Pirates in Texas?

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Jean LafitteWhen you think of Texas outlaws, you probably think of stagecoach robberies or cattle rustling. Gritty men with bandana-covered faces and revolvers in their hands. You probably don’t picture the man off to the right. But as it turns out, Texas was home to one of the most famous pirates of the 19th century – Jean Lafitte.

Jean Lafitte was a French pirate and privateer in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 19th century. He and his brother ran a successful smuggling operation from an island in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay until the American authorities invaded in 1814 and seized most of his fleet. Always ready to make a deal, Lafitte agreed to help General Andrew Jackson defend New Orleans against the British attack of 1815 in exchange for a pardon, thus beginning his more honest career as a privateer. Once pardoned, Lafitte moved his base of operations to Galveston Island, Texas where he set up a pirate colony called Campeche.

Well, when I learned this fascinating tidbit, I knew I had to find a way to work this pirate angle into one of my books. Full Steam Ahead proved the perfect place.

In my story, my heroine’s grandfather, Henri Renard served with Lafitte in his privateering efforts and in the course of events, saved the pirate’s life by taking a bullet meant for Lafitte. Lafitte rewards his valor with the gift of his personal, jeweled dagger.

The Lafitte Dagger became the Renard family legacy handed down from father to son. It became a symbol of honor and loyalty, and over time its legend grew. Over the next few decades Galveston underwent great political turmoil – going from Mexican rule through the Texas Revolution; it became an independent republic; then joined the union as a state – and through it all, Renard Shipping flourished. People began to believe that whoever possessed Lafitte’s dagger would find prosperity in the port of Galveston that he established.

When a rival shipping owner sets out to steal the dagger, Nicole Renard, as the only heir to the Renard line, takes the dagger and flees Galveston in an effort to protect her ailing father. Only, instead of escaping to New Orleans to meet up with trusted family friends, she is forced to take a Cutthroat-Island-geena-davisdetour up the Trinity River and ends up on the same plantation as Darius Thornton, an obsessed scientist investigating steam engine boilers. Adventure, romance, and many explosions ensue.

I had a lot of fun giving my heroine several unexpected pirate-y traits, too. (Watch out for her knife skills…)

  • So what are some of your favorite pirate movies?

Anyone remember the old Gina Davis pirate film Cutthroat Island? She made a great female pirate. Loved that one!

Karen Witemeyer
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.

34 Comments

  1. I find this very interesting since I’ve visited Galveston several times when I had relatives there. This is the first time I learned of the pirate. Now I want to read Full Steam Ahead.

  2. I really don’t have a favorite pirate movie. I enjoyed hearing more about this history though. I learned some about Jean Lafitte when I went on a tour in Galveston.

  3. Another place one would not expect pirates – Minnesota! Yep, off Minnesota Point, a narrow, seven-mile sand spit in Lake Superior that forms the Duluth/Superior harbor! Granted, these weren’t world-class pirates, but they did rob ships and warehouses in the harbor and dug a cave to hide their booty.

  4. Anes – How wonderful that you’ve visited Galveston. I found a wonderful 1859 map of Galveston that I used for researching what it must have been like back in day. Found several historic homes, too, that had survived since the early 1800s. So much history there!

  5. Janine – I’m glad you got to learn a little about Jean Lafitte during your Galveston tour. His story is quite remarkable. The man was a chameleon – constantly changing to fit his environment. A pirate at heart, yet he fought alongside Andrew Jackson against the British as well. Interesting fellow.

  6. Rachael – Pirates in Minnesota??? I love it. How crazy is that? The Scourge of the Great Lakes. Ha!

  7. Fascinating. Having family all over New Orleans, I’ve enjoyed learning about Lafitte, too. You would enjoy the movie, “Buccaneer” with Lafitte played by Yul Brynner with hair! I’ve peeked into the blacksmith shop he owned in the French Quarter. It’s dark even in daytime. And when I visited the Texas coast, I saw the foundations of his house there, where he left after that imaginary snub at the dance after he aided the US in the Battle of New Orleans. I picked a wildflower for a scrapbook. He’s a fascinating anti-hero. Wonderful article, Karen, thank you for sharing all that.

  8. I love the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, but I have to say that my favorite pirate movie is Blackbeard’s Ghost, with Dean Jones and Peter Ustinov as Blackbeard. I grew up on Disney movie and this one is one of my favorites.

    It is interesting that Lafitte had a pirate colony in the Gulf, when you generally think of the pirates much further south. However, the coastal states claim pirates and possible treasure hidden there.

    I am really enjoying getting to know Darius and Nicole. I can’t wait for Nicole to wake up and smell the coffee.

  9. Margo – So fun that we share a research bond. 🙂 Lafitte certainly was an intriguing character. And seeing Yul Brenner with hair is a must. Ha! He will always be the bald King of Siam to me in The King and I.

  10. Hi, Dora. I enjoyed all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, too. And like you, I grew up on Disney movies, animated and not. To this day I still love Swiss Family Robinson, which now that I think about it, had pirates. Ha!

