Posts Tagged ‘War of 1812’

Jean Lafitte, and the “Pirate Trust”

October 23, 2011

Jean Lafitte, and the “Pirate Trust”

TWO young Frenchmen — Jean and Pierre Lafitte — started a blacksmith shop in New Orleans in 1809. They had not the look or manner of blacksmiths. Probably Jean — a splendid, handsome giant, the hero of this story — never wielded hammer or shod a horse in all his career. Instead, he made negro slaves do the rough work while he strolled about the city and planned bigger enterprises.

Jean Lafitte was a blackguard. But he was a manly, likeable blackguard. And, once at least, he did our country valiant service. He was a pirate. Yet some historians say he went to sea but twice in his life — once when he came from France to New Orleans as a youth and once when he sailed away from America in 1820, never again to be heard of. Others say it was Pierre who set sail in 1820 and who perished somewhere in the ocean, while Jean went to Yucatan and lived six years longer in ill-earned luxury. The fact remains that there is no absolute knowledge as to whence Jean Lafitte came or whither he vanished. He was a man of mystery.

Louisiana in those days consisted largely of rich, unsettled land. Into these waste spaces the pioneers began to come. Huge plantations sprang up. To work the plantations there was need for thousands of negro slaves. And the slave trade between Africa and America throve tremendously. A negro that cost $20 in his African jungle could often be sold for $1,000 in the New Orleans market. Then the United States declared the horrible African slave trade illegal. This stopped the imports. The planters clamored for more slaves. Gangs of smugglers met the demand by secretly buying slaves intended for Spain’s Cuban and South American plantations and landing them by night in the Louisiana bayous. There was money in this sort of business. More than in blacksmithing. So, the Lafitte brothers became slave smugglers.

Then Jean’s fertile brain still further improved his business in a rather original way. What was the use of buying negroes from the Spanish slave ships off the Cuban coast when, by seizing those ships, he could get the negroes for nothing? It was a clever idea and he at once put it into practice. He also seized vessels laden with other valuables, and altogether he prospered exceedingly.

Lafitte himself did not go in search of such prey. He was a business man, not a cheap sea rover. By this time he had a number of good ships and nearly one thousand men to send on his piratical errands. He had a fortified town and harbor of his own at Barataria and made that place his headquarters. Jean had marvelous control over his men, and, though he seldom troubled himself to fight, he was unconquerable. One night a band of mutineers attacked him in is cabin. Lafitte, single-handed, slew six of them and beat off the rest.

The pirates called Lafitte, behind his back, “The Old Man.” To his face they called him “Bosse” (meaning literally “prominence”). And thus the word “boss” came into our own language. He seldom spoke to his men except when he had to and held aloof from them.

By judicious bribes to the right authorities he managed to steer clear of active prosecution, though countless governmental threats were hurled at him.
When the British planned their attack on New Orleans in the War of 1812 they offered Jean Lafitte a captain’s commission and $30,000 to join them with his men. Instead of accepting, he sent word of the offer (and of the British plot against New Orleans) to the American government, volunteering his services in exchange for a pardon. The British, in revenge, destroyed his Barataria stronghold and seized his ships. But the American general, Andrew Jackson (after cursing him for a “hellish bandit”) accepted Lafitte’s offer. And the pirate fought bravely for America in the battle of New Orleans, receiving a pardon for all past crimes.

After the war Lafitte went blithely back to his old ways. With his men he settled on an abandoned island, where now stands the city of Galveston, and made that place his new headquarters. Thus he was in a sense the real found of Galveston. He hit on an odd way to sell his smuggled slaves. He would arrange for Colonel Bowie (inventor of the bowie knife) to seize them from him and take them to New Orleans. There, as confiscated goods, they were placed on sale, and Lafitte and Bowie each reaped a goodly profit.

A visitor to the pirate lair wrote:

“Gold pieces are as plentiful here as biscuits.”

