Black Caesar (?? - 1718) was a famous African pirate during the Post Spanish Succession Period and was one of the longest lasting pirates and even served aboard Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach's famous pirate ship the Queen Annes Revenge. Having one of the longest careers of all the pirates, he based his operations out of the Florida Keys and his hideout was located on an island north of Key Largo named after him known as Caesar's Rock.
Black Caesar is extremely important in examining the role of pirates and slavery as he shows the level of social equality that the pirates shared with each other. While they often would kill each other over petty squabbles, in the colonial structure Black Caesar would have been a slave working on a plantation whereas being a pirate he was suddenly one of the wealthiest men of the New World.
According to classical primary sources Black Caesar was originally a war tribal war chieftain and leader and one of the most powerful and feared warriors in his region. He was known to be of immense physical stature and extremely intelligent. Throughout his years he managed to evade capture by slavers but was finally done in when he and twenty of his soldiers were tricked by jewels and trinkets. The slaver displayed a watch to Black Caesar and promised him more treasures than he could imagine if he followed him to his ship. When they got aboard the slaver brought out food and showered them with gifts of silk and jewels.
However, while the African warriors were distracted the crew silently set sail and began drifting off the coast. By the time Black Caesar and his compatriots knew what was going on they tried to fight back but were quickly subdued using pistols and cutlasses. Black Caesar and his warriors were brought by the slaver to the West Indies but a hurricane off the coast of La Florida soon changed everything.
Black Caesar had befriended a sailor on the ship previously and he was the only one that the African tribal chief would accept food or water from. For unknown reasons during the hurricane the sailor sunk below deck and freed Black Caesar, who then in turn took the captain and the rest of the crew hostage and boarded one of the longboats with ammunition and other supplies. The sailor and Black Caesar were able to survive, and it is likely the ship sunk with many of the lives of the crew lost.
Now in the West Indies with a longboat, they began pirating by pretending to be shipwrecked sailors. They would lure passing ships to the coast and then once they were close enough pull their guns and rob the merchants for supplies. Black Caesar and the sailor would threaten to sink the ship if the captain refused. This scheme continued for many years while they built up a massive stockpile of treasure in the Florida Keys.
After a period of time the sailor and Black Caesar had a falling out over a women that they had brought back from one of the prizes they took. The conflict led to a duel in which Black Caesar killed his longtime friend and took the women. Eventually he grew his pirate crew and began to attack ships traveling along the various colonial shipping lanes of the West Indies.
Sometime after November of 1717 Caesar left his hideout in the Florida Keys and joined the crew of Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach aboard his ship the Queen Annes Revenge. He is known to have accompanied Blackbeard on all of his exploits up to and including the final battle with the British pirate hunter named Robert Maynard at his pirate haven on Ocracoke Island.
During the final battle, Black Caesar was famously one of the crew that tried to set off the powder magazine as Blackbeard had instructed. However, just like as with the crew of Bartholomew Roberts one of the other crew tackled him to prevent him from exploding the ship. It took multiple men to restrain Caesar and they fought until Maynard arrived on the boat with his soldiers to arrest the rest of the pirates.
Death & Legacy
Black Caesar was taken to Williamsburg, the capital of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia and tried for piracy along with the rest of Blackbeard's crew. He was eventually found guilty and hung in 1718, thus ending the career of one of the longest lasting pirates of the Post Spanish Succession Period.