Born : Unknown
Died : November 22,
Golden Age of Piracy (1689-1718), numerous rogues pursued their lawless and
murderous trade throughout the New World. Restrictive laws passed by the British
Parliament had made smuggling acceptable and even desirable in North Carolina
and the other American colonies. Preying upon lightly armed merchant ships, the
pirates seized their contents and sometimes killed those who resisted. Because
of its shallow sounds and inlets, North Carolina's Outer Banks became a haven
for many of these outlaws in the 17th and 18th centuries.
the most notorious pirate in the history of seafaring. With a beard that almost
covered his face, he would strike terror into the hearts of his victims,
according to some early accounts, by weaving wicks laced with gunpowder into his
hair, and lighting them during battle. A big man, he added to his menacing
appearance by wearing a crimson coat, two swords at his waist, and bandoleers
stuffed with numerous pistols and knives across his chest.
The sight of
Blackbeard was enough to make most of his victims surrender without a fight. If
they gave up peacefully, he would usually take their valuables, navigational
instruments, weapons, and rum before allowing them to sail away. If they
resisted, he would often maroon the crews and burn their ship. Blackbeard worked
hard at establishing his devilish image, but there is no archival evidence to
indicate that he ever killed anyone who was not trying to kill him.
Blackbeard's lawless career lasted only a few years, but his fearsome
reputation has long outlived him. Thought to have been a native of England, he
was using the name Edward Teach (or Thatch) when he began his pirating sometime
after 1713 as a crewman aboard a Jamaican sloop commanded by the pirate Benjamin
Hornigold. In 1716, Hornigold appointed Teach to command a captured vessel. By
mid-1717 the two, sailing in concert, were among the most feared pirates of
In November 1717, in the eastern Caribbean, Hornigold and
Teach took a 26 gun richly laden French "guineyman" called the Concorde
(research indicated she had originally been built in Great Britain.) Hornigold
subsequently decided to accept the British Crown's recent offer of a general
amnesty and retire as a pirate. Teach rejected a pardon, decided to make the
Concorde his flagship, increased her armament to 40 guns, and re-named her Queen
Anne's Revenge (QAR).
Shortly thereafter, the QAR encountered another vessel
flying the black flag. She was the ten-gun pirate sloop Revenge from Barbados,
commanded by Stede Bonnet, "The Gentleman Pirate." Bonnet had been an educated
and wealthy landowner before turning to piracy. After inviting the Revenge to
sail along with the QAR, Blackbeard soon realized that Bonnet was a poor leader
and an incompetent sailor. He appointed another pirate to command Revenge, and
forced Bonnet to become a "guest" aboard QAR, where he remained, a virtual
prisoner, until she wrecked six months later.
During the winter of
1717-1718, the QAR and Revenge cruised the Caribbean, taking prizes. Along the
way, Blackbeard decided to keep two more smaller captured vessels. When he
sailed northward up the American coast in the Spring of 1718, he was in command
of four vessels and over three hundred pirates.
Blackbeard's reign of terror
climaxed in a week-long blockade of the port of Charleston, S.C. in late May
1718. One week later, the QAR was lost at Beaufort Inlet. One of the smaller
vessels in Blackbeard's flotilla, the 10 gun sloop Adventure, was lost the same
day while trying to assist the stranded flagship.
Before leaving Beaufort
Inlet, Blackbeard marooned about twenty-five disgruntled pirates on a deserted
sandbar, stripped Bonnet's sloop the Revenge of her provisions, and absconded
with much of the accumulated booty aboard another smaller vessel. Bonnet rescued
the marooned men and, with them, resumed his lawless ways aboard the Revenge,
which he re-named the Royal James.
In October 1718, Bonnet and his crew were
captured near present-day Wilmington, North Carolina, and taken to Charleston,
where they were tried for piracy. All but four were found guilty and hung that
November (the record of that trial, published in London in 1719, provided
researchers with important clues to the location of the QAR site.)
Meanwhile, Blackbeard and his confidants had sailed to Bath, then the
capital of North Carolina, where they received pardons from the Governor,
Charles Eden. In November 1718, Governor Alexander Spottswood of Virginia,
knowing that Blackbeard and his men had continued taking ships long after the
period of amnesty had expired, sent a Royal Navy contingent to North Carolina,
where Blackbeard was killed in a bloody battle at Ocracoke Inlet on November 22,
1718. During the action, Blackbeard received a reported 5 musketball wounds and
more than twenty sword lacerations before dying. Blackbeard had captured over 40
ships during his piratical career, and his death virtually represented the end
of an era in the history of piracy in the New World.
- Little is known concerning the origin of Blackbeard
the pirate. Documents suggest both Bristol and London inEngland, the island of
Jamaica and even Philadelphia as his home. He is said to have operated out of
Jamaica as aprivateer during Queen Anne's War (1702-1713) previous to having
been a pirate.
- Historical sources vary as to Blackbeard's real name.
Though most publications mentioning the pirate by name overthe past couple of
centuries have identified him as Edward Teach, the majority of primary source
documents writtenduring the time of his activities indicate that Thatch or some
other phoenetic derivation (ie, Thach, Thache, etc.),was actually the name he
was going by at the time. The name Drummond is mentioned by one early source,
but thisnot supported by the vast volume of other documentation.
appears that Blackbeard began his piratical career under the command of Benjamin
Hornigold. ThoughHornigold's activities as a pirate can be traced back to as
early as 1714, it is not known for sure when Thatch joinedhis crew. The earliest
mention of Blackbeard by name is in the Boston News-Letter in October 1717.
- Thatch and Hornigold captured a French slave ship called the Concorde off
the island of St. Vincent aroundNovember 1717. Hornigold gave Blackbeard the
ship and retired from piracy soon after. Thatch strengthened thearmament of the
vessel, renamed her the Queen Anne's Revenge and for the next 7 months used the
ship in consortwith smaller sloops to harrass shipping throughout the Caribbean
and up the eastern seaboard of North America.
- It is not currently
known how many vessels Blackbeard captured during his exploits, but a
preliminary databasecompiled by museum researchers currently contains over 45
prizes which can be directly attributed to Thatch's activities.
Blackbeard was eventually tracked down to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina by the
Royal Navy and killed in a brief, but bloody battle on 22 November 1718.