it was more than just another routine capture for the two U.S. Revenue cutters 75 nautical miles northwest of the Dry Tortugas. The schooner they had bested after a short, sharp engagement on that afternoon of 30 August 1819 was none other than the Brave—newest addition to the fleet of the notorious pirate Jean Lafitte and his brother in maritime larceny, Pierre. But though the rapacious vessel was caught red-handed with prisoners and plunder from the nearby schooner Filomena, the Brave’s crew and her owners would argue that this was not mere piracy—but a blow struck for the cause of freedom.
Pirates? Au contraire, they would contend—privateers, legitimately operating out of Galveston, Texas Province, for revolutionary Mexico, preying on Spanish shipping in the name of the Mexican struggle for independence. And while the U.S. public had great sympathy for such activities by those sailing under the flags of revolutionary Spanish American nations, the U.S. government was exasperated, both with the widespread acts of piracy against its own ships and with the large-scale smuggling of cargoes from captured Spanish prizes into ports such as New Orleans.