Louis-Michel Aury

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Louis-Michel Aury was a French Corsair operating in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean during the early 19th century.

Aury was born in Paris, France, in about 1788. He served in the French Navy as a sailor on a ship stationed in the French colonies of the West Indies,[1] but from 1802 he crewed on privateer ships. By 1810 he had accumulated enough prize money to become the master of his own vessel.

He decided to support the Spanish colonies of South America in their fight for independence from Spain. In April 1813 he sailed from North Carolina on his own privateer ship with Venezuelan letters-of-marque to attack Spanish ships. He was then commissioned as a commodore in the navy of New Granada (Colombia),[2] and at great personal expense, in December 1815 ran the Spanish blockade[3] and evacuated hundreds of people in his vessels from the besieged fortress city of Cartagena de Indias (Colombia) to Haiti.[4] In spite of his success in this dangerous exploit he argued with Simón Bolívar, leader of the Latin American revolutionaries, over payment for his services.[5]

Mexican flag flown by Louis Aury

Aury subsequently accepted an appointment as resident commissioner of Galveston Island, Texas, made by José Manuel de Herrera, an envoy from the fledgling Republic of Mexico, who had declared Galveston a port of the Republic.[6] Aury established a privateering base there[7] in September 1816.

One of Aury's privateers had captured a Spanish vessel from Tampico, and letters found on board revealed that the port of Soto La Marina on the Soto La Marina River (also called the Santander) in Mexico was undefended.[8] Learning this, Gen. Francisco Mina and Col. Henry Perry resolved to make a descent upon the place, and Aury agreed to transport them.[9] They sailed from Galveston April 6, 1817,[10] and the town was taken without a fight. The three commanders squabbled, and Aury left with his ships for Galveston. Mina, whose plan was to join the southern Mexican revolutionaries led by Guadalupe Victoria, marched inland and was captured by royal Spanish troops and executed.

However, while Aury was away, the pirate Jean Lafitte had taken control of the base at Galveston.[11] On his return to Texas, Aury made an ill-fated attempt to establish another base at Matagorda Bay. He finally left Texas in 1817 to assist the Scottish adventurer Gregor MacGregor, self-styled "Brigadier-General of the United Provinces of the New Granada and Venezuela and General-in-Chief of the armies of the two Floridas", in attacking Spanish Florida from Amelia Island. MacGregor left the island on September 4, and Aury sailed into the port of Fernandina[12] on September 17, 1817. Following negotiations with MacGregor's lieutenants, Ruggles Hubbard and Jared Irwin, Amelia Island was dubiously annexed to the Republic of Mexico on September 21, 1817, and its flag raised over Fort San Carlos.[13] Aury surrendered the island to U.S. forces under the command of Commodore J.D. Henley and Major James Bankhead on December 23, 1817. Aury remained over two months as an unwelcome guest; Bankhead occupied Fernandina and President James Monroe vowed to hold it "in trust for Spain". This episode in Florida's history became known as the Amelia Island Affair.[14][15]

On 4 July 1818 Aury captured Old Providence Island (Isla de Providencia) in the western Caribbean with the help of 400 men and 14 ships. He found the island populated by white English-speaking Protestants and their slaves. Aury and his team used the islands as his new base from which to pursue Central American independence and founded a settlement with a thriving economy based on captured Spanish cargo, while unsuccessfully trying to rebuild good relations with Bolívar.

Aury attempts to liberate Central America[edit]

In 1820 Guatemala City was still the capital of the Captaincy General of Guatemala, so Central America was seen as yet under the sway of Spain, and thus was open to attack from its enemies. In an attempt to secure their independence, the Colombian insurgents fitted a combined sea and land expedition to operate against the ports of Omoa and Trujillo, in Honduras.