In 1820 the government captured Lafitte’s Galveston camp and hanged many of his followers.

Adams County News (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Jun 8, 1912

UPDATE:

Thanks to commenter, Robert R., here is a Google ebook preview link regarding Jean Laffite’s death:

Title: The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf
Author: William C. Davis
Edition: reprint, illustrated, annotated
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006
ISBN: 0156032597, 9780156032599
Google eBook preview (can be purchased for $9.99)
Jean Laffite’s death – Page 463

This might not be the same book, but it is the same author. Thanks, Robert!

Willard DeWitt: Indiana Pioneer, 1776-1881

February 6, 2009
Dewitt Family 1880 Census

Dewitt Family 1880 Census

The Oldest Man in Steuben County.
Correspondence of the SENTINEL.
CHAMBERLAIN, Oct. 1, 1880.

I have been up in Steuben county visiting Father De Witt, the oldest man in the county. He will be one hundred and six years old next March. When I went there he was out husking corn. He carried the corn in a twelve-quart pail–I helped him pick up four or five bushels. He then told me to go to the house and visit with them, he said that he must husk some more corn. He said that he would come up after while. He has four daughters, the youngest is ten years old. Before I came away I asked him to read to me. He then turned to his wife and asked her what he should read in. The Bible was handed to him, he turned to Romans, the ninth chapter, and read from the first to the twenty-third verses–he read without specs. He was an officer in the M.E. church for about forty years. I believe he is now a member of the Wesleyan Methodist. He resigned his office in the church about nine years ago. Below will be found a piece written by his own hand.
WM. H. SAFFORD.

“Whereas has been circulated in the Steuben Republican, and I am informed other papers, that I had been a class leader in the Methodist church; and now, when over one hundred years of age, that I am a Universalist. Let me state a few facts: I feel very much grieved that any one should think that the devil had got me as he had Mother Eve. I have been a member of the M.E. church for forty years, and filled various offices in that society, and exhorted men to flee from the wrath to come. It is true I have been a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church for many years, endorsing its reformatory principles. I am trying to live Godly in Christ Jesus, and only regret whatever I may have fallen short in my efforts so to do. I believe there is a devil to despise and regret. I believe there is a God to love and obey, a hell to shun, a heaven to gain. I am looking earnestly toward the place Jesus is preparing for me, that where he is I may be also, and I would disown the kinsman that would circulate so base a falsehood on an old man whom God has blessed and helped in the world for more than a hundred years. As many papers as have circulated the former, please copy. This is signed with my own hand.”

WILLARD DEWITT.

Fort Wayne Weekly Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Indiana) Oct 13, 1880

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This is a second  marriage for Willard. Previously, he was married to a woman named Elizabeth Mosier, who died in 1860.

Name:  Willard Dewitt
Spouse Name: Sarah B. Flood
Marriage Date: 26 Mar 1861
Marriage County: Dekalb
Performed By: S. W. Widney
Source Title 1: DEKALB COUNTY, INDIANA
Source Title 2: EARLY MARRIAGE RECORDS 1837 – 1882
Source Title 3: BOOK II
OS Page: 88

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From a newspaper clipping (Steuben Republican)–28 Jan., 1881. Sent by Robert & Harriet Hippenhamer.

“Last Friday morning, at a little past midnight, Uncle Willard DeWitt, the oldest surviving soldier of the War of 1812, and the oldest person in this section of the country, closed his eyes on the scenes of this world. According to the best authority obtainable, he was born March 25, 1776, therefore, was about 105 years of age at the time of his death. He served for some time in the War of 1812, being a member of Capt. I. Bartlett’s New York militia. For the past nine years he has received a government pension of $8 per month, obtained for him by Lawrence Gates*. He was married a few years ago to a woman many years his junior. She bore him several children, She still resides with them on their farm in Scott township.”

Posted by an anonymous source on Ancestry.com.

