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the offences heretofore committed against the United States at
Barrataria, express a willingness at the present crisis to enroll
themselves and march against the enemy.

He does hereby invite them to join the standard of the United States and
is authorised to say, should their conduct in the field meet the
approbation of the Major General, that that officer will unite with the
governor in a request to the president of the United States, to extend
to each and every individual, so marching and acting, a free and full
pardon. These general orders were placed in the hands of Lafitte, who
circulated them among his dispersed followers, most of whom readily
embraced the conditions of pardon they held out. In a few days many
brave men and skillful artillerists, whose services contributed greatly
to the safety of the invaded state, flocked to the standard of the
United States, and by their conduct, received the highest approbation of
General Jackson.

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

A PROCLAMATION.

"Among the many evils produced by the wars, which, with little
intermission, have afflicted Europe, and extended their ravages into
other quarters of the globe, for a period exceeding twenty years, the
dispersion of a considerable portion of the inhabitants of different
countries, in sorrow and in want, has not been the least injurious to
human happiness, nor the least severe in the trial of human virtue.

"It had been long ascertained that many foreigners, flying from the
dangers of their own home, and that some citizens, forgetful of their
duty, had co-operated in forming an establishment on the island of
Barrataria, near the mouth of the river Mississippi, for the purpose of
a clandestine and lawless trade. The government of the United States
caused the establishment to be broken up and destroyed; and, having
obtained the means of designating the offenders of every description, it
only remained to answer the demands of justice by inflicting an
exemplary punishment.

"But it has since been represented that the offenders have manifested a
sincere penitence; that they have abandoned the prosecution of the worst
cause for the support of the best, and, particularly, that they have
exhibited, in the defence of New Orleans, unequivocal traits of courage
and fidelity. Offenders, who have refused to become the associates of
the enemy in the war, upon the most seducing terms of invitation; and
who have aided to repel his hostile invasion of the territory of the
United States, can no longer be considered as objects of punishment, but
as objects of a generous forgiveness.

"It has therefore been seen, with great satisfaction, that the General
Assembly of the State of Louisiana earnestly recommend those offenders
to the benefit of a full pardon; And in compliance with that
recommendation, as well as in consideration of all the other
extraordinary circumstances in the case, I, _James Madison_, President
of the United States of America, do issue this proclamation, hereby
granting, publishing and declaring, a free and full pardon of all
offences committed in violation of any act or acts of the Congress of
the said United States, touching the revenue, trade and navigation
thereof, or touching the intercourse and commerce of the United States
with foreign nations, at any time before the eighth day of January, in
the present year one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, by any person
or persons whatsoever, being inhabitants of New Orleans and the adjacent
country, or being inhabitants of the said island of Barrataria, and the
places adjacent; _Provided_, that every person, claiming the benefit of
this full pardon, in order to entitle himself thereto, shall produce a
certificate in writing from the governor of the State of Louisiana,
stating that such person has aided in the defence of New Orleans and
the adjacent country, during the invasion thereof as aforesaid.

"And I do hereby further authorize and direct all suits, indictments, and
prosecutions, for fines, penalties, and forfeitures, against any person
or persons, who shall be entitled to the benefit of this full pardon,
forthwith to be stayed, discontinued and released: All civil officers
are hereby required, according to the duties of their respective
stations, to carry this proclamation into immediate and faithful
execution.

"Done at the City of Washington, the sixth day of February, in the year
one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, and of the independence of the
United States the thirty-ninth.

"By the President,

"JAMES MADISON

"JAMES MONROE,

"_Acting Secretary of State_."

The morning of the eighth of January, was ushered in with the discharge
of rockets, the sound of cannon, and the cheers of the British soldiers
advancing to the attack. The Americans, behind the breastwork, awaited
in calm intrepidity their approach. The enemy advanced in close column
of sixty men in front, shouldering their muskets and carrying fascines
and ladders. A storm of rockets preceded them, and an incessant fire
opened from the battery, which commanded the advanced column. The
musketry and rifles from the Kentuckians and Tennesseans, joined the
fire of the artillery, and in a few moments was heard along the line a
ceaseless, rolling fire, whose tremendous noise resembled the continued
reverberation of thunder. One of these guns, a twenty-four pounder,
placed upon the breastwork in the third embrasure from the river, drew,
from the fatal skill and activity with which it was managed, even in
the heat of battle, the admiration of both Americans and British; and
became one of the points most dreaded by the advancing foe.

