Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Jean Laffite - Virtuous Bad Boy

Jean Laffite (b. circa 1780 - d. circa 1823) was a French pirate, privateer, smuggler, spy, and, to many, a hero. He was described as handsome, clever, resourceful, gregarious and handy with gambling and women. Sounds like a fun guy to be around.

Not much is known of Laffite before he made his appearance in New Orleans with his older brother Pierre around 1805, just after Louisiana became a part of America. But the men, especially Jean, left their lasting marks.

Jean Laffite
The brothers began to make a name for themselves after the enactment of the Embargo Act of 1807. The embargo prohibited American merchant ships from trading in foreign ports, namely Britain and France, during the Napoleonic Wars. This greatly hurt New Orleans merchants who relied on trade. The enterprising Laffite brothers found a way to help the merchants while capitalizing nicely on the plight. Though a legitimate business, Pierre’s blacksmithing shop was also a front for a smuggling operation. Laffite established a surreptitious trading post on Barataria Island in Barataria Bay south of the city which was far from the U.S. naval squadron base patrolling the area. It wasn’t long before the port was booming.

But Jean decided being a broker wasn’t enough. The brothers purchased a schooner that was already operating without proper commissions and Jean used it to capture their first quarry in 1813—a ship carrying more than seventy slaves. Jean made quite a profit off the slaves and other cargo. He outfitted the ship and renamed it the Dorado. Dorado went on to capture several more ships, which Jean re-outfitted and renamed specifically to sail directly into New Orleans with legal cargo and illegal contraband.

In 1812 as the conflict ramped up between the U.S. and Britain, many letters of marque were being issued to private, armed ships authorizing them to attack and take cargo from other nations. For those issued in New Orleans, many captains generally worked for Laffite. Cargo captured from British ships were handed over to the American authorities while cargos from other countries were put up for sale through Laffite’s operations.

Maison Rouge, Galveston 2018
The government wasn’t keen on Laffite cutting into their income and determined to put an end to it. In the summer of 1812, Jean, Pierre, and more than two dozen of their men were arrested. They bonded out, but never showed for their trial. Jean turned his nose up at the revenue laws. Even under indictment, Laffite powered on with his smuggling operations, even holding auctions for his contraband. It has been documented that in November of 1813, the governor of Louisiana, William C.C. Claiborne, issued a bounty of $500 for Laffite. In response, Laffite issued a similar reward for Claiborne. Neither were cashed in.

Jean’s exploits were well known, even to the British who were increasing their presence in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1814, the British offered money, British citizenship, and land grants to Laffite if he aided them in fighting the Americans and General Andrew Jackson in New Orleans. The ultimatum: Help fell the city so the British could control the Mississippi and cripple the United States or risk being attacked and Barataria destroyed by the Royal Navy. Laffite was, like, nah. He, instead, turned over the information to the Americans. Crafty as he was, he extended his expertise of the swampy land surrounding New Orleans as well as the much-needed additional troops numbering around 3,000. This in exchange for a pardon for himself, his brother, and his men. General Jackson accepted his help and Laffite was credited with helping defeat the British and save New Orleans. Without Laffite and his followers, New Orleans may have fallen. The Laffite brothers and all who served under them were granted full pardons

Maison Rouge, Galveston 2018
Despite the pardons and recognition, the Laffites continued their smuggling, piratical business. And in they took on a new role—spies. In late 1815 Jean and Pierre pledged their service to Spain, agreeing to pass along Mexican revolutionary activities during the Mexican War for Independence. Jean would travel to Galveston where revolutionaries frequented and send word back to Pierre.

When the U.S. squadron ran Jean out of Barataria in 1817 he moved his operations to Galveston. Laffite took over the island and named the colony Campeche. He built his headquarters, painted red, to face the harbor and named the building Maison Rouge. Jean found much success in Galveston and the islanders benefited from the bounty. Laffite even married and had a son.

All good things come to an end. When one of his ships attacked an American merchant, the U.S. responded with orders to remove Laffite from the gulf. Laffite abandoned the island in 1821, but not before his men burned the settlement, including Maison Rouge, to the ground.

Lafitte continued pirating off the coast of Cuba, Venezuela, and Honduras until he died. His death is disputed. He either died by illness on Isla Mujeres off the Yucatan Peninsula or from a fatal battle wound and is buried at sea in the Gulf of Honduras, depending on the source read. 