On the 21st of April, 1820, the watch-tower at Capiro in Trujillo Port announced the approach of a Colombian flotilla. The port's garrison, commanded by Jose M. Palomar, at once made emergency preparations for the impending attack. At two o'clock in the afternoon the approaching flotilla hoisted a flag with two blue bars and a white one between them showing an escutcheon in the center similar to Argentinian flag; Aury dispatched a boat to shore to demand the port’s surrender within one hour. The town did not comply. The following day Commodore Aury moved the flotilla to the mouth of the Guaimoreto River and began bombardment. The attack started at 9 AM and lasted until 2 PM. The firing ceased when the flotilla was ordered out to sea and out of the reach of the port’s cannons. A portion of the land force then attempted to enter the town by the rear, but was detected and driven out.

During the night of the 24th, the Colombian vessels dropped out of sight. On the 25th the flotilla appeared off the port of Omoa and for several days attempted to land. Commodore Aury was unsuccessful and left the area on the 6th of May.

Some historians, for example Miguel Ángel de Marco,[16] suggest that the flags of the United Provinces of Central America and most of the states that composed it were inspired by the Argentine Flag that privateer Hippolyte Bouchard took with him. While others claim that the flag was modeled on the Argentine flag, but introduced by Commodore Louis-Michel Aury.

A document drawn up by the justice of the peace and chief of police of the isles of Santa Catalina and Old Providence[17] reported Aury's death on August 30, 1821, possibly thrown by a horse.[18] On September 3 of the same year, the same official made an inventory of Aury's possessions, which he left to his sister Victoire Aury (Madame Dupuis). Although he is not officially recognized by any of the countries he served, Aury was perceived as a member of the Great Colombia liberation fighters because of his affiliation with Simon Bolivar.

Bibliography[edit]

History of Central America, by Hubert Howe Bancroft

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lancaster E. Dabney (October 1938). "Louis Aury: The First Governor of Texas Under the Mexican Republic". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly (The University of Texas) 42: 108. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Bill Marshall; Will Kaufman; Cristina Johnston (1 January 2005). France And The Americas: Culture, Politics, And History. ABC-CLIO. p. 100. ISBN 978-1-85109-411-0. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  3. ^ Southwestern 1938, p. 112–113
  4. ^ William C. Davis (1 May 2006). The Pirates Laffite: The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 255. ISBN 978-0-547-35075-2. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Jane Lucas De Grummond (1 December 1983). Renato Beluche: Smuggler, Privateer and Patriot 1780-1860. LSU Press. pp. 143–. ISBN 978-0-8071-2459-8. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  6. ^ Edwin Wiley; Albert Bushnell Hart; Irving Everett Rines (1916). Lectures on the Growth and Development of the United States: illustrated. American Educational Alliance. p. 246. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  7. ^ John Wymond; Henry Plauché Dart (1969). The Louisiana Historical Quarterly. The Louisiana Historical Society. p. 1091. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Clarence Ousley (1900). Galveston in nineteen hundred: the authorized and official record of the proud city of the Southwest as it was before and after the hurricane of September 8, and a logical forecast of its future. W. C. Chase. p. 54. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  9. ^ William Horace Brown (1906). The Glory Seekers: The Romance of Would-be Founders of Empire in the Early Days of the Great Southwest. McClurg. p. 237. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  10. ^ The date for the expedition's departure is variously given as April 6, 7, or 16
  11. ^ Davis 2006, p. 324
  12. ^ Great Britain. Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1837). British and foreign state papers. H.M.S.O. p. 771. Retrieved 4 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Frank Lawrence Owsley (1997). Filibusters and Expansionists: Jeffersonian Manifest Destiny in the Spanish Gulf South. University of Alabama Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-8173-0880-3. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  14. ^ Federal Writer's Project (1939). Florida: A Guide to the Southern-Most State. US History Publishers. p. 543. 
  15. ^ Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1837, p. 773
  16. ^ De Marco 2002, p. 190.
  17. ^ Buret de Longchamp (1826). Les fastes universels ou Tableaux historiques , chronologiques et géographiques avec atlas contenant trois grands tableaux synoptiques ... suivis de 42 tableaux particuliers ... nouvel art de vérifier les dates. J. B. Dupon. p. 335. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  18. ^ Southwestern 1938, p. 116

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