Friday, February 6, 2015

Black Pirates Month: Black Caesar

Black Caesar was an African chieftain who evaded capture by slavers many times until he was tricked aboard a vessel with promises of trade. A sea captain approached his band of warriors and, showing them a watch, said there were goods too heavy and numerous to carry on his ship. He invited them aboard and showed them various treasures, jewels, and silk. He plied the men with food and drink, and Caesar soon found that the ship had secretly set sail while they were on board. The Africans tried to fight the crew, but the slavers were well armed and quickly subdued them.

One of the sailors befriended Caesar during the voyage, and when a hurricane threatened to destroy the ship off the coast of Florida, the white sailor freed Caesar and the two escaped in a lifeboat. They took up lodging on a small island in the upper keys and began pirating. The two men would approach a ship in their lifeboat and pretend to be castaways, and once on board would subdue and rob the crew.

They were quite successful for a time. Legend says that Black Caesar had a prison camp for captives to be ransomed, and that he and his partner had a way to hide their boat underwater if anyone sailed near, to keep up the ruse that the island had no inhabitants. It all went sour, though, when Caesar's partner brought home a particularly attractive female captive. The two men fought over her, and Caesar killed his former friend.

Some time later, Black Caesar joined the pirate crew of none other than Blackbeard (Edward Teach) and became his lieutenant, successfully raiding American merchant ships in the Mid-Atlantic. When Blackbeard was finally killed, Caesar attempted to light the whole powder magazine (in what we suppose would now be called a suicide bombing), but he was subdued and captured before he could light the fuse. He was tried and executed for piracy.

To this day, the island that served as his headquarters for ten years still bears his name as "Caesar's Rock."

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