A Reference to Jose Gaspar in the Historical Record

home“Corsairs of the Gulf” (New York: Harcourt, 2005. xiv, 706 pp), William C. Davis provides a reference to some correspondence between two Naval Officers which provides insight on the existence and the fate of Jose Gaspar, the infamous privateer of the early 1800’s.

Would-be privateers could find virtually no home port or agreeable junta to allow them to carry on their trade, yet carry it on they would.  Many others than the Lafittes shifted their bases to Cuba, chiefly the port of Regla close to Havana Bay, as well as St. Bartholomew’s in the British West Indies.  Soon privateers flying a variety of rebel flags under multiple commissions, all of them suspect, stopped in these ports to bring in prizes and refit.  Most of them were American and British vessels and crews.  Forced to the far side of the law, they became more brazen, and some began to prey on American shipping as well as Spanish.  Captain Jose Gapsar sailed the JUPITER out of St. Batholomew’s under a worthless commission from Uruguay, and on August 19 took and plundered the Yankee ship the ORLEANS.  He held her for two days, abusing the crew to some degree, then before releasing her sent aboard a crude attempt at humor in a letter that he signed “Richard Coeur de Lion”.  Whether trying to hide his own identity or settling a grudge against Laffite, he tried to persuade people that the author was Jean Laffite.  Gapsar’s panache would not last long, for in October the USS GRAMPUS found his ship at St. Bartholomew’s and put her out of business.


Citation:  Davis,449, 639 Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy from Officers Below the Ranks of Commander 1802-1884, M-148, RG 45, NA.