Jean Laffite and His Memoirs

Jean Laffite, the pirate who helped Jackson win the battle of New Orleans in 1815,  is one of the more mysterious characters in American history and nothing is more mysterious about him than his purported memoirs.  According to most authorities Laffite died on February 5, 1823 from wounds received in a sea battle.

In 1958 a John Laflin began to shop around a manuscript which he claimed had been written by Jean Lafitte in 1845-50.  Laflin claimed that Laffite had faked his death and lived on for decades afterwards under an assumed name.  His claim was met with scepticism.  However, upon examination it was found that the paper and ink of the manuscript was indeed from the mid-nineteenth century.  Laflin eventually published an English translation and sold the manuscript to a document dealer in 1969.  Eventually the manuscript was analyzed at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center and similarities noted between John Laflin’s handwriting and that of the journal.  Laflin also came under suspicion of forging other documents purportedly written by Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett and other figures from American history.  Most historians now believe the manuscript was a very elaborate forgery.  A new translation was published in 2000.  For those wishing to shell out $172.00 (not me!), a copy is for sale here on Amazon.

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Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 6:59 am  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. Didn’t Lafitte supposedly hatch a plot to kidnap Napoleon from St. Helena and bring him to Louisiana? It beats me why Lafitte and Co. wanted to help the guy who sold the whole shebang to the USA, and indeed it sounds like the sort of thing persons with perhaps too much testosterone might dream up while getting drunk in a bar in New Orleans. Nevertheless, the Napoleon House, where Lafitte reportedly came up with the idea, is still down there in the French Quarter. I’m a bit sorry nothing came of it. The whole idea of a roughnecked Creole pirate rescuing the formerly mighty Emperor of France and of Napoleon spending his final days downing imported Cognac in the vicinity of Bourbon St…. I think a gifted novelist or filmmaker could really run with that bit of “what if” history.

  2. It certainly would make a fantastic alternate history Donna!

  3. I’ve been to New Orleans in August, Donald. Living there in the days before AC was invented might have ended up being a far worse punishment for Bonaparte than imprisonment on St. Helena or Elba.

  4. Donna, I can only imagine. I was near Charleston, South Carolina during July one year and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live there sans air conditioning.

  5. Dominique Youx, another forgotten hero of the Battle of New Orleans who commanded a gun on Battery No. 3 with my ancestor Renato Beluche, was the privateer designated to “save” Napoleon. Jean Laffite – by then running his operation at Galveston – had nothing to do with it. The Emperor died before Youx could provision his ship. As an aside Youx is now buried in St Louis Cemetery No. 2. Beluche rests in the Pantheon National in Caracas, Venezuela. He died a Commodore in Simon Bolivar’s Navy, despite being born in NOLA.

  6. Absolutely fascinating Pauline!

  7. [...] Demille and had Frederic March, an actor largely forgotten today but a major star in his time, as Jean Lafitte. Two future stars have bit parts in the film: Anthony Quinn and Walter Brennan. Hugh Sothern who [...]


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