Barataria Destroyed, Baratarians
The following data is extracted from The Creoles of Louisiana.
Suddenly attention was drawn to the Baratarians. On the third of September an armed brig had appeared off Grande Terre. She fired on an inbound vessel, forcing her to run aground, tacked, and presently anchored some six miles from shore. Certain of the islanders went off in a boat, ventured too near, and, turning to retreat, were overhauled by the brig's pinnace, carrying British colors and a white flag. In the pinnace were two naval officers and a captain of infantry. They asked for Mr. Lafitte, one officer speaking in French for the other.
"He is ashore," said the chief person in the island boat, a man of dignified and pleasing address. The officers handed him a packet addressed "To Mr. Lafitte, Barataria," and asked that it be carefully delivered to him in person. The receiver of it, however, induced them to continue on, and when they were plainly in his power revealed himself.
"I, myself, am Mr. Lafitte." As they drew near the shore, he counselled them to conceal their business from his men. More than two hundred Baratarians lined the beach clamoring for the arrest of the "spies," but Lafitte contrived to get them safely to his dwelling, quieted his men, and opened the packet.
There were four papers in it. First, Colonel Nicholls's appeal to the Creoles to help restore Louisiana to Spain; to Spaniards, French, Italians, and Britons, to aid in abolishing American usurpation; and to Kentuckians, to exchange supplies for money, and neutrality for an open Mississippi. Second, his letter to Lafitte offering a naval captain's commission to him, lands to all his followers, and protection in persons and property to all, if the pirates, with their fleet, would put themselves under the British naval commander, and announcing the early invasion of Louisiana with a powerful force. Third, an order from the naval commander in Pensacola Bay, to Captain Lockyer, the bearer of the packet, to procure restitution at Barataria for certain late piracies, or to "carry destruction over the whole place;" but also repeating Colonel Nicholls's overtures. And fourth, a copy of the orders under which Captain Lockyer had come. He was to secure the Baratarians' cooperation in an attack on Mobile, or, at all events, their neutrality. According to Lafitte, the captain added verbally the offer of $30,000 and many other showy inducements.
Lafitte asked time to consider. He withdrew; when in, a moment the three officers and their crew were seized by the pirates and imprisoned. They were kept in confinement all night. In the morning Lafitte appeared, and, with many apologies for the rudeness of his men, conducted the officers to their pinnace, and they went off to the brig. The same day he addressed a letter to Captain Lockyer asking a fortnight to "put his affairs in order," when he would be "entirely at his disposal." It is noticeable for its polished dignity and the purity of its English.
Was this anything more than stratagem? The Spaniard and Englishman were his foe and his prey. The Creoles were his friends. His own large interests were scattered all over Lower Louisiana. His patriotism has been overpraised; and yet we may allow him patriotism. His whole war, on the main-land side, was only with a set of ideas not superficially fairer than his own. They seemed to him unsuited to the exigencies of the times and the country. Thousands of Louisianians thought as he did. They and he-to borrow from a distance the phrase of another-were "polished, agreeable, dignified, averse to baseness and vulgarity." They accepted friendship, honor, and party faith as sufficient springs of action, and only dispensed with the sterner question of right and wrong. True, Pierre, his brother, and Dominique, his most intrepid captain, lay then in the calaboza. Yet should he, so able to take care of himself against all comers and all fates, so scornful of all subordination, for a paltry captain's commission and a doubtful thirty thousand, help his life-time enemies to invade the country and city of his commercial and social intimates?
He sat down and penned a letter to his friend Blanque, of the legislature, and sent the entire British packet, asking but one favor, the "amelioration of the situation of his unhappy brother;" and the next morning one of the New Orleans papers contained the following advertisement:
WILL, be paid for the apprehending of PIERRE LAFITTE, who broke and escaped last night from the prison of the parish. Said Pierre Lafitte is about five feet ten inches height, stout made, light complexion, and somewhat cross-eyed, further description is considered unnecessary, as he is very well known in the city.
Said Lafitte took with him three negroes, to wit: [giving their names and those of their owners] ; the above reward will be paid to any person delivering the said Lafitte to the subscriber.
J. H. HOLLAND,
Keeper of the Prison.
Source: The Creoles of Louisiana