Thursday, March 10, 2016

Walking the Pirate Way...

Sitting around with the grand kids last night we watched the old Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson. I remember being inspired as a child with the idea of living on a deserted tropical isle. I enjoyed the depiction of the pirates in the movie, They were colorful and seemed to be of  unidentified mysterious nationally.  This brought to mind our recent trip to Galveston and a visit we made to the site of pirate Jean Lafitte. 

If you recall history Lafitte was very instrumental in the victory at the Battle of New Orleans in the war of 1812. For this bravery he was pardoned from pirate activities by the U.S. government. He then moved operations to Galveston and built the house Masion Rouge or Red House on the bay. I have often driven by this location on Harborside Drive but as I was in a car speeding passed I never stopped. On our last visit we toured around the island on bikes and we stopped at the site. 
Apparently no structures from Lafitte's time exist but the walls and steps are from a house built over the cellars of the pirate's home. These structures date to the 1870s  and were built by a sea Captain named Hendricks. The home was called 12 Gables.  

The front chain link fence was locked but we gained entrance from the alley in back. From the looks of things homeless folks occasionally sleep on the grounds. 

Like a lot of historical figures Lafitte has his good moments and bad. After the glory of the New Orleans battle and his relocation to Galveston he seems to have become mixed up in in a slave trading scheme with Jim Bowie. 

A U.S. law in 1818 made the importation of slaves illegal. It did not make slavery illegal. This law was really a benefit to many writers of the U.S. Constitution who owned slaves and could sell off what was referred to as "natural increase" in those days for a profit cutting out the foreign traders. What Lafitte did was capture slave ships, sell to smugglers who then turned the slaves over to customs officials in New Orleans. They were then put on the auction block with a representative of the smuggler purchasing them. The smuggler became the owner who resold in New Orleans or transported them to other parts of the south for resale.  

There is a lot of politics involved in this scheme as well as the politics of the 1818 law which basically ended the re-Africanization  of the slave culture in the United States by ending the import of people from Africa. Several very good books on this by Ned Sublette I am reading now. Probably another blog post in the future.  

I almost made what I think would have been a good art shot of this lock and gate but the sun obscured the view finder of the camera and I cut it off. Apparently the place had to be locked because treasure hunters would dig at the site. Reportedly gold still turns up in the ship channel just across the street when the harbor is dredged.  

Lafitte burned the house and town he built on the harbor, fled Galveston and continued to raid the shipping lanes around Cuba. Many reports and legends surround the end of his life but the most reliable seems to be he was killed attempting to take two Spanish ships and was buried at sea in the Gulf of Honduras.  


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