Eyewitness Report of Jean Laffite at Chalmette Battlefield

December 21, 2014 in American History, general history, History, Louisiana History

Map of the Battle of New Orleans, 1815Much has been made this past year over just exactly where Jean Laffite was during the battles against the British in December, 1814, and Jan. 1815, particularly regarding Jackson’s line at Chalmette. Here is what an eyewitness stated in 1852, in an article in the National Intelligencer newspaper, reprinted in DeBow’s Review, Vol. XII, New Series, Vol. V_1852:

“We referred in our last to the statement of parties in New-Orleans, that Lafitte (sic) was not present at the battle of New-Orleans, as has been commonly supposed. That he was there is sustained by a writer in the National Intelligencer, dated Alabama, etc., as we find in the following extract. We trust that, as Gen. Butler has been referred to, he will settle this mooted point.”

In the column of the “National Intelligencer,” of the 20th instant, I noticed an article, in which it is said: It has been currently believed, on the authority of novelists, etc., that the celebrated Lafitte (sic) was a pirate, and fought in the American ranks at New-Orleans. Whoever knows personally anything of Lafitte, as stated, could have asserted any such thing. [sic] The writer of this had the honor of serving under General Jackson at the siege of New Orleans as an officer; saw Lafitte every day and knew him personally. He was not in the first battle, fought with the British forces on the night of the 23d of December, 1814; but was at the breast-works called Jackson’s lines immediately thereafter, where he remained until the retreat of the enemy and the breaking up of the American camp. He was placed with his men by Gen. Jackson__who had full confidence in his skill, ability, and fidelity to the American cause__in command of a battery of two 24 or 32 pounder cannon, not far from the river, and between the 7th United States Infantry, Major Pierre and Plauche’s battalion of city volunteers; and I affirm that a more skilful (sic) artillerist, a braver or more determined officer, soldier, or one who rendered more effective service during the siege, was not in Jackson’s army. And pirate or blacksmith, the services he rendered the American cause should not be denied, blotted out, or buried in oblivion, now that he is no more, and perhaps has left none behind to defend him. What I have stated is on my own personal knowledge, and acted under my own eye: and is well known to Gen. Wm. O. Butler, of Kentucky, at that time a captain in the 44th Infantry,”

(The eyewitness account refers to Laffite only by surname, but it is deduced to mean Jean Laffite as Jean’s older brother, Pierre Laffite, did take part in the battle of Dec. 23, 1814, which the writer said “Lafitte” was not at. Jean Laffite had been sent by Gen. Jackson on Dec. 22 to Major Reynolds in the Temple area to examine defenses there.)



2 responses to Eyewitness Report of Jean Laffite at Chalmette Battlefield

  1. I’m glad you found this proof from a contemporary who was there. It should take care of any doubts anyone may have entertained during the current spate of revisionism. It also fits in with what the Journal of Jean Laffite recounts.

    • Yes, I wish the author of the account would have signed his letter, but his note that Butler also was aware of the fact of Laffite’s service is significant.

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