As we discussed here, the Laffite brothers proved that a handy profit could be made running a privateering operation with their boom town in Galveston. In 1836 there were still people around who remembered that golden era and the new government of Texas went straight to work handing out letters of marque and reprisal including a nice chunk of profits for themselves. By November Texas had a register of ships and Captains who held their commissions and shown above is a page from that book (courtesy of the State of Texas Navy webpage).
The Captains names, their ships and the current known state of the vessel are listed on the document, dated November 3, 1836. The list of four ships indicates that John M. Allen is the Captain of the pilot schooner Terrible, W.S. Brown captains the schooner Benjamin R. Milam, Peter Grayson has the schooner Tom Toby and a man named Moore is in command of schooner Jim Bowie. Two of the ships are out of New Orleans which is no surprise since - just like the Laffites - the privateers and the Texas government would have been selling their plundered goods in that capital of decadence and excess. The document is signed by chief clerk John Buchanan.
So there's a well established privateering tradition in the great state of Texas and it all started with our cher amis Jean and Pierre Laffite. But there's another, more subtle connection to the Emperors of Barataria here. The name of the last ship is the key.
Here is the man after whom the schooner was named: Of course that's James Bowie, who died at the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836. He was an instant hero in the Republic of Texas and still is in the State. Plus he invented this grizzly bear:
Here's the thing most people don't know about Mr. Bowie, though. When he and his brother Rezin left the army in 1819, they returned to their home state of Louisiana and found a booming market in slaves. But slaves could not (legally) be brought into the U.S. via ship as was the habit of the Laffites in Barataria. Again, the Laffite brothers were way ahead of the curve, and the Bowie brothers wanted in on the lucrative action. Thanks to the U.S. Congress, their partnership worked beautifully.
The Laffites sold slaves literally by the pound at their slave market at Deweyville on the Texas side of the Sabine river. The Bowies would show up, buy a likely batch of healthy humans, and march them into Louisiana. There they would take the slaves straight to the U.S. authorities and claim that the unfortunates were cargo from a ship that Bowie associates had captured in the name of the U.S. Well done boys, the authorities would say. Now - again thanks to Congress - we'll sell this chattel and give you 50% of the profits. These sales were usually handled quickly and, since a good field hand could bring as much as $1,500 or more at auction, the Bowies made money hand over fist.
The Bowie brothers visited Galveston more than once and evidently Jim and Jean Laffite struck up something of a friendship. Old salts would later remark that the two men looked similar, to the point where some thought they might be related.
While there is not genealogical evidence of relation, in my mind they are kindred spirits. Two men prepared to look out for themselves and their brothers and step on or over anyone else. All the same managing, despite their questionable deeds, to come down to us as heroes.
"Fortune favors the brave", by the way, is the motto of the Texas Navy. Apparently it really does.