Black Caesar is remembered as an 18th century pirate from Africa. For close to ten years he and his crew raided a number of ships near and around the Florida Keys and Caesar even worked as a lieutenant with Captain Blackbeard. Caesar was one of the only pirates to survive after Blackbeard was killed at the hands of Lieutenant Robert Maynard in 1718. His original headquarters were located on an island North of Key Largo named Caesar’s Rock.
According to early sources Black Caesar was an African tribal war chief. He is remembered for his intelligence as well as his immense size and strength. He was able to escape the capture of a number of different slave traders until he was finally captured by a scheme that got him onto a ship. The slave trader lured Black Caesar onto the boat promising to show him treasure and other expensive objects that were too heavy to carry. He then gave Caesar and all his warriors’ food, gifts and jewels and started to slowly sail away. When Caesar finally figured out what was going on they tried to fight back but were held off by a wall of pistols and swords. It took quite a long time for Caesar to accept his captivity but after some time he became friends with a sailor and would only accept water or food from that some man.
Some time later the ship encountered a sudden hurricane off the coast of Florida that threatened to wreck the ship. When the sailor realized that the ship was ultimately doomed he snuck down and released Caesar from captivity. They then forced the captain and the crew into a corner at gunpoint and loaded up a longboat with supplies. They waited on the shore of the Florida Island to wait out the storm. It is thought that the two are the only survivors from that ship.
The two men then began using the longboat to lure other ships to the area. They posed as shipwrecked sailors and would sail out and be allowed on board the ships. When they were close they would bring out guns and threaten to sink the ship unless they were given ammunition and supplies. Caesar and the sailor continued this ploy for years and were able to gather a considerable amount of wealth and treasure. The men buried the treasure on Elliot Key. A little later on the two friends had an argument over a young woman. Caesar eventually killed the sailor in order to keep the woman for himself.
After months passed Caesar began amassing a crew of pirates and was soon able to attack ships out on the open sea. He was always able to avoid capture by sailing through Caesar’s Creek and the inlets in the area. They would heel their boat over in the inlet and hide out until the danger in question went away. Other times they may have even sunk the ship to hide out in shallow water. There are rumors that Caesar and his men buried over 26 bars of silver on the island but none has ever been recovered.
Caesar then started running a brothel of sorts on the island, as he was said to have around 100 women captured and living there. He even ran prison camp with hostages in order to try and get money for by ransoming them. When he left the island to go raid vessels he would often leave no food which ensured that many of the prisoners starved to death. There are rumors that a few children escaped and lived off of berries and shellfish. This story is the starting point for some native superstitions where the children haunt the island.
In 1718 during the fight that took Blackbeard’s life, Caesar was subdued by a captive while trying to light some gun powder. Subsequently he was convicted of piracy and was eventually hanged in Williamsburg, Virginia.