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|Base of operations||Port-de-Paix|
Henri Caesar, also known as Black Caesar, (fl. 1791-1830) was allegedly a 19th-century Haitian revolutionary and pirate. Efforts to find historical evidence of his existence have been unsuccessful. According to works of fiction, he was a participant in the Haitian Revolution under Dutty Boukman and Toussaint Louverture as well as active in piracy for nearly a 30-year period during the early 19th century.
Henri Caesar was allegedly born to a slave family kept by a French plantation owner known as Arnaut. He worked as a houseboy on the estate and, as a young man, worked in the lumberyard. He was apparently mistreated by the supervisor and later killed the man during the slave insurrection, torturing him with a saw. Joining the rebel forces led by Dutty Boukman and Toussaint Louverture, he remained with the revolution until its independence from France in 1804, when he left to try his luck at sea. Based in Port-de-Paix, he captured a Spanish ship in 1805 and soon began attacking small villages and lone vessels near Cuba and the Bahamas. Adopting the name Black Caesar, he was very successful during his piratical career before his disappearance in 1830. Although his fate is unrecorded, he most likely fled the area after President Andrew Jackson ordered an expedition against pirates active on the Florida coast after its purchase by the United States in 1828. There is one story of his capture in west Florida and, taken to Key West, was tied to a tree and burned to death. The widow of a preacher, whose eyes had been burned out under torture from Black Caesar, had been used to light the fire.
He is supposed to have buried between $2 and $6 million at several locations throughout the Caribbean including Pine Island, White Horse Key, Marco Island, Elliot Key and Sanibel Island, although none has ever been recovered. He is said to have been associated with another pirate, Jose Gaspar, whose existence is also doubtful.
In popular culture
- The 1980 book Black Caesar, Pirate by Cliff Gardner, is a work of fiction, but appears to have been confused with fact.
- McCarthy, Kevin M. Twenty Florida Pirates. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, 1994. (pg. 41) ISBN 1-56164-050-6
- Gardner, Cliff. Black Caesar, Pirate. Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 1980.
- Ferlinghetti, Lawrence. City Lights Anthology. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1974.