    My son watched Blackbeard’s Ghost at school one time, not sure why, but he came raving about it. We ended up getting it on Netflix and all watched it. Fun!

  11. I guess I would have to say Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard, since I live in NC. 🙂

    I loved Full Steam Ahead. Darius is one of my favorite characters you have created!

  12. Fascinating info, Karen. I have heard the name Lafitte but never knew much else. I can’t think of the pirate movie name but it starred. The Kate Robert Shaw, and Genevieve Boujold. Oh, be still my heart. I’ll try to look it up now and come back.

    Oh, of course I love Pirates of the Caribbean. We visit Disneyland often and the grandsons try to find all the hidden Jack Sparrows.

    Best wishes on the book, it sounds amazing.

  13. Swashbuckler. An oldie but goodie from 1976.

  14. I meant the late Robert Shaw. Sheesh. My iPad so over reacts with auto correct. Sheesh.

  15. PIRATE MOVIES? Kinda stumped. The old Peter Pan movie with Mary Martin? How about that?

  16. How about….weren’t there pirates on The Swiss Family Robinson?

  17. I liked Mutiny on the Bounty with Clark Gable as Mr. Christian. His act of mutiny made him sort of a pirate, right? (You can see I’m digging deep here) 🙂

  18. Not a huge Pirates of the Caribbean fan. It just goes on and on and on and on. A big gripe with me and modern action movies. I just can’t keep my head in the game. I end up reading a book or flipping open my laptop while the mayhem drags on to a ridiculous degree.

  19. Hi, Anne. Thanks for your kind comments about Darius. I always try to create a male lead that I can fall a bit in love with myself, so I’m glad he appealed to you as well.
    🙂

  20. Tanya – I loved the Disney ride long before the movies came out, but I must admit I enjoyed each of the Jack Sparrow films as well. And Swashbuckler sounds like a good one, too.

  21. Peter Pan definitely counts, Mary! Ha! Children’s classics are always a winner in my book.

  22. I love Nicole from Full Steam Ahead! Her pirate skills surprised me as much as Darius 🙂 I’ve always loved the scene in Swiss Family Robinson when they fight the pirates with all their booby-traps.

  23. Heidi – Me, too!! Those rolling logs and coconut bombs. Classic!

  24. I have enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean a lot because they took the ride at Disney and they made it come alive! My sister was born in Galveston, TX. Can’t wait to read it! Thank you.

  25. Hi Karen. Jean Lafitte was quite a fellow. I liked the Mutiny with Clark Gable first. Later, Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp. Lots of pirate movies through the years. Karen, I would love to be your winner of this book. It sure interest me. Thanks, Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

  26. Meant to say Munity on the Bounty with Clark Gable. Maxie

  27. My favorite movie Captain Horatio Hornblower with Gregory Peck. He was so handsome. He fought the Spanish, The French and pirates in between.

    My children watched Peter Pan, Hook, Swiss Family Robinson, Treasure Island, and the first 3 Pirates of the Caribbean movies. My daughter loved The Princess Bride.

    I remember reading a romance novel set in New Orleans during the Civil War featuring Jean Lafitte… I’ll have to check this out… Jennifer Blake? Heather Graham?

  28. Chris – I like the Pirates movies, too. Fun concept. And how neat that you have a tie to Galveston through your sister. Hope you enjoy the book!

  29. Hi, Maxie. I think I saw Mutiny on the Bounty when I was a young kid. Not old enough to truly appreciate it, I’m sure, because I remember thinking it was boring. I might need to give it another try. 🙂

  30. Laurie – I love Gregory Peck. Such a classy leading man. Let me know if you find that romance novel with Lafitte. It was probably around the war of 1812 instead of the Civil War, but it would be a great background for a novel. Plenty of external conflict, that’s for sure.

  31. Karen I was delighted to see your post on Lafitte. One of my favorite pirates. I was going to mention Buccaneer as well. Loved Bryner as Lafitte. I wish I could remember who was Jackson. Living near Houston and as a history enthusiast I have known about Lafitte being in Galveston all my life. One of those things my mother told me about. Love the idea of your book Karen. Would like to have it.

  32. Thanks, Connie. Sounds like I should have contacted you when I was researching for this book. You probably could have saved me a lot of time. 🙂

  33. One moment he is firing pistols on raging seas and the next he’s galloping across the Texas dust. What a character! I loved Full-steam Ahead, Karen. Nichole was certainly a pirate yet every inch a lady, not to mention a woman of God. She had the skills and wit one fantasizes about yet because she was not fully a pirate she felt more like where I would be: dreaming of being one yet content to being content in her own time. Yet I blame you for making me choose between Darius and the Archer brother. 😉 but in terms of pirate movies, I’d have to choose Pirates of the Caribbean especially the last one.

  34. Thanks, Taylor. So glad you enjoyed Full Steam Ahead. Oh, and I’d never make you pick between Darius and the Archer brothers. Heavens knows, I couldn’t do it. 🙂

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