Letter, “A Junior Officer’s Observations from the Field of Battle,” Naval Chronicle XXXIII April-May 1815, pp.385-88.
          Gen. Coffee noted Pierre Laffite’s courage in action and more than once asked him for advice on the ground. Jackson to Pierre Laffite, n.d. [March-April 1815] Parsons Collection, CAHUT
          Pierre advised Jackson to extend his line on Rodriguez canal as far east as possible. Livingston to Jackson, Dec. 25, 1814, John Spencer Bassett, Correspondence of Andrew Jackson, Washington, 1927, II p.125.
          Jackson sent Pierre Laffite and Gen. Humbert to assist David B, Morgan on Jan. 8, 1815 (Battle of New Orleans) Jackson to Morgan, Jan. 8, 1815. Bassett, Correspondence, II, pp.132-33.

          No doubt nothing about these citations will change your viewpoint regarding either of the Laffites’ value to the Battle of New Orleans. However it is clear to me that they were on the American side completely. Why else would they have provided Jackson all those flints and powder he needed so desperately? Pierre could have gotten shot and killed in that night raid. Do you think he would have risked that, if he had been helping the British? Would Jean have risked having his brother injured or killed? And on Jan. 9, Pierre again was on the battlefield, during the time when Morgan and his men were being routed from their spot across the river. Again, he risked getting killed, and Jean risked losing his brother (maybe TWO brothers, considering it is thought Dominique Youx was the oldest Laffite brother).

          • What maps Wilkinson had or when Latour drew them up is immaterial, the question is did Jackson have them. though you avoided answering the question I asked earlier was is their any evidence that Jackson had these maps? Acording to sources I have read Jackson’s order to block the canals was precisely because he DID NOT have maps and so (to repeat myself) not being able to identify a specific choke point ordered all the canals blocked. You say that the British obtained the maps in Pensacola (I must point out the British did not ‘take over’ the town, the Spanish were British allies and welcomed them) however do you you have a reference for this or is it just supposition? And please tell me, if the British had charts and maps of the area, how come so much emphasis is laid on the Spanish fishermen? According to naval accounts of the time the mouth of the bayou was quite impossible to see from lake Bourgne and so a flag had to be posted in the fishermen’s village so that seasoned Royal Navy seamen could find their way. Ar you telling me that the confirmation that Jackson was physically in possession of maps of the bayous in December 1814 other authors disagree and the memoirs, by definition, were written after the fact so the question still stands. By controllers of the area I am not referring to legal, theoretical or supposed, my question was, if the person who said what happened in the bayous was not the Lafittes why was William C.C. Claiborne unable to catch them in that place? I am stunned you would try to suggest that practical control of the bayous was in anyone’s power but the Lafitte’s.

            You are moving the goalposts on the Lafitte’s involvement “in the battle” (your quote) now you are saying ‘with Jackson’, I never said they did not help Jackson, in fact I specifically said they DID help Jackson, I said they were not involved in any of the battles and you have not brought any evidence that they were other than the account you sited about Pierre acting as a guide during the night battle of December 23rd. However though this may be proof for one out of the five actions I think the author might have been mistaken. Firstly why would one officer have two guides? Surely had two guides been available they would have been with different commanders, we must remember that DeLarone’s full name was PIERRE Denis DeLaronde and so if one removes the ‘and’ from the account we get the full name of the man who owned the land over which the battle was being fought, the obvious guide. Yes indeed Pierre was sent across to the West Bank with Humbert, but this was not during a battle nor did he hang around for one. He left with Humbert and was not present during the British attack on the 8th when the badly built American defenses in that sector (not strengthened as per Jacksons orders) collapsed and provide the British with a total victory in that sector.

            I have explained in great detail why they would have provided help to both sides, I have never said that they were on the British side, I have said they were on both sides and neither, they wanted to be seen of having helped whoever came out on top, and they succeeded. Brilliantly. It has indeed been theorized that Dominique Youx may have been another brother, or half brother or second cousin once removed. Doesn’t alter the facts and Jean Lafitte can never be placed where he wasn’t.

  5. I have invested too much time on this discussion today, considering I am working on a lengthy new article about the Philadelphia connection to early New Orleans. Everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint about what did or did not happen at the Battle of New Orleans, and it is true there are quite a bit of variances between historians. It would be nice if Jackson’s daybook were able to be referenced for the absolute facts on the American side, but it apparently has been lost to history for quite some time.

    • Now if anyone can find/access Jackson’s day book it is Steve Abolt and I will certainly ask him about it. I myself don’t usually spend so much time on a discussion but I am writing at the moment and have another idea for a work on the battle and our discussion is very relevant to it. Thanks so much for the stimulating discussion!

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