One additional note on Jean's piracy that perhaps highlights his character. It had been reported numerously that Jean treated the crew and passengers of captured ships politely and released them unharmed.

Jean Laffite’s exploits had made him a legend, has captured our imagination, and, to some, is a romantic figure.

About the Author      

Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Navigation During the Age of Sail

Back in the days of sail, seamen didn’t have the state of the art satellite-based navigational systems, also known as global position systems (GPS), to cross the seas. They relied on mariner knowledge, the horizon, the stars, the currents, and nautical instruments to help plot their courses and guide them on their journeys.

Here is an alphabetical list of some of those tools. 

Astrolabe - ancient inclinometer which calculates the altitude of the sun and stars to determine
Astrolabe, cross staff, and sextant
latitude. Elaborate astrolabes have etchings of how the sky looks at any given time or season. Moving components to what the user sees will tell them their location, as well as the date and time. For sailors, the astrolabe was a much simpler graduated ring with an alidade and often made of brass for longevity at sea.

Backstaff - users of this instrument have their backs to the sun and marks the angle of the sun by measuring its shadow with the help of three vanes—horizon vane, sight vane, and shadow vane.

Compass - one of the oldest nautical tools is comprised of a magnetic lodestone which uses the earth’s magnetic field. The compass, showing the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), always points north. Handy when there is nothing on the horizon but water and more water.

Lead line
Chronometer - a timepiece used to establish longitude and/or an exact measurement of time that evolved from counter-oscillating beams and springs to a beating balance wheel.

Cross staff - the basic predecessor of the backstaff to determine latitude.  Users faced the sun, or Polaris (the North Star), to measure its angle to the horizon by sliding a cross piece up and down the main staff marked with measurements.

Lead line - a long rope with a lead weight at the end and knotted at various lengths used to measure depth. The lead weight also had a hollowed bottom filled with tallow or animal fat. This sticky substance would bring up the make-up of the seabed (sandy, rocky, clay, shells, pebbles) providing important information on anchoring or piloting a ship.

Nocturnal
Log line - a long rope on a spool with a board (log) at the end used to measure a vessel’s speed. Knots were tied along the rope at six feet intervals. Six feet equaled one fathom. When the log line is thrown overboard, the number of knots passing over the railing in thirty seconds were counted, thus giving the sailors a rough estimate of how fast they were going in knots—the nautical measurement much like how fast a car goes in miles per hour.

Nocturnal - based on the time of year to ascertain the time of night using the location of the stars such as Polaris, Ursa Minor, and Ursa Major. It uses a set of dials—months, hours, and the location of stars—and has a pointer. Important when calculating tides.

Quadrant - measures at 90o angles how high the sun or Polaris is above the horizon. To use, sight in on the right side of the edge of the angle. The plumb bob (a weight tied to a rope) will cross the scale along the bottom to give the angular height of the celestial body.

Traverse board
Reflecting circle - a circular instrument which uses mirrors to measure the angular distance between two diverging objects sat once. Mostly used for finding longitude.

Sextant - measures the angle between a celestial object and the horizon to determine latitudes and longitudes. This instrument, which can be used day or night, is the culmination of its navigational predecessors and, due to its precision, has been used well into the twentieth century.

Telescope - also called a spyglass or “bring ’em near”, an optical tool that uses lenses or mirrors to make distance object appear closer

Traverse board - a wooden board with holes and pegs used to record the ship’s speed and direction during a given watch (the shift which crewmen worked). At the end of each watch, the navigator collected the information and figure up the vessel’s progress and projected track.

All these instruments aided mariners in creating one of their most valued navigational tools, their sea charts. Daunting, isn't it? Thank goodness for today's GPS.

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Castles of Ladies of the Stone

I'm so excited to announce the release of the Ladies of the Stone anthology, and today on History Undressed, each of us are sharing with you the castle(s) in our story, and a historical image of each!




Ladies of the Stone

From within the soul of a special stone, the embodiment of the heart of Scotland, a protector is selected. A woman with a pure heart and the ferocity of a warrior is called to the fairy pools on the Isle of Skye upon the death of the previous protector. However, nature has a way of balancing itself, and so with each call to a Protector comes the call of an evil force, set on using the stone for their own purpose.  These are the stories of the Protectors of the Heart of Scotland, the stone they seek to keep safe and the love that strengthens and emboldens them.