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*CAPT. LAWRENCE GATES, an honored veteran of the Civil war and one of the organizers of the First National Bank of Angola, was born in Germany April 25, 1839, and received his early education thee and then came to America. He arrived at Angola in 1853 and had some further education in the schools at Nevada Mills in Steuben County. He worked as a clerk in Angola until 1862, when he volunteered in Company H of the Seventy-Fourth Indiana Infantry. For his meritorious service he was promoted to first lieutenant and later to captain. and served until May 15, 1865. He was in the battles of Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and in the Atlanta campaign. Two weeks after the fall of Atlanta he lost a leg during a railroad wreck. After the war Captain Gates engaged in the dry goods business at Angola, and was one of the local business men who organized the First National Bank. He held the post of director as long as he was content to serve. In recent years he has busied himself with a fire insurance agency. He is a Republican and cast a vote in 1860 for Abraham Lincoln and Oliver Morton. He was first city clerk of Angola after the incorporation of the town. He is a past grand patriarch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and he and his family are members of the Christian Church.

History of northeast Indiana : LaGrange, Steuben, Noble and DeKalb Counties
Volume II
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1920

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Lived to be 105 years old. Politically a Whig but subsequently became a Republican and Abolitionist. He was a strong and zealous Methodist class leader.

[Ellis and Owens Families.FTW]

Posted by Harold McClure on Ancestry.com.

John Kitts:Soldier of the Revolutionary War

January 30, 2009
John Kitts 1870 Census

John Kitts 1870 Census

A Man Over One Hundred and Four Years of Age.

Baltimore boasts one of the most remarkable cases of longevity in the country. Person who are in the habit of traversing Calvert street may have frequently observed at the corner of that and Mulberry street a very elderly gentleman, quietly seated on a chair or  promenading in the vicinity, regarding attentively every object which passes him, and though mostly reticent, yet prompt to reply to any remarks addressed to him. There he enjoys the quiety and repose of age, looking out upon the world more than a century older than when he was first ushered into it. Our ancient friend’s name is John Kitts.

Bloody Run, Pennsylvania

Bloody Run, Pennsylvania

He was born at Bloody Run, in Bedford County, Pa., in 1762, and is, therefore, now in the on hundred and fifth year of his age! In 1776, when fourteen years of age, he was a member of the First Pennsylvania Regiment of the Revolutionary War.

Battle of Yorktown

Battle of Yorktown

He was in the battle of Yorktown, and occupied at one time the position of errand boy or messenger to Washington and Lafayette. He retains a distinct recollection of the personal manners and habits of those illustrious heroes of our first struggle with Great Britain. He was too old to be drafted in 1812, but he entered the army, and remained about a year.

He has no constitutional disease; of course suffers somewhat with debility; but he moves about without assistance; has a dark, keen, observant eye; is quick and appreciative in his responses to queries; hears remarkably well; his eyesight is good; he never uses glasses; he says that “he is afraid they will injure his eyes.” He has a most excellent memory. Like most very old people, however, he remembers the events of his earlier years better than those of recent occurence.

Mount Vernon Rye Whiskey

Mount Vernon Rye Whiskey

On propounding the question as to whether our Methuselahian friend had practiced “total abstinance,” he replied, “No; I always drank whenever I felt like it, and enjoy a glass of old rye as much now as ever.”

The Ohio Democrat (New Philadelphia, Ohio) Sep 13, 1867

Marquis de Lafayette

Marquis de Lafayette

John Kitts, claiming to be 107 years old, and a soldier of the Revolution under Lafayette, has applied to the Baltimore City Council for an appropriation.

New York Herald (New York, New York) > 1869 > November > 16

Genral Nathaniel P. Banks

Genral Nathaniel P. Banks

A Soldier of the Revolution on the Floor of the House — A Hero of Two Wars Petitioning for a Pension.

