|This information is from the N.C. Dept. of Cultural Resources Blackbeard web site.
December 10, 1998
Blackbeard: "The fiercest pirate of them all"
The boldest and most notorious pirate infesting the waters of Englandís North American and Caribbean colonies in the early 1700ís was Blackbeard. Occurring during "the Golden Age of Piracy," his activities and those of his contemporaries are an integral part of Americaís colonial history.
The pirateís infamous deeds spread his name on both sides of the Atlantic; Blackbeardís name may yet be found in history books, and in the archives and public records in Great Britain, France, Spain, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
His original name possibly was Edward Thatch or Teach, and Blackbeard likely was born around 1680 and died 1718 in a fierce fight off Ocracoke Island. He was believed to be native to Bristol, England. The pirateís name also appears in other variations of Thatch, including Tache or Tatch.
Indications are that Blackbeard was born into an intelligent, well-to-do family. He could read and write and corresponded with merchants. He seemed equally at ease with ruffians and governors.
Blackbeard is thought to have served in the Queen Anneís War between England and Spain, which lasted from 1702-1713. He is believed to have been a privateer, sailing out of Kingston, Jamaica to prey on French ships for Britain.
After the war, Blackbeard signed on with the pirate crew of Captain Benjamin Hornigold, sailing out of New Providence in the Bahamas. He proved a fierce and able pirate, and captured the French slave ship, Concorde in 1717 off St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean. Blackbeard became captain of the ship and renamed her the Queen Anneís Revenge.
The Concorde had already been outfitted with 14 guns, but Blackbeard increased the total firepower to 40 guns, likely adding small cannons, called rail guns (likely 2 1/2í to 4í long), that could be mounted on the shipís rail and