Black Caesar

Liberty Plains

Rumours grew with Caesar’s fame. There was talk that he had established a gang of bolters and that sympathisers within the colony were providing them with food and arms. Governor Hunter offered Caesar a deal: a reduced sentence in return for surrender. Caesar did not respond, so Hunter put a price on his head.

Two ex-convict farmers set out to track him down. When they located his camp they watched and waited and wondered how many men they might be facing.

They held their muskets tightly. Caesar returned at nightfall. To their surprise, he was alone, but in the long shadows of dusk, it seemed to them as if an entire gang was bundled up in his frame. Unable to see in the darkness whether Caesar was awake or asleep, they decided to shoot him from afar in the early light of day. On 15 February 1796, before the sun was free of the horizon, they shot Caesar as he emerged from his tent. They strained to carry him, his chest still heaving, to a hut at Liberty Plains. By the time the sun was in its zenith, John Caesar, the first of Australia’s bushrangers, was dead.