John Kitts, a veteran, who served in the war of the Revolution, called at the Executive Mansion today to pay his respects to the President. He was received with much cordiality by the President, who questioned him concerning his history and invited him to remain for lunch. The old gentleman declined, because, he said, he was anxious to see Congress in session. The President ordered Mr. H.L. Fox, one of the messengers at the White House, to proceed with Mr. Kitts to the Capitol, and to remain with him while he staid there.

Upon reaching the Capitol he was taken on the floor of the House, General Banks stating who he was and asking that the privilege of the floor be granted him. He occupied Horace Maynard‘s seat, immediately in front of the Speaker’s desk, and received the congratulations of the members, who flocked around him in large numbers and questioned him about his age and the leading events of his life.

Mr. Kitts was born in Bedford county, Pa., in 1762, and is therefore in his 108th year. He served in the American army during the Revolutionary war, and was present at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. In the battle preceding the surrender Mr. Kitts was struck in the back of the head with a spent musket ball, and the indentation which it made is still visible. The old man points this scar with considerable pride, and is quite garrulous about the circumstances under which he received the wound.

When the was of 1812 broke out he was considered too old to enter the service as a soldier, but he went in as a messenger to carry the mails. He relates many interesting stories of the narrow escapes he had from being taken prisoner by the enemy’s scouts. On one occasion he was forced to leave his horses and take to the woods, so closely was he pursued. He was the bearer of important despatches, which he succeeded in carrying safely through. On being asked if he could read Mr. Kitts replied that he could not. When he was a boy, he said, there was very little reading done, and even if he had learned to read it would be of no use to him now. He had never found time to read until his eyesight failed him.

Although entitled to a pension both as a soldier of the Revolution and of 1812, he has never applied to Congress for it. He says until about seven years ago he had no occasion to seek aid from the government, because he was able to take care of himself. He thought the government had enough soldiers who fought in the rebellion to pension without giving anything to the “boys” who fought under Washington now. The old man is unable to do anything, and he asks a pension. He said he didn’t expect to remain long upon the rolls, and all he would draw out of the treasury would not be much. He has neither children nor grandchildren living, and when asked if he had any relatives he replied, “No; I am the last of the stock.”

General Banks and Mr. Ingersoll, of Illinois, started an impromptu subscription for the old man among the members of the House. The entire amount realized was eighty dollars, twenty of which General Banks gave himself. This is rather a small contribution among so many men, but some allowance must be made for the economic fit under which the House is just now laboring. General Banks will look after the old man’s petition for a pension, and there is reason to believe he will get it.

New York Herald (New York, New York) Feb 11, 1870

firstcon

JOHN KITTS. — We do not know how often the last Revolutionary soldier has died. On the average we think he has died twice a year for the last ten years. But it makes no difference. We are glad to see him alive and in full possession of his faculties once more. John Kitts is the prevailing representative of that former generation, and we think that John is a bona fide representative. He is one hundred and eight years old, and has a scar on the back of his head. Besides, he only claims to have helped to capture Cornwallis at Yorktown. He does not appear to have nursed Washington or to have shaken his hand and received his benediction in the true Washington style, which all the old negroes in the country claim to have done, and which at one time must consequently have been a very empty honor. On the contrary, old John Kitts seems to be a very worthy old soldier, and, although he never nursed Washington, he is fully deserving of a large pension.

New York Herald (New York, New York) Feb 14, 1870

Died at the Age of 108.
BALTIMORE, Sept. 19. — John Kitts, aged 108 years, the oldest citizen died last evening.

Chicago Tribune, IL Sep 20, 1870

— JOHN KITTS, aged one hundred eight years, died at Baltimore on Monday.

The Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) Sep 24 1870

–The venerable John Kitts, of Baltimore, is dead. He was born May 7, 1762, and was 108 years, 4 months and 11 days old at the time of his death. Last winter he visited Washington, and was granted the privilege of the floor of the House of Representatives.

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) Oct 6, 1870