Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Will the Real Pirate Please Stand Up

Pam Keyes recently published an article about Daniel Todd Patterson's activities against innocent bystanders during the Patterson-Ross raid at Barataria.

If you review the evidence objectively, it was Patterson, not Laffite, who was the real pirate. I have nothing to add to what Pam Keyes has uncovered except to ask:

  •           Why did Patterson behave this way?
  •           Why were all complaints against this behavior met with indifference?
  •            Who really gained from the Patterson-Ross raid?
  •            Why don't the history books tell us about this? 
 I know a lot of people who say: "Don't rehash old history. Don't keep reliving the past. You can't change the past, so concentrate on the present."

I am concentrating on the present. But how do we fix the present, if we don't understand the past?

Isn't this an ongoing problem?


  1. As it turns out, Patterson is a complex character, not easily analyzed. On the face of the evidence, I would say it looks like he was a somewhat corrupt, possibly treasonous Navy official. He was definitely avaricious, and either foolhardy or complicit when it came to the British invasion. To be fair, a study of the man has to include an examination of the nearly two years he spent as a prisoner of war by the Barbary pirates at Tripoli from 1803-1805, as this incarceration could have damaged him psychologically, but not enough is known about the conditions under which those prisoners were kept.

    1. While it might be interesting to delve into Patterson's psychology and find out what made him tick, what is more disturbing is that his actions were neither checked by superiors nor censured by historians. A corrupt official can perhaps get away with hidden practices that no one knows about, but how could Patterson for years and years get away with what he did at Barataria without anyone in power taking him to task, when it was all out in the open. This is not merely a stain on his honor but on the United States Navy and the country as a whole. That nothing was done about it reflects on people in the highest places.

    2. Well, there were political machinations behind how Patterson's raid on Barataria was perceived by his superiors and others in power in the US. That's how Ross was able to get a Congressional bill passed giving them the money from the raid a bit over two years later. Since Ross had died by then, Patterson got it all.

    3. What did the political machinations consist of? Bribery? Coercion? Why, for instance, did President Madison not respond to Jean Laffite's letter? Why didn't he ask Patterson to explain his actions? Even if the treasury was empty, Patterson could have been forced to reimburse the Laffites -- as well as Joseph Martinot and anyone else robbed on that raid, from his own funds, just as Livingston was made to reimburse the US government for funds embezzled under him when he was sick.

    4. The answer to that is complicated. Patterson raided Grande Terre under direct orders from the Secretary of the Navy, who provided him with the Carolina to accomplish just that. Patterson and Claiborne had been complaining for months earlier about the Baratarian smugglers diverting funds from New Orleans, particularly after the April 1814 panic, which was caused by two bank clerks and not the Laffites at all. Patterson was a member of the Livingston family, with great political power in New York and D.C., so any mis-steps he made were looked at with blind eyes accordingly. His worst mistake was in losing almost all his fleet in the Battle of Lake Borgne, for which he should have been court-martialed, but he was not. President Madison did not respond to Jean Laffite's letter because George Ross had already preceded Laffite to DC and set the wheels in motion to get the money awarded to them: it is likely that Madison did not even allow Laffite an audience to present his case. In any event, Patterson could not have reimbursed the Laffites for their loss, because he didn't have the money as cash in hand for quite some time. His wife was wealthy (she was a banker's daughter), but Patterson himself was not (at least until after the money award, and except for whatever bank notes, etc., were stolen and not accounted for in the raid.)

    5. I suppose it also complicates matters that the Secretary of the Navy during the raid on Barataria was William Jones, but his term of office ended December 1, 1814, and he was not replaced until after the Battle of New Orleans by Benjamin Crowninshield. What is the story behind that, do you know?

      Right during the Battle of New Orleans Patterson's immediate superior could not have been the Secretary of the Navy, as there wasn't one.