Here was stationed Lafitte and his lieutenant Dominique and a large band
of his men, who during the continuance of the battle, fought with
unparalleled bravery. The British already had been twice driven back in
the utmost confusion, with the loss of their commander-in-chief, and two
general officers.

Two other batteries were manned by the Barratarians, who served their
pieces with the steadiness and precision of veteran gunners. In the
first attack of the enemy, a column pushed forward between the levee and
river; and so precipitate was their charge that the outposts were forced
to retire, closely pressed by the enemy. Before the batteries could meet
the charge, clearing the ditch, they gained the redoubt through the
embrasures, leaping over the parapet, and overwhelming by their superior
force the small party stationed there.

Lafitte, who was commanding in conjunction with his officers, at one of
the guns, no sooner saw the bold movement of the enemy, than calling a
few of his best men by his side, he sprung forward to the point of
danger, and clearing the breastwork of the entrenchments, leaped,
cutlass in hand, into the midst of the enemy, followed by a score of his
men, who in many a hard fought battle upon his own deck, had been well
tried.

Astonished at the intrepidity which could lead men to leave their
entrenchments and meet them hand to hand, and pressed by the suddenness
of the charge, which was made with the recklessness, skill and rapidity
of practised boarders bounding upon the deck of an enemy's vessel, they
began to give way, while one after another, two British officers fell
before the cutlass of the pirate, as they were bravely encouraging their
men. All the energies of the British were now concentrated to scale the
breastwork, which one daring officer had already mounted. While Lafitte
and his followers, seconding a gallant band of volunteer riflemen,
formed a phalanx which they in vain assayed to penetrate.

The British finding it impossible to take the city and the havoc in
their ranks being dreadful, made a precipitate retreat, leaving the
field covered with their dead and wounded.

General Jackson, in his correspondence with the secretary of war did not
fail to notice the conduct of the "Corsairs of Barrataria," who were, as
we have already seen, employed in the artillery service. In the course
of the campaign they proved, in an unequivocal manner, that they had
been misjudged by the enemy, who a short time previous to the invasion
of Louisiana, had hoped to enlist them in his cause. Many of them were
killed or wounded in the defence of the country. Their zeal, their
courage, and their skill, were remarked by the whole army, who could no
longer consider such brave men as criminals. In a few days peace was
declared between Great Britain and the United States.

The piratical establishment of Barrataria having been broken up and
Lafitte not being content with leading an honest, peaceful life,
procured some fast sailing vessels, and with a great number of his
followers, proceeded to Galvezton Bay, in Texas, during the year 1819;
where he received a commission from General Long; and had five vessels
generally cruising and about 300 men. Two open boats bearing commissions
from General Humbert, of Galvezton, having robbed a plantation on the
Marmento river, of negroes, money, &c., were captured in the Sabine
river, by the boats of the United States schooner Lynx. One of the men
was hung by Lafitte, who dreaded the vengeance of the American
government. The Lynx also captured one of his schooners, and her prize
that had been for a length of time smuggling in the Carmento. One of
his cruisers, named the Jupiter, returned safe to Galvezton after a
short cruise with a valuable cargo, principally specie; she was the
first vessel that sailed under the authority of Texas. The American
government well knowing that where Lafitte was, piracy and smuggling
would be the order of the day, sent a vessel of war to cruise in the
Gulf of Mexico, and scour the coasts of Texas. Lafitte having been
appointed governor of Galvezton and one of the cruisers being stationed
off the port to watch his motions, it so annoyed him that he wrote the
following letter to her commander, Lieutenant Madison.

_To the commandant of the American cruiser, off the port of Galvezton_.

