Barataria Destroyed, John Lafitte
The following data is extracted from The Creoles of Louisiana.
On the 7th, John Lafitte wrote again to Blanque,-the British brig and two sloops-of-war still hovered in the offing,-should he make overtures to the United States Government? Blanque's advice is not known; but on the 10th, Lafitte made such overtures by letter to Claiborne, inclosed in one from Pierre Lafitte-who had joined him-to AI. Blanque.
The outlawed brothers offered themselves and their men to defend Barataria, asking only oblivion of the past. The high-spirited periods of John Lafitte challenge admiration, even while they betray tinges of sophistry that may or may not have been apparent to their writer. "All the offence I have committed," wrote he, "I was forced to by certain vices in our laws." He did not say that these vices consisted mainly of enactments against smuggling, piracy, and the slave-trade.
The heads of the small naval and military force then near New Orleans were Commodore Paterson and Colonel Ross. They had organized and were hurriedly preparing a descent upon the Baratarians. A general of the Creole militia was Villeré, son of the unhappy patriot of 1768. Claiborne, with these three officers, met in council, with the Lafittes' letters and the British overtures before them, and debated the question whether the pirates' services should be accepted. Claiborne being in the chair was not called upon for a vote. It would be interesting to know, what, with his now thorough knowledge of the Creole character and all the expediencies of the situation, his vote would have been. Villeré voted yea, but Ross and Paterson stoutly nay, and thus it was decided. Nor did the British send ashore for Lafitte's final answer. They only lingered distantly for some days and then vanished.
Presently the expedition of Ross and Paterson was ready. Stealing down the Mississippi, it was joined at the mouth by some gun-vessels, sailed westward into the Gulf, and headed for Barataria. There was the schooner Curolina, six gun-vessels, a tender, and a launch. On the 16th of September they sighted Grande Terre, formed in line of battle, and stood for the entrance of the bay.
Within the harbor, behind the low island, the pirate fleet was soon descried forming in line. Counting all, schooners and feluccas, there were ten vessels. Two miles from shore the Carolina was stopped by shoal water, and the two heavier gun-vessels grounded. Put armed boats were launched, and the attack entered the pass and moved on into the harbor.
Soon two of the Baratarians' vessels were seen to be on fire; another, attempting to escape, grounded, and the pirates, except a few brave leaders, were flying. One of the fired vessels burned, the other teas boarded and saved, the one which grounded got off again and escaped. All the rest were presently captured. At this moment, a fine, fully armed schooner appeared outside the island, was chased and taken. Scarcely was this done when another showed herself to eastward. The Carolina gave chase. The stranger stood for Grande Terre, and ran into water where the Carolina could not follow. Four boats were launched; whereupon the chase opened fire on the Carolina, and the gun-vessels in turn upon the chase, firing across the island from inside, and in half an hour she surrendered. She proved to be the General Bolivar, armed with one eighteen, two twelve, and one six-pounder.
The nest was broken up. "All their buildings and establishments at Grande Terre and Grand Isle, with their telegraph and stores at Cheniére Caminada, were destroyed. On the last day of September, the elated squadron, with their prizes-seven cruisers of Lafitte, and three armed schooners under Carthagenian colors-arrived in New Orleans harbor amid the peal of guns from the old barracks and Fort St. Charles.
But among the prisoners the commanding countenance of John Lafitte and the cross-eyed visage of his brother Pierre were not to be seen. Both men had escaped up Bayou La Fourche to the "German Coast." Others who had had like fortune by and by gathered on Last Island, some sixty miles west of Grande Terre, and others found asylum in New Orleans, where they increased the fear of internal disorder.
Source: The Creoles of Louisiana