One other figure that made an impact on the Battle of New Orleans in 1815 was Jean Lafitte. He was the last of the famous Caribbean pirates, his dates of operation were roughly from the 1800′s to the 1820′s. A mythic figure , he looms large in Louisiana Folklore. Even in his day he was larger than life. Lord Byron’s “The Corsair” was based on the life of Jean Lafitte. It sold 10,000 copies on the first day of publication in 1814. A novel was written in 1826called The Memoirs of Lafitte, or The Baratarian Pirate; a Narrative Founded on Fact .
Jean Lafitte operated a warehouse in New Orleans dealing smuggled goods around 1805. After the embargo act of 1807, demand for banned imported goods became so great he and his brother opened up a port in Barataria Bay, smuggling these goods to the public in New Orleans. By 1913 the Lafittes were operating a 3 ship fleet seizing loot mainly from Spanish ships. Their usual mode of operation was to sail into New Orleans with legal cargo. After selling this they would take on more legal cargo and make a manifest of these goods. Then they would sail to the mouth of Bayou Lafourche and add to their cargo and the manifest with contraband goods. Then go back to New Orleans after they “laundered’ the new goods and sell them there. Soon the merchants were complaining to Governor Claiborne about the Lafittes because they were undercutting their prices. The governor put a $500.00 bounty on Lafitte’s head and declared the Lafittes pirates. Jean Lafitte countered the offer with a similar bounty on the Governor’s head. Before too long Pierre Lafitte was in jail.
The British saw a opportunity with the Barratarians. If they could get them on their side then they would have a better chance of capturing New Orleans. In mid August 1814 the British approached Lafitte to try and get him to side with the British. There were great rewards for Lafitte but if he refused the British told him they would destroy his port at Barataria. He leveraged this offer by telling the British he would make a decision in 2 weeks and at the same time letting the Americans know that he would fight on their side if they would let his brother loose and pardon Lafitte and his band of pirates. The Americans were not easy to convince and by September it was the Americans not the British that attacked the island. The pirates burned their ships and warehouse rather than fight the Americans. The British left to go back to Pensacola in disgust. Lafitte continued to have his allies in the legislature lobby on his behalf to side with the Americans, and before too long with the fear of the impending invasion of New Orleans by the British Lafitte was able to walk free on the streets of New Orleans and the 80 pirates arrested were freed. Soon Jackson and LafittJackson that he could help defend New Orleans and defeat the British. Once Jackson gave Lafitte his assignment Lafitte got to work organizing his men and equipment. During the battle on Jan 1815 Lafitte and his men helped defend the line and repulsed the advancing British. After the Battle Jackson requested clemency for the Lafitte’s and their men ,finally receiving a pardon on Feb 6 1815.