This week in Texas history: Pirate captain rules Galveston Island

Videos by Rare

Videos by Rare

On July 31, 1817, former French naval captain Louis Michel Aury resigned his commission in the upstart Mexican navy and took on the post of “resident commissioner” of Galveston Island. José Manuel de Herrera, an envoy of the Mexican government during its revolt against Spain, proclaimed Galveston a port of the Mexican republic and posted Aury as the island’s new leader.

Aury had previously established a distinguished career as an officer in the French navy and as a privateer, attacking cargo vessels from enemy countries and “confiscating” their shipments. After he accumulated enough wealth to purchase his own vessels, he offered his services to the highest bidder, regardless of if they were established governments, rebellious colonies, or private groups.

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In 1816, Aury was hired by a group from New Orleans. The group wanted to establish a port for the rebel Mexican government off the coast of Texas. Mexico wanted the port so that they could attack forces loyal to the Spanish throne and invade deeper into the mainland. Aury also used the port to act as a privateer for the cash-strapped Mexican rebellion effort.

While Aury’s efforts to raid ships along the Gulf Coast for his Mexican benefactors netted them well over $1 million, his attempts to govern the island fell far short of expectations. Aury led a convoy of ships from Galveston to the Santander River in April 1817. During his absence, the people of the Galveston fell under the influence of another charismatic pirate: the legendary Jean Lafitte.

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When Aury returned in July, his men no longer followed his orders. The plans to use Aury’s fleet to attack Royalist troops was scrapped. Aury left Galveston and sailed to South America, attacking Spanish ships and colonies. Aury reportedly died on August 20, 1821, at age 33.

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