Sir - I am convinced that you are a cruiser of the navy, ordered by your
government. I have therefore deemed it proper to inquire into the cause
of your living before this port without communicating your intention. I
shall by this message inform you, that the port of Galvezton belongs to
and is in the possession of the republic of Texas, and was made a port
of entry the 9th October last. And whereas the supreme congress of said
republic have thought proper to appoint me as governor of this place, in
consequence of which, if you have any demands on said government, or
persons belonging to or residing in the same, you will please to send an
officer with such demands, whom you may be assured will be treated with
the greatest politeness, and receive every satisfaction required. But if
you are ordered, or should attempt to enter this port in a hostile
manner, my oath and duty to the government compels me to rebut your
intentions at the expense of my life.

To prove to you my intentions towards the welfare and harmony of your
government I send enclosed the declaration of several prisoners, who
were taken in custody yesterday, and by a court of inquiry appointed
for that purpose, were found guilty of robbing the inhabitants of the
United States of a number of slaves and specie. The gentlemen bearing
this message will give you any reasonable information relating to this
place, that may be required.

Yours, &c.

J. LAFITTE.

About this time one Mitchell, who had formerly belonged to Lafitte's
gang, collected upwards of one hundred and fifty desperadoes and
fortified himself on an island near Barrataria, with several pieces of
cannon; and swore that he and all his comrades would perish within their
trenches before they would surrender to any man. Four of this gang
having gone to New Orleans on a frolic, information was given to the
city watch, and the house surrounded, when the whole four with cocked
pistols in both hands sallied out and marched through the crowd which
made way for them and no person dared to make an attempt to arrest them.

The United States cutter, Alabama, on her way to the station off the
mouth of the Mississippi, captured a piratical schooner belonging to
Lafitte; she carried two guns and twenty-five men, and was fitted out at
New Orleans, and commanded by one of Lafitte's lieutenants, named Le
Fage; the schooner had a prize in company and being hailed by the
cutter, poured into her a volley of musketry; the cutter then opened
upon the privateer and a smart action ensued which terminated in favor
of the cutter, which had four men wounded and two of them dangerously;
but the pirate had six men killed; both vessels were captured and
brought into the bayou St. John. An expedition was now sent to dislodge
Mitchell and his comrades from the island he had taken possession of;
after coming to anchor, a summons was sent for him to surrender, which
was answered by a brisk cannonade from his breastwork. The vessels were
warped close in shore; and the boats manned and sent on shore whilst the
vessels opened upon the pirates; the boat's crews landed under a galling
fire of grape shot and formed in the most undaunted manner; and although
a severe loss was sustained they entered the breastwork at the point of
the bayonet; after a desperate fight the pirates gave way, many were
taken prisoners but Mitchell and the greatest part escaped to the
cypress swamps where it was impossible to arrest them. A large quantity
of dry goods and specie together with other booty was taken. Twenty of
the pirates were taken and brought to New Orleans, and tried before
Judge Hall, of the Circuit Court of the United States, sixteen were
brought in guilty; and after the Judge had finished pronouncing sentence
of death upon the hardened wretches, several of them cried out in open
court, _Murder - by God_.

Accounts of these transactions having reached Lafitte, he plainly
perceived there was a determination to sweep all his cruisers from the
sea; and a war of extermination appeared to be waged against him.

