Cimarrons toy soldiers 54mm 1/32 War Austrian Succession SYW FIW
Cimarrons! Being runaway slaves from the West Indies and the Southern Colonies
31 Jan 2020 / Nino /

The Cimarrons, or Maroon Negroes or Maroons as the British styled them in the 18th Century, were runaway slaves dwelling in the backwoods of the West Indies and Florida. Similar communities of fugitive slaves also existed in the southern British colonies of Virginia and the Carolinas.

The free way of life of the Cimarrons encouraged other slaves to run for their freedom. Bands of runaways occasionally attacked and plundered the sugar cane plantations. In order to counter the threat posed by the Cimarrons to the security and social order of their colonies, the Spanish, Dutch, French, and British mounted frequent raids against the Cimarron villages in the attempt to destroy them and bring the black fugitives back into captivity. In this context, militia units of Free Blacks and Mulattoes were raised, and proved very effective in supporting the scarce European colonial troops.

****

I based my Cimarron figures mainly on the paintings of the Italian artist, Agostino Brunias (1730-1796) (see wikipedia article here), who settled in the British West Indies in 1770 and left an extremely vivid, if a bit idealized, pictorial image of the every-day life of the black and mixed-race communities of the Caribbean, mainly of the Free People of Color, as the free Blacks and Mulattoes were styled, but also of the wild Cimarrons.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Cimarrons went nearly naked, wearing only a loin cloth, or sometimes a length of patterned cotton fabric wrapped around the waist much like a south-east Asian sarong, or worn over one shoulder ad tied across the chest under the opposite armpit.

Some wore a simple head band, or bandanna, and a few – as the  rather flamboyant fellow armed with a saber and a brace of pistols – more elaborated, colorful head wraps, or tignons, apparently a sign of wealth and status among the Free Blacks and Mulattoes, both male and female.

Most Cimarrons were armed with machetes, the ubiquitous sugar-cane plantation slave tool duly turned into a deadly weapon. Knives, bow-and-arrows, javelins and short stabbing spears, or assegais, were also popular weapons. Wooden clubs of native African design may have been used, too, as well as European hatchets and daggers. Powder and shot must have been very much in short supply with the outlaw Cimarron communities, and although shortened muskets and musketoons are occasionally shown in the sources, they were certainly rare.

Interestingly, early 20th-Century photographs of Caribbean black backwoods dwellers show exactly the same attire and armament as their ancestors depicted in Brunias’s paintings, confirming that the latter, although dated to the last quarter of the 18th-Century, may be safely used as a reference also for other periods, notably the earlier part of the century.

****

Free Black militiamen were of course better armed and dressed than the outlaw Cimarrons. They would undoubtedly have muskets, and might have worn breeches or pantaloons, sometimes a coarse linen shirt, and maybe a wide-brim straw hat or a linen cap of the kind popular with the European working class of the time.

I may sculpt a few such figures at a future time, perhaps to represent the Free Black militia in Spanish service successfully fighting the British at the battle of Fort Mose, Florida, in 1740.

Comments
  1. I want to purchase the cimarrons-runaway slaves but I dont see an option to purchase on this site. Are these for sale? if so, where can I order?

  2. Rocky,

    Thank you for your interest!
    I have not yet made production molds for my Cimarrons. When I do, I will add the figures to the CATALOGUE page of this site.