The Highlander’s Quest


By USA Today Bestselling Author, Eliza Knight

Her mission was to protect the young boy king. He’s uncovered a plot to destroy Scotland. Together, they must fight a powerful enemy who hides behind a traitorous veil of secrecy…


Dunfermline Palace

Eilean Donan Castle Ruins 



In The Highlander's Quest, Julia Sutherland (heroine) has grown up at Eilean Donan, one of my favorite castles in all of Scotland! She travels to Dunfirmline Palace on a mission, where she meets the hero Alistair Campbell. Both of these castles have prominent stage time on the page.

Eilean Donan is famous for its bridge. It is situated on Loch Also, and in the distance, you can see the Isle of Skye. I took the picture of Eilean Donan on a trip there in 2015. Dunfirmline is in Fife, and was the preferred residence of many a Scottish king, it is on my list of places to visit next time I go!

Cassandra

By USA Today Bestselling Author, Madeline Martin
Together their power is brilliant. But when destiny rivals the safety of family and the whole of Scotland hangs in the balance, can their love survive the required sacrifice?

Edinburgh Castle


In my piece, Cassandra, King Edgar of Scotland resides in Edinburgh Castle and is demanding the stone for himself. In order to ensure Fergus brings it to him, the king has been holding Fergus' son captive since the day the boy was born.

The Protector's Promise

By Author of the Bestselling Border Series, Cecelia Mecca
Two bitter enemies. One sacred vow. Will the passion that flares between them consume everything they love?


Camburg Castle



The inspiration for Camburg Castle in 'The Protector's Promise,' coming April 24th in the Ladies of the Stone anthology, is The Earl's Palace which I visited last summer. Although Camburg Castle is set along the Anglo-Scottish borders in the Western Marches of England, the inspiration castle is way up north in the beautiful island of Kirkwall, Scotland.

Although the layout of Camburg and The Earl's Palace is similar, fortunately, our hero Sir William is nothing like Patrick, Earl of Orkney. When he wanted the castle for himself, the earl fabricated charges against the previous owner of the palace in order to have him tried and executed. But his acquisition was not without consequences, and he was later executed himself for treason.

The Highland Guard and His Lady

By Award Winning Author, Lori Ann Bailey
To protect Scotland, she must eliminate her greatest enemy. But when the challenge begins, will he forgive her for destroying his family?


Holyrood Palace



Home to Mary, Queen of Scots, Holyrood Palace sits at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland.

In The Highland Guard and His Lady, Leslee MacKinnon is a guest of Queen Mary, there to decipher an old text and seek out a long lost item. 

Her plan is to return home to the Isle of Skye as soon as her mission is complete, but she doesn't count on meeting the Highland Guard who captures her attention or the nemesis who might be the downfall of Scotland.

Want to read the anthology? It's on sale now! 

Check out the video trailer for the anthology!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rachel Wall - The American-born Female Pirate

Rachel Schmidt was born in Carlisle, in the Province of Pennsylvania, around 1760. At the age of sixteen, her family visited Harrisburg. She wasn’t much for farmland, but she loved the waterfront. And so she was drawn to the docks along the Susquehanna River. It was there she was harassed and attacked by a group of girls. A man by the name of George Wall, a fisherman that had been a privateer during the Revolutionary War, came to her rescue. It wasn’t long before she fell in love and eloped with her hero.

The couple moved to Boston where Rachel took a job as a servant. George was gone for stretches of time as he worked on a fishing boat. Life was rough and the lure of easy money had become too much. George had a taste for plunder and he convinced her to join him in piracy.

Together they devised a plan. George, Rachel, and several cohorts borrowed a schooner and set out to make a living off fishing. That is until the weather turned stormy. Then they set a unique trap. They dropped anchor off the Massachusetts coast in the Isle of Shoals to weather the squalls and then set their boat adrift feigning trouble. Once they spotted a passing ship, Rachel would stand on the deck send distress signals, luring would-be saviors to a ghastly fate. They boarded the vessels, killed the sailors, and pillaged everything of value. The aiding ship was then sunk, a tactic which made it appear as if the sailors perished at sea during the storm.

