Galveston history is rich with the stories of piracy and privateers. Galveston pirating peaked later than piracy in many other parts of the world. Strengthening naval powers made piracy a more dangerous business than it had been in the past, but many pirates and privateers found the risks to be worthwhile.
What are Privateers?
The terms pirate and privateer are often used interchangeably, but there are differences. Pirate is a term often used for anyone who robs others at sea, and it can be a catch-all term. Privateers were a specific type of pirate. Privateers had the backing of a specific government and often had armed ships. They would split the spoils of their conquests with their sanctioning government.
Famous privateers were feared for their domination of the sea and ruthlessness. They sprung up in the Gulf of Mexico during the late 18th and early 19th centuries in response to Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain.
Gulf Coast Pirates
The Galveston area was a main port for pirates in the late 1800s through the early 1900s. Pirate attacks had been greatly reduced in most parts of the world by this time, but the early history of Galveston is rich with pirates legends.
One infamous name was Jean Lafitte. Lafitte was an independent pirate, serving whatever group he felt best met his needs. In addition to Galveston, he traveled to New Orleans, St. Joseph’s Island, South Padre Island and an area near Corpus Christi known as Aransas Bay. Lafitte’s legend was enhanced by working with Andrew Jackson in the 1812 siege of New Orleans, helping gain a victory in this important battle.
The Gulf Coast area was a rich source of conflict during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This led to many pirates and privateers, from many different countries, running raids along the coast. Conflict between privateers and naval forces occurred as late as the conflict between Mexico and the Republic of Texas in 1935 and 1936.
At least 20 known shipwrecks are located in the waters along the coast. It is believed that hundreds of ships were lost along the Gulf Coast due to pirating activities.
Today, the pirate legacy in Galveston lives on thanks to the commitment of local residents. Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast is Texas’ only year ’round pirate exhibit featureing a gift shop, hosting for private parties, and more! You can also visit The Pier 21 Theater which features a film about the pirate Jean Lafitte.
The pirate legends of Galveston are not the only interesting historical stories of the area. Galveston is rich in both sea and land history. To learn more about the historical events of the area, visit Mitchell Historic Properties.