The famous pirate Jean Laffitte made his home in Galveston, Texas after being run
out of New Orleans by the U.S. Navy. He called his island home "Campeche" and he
led a group of "privateers" on countless shipping raids around the Gulf of Mexico
for 5 years. When he left Galveston, it is believed by many that he left stockpile of
hidden treasure behind and intended to return to reclaim his pirate treasure - the
treasure was never recovered and his fate remains somewhat of a mystery
In this period the Mexicans were trying to become independent of Spain, and the
occupy the island of Galveston .d'Aury was chosen the civil and military leader of
Texas and Galveston was declared part of the Mexican Republic on Sept 12, 1816
.D'Aury had a small squadron of 12 to 15 ships and 500 men were given letters of
Marque to raid Spanish shipping in the Gulf . D'Aury left with all of his ships but one
to aid the Mexican general Mina, but falling out with him, returned to Galveston,
where he was shocked to find Lafitte had sailed in and taken over on May 14,
1817 . Lafitte, was still an agent for Spain, and it was suggested by the viceroy
of Cuba, Don Jose Cienfuegos, to use the Lafittes against the pirates attacking
Spanish shipping . The Lafitte's were given money to start a rival base against
d'Aury by the Spanish . Lafitte then turned against Spain and supported Mexico
.d'Aury was run out of Galveston, and Lafitte took over .In this period Texas was
claimed by both Mexico and Spain . Lafitte's ships flew under the flag of Mexico .
Pirate Jean Lafitte's ruins- Galveston, TX
The famous French pirate lived on Galveston Island from 1817-1821. This location
(located off of 1417 Harborside Drive) is where his old mansion and headquarters
stood- Maison Rouge. Legend says Lafitte burned this part of the island down
when he was forced by the U.S. government to leave
They arrived at Galveston in May, 1817 . The island was named Galveztown by
Spanish explorers, in honor of Bernardo de Gálvez y Madrid, a viceroy of New
Spain . Galveston Island, also called Snake Island at the time,for the many
snakes there . Before Lafitte arrived, Galveston served as the home base of
privateer Louis-Michel d'Aury. While d'Aury was away, Jean Lafitte took control .
Lafitte called his settlement Galveztown in 1819 and Galveston Island was named
In 1818 , Lafitte was notified by President Monroe to leave the island as it was
considered part of the Louisiana Purchase. this message was delivered by
Col George Graham .Also in 1819, one of Lafitte's ships, the El Bravo, was captured
by two U.S. revenue cutters after a brief battle . The captain of the ship, Jean
Desforges and his crew were taken to New Orleans for trail .Jean Lafitte went
to New Orleans to hire lawyers for the trail. They were unable to provide a
letter of marque from the Mexican Republic, found guilty and hung on the yard arm
of a revenue cutter anchored on the Mississippi by New Orleans in 1820 . After this,
the Lafitte's started to secure secret storage places for their loot, sensing a
coming of the end of operations out of Galveston.
A hurricane in 1835 merged the two islands into present day Galveston Island
.D'Aury returned, but could not remove Lafitte from the island . Lafitte's colony
grew to around 1000, drawn to the profitable business of capturing Spanish
ships and outlaws from America. All who came were personally interviewed by
Lafitte and required to take an oath of loyalty to him.
Lafitte either purchased or took over a lavishly furnished mansion used by French
pirate Louis-Michel Aury, which he named "Maison Rouge". This building was
painted red and surrounded by a moat , the upper level was converted into a
fortress where a cannon commanding Galveston harbor was placed. Jim Bowie,
of the knife and Alamo fame, was there in this period, involved in the profitable slave
Around 1820, Lafitte reportedly married Madeline Regaud, daughter of Antoine
Regaud or Lallemand(1758-1820) a French officer in Napoleon's service. He had
sailed to Texas, with a group of French exiles and adventurers in 1818 and
started a colony on the Trinity River, called Champ d'Asile,which failed , and its
population went to Galveston .
According to one story, one day the ships of Lafitte brought in a captured galleon,
loaded with treasure. As soon as the ships weighted anchor, a furious hurricane
hit, and the men were forced to leave their ships. After the hurricane had
passed, the galleon was gone, and never found .
In 1818, the Karankawa Indians attacked, after some of the Galvestonians made
off with an Indian woman,but were driven off by cannon fire .
By this time, Spain was rerouting its shipping to bypass the Gulf Of Mexico due
to piracy, and the prizes for Lafitte were fewer and fewer. Many of his men
had already left by the early 1820s.
In 1821, the schooner USS Enterprise was sent to Galveston and demanded
that the privateering camp be destroyed and the Lafittes were to leave the site . If
this were not done in 60 days, the Enterprise would return and attack . Lafitte agreed
to leave the island without a fight, and in 1821 or 1822 departed on his flagship, the
Pride, burning his fortress and settlements and reportedly taking immense amounts
of treasure with him.All that remains of Maison Rouge is the foundation,
located at 1417Avenue A near the Galveston wharf.