Their trickery worked well for many months between 1781 through 1782. Some reports estimate they took twelve boats, killed up to twenty-four crewmen, and amassed about $6,000 worth of loot.

But like all good things, it came to an end. The sea is an unpredictable mistress. And whether by surprise or faulty seafaring calculations, a particularly nasty tempest waylaid the little band of pirates. George and another crewman were washed overboard and their vessel had been badly battered.  Rachel and the rest of the survivors were picked up and returned to Boston.

Now widowed, Rachel returned to working as a servant. Her story didn’t end there. She’d become accustomed to the wealth of pirating. While she no longer prowled the coastline, she did return to stealing, although on a smaller scale as a petty thief along the docks. Seven years later, she attempted to snatch a bonnet off seventeen-year-old Margaret Bender’s head and reportedly tried to rip out the girl’s tongue. She was caught and arrested.

Rachel’s request to be tried as a pirate was denied. At her trial, while she confessed to piracy and theft, she maintained her innocence that she had never killed a man. This did not sway the judge and she was found guilty. On October 8, 1789, she was hung.

Rachel Wall was purportedly the first American-born female pirate and the decidedly last woman to be hanged in Massachusetts. And over a bonnet!

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Friday, April 6, 2018

New Historical Fiction Release Spotlight: MY DEAR HAMILTON by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie


I'm super excited to share with you all a special excerpt from, MY DEAR HAMILTON by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie! I'm currently reading this book right now and loving it! Review forthcoming!


Wife, Widow, and Warrior in Alexander Hamilton’s Quest for a More Perfect Union

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America’s First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton—a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza’s story as it’s never been told before—not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal—but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

 

Order your copy of MY DEAR HAMILTON today!

A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A Founding Father’s wife...

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

 
E
XCERPT:


The night before our wedding, the ball at our house was attended by all the best of Dutch Albany society. The Van Rensselaers and the Van Burens, the Ten Broecks and the Ten Eycks, the Van Schaicks and the Douws, and so many others. Neither snow nor ice nor howling wind seemed to deter our New Netherlander friends and neighbors from coming out to the Pastures for the celebrations.

Amidst boughs of holly and the light of countless candles, the grand hall on our second floor hosted festivities that included food and drink, dancing and music, and games and toasts. We danced minuets, cotillions, and Scottish reels until my feet ached and my heart soared. Alexander never seemed to tire, and I determined to keep up with him through every bar and set. I danced with Mac and my brother-in-law, Mr. Carter, a man eight years Angelica’s senior, whose business supplying the army for once permitted him time to join in the festivities. But Alexander could never wait long before declaring himself impatient and claiming me again.

My fiancĂ© appeared more at ease than I’d ever seen him before, and perhaps that wasn’t a surprise, as these days of rest and merriment were the first break from military service he’d had in five years. Indeed, his eyes sparkled as he asked, “May I steal you away for a moment?”

“By all means.” I’d been hoping for a quiet opportunity to give him my gift. He took my hand and led me around the edge of the dance floor as we were stopped again and again by well-wishers, until we finally escaped down the stairs and into the cooler air of the dimly lit sitting room, which afforded us a modicum of peace and privacy. There, Alexander asked me to wait. And while he ducked away I seized the moment to pull my gift from its hiding place in the cabinet next to the fireplace. Alexander returned before I’d barely completed the task—and held a large sack of his own.

“Whatever is that?” I asked.

He grinned and nodded at what I held in my own hands. “I could ask the same.”

I smiled. “A wedding gift for my husband.”

He feigned a frown and stepped closer. “Your husband, madam? Do I know him?”

Playing his game, I said, “Oh, you know him very well, sir. And your gift is for?”

He came closer yet. “For my wife-to-be. And before you ask, indeed, you know her well. She has a good nature, a charming vivacity, and is most unmercifully handsome”—he arched a brow and closed the remaining space between us—“and so perverse that she has none of those affectations which are the prerogatives of beauty.”

How did he always manage to set my world a-tumble with his words? “Oh, you must be a lucky man, indeed. I hope you’ve shown her your appreciation.”

He barked a laugh. “You saucy charmer!”

