Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Many Deaths of Jean Lafitte

Actual photo of the graves of Jean Lafitte, John Paul Jones and Napoleon Bonaparte? 
See "The Legend That Disagrees with History" below.

In "The Judgment of Jean Lafitte," now appearing in the slam-bang anthology ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol. 1 (available HERE), our hero is still operating out of Barataria Bay, thirty miles south of New Orleans. But following the Battle of New Orleans, which ended in 1815, he relocated to Galveston Island, where he carried on for several more years.

Jean Lafitte might have died of injuries sustained during a sea battle sometime in 1821 or 1822. Or maybe he succumbed to disease on the Yucatan coast near Isle de Mujeres (the Island of Women) in 1826. Or, in a year unnamed, his ship might have been sunk and he and his men died fighting on a sandbank. Or maybe, just maybe, he changed his name and moved to St. Louis, where he died of pneumonia in 1854. (We'll deal with the fascinating tale soon, in a discussion of The Memoirs of Jean Lafitte.)

In his 2005 work The Pirates Laffite, author William C. Davis claimed to have solved the mystery for good. He discovered a piece in a Cartegna (Colombia) newspaper stating Lafitte's ship was attacked at sea by unknown vessels and struck by grapeshot. Suffering a severe wound from a splinter, Lafitte died on February 5, 1823 and was buried at sea. Pardon me if I'm not convinced. I don't believe most of what I read in the newspapers now, let alone what appeared in a Columbian rag 190 years ago.

One of the wildest claims is that Lafitte was buried in the Louisiana bayou right next to Napoleon Bonaparte and John Paul Jones. An account of this theory appears below, from the 1943 book The Land of Lafitte the Pirate. This notion later served as the basis of an enjoyable mystery novel, The Lafitte Case by Ray Peters, which just happens to be tomorrow's Forgotten Book.

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