.::Those Taking the Journey::.


Captain Cudjoe

Dauntless Maroon Chief of Jamaica
     Nothing is further from the truth than the popular belief that the African in the New World was in love with slavery and submitted calmly to it. The fact is that he rebelled against it from the United States to Argentina times without number. 
    This is especially true of Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Surinam, the Virgin Islands, Brazil, and Venezuela. Among the most valiant of these Negro rebels were the Maroon Negroes of Jamaica, West Indies. For 140 years they defied the white slave holders and finally forced them to seek a treaty of peace. 
     The greatest of the Maroon leaders of this island was Cudjoe, an illiterate, ragged, barefooted, undersized, and unshapely Coromantee. Of seemingly inexhaustible energies, Cudjoe possessed all the qualities of a born commander. He defeated the British in every encounter, and had he been able to get arms and ammunition, he would doubtless have done to them what Dessalines did to the French in Haiti, that is, drive them form the island.
     The slaveholders seemed powerless against his attacks. Before planing a raid on their plantations, he had his spies mingle freely with the slaves in the markets and on the plantations, learning when to strike and where, then sallying out by night and even by day, he attacked with such deadly thoroughness that he left in his wake burnt mansions and cane fields and the bodies of the whites and their faithful slaves. With the arms and ammunition thus obtained, he staged other raids.
     By 1730 he had grown so strong that some of teh old English settlers thought it best to abandon their plantations and return hom. It was commonly said, "General Williamson [the British Commander] rules Jamaica by day and Captain Cudjoe by night."
     At last the government decide to make a supreme effort to capture him. It built forts and outposts near the Maroon settlements and brought in hundreds of Central American Indians to track down teh rebels. At the same time a force of 1000 soldiers white and black, under Captain Lemelia, was sent against Cudjoe.
     But Cudjoe was equal to the occasion. Sending one of his spies to tell the British that he would be found at a certain distant spot, he marched stealthily down the mountains to meet the enemy and took up a position overlooking a deep pass thorough which the foe had to come.
     Dividing his force into four parts, he stationed one of each high up on the extremities of both sides of the pass.
     Captain Lemelia, believing Cudjoe to be many miles away, came on with relaxed vigilance. Tired from dragging the cannon uphill, his soldiers straggled into the pass. Cudjoe, waiting until the narrow pass was filled with men, signaled to his own men at the entrance to fire. A hundred British fell, struck in the back. When the others turned int he direction of the fire, Cudjoe's men at the other end again struck the enemy in the rear until the shooting from all sides of the rocks became general. This crisscross fire coming from everywhere so demoralized the foe that abandoning guns and supplies, they fled down the mountains.
     Cudjoe during the next four years continued his victories but the superior arms of the slaveholders began to tell at last. They attacked on of his camps on a high mountain and killed nearly everyone.
     This made him decide to move to another part of the island and take his women and children with him. To screen this bold move, he left men around the old camp to blow horns and discharge guns to make the enemy think he was still there. So successful was he that it was not until months later when he had staged another raid on the part of the island to which he had gone that the truth was known.
     For another four years the tornado that was Cudjoe raged, leaving slaughter and destruction in his wake. Once more the government, in desperation, planned an expedition against him. Every able-bodied man on the island was pressed into service, but when the expedition was about to start, someone asked who would protect the women and children if all the men went off. What would happen if the slaves seized the occasion to revold? The Jamaican slave could not be trusted. As for the faithful slaves, the Maroons hated them even more than they did the whites, and they were likely to be struck down by some unseen hand at any time.
     Faced with this dilemma, the governor, Sir Edward Trelawney, decided there was but one course: to seek a treaty of peace with Cudjoe. He sent Colonel Guthrie with a mission to offer Cudjoe independence and a tract of land...

     And so peace was made. Cudjoe and his men were given a large grant of land free from all taxation in perpetuity, and permission to hunt anywhere on the island, except within three miles of a white settlement.
Dallas, who also fought against the Maroons of Surinam, describes the Jamaica Maroons, thus:
    "In their person and carriage, the Maroons were erect and lofty indicating a consciousness of superiority. Vigor appeared upon their muscles and their emotions displayed agility. Their eyes were quick, wiled and fiery, the whites of them appeared a little red, owing, perhaps, to the greeness of the wood they burned. They possessed most, if not all, of the senses in a superior degree. They were accustomed to discover from habit in the woods objects which white people of the best sight could not distinguish, and their hearing was so wonderfully quick that it enabled them to elude their most active pursuers.
     In character, language and manners, they resembled those Negroes on the estates of the planters that were descended from the same race of Africans, but on closer inspection displayed a striking distinction in their personal appearance, being blacker, taller, and in ever respect, handsomer.
    "They were seldom surprised. They communicated with one another by means of horns, and when these could scarcely be heard by other people, they distinguished the order the sounds conveyed. It is very remarkable that the Negroes had a particular call upon the horn for each individual by which he was summoned from a distance as easily as he would have been spoke to had he been near."
     The descendants of the Maroons still live in their towns on the island, all except the Trelawney Maroons, who revolded in 1796 and were transported, 500 of them, men women, and children, to the cold climate of Nova Scotia, Canada. Later most of them were shipped to Sierra Leone, Africa. But descendants of these Maroons are still to be found in Nova Scotia, mixed with the American Negroes who aided England in the Revolutionary War.

Dallas, R.C., History of the Maroons, 2 vols. Longman and Rees, 1803
Proceedings of the Governor and Assembly of Jamaica in Regard to the Maroon Negroes, 1796
 Brymer, D., Royal Society of Canada, Proceedings, 2 series, Vol. I, Sec. 2. Ottawa, 1893

I read this story to my son tonight out of "The World's Great Men of Color, Vol. 2," by J.A. Rogers. I decided that I am going to routinely post one of these stories.


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