Page:The Works of Lord Byron (ed. Coleridge, Prothero) - Volume 3.djvu/329

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
CAXTO III.]
297
THE CORSAIR.

of the city of New Orleans, from his immediate connection, and his once having been a fencing-master in that city of great reputation, which art he learnt in Buonaparte's army, where he was a captain. The reward which was offered by the Governor for the head of La Fitte was answered by the offer of a reward from the latter of 15,000 for the head of the Governor. The Governor ordered out a company to march from the city to La Fitte's island, and to burn and destroy all the property, and to bring to the city of New Orleans all his banditti. This company, under the command of a man who had been the intimate associate of this bold Captain, approached very near to the fortified island, before he saw a man, or heard a sound, until he heard a whistle, not unlike a boatswain's call. Then it was he found himself surrounded by armed men who had emerged from the secret avenues which led to this bayou. Here it was that this modern Charles de Moor developed his few noble traits; for to this man, who had come to destroy his life and all that was dear to him, he not only spared his life, but oftered him that which would have made the honest soldier easy for the remainder of his days, which was indignantly refused. He then, with the approbation of his captor, returned to the city. This circumstance, and some concomitant events, proved that this band of pirates was not to be taken by land. Our naval force having always been small in that quarter, exertions for the destruction of this illicit establishment could not be expected from them until augmented; for an officer of the navy, with most of the gun-boats on that station, had to retreat from an overwhelming force of La Fitte's. So soon as the augmentation of the navy authorised an attack, one was made; the overthrow of this banditti has been the result: and now this almost invulnerable point and key to New Orleans is clear of an enemy, it is to be hoped the government will hold it by a strong military force,"—American Newspaper. [The story of the "Pirates of Barataria," which an American print, the National Intelligencer, was the first to make public, is quoted in extenso by the Weekly Messenger (published at Boston) of November 4, 1814. It is remarkable that a tale which was destined to pass into the domain of historical romance should have been instantly seized upon and turned to account by Byron, whilst it was as yet half-lold, while the legend was still in the making. Jean Lafitte, the Franco-American Conrad, was born either at Bayonne or Bordeaux, circ. 1780, emigrated with his elder brother Pierre, and settled at New Orleans, in 1809, as a blacksmith. Legitimate trade was flat, but the delta of the Mississippi, with its labyrinth of creeks and islands and bayous, teemed with pirates or merchant-smugglers. Accordingly, under the nominal sanction of letters of marque from the Republic of Cartagena, and as belligerents of Spain, the brothers, who had taken up their quarters on Grande Terre, an island to the east of the "Grand Pass," or channel of the Bay of Barataria, swept the Gulph of Mexico with an organized flotilla of privateers, and acquired vast booty in the way of specie and living cargoes of slaves. Hence the proclamation of the Governor of Louisiana, W. C. C. Claiborne, in which (November