In 1718, the notorious pirate Black Caesar was hung in Williamsburg, Virginia. A man of color. As were 5,000 other pirates who worked the Florida straits and Gulf of Mexico. The colored pirates constituting 25 percent of the overall pirate population between 1700 and 1725.
History places Caesar in the top echelon of pirate leaders. Color not an issue in the then pirate world.
Caesar’s life began in Africa. He was a respected and feared tribal chieftain. He was aware slavers were constantly capturing blacks to sell into slavery. He and his men were careful to avoid capture.
Caesar was a party man. Enjoyed women and drink. His downfall.
A ship captain had taken a small boat to shore. He was showing off that which he had to sell. Jewelry, colorful scarves and liquor. He brought with him a young woman. Caesar and his men were assured there were more on the ship.
Caesar and his men went out to the ship. Began partying. They were not aware the boat had lifted anchor and was slowly drifting out to sea. A small fight ensued. Caesar and his men were overcome.
Caesar was on his way to being slave in the new world.
He was chained and thrown below. Difficult to control. Constantly ranting and raving. Refusing to eat.
A white sailor befriended him. Caesar began accepting food and water only from the sailor.
Nearing the Florida coast, a hurricane arose. Caesar’s sailor friend freed Caesar so he would not go down with the ship. Caesar freed his men. Topside was in chaos. Everyone fearing death. Caesar and his sailor friend opted to leave the ship. No one wanted to join them. Caesar felt a smaller vessel was safer.
Caesar commanded a long boat. Took some guns and supplies. The storm pushed the long boat to shore. They survived. The ship went down, with no survivors.
Caesar and his friend pirated for several years by taking the long boat out when they saw a passing ship. Just the two of them. They made like they had survived a wreck. When close, they showed their guns and threatened to sink the ship. Every ship provided them with supplies, guns and treasure.
The two amassed a fortune playing this ruse. They were operating out of Elliott Key. Lore has it their treasure is buried on Elliott Key. No one has found it to this day.
Elliott Key is just north of Key Largo and to the east of what is now Homestead.
Caesar’s sailor friend had taken a young lady as booty off one of the ships. She became his girl friend. Caesar’s also. The two fought a duel over her. Caesar won. The sailor was killed.
Caesar expanded his piracy efforts. Took on men and began attacking ships on the high seas. When U.S. or European military vessels sought him out, he hid in the mangroves.
Elliott Key became quite the place. Caesar lived like a Caesar. He kept a harem of 100 women.
He wanted more booty quicker. He joined up with Blackbeard. He became Blackbeard’s Lieutenant on the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Joining Blackbeard was a mistake. Everyone wanted to capture Blackbeard. U.S. Navy Lt. Robert Maynard killed Blackbeard in a battle.
Caesar was captured in the same battle.
It was all over for Black Caesar. He was transported to Williamsburg, tried, convicted and hung.