I sat in the chair closest to the fire so that I could see by the greater light there, and Alexander pulled up a chair of his own so that our knees touched. With a nervous smile, he placed the heavy sack onto my lap. I untied the its string and worked the coarse cloth over the solid object inside. Impatience rolled off him so forcefully that I had to tease him further by taking great pains to slide the sack evenly off, a little on this side, and then a little on that.

“And to think someone once told me you were the Finest Tempered Girl in the World,” he said with a chuckle.



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About Stephanie Dray: Stephanie Dray is a New York Times bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into multiple languages, illuminating women of the past so as to inspire the women of today. She is a frequent panelist and presenter at national writing conventions and lives near the nation’s capital.      

Stephanie Dray Website |Newsletter | Facebook |Twitter | Dray & Kamoie Website


About Laura Kamoie: Laura Kamoie is a New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, and the author of two nonfiction books on early American history. Until recently, she held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction under the name Laura Kaye, also a New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels.            





Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pirates Ships - What’s in a Name?

Pirates were pretty good at brand recognition. No, really. Consider the following. Pirates didn’t attack prey haphazardly. Despite popular belief instilled by books and movies, pirates would rather use scare tactics and nasty reputations than engage in a sea battle. Battles used valuable resources such as
ammunition. Crewmen could be hurt or killed. The prize could be damaged or sunk, defeating the purpose of plundering goods, stealing treasure, or seizing the ship for their own. So when they sailed upon a quarry, it was preferred the victim surrender before no quarter was given.

The first indication a pirate ship was closing in would be their colors. The flags pirates hoisted were recognizable, often red or black and depicting skulls, bones, blood, swords, and even an hourglass, a warning to their prey time was running out. When a Jolly Roger snapped in the wind, there was no question the ship claimed no country and that danger was on the horizon.

It would only make sense that pirates would also use branding with the names they chose for their ships.

Sam Bellamy's flagship

While some pirates never bothered with renaming the ships they seized, most christened their newly acquired vessels with names that held meaning. Many ships were named according to their profession—adventure, fancy, ranger, fortune. Some monikers were meant to boost fear—revenge, delivery, rover, triumph. Others made political statements. It has been suggested that Edward Teach (1680-1718), famously known as Blackbeard, was a Jacobite sympathizer and had named his flagship Queen Anne’s Revenge in support of England’s deposed Queen Anne.

Here is a list of other notable pirates and the ships they captained.

  • Jeanne de Clisson (1300-1359) - The Black Fleet, Revenge
  • Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596) - Golden Hind
  • Peter Easton (1570-1620) - Happy Adventure
  • Henry Morgan (1635-1688) - Satisfaction
  • William Kidd (1645-1701) - Adventure Galley, Adventure Prize
  • Thomas Tew (1649-1695) - Amity
  • Laurens DeGraaf (1653-1704), Anne Dieu-Le-Veut (1661-1710) - Tigre, Francesca, Fortune renamed Neptune
  • Henry Avery (1659-1699) - Fancy
  • Charles Vane (1680-1721) - Lark, Ranger
  • Benjamin Hornigold (1680-1719) - Ranger
  • Richard Worley (?-1718) - New York’s Revenge

    The Golden Hind (replica)
  • William Moody (?-1719) - Rising Sun
  • Robert Sample (?-1719) - Flying King
  • Bartholomew Roberts aka Black Bart (1682-1722) - Royal Rover, Fortune, Good Fortune, Great Ranger, Little Ranger
  • Edward England (1685-1721) - Royal James, Fancy, Ranger
  • Jack Rackham aka Calico Jack (1682-1720), Mary Read(1685-1721), Anne Bonny (1697-possibly 1782) - William
  • Stede Bonnet (1688-1718) - Revenge renamed Royal James
  • Sam Bellamy aka Black Sam (1689-1717) - Whydah Galley
  • George Lowther (?-1723) - Delivery
  • Christopher Condent (1690s-1770) - The Flying Dragon
  • Edward “Ned” Low (1690-1724) - Rebecca, Fancy, Rose Pink, Merry Christmas
  • John Gow (1695-1725) - Fortune
  • Ching Shih (1775-1844) - a whole fleet called the Red Flag Fleet
  • Jean Lafitte (1780-1823) - Dorada 
It’s interesting to note how many ships possessed the same or similar names. Is that because of brand recognition? Possibly. No sense in changing what works. Huzzah! 

About the Author                                                


Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.