Jean Lafitte was an unlikely figure in the history of New Orleans. A pirate, smuggler and privateer; he rose to local renown following his successful defense of the city in the War of 1812.
Born around 1780 in modern-day Haiti, Jean Lafitte first set sail for the Gulf Coast with his brother Pierre – establishing a base on Grand Isle before eventually settling in Barataria Bay near New Orleans. There, he became known for smuggling goods into and out of the city’s port in defiance of Spain’s laws.
When America declared war against Britain in 1812, however; it prompted a call to arms from then-governor William C.C Claiborne to defend the city against what was seen as an imminent invasion. It was at this point that Jean Lafitte offered his services — offering up not only his knowledge of navigation but also enlisting his crew to join the militia and fight alongside American forces.
This newfound collaboration between Lafitte and Americans resulted in victory over British troops at Chalmette Battlefield — one that solidified him as a hero within local lore while leaving him with a clearer conscience regarding some of his past deeds (Lafitte would later be granted amnesty by then-President James Madison).
Today, Jean Lafitte is remembered as both a scoundrel and savior — standing as one of New Orleans' most storied figures whose legend continues to live on throughout various monuments and landmarks all across Louisiana. Whether you're visiting for Mardi Gras or just looking for something new to explore; no trip to NOLA is complete without learning about this unforgettable character from its rich history.