The other day I read your article about Jean Lafitte (Nov. 30). I am 86 years old, and as a young man lived in the 600 block of Washington Avenue in New Orleans. Do you have any information on Domonic U, the brother of Lafitte, spending his last days in an old house in the 400 block of Fourth Street?
Eddie J. Adams Jr.
I'm sorry to say I cannot tell you precisely where Dominique You lived in New Orleans, but he did settle in the Crescent City after being pardoned of piracy charges for his work as the principal captain for the brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte. Reports of his death do say that by the time he died on Nov. 13, 1830, he had become a virtual hermit and was so poor he often could not afford food or medicine. He died alone and penniless in a small house in the city.
He was not forgotten, however. His death at age 95 was commemorated with a funeral with full military honors, paid for by the public, and a tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. The inscription on his tomb reads (translated from French):
"Intrepid warrior on land and sea
In a hundred combats showed his valor
This new Bayard without reproach or fear
Could have witnessed the ending of the world without trembling"
Dominique You (also sometimes spelled Youx) was also known as Frederic Alexander Lafitte, and reportedly was a half-brother of the pirate Lafitte brothers. He was born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in 1775 and served in the artillery corps under Napoleon Bonaparte during the French Revolution. In 1802, he and Napoleon's brother-in-law, Gen. Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc, led a campaign to put down a slave revolt in Haiti, but were unsuccessful. The campaign left You penniless.
He later made his way to the Gulf of Mexico and became a captain in the smuggling operations of the Lafittes, wreaking havoc on Spanish ships carrying slaves and other cargo through the Gulf.
He gained fame in the early 1800s when he spurned British appeals for help in battling the Americans and instead served under Gen. Andrew Jackson, helping win the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815. Jackson had great respect and affection for You, prompting Jackson to say of him: "Were I ordered to storm the very gates of hell with Dominique You as my lieutenant, I would have no misgivings as to the outcome." You's support of the U.S. in the Battle of New Orleans prompted President James Madison to pardon him (and others in the Lafitte organization) of piracy charges for which he had been convicted in 1814.
You also was recruited to lead an expedition to rescue Napoleon Bonaparte from his exile on St. Helena, a trip to be funded by millionaire and New Orleans Mayor Nicholas Girod. Bonaparte died, however, before the mission could be launched.
You's colorful escapades and larger-than-life persona made him a popular figure, and he dabbled in politics after he settled in New Orleans. His funeral was attended by city and state officials as well as all the remaining members of the Legion, an exclusive part of the New Orleans Artillery, of which You was a member. According to the Louisiana Works Progress Administration Collection of the Louisiana State Library, when the city learned of You's death, businesses closed for the day and flags were lowered to half-mast.