In a fit of desperation he procured a large and fast sailing brigantine
mounting sixteen guns and having selected a crew of one hundred and
sixty men he started without any commission as a regular pirate
determined to rob all nations and neither to give or receive quarter. A
British sloop of war which was cruising in the Gulf of Mexico, having
heard that Lafitte himself was at sea, kept a sharp look out from the
mast head; when one morning as an officer was sweeping the horizon with
his glass he discovered a long dark looking vessel, low in the water,
but having very tall masts, with sails white as the driven snow. As the
sloop of war had the weather gage of the pirate and could outsail her
before the wind, she set her studding sails and crowded every inch of
canvass in chase; as soon as Lafitte ascertained the character of his
opponent, he ordered the awnings to be furled and set his big
square-sail and shot rapidly through the water; but as the breeze
freshened the sloop of war came up rapidly with the pirate, who, finding
no chance of escaping, determined to sell his life as dearly as
possible; the guns were cast loose and the shot handed up; and a fire
opened upon the ship which killed a number of men and carried away her
foretopmast, but she reserved her fire until within cable's distance of
the pirate; when she fired a general discharge from her broadside, and a
volley of small arms; the broadside was too much elevated to hit the low
hull of the brigantine, but was not without effect; the foretopmast
fell, the jaws of the main gaff were severed and a large proportion of
the rigging came rattling down on deck; ten of the pirates were killed,
but Lafitte remained unhurt. The sloop of war entered her men over the
starboard bow and a terrific contest with pistols and cutlasses ensued;
Lafitte received two wounds at this time which disabled him, a grape
shot broke the bone of his right leg and he received a cut in the
abdomen, but his crew fought like tigers and the deck was ankle deep
with blood and gore; the captain of the boarders received such a
tremendous blow on the head from the butt end of a musket, as stretched
him senseless on the deck near Lafitte, who raised his dagger to stab
him to the heart. But the tide of his existence was ebbing like a
torrent, his brain was giddy, his aim faltered and the point descended
in the Captain's right thigh; dragging away the blade with the last
convulsive energy of a death struggle, he lacerated the wound. Again the
reeking steel was upheld, and Lafitte placed his left hand near the
Captain's heart, to make his aim more sure; again the dizziness of
dissolution spread over his sight, down came the dagger into the
captain's left thigh and Lafitte was a corpse.

The upper deck was cleared, and the boarders rushed below on the main
deck to complete their conquest. Here the slaughter was dreadful, till
the pirates called out for quarter, and the carnage ceased; all the
pirates that surrendered were taken to Jamaica and tried before the
Admiralty court where sixteen were condemned to die, six were
subsequently pardoned and ten executed.

[Illustration: _Death of Lafitte, the Pirate._]

Thus perished Lafitte, a man superior in talent, in knowledge of his
profession, in courage, and moreover in physical strength; but
unfortunately his reckless career was marked with crimes of the darkest
dye.

[Illustration]




THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN ROBERTS.


Bartholomew Roberts was trained to a sea-faring life. Among other
voyages which he made during the time that he lawfully procured his
maintenance, he sailed for the Guinea cost, in November, 1719, where he
was taken by the pirate Davis. He was at first very averse to that mode
of life, and would certainly have deserted, had an opportunity occurred.
It happened to him, however, as to many upon another element, that
preferment calmed his conscience, and reconciled him to that which he
formerly hated.

Davis having fallen in the manner related, those who had assumed the
title of Lords assembled to deliberate concerning the choice of a new
commander. There were several candidates, who, by their services, had
risen to eminence among their breathren, and each of them thought
themselves qualified to bear rule. One addressed the assembled lords,
saying, "that the good of the whole, and the maintenance of order,
demanded a head, but that the proper authority was deposited in the
community at large; so that if one should be elected who did not act and
govern for the general good, he could be deposed, and another be
substituted in his place."

"We are the original," said he, "of this claim, and should a captain be
so saucy as to exceed prescription at any time, why, down with him! It
will be a caution, after he is dead, to his successors, to what fatal
results any undue assumption may lead; however, it is my advice, while
be are sober, to pitch upon a man of courage, and one skilled in
navigation, - one who, by his prudence and bravery, seems best able to
defend this commonwealth, and ward us from the dangers and tempests of
an unstable element, and the fatal consequences of anarchy; and such a
one I take Roberts to be: a fellow in all respects worthy of your esteem
and favor."

This speech was applauded by all but Lord Simpson, who had himself
strong expectations of obtaining the highest command. He at last, in a
surly tone, said, he did not regard whom they chose as a commander,
provided he was not a papist, for he had conceived a mortal hatred to
papists, because his father had been a sufferer in Monmouth's rebellion.

Thus, though Roberts had only been a few weeks among them, his election
was confirmed by the Lords and Commons. He, with the best face he could,
accepted of the dignity, saying, "that since he had dipped his hands in
muddy water, and must be a pirate, it was better being a commander than
a private man."

The governor being settled, and other officers chosen in the room of
those who had fallen with Davis, it was resolved not to leave this place
without revenging his death. Accordingly, thirty men, under the command
of one Kennedy, a bold and profligate fellow, landed, and under cover of
the fire of the ship, ascended the hill upon which the fort stood. They
were no sooner discovered by the Portuguese, than they abandoned the
fort, and took shelter in the town. The pirates then entered without
opposition, set fire to the fort, and tumbled the guns into the sea.

Not satisfied with this injury, some proposed to land and set the town
in flames. Roberts however, reminded them of the great danger to which
this would inevitably expose them; that there was a thick wood at the
back of the town, where the inhabitants could hide themselves, and that,
when their all was at stake, they would make a bolder resistance: and
that the burning or destroying of a few houses, would be a small return
for their labor, and the loss that they might sustain. This prudent
advice had the desired effect, and they contented themselves with
lightening the French vessel, and battering down several houses of the
town, to show their high displeasure.

Roberts sailed southward, captured a Dutch Guineaman, and, having
emptied her of everything they thought proper, returned her to the
commander. Two days after, he captured an English ship, and, as the men
joined in pirating, emptied and burned the vessel, and then sailed for
St. Thomas. Meeting with no prize, he sailed for Anamaboa, and there
watered and repaired. Having again put to sea, a vote was taken whether
they should sail for the East Indies or for Brazil. The latter place was
decided upon, and they arrived there in twenty-eight days.

Upon this coast our rovers cruised for about nine weeks, keeping
generally out of sight of land, but without seeing a sail; which
discouraged them so, that they determined to leave the station, and
steer for the West Indies; and, in order thereto, they stood in to make
the land for the taking of their departure, by which means they fell in,
unexpectedly, with a fleet of forty-two sail of Portuguese ships, off
the Bay of Los Todos Santos, with all their lading in for Lisbon;
several of them of good force, who lay there waiting for two men of war
of seventy guns each for their convoy. However, Roberts thought it
should go hard with him but he would make up his market among them, and
thereupon he mixed with the fleet, and kept his men concealed till
proper resolutions could be formed; that done, they came close up to one
of the deepest, and ordered her to send the master on board quietly,
threatening to give them no quarter, if any resistance or signal of
distress was made. The Portuguese, being surprised at these threats, and
the sudden flourish of cutlasses from the pirates, submitted without a
word, and the captain came on board. Roberts saluted him in a friendly
manner, telling him that they were gentlemen of fortune, and that their
business with him was only to be informed which was the richest ship in
that fleet; and if he directed them right, he should be restored to his
ship without molestation, otherwise he must expect instant death.

He then pointed to a vessel of forty guns, and a hundred and fifty men;
and though her strength was greatly superior to Roberts', yet he made
towards her, taking the master of the captured vessel along with him.
Coming alongside of her, Roberts ordered the prisoner to ask, "How
Seignior Captain did?" and to invite him on board, as he had a matter of
importance to impart to him. He was answered, "That he would wait upon
him presently." Roberts, however, observing more than ordinary bustle on
board, at once concluded they were discovered, and pouring a broadside
into her, they immediately boarded, grappled, and took her. She was a
very rich prize, laden with sugar, skins, and tobacco, with four
thousand moidores of gold, besides other valuable articles.

In possession of so much riches, they now became solicitous to find a
safe retreat in which to spend their time in mirth and wantonness. They
determined upon a place called the Devil's Island upon the river
Surinam, where they arrived in safety, and met with a kind reception
from the governor and the inhabitants.

In this river they seized a sloop, which informed them that she had
sailed in company with a brigantine loaded with provisions. This was
welcome intelligence, as their provisions were nearly exhausted. Deeming
this too important a business to trust to foreign hands, Roberts, with
forty men in the sloop, gave chase to that sail. In the keenness of the



Online LibraryCharles EllmsThe Pirates Own Book → online text (page 6 of 32)