The Story of Louis-Michel Aury, a Privateer

By: Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources

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In 1817, Aury declared Amelia Island an independent republic, but his reign was short-lived.

Louis-Michel Aury (1788-1821), a French privateer, was born in Paris. He served in the French navy, but by 1810 had deserted to become the master of his own vessel and destiny.

He supported the Spanish colonies of South America in their fight for independence from Spain by attacking Spanish ships. He assisted Simón Bolívar, leader of the Latin American revolutionaries, but later abandoned the cause over payment disagreement for his services.

Aury then accepted an appointment as resident commissioner of Galveston Island, Texas, offered by José Manuel de Herrera, who was an envoy from the fledgling Republic of Mexico, and had declared Galveston a port of the Republic. Aury established a privateer base there in September 1816.

While Aury was transporting Spanish troops to the Santander River in Mexico, another French privateer, Jean Lafitte (1776-1823), took control of the base at Galveston. On his return to Texas, Aury made an ill-fated attempt to establish another base at Matagorda Bay. He left Texas in 1817 to assist the Scottish adventurer Gregor MacGregor, the 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, in today’s Nassau County. MacGregor left in November but Aury remained, proclaiming the island an independent republic. In December 1817, however, the U.S. Army drove Aury out.

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