Black Caesar was a pirate born in the late 17th century who operated as part of Blackbeard’s crew during the “Golden Age of Piracy.” His career predated the more famous pirate by almost a decade.
ORIGINS OF BLACK CAESAR
Hailing from West Africa, his original name is lost to history. As a matter of fact, much of his actual origin is lost. What is known is that he was said to have been very powerful and a mountain of a man. He wasn’t all brawn as he was extremely bright as well.
As with most accounts that mix legend with history, Black Caesar was said to be a war chief. He was never captured by hunters but instead lured onto a slave trader’s ship with the promise of wealth after being shown a gold watch. The slave trader managed to keep Caesar and his men on board by showing them a variety of goods such as silk and jewels.
Eventually, Caesar caught on that this was a slave ship and yes, it was getting ready to leave Africa. His group tried to combat the slave trader’s men but were outmanned and outgunned. It appeared that Black Caesar and his party were doomed to captivity in the Americas.
Now, this would negate Black Caesar being considered “extremely bright” unless you factor in that he was extremely greedy as well. There are instances of that in his story, but it’s never played up as much as his strength, physique, fighting prowess, and intellect.
ARRIVAL IN THE AMERICAS
On the way to the New World, one of the slave trader’s men supposedly made friends with Black Caesar. When the ship was about to be destroyed in a storm near Florida, the man freed him. The duo forced a lifeboat from the crew and sailed ashore, leaving the others to their death. From here, they would target ships as shipwrecked crewmen and take what they wanted.
This was a racket that some time until the two had a falling out over a woman the sailor fancied. Black Caesar killed the sailor in a duel and took the woman. He also took ownership of their buried loot. Starting his own pirate crew out of Biscayne Bay, he terrorized the Florida Keys for awhile.
Black Caesar’s hideout was said to have been the prison of many people he captured from other ships. The women were supposedly kept in a large harem while others worked the island and were to be ransomed off. By the early 18th century, he would join up with one of the most notorious pirates of all time Edward Thatch—better known as Blackbeard.
WORKING FOR BLACKBEARD
While he had a longer career than Blackbeard in the piracy game, Black Caesar prior to their demises in 1718. Blackbeard had only been a pirate between 1716 and 1718 but was no stranger to the seas. At the height of his career, Thatch’s ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge was mostly Black with roughly 60 out of 100 cutthroats onboard.
The crew collected prizes throughout the Keys and became one of the major bounties as the Royal Navy had a greater presence in the area. Eventually, Blackbeard would meet his fate against Lieutenant Robert Maynard in 1718. In the case of Blackbeard’s demise, Black Caesar was to light the gunpowder on the ship but was halted by Maynard’s men. After a brawl, he was eventually subdued and taken to Williamsburg, Virginia to stand trial.
Black Caesar would be found guilty of piracy and hanged.
BLACK CAESAR II
The practice of piracy had declined in North America towards the end of the early 1700s as navies became larger and powerful. That didn’t stop some opportunists from rising from the fog. Henri Caesar was a Haitian pirate born in the 1760s and operating in the early 1800s.
At the time Haiti was held by the French. This would change as revolution hit the island in 1791. Toussaint L’Ouverture set out to free slave and Haiti from French rule and the plantation Caesar was on would also see the flames of rebellion as he killed his owner with a saw.
Black Caesar II moved throughout Haiti targeting French camps. After the French ditched the island in 1804, it was handed to Black rule. Unfortunately, there was little in the way governance and infrastructure early on. As a result, Caesar took up piracy along the coast of Haiti with Port-de-Paix as their home. Between 1805 and 1812, he targeted the Spanish elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The War of 1812 meant that Black Caesar II had to take his business elsewhere so he began targeting ships in Florida. After that, his life became a mystery. He is said to have continued his career up until 1830 where he either retired due to Andrew Jackson sending out pirate hunters or was put to death.