Pirates and the United States have a long history. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
WASHINGTON — Pirates and the United States have a long history. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
When the infant country declared independence it had no navy, so battling Britain at sea was a problem.
The time-honored solution: Hire private warriors — known as privateers to some, pirates to others — to do the fighting.
The Continental Congress formalized the process in 1776. During the Revolutionary War, the United States issued some 1,700 “Letters of Marque,” commissioning privateers to battle on a per-voyage basis.
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Nearly 800 vessels were commissioned as privateers and are credited with capturing or destroying about 600 British ships.
The country was only a few years old when President Jefferson sent the Marines “to the shores of Tripoli” in 1801 to deal with the Barbary pirates, who had taken American ships and sailors hostage.
Naval and land battles with those pirates continued from time to time until a second war in 1815 ended all U.S. payments to the pirates.
One of the most prominent pirates to serve the United States was Jean Lafitte, who operated out of Louisiana. During the War of 1812, Lafitte was approached by the British to join them.
Instead, he promptly warned U.S. authorities and he and his pirates joined Gen. Andrew Jackson in the battle of New Orleans.
The Confederate States of America used privateers in the Civil War.