Saturday, June 22, 2013

Caesar's Rock

Caesar's Rock is a small island in Biscayne Bay on the southeast coast of Florida, nestled amongst Elliott Key, Adams Key, and another island without a name. (Come on people, what year is this? We simply cannot have unnamed islands. I'm of a mind to march down there right now, plant my flag, and declare it "Grillo's Island".)

The mangrove-dense key is so named because, legend has it, it was once the world headquarters of Black Caesar, an 18th-century African pirate who served as one of Blackbeard's right-hand-men aboard the pirate ship Queen Anne's Revenge. Caesar was one of the surviving members of Blackbeard's crew following his Captain's death during battle in 1718, although his loyalty to Blackbeard in the end proved his undoing. Exciting as his legendary exploits are, he wasn't one of the nicer pirates; according to Wikipedia:

He apparently had a harem on his island, having at least 100 women seized from passing ships, as well as a prison camp which he kept prisoners in stone huts hoping to ransom them. When leaving the island to go on raids, he left no provisions for these prisoners and many eventually starved to death. A few children reportedly escaped captivity, subsisting on berries and shellfish, and formed their own language and customs. This society of lost children give rise to native superstition that the island is haunted.

During the early 18th century, Caesar left Biscayne Bay to join Blackbeard in raiding American shipping in the Mid-Atlantic serving as a lieutenant on his flagship Queen Anne's Revenge. In 1718, after Blackbeard's death battling with Lieutenant Robert Maynard at Ocracoke Island, he attempted to set off the powder magazine as per Blackbeard's instructions. However, Caesar was stopped by one of the captives who tackled him as prepared to light a trail of gunpowder leading to the magazine. He struggled with the man below decks until several of Maynard's sailors were able to restrain him. Taken prisoner by Virginian colonial authorities, he was convicted of piracy and hanged in Williamsburg, Virginia.

According to some historians, his full real name was either Henri Caesar or Caesar LeGrand - depending on which historian you ask. He was originally either from Haiti or from Dominica, also depending on which historian is speaking. Reportedly he entered the solo pirate business by killing the captain of a ship he was a mate on, then became a privateer for the next 28 years.

I know of no serious archaelogical expedition to find any of Black Caesar's treasure or artifacts on Caesar's Rock, but rest assured, dear reader, it's on my to-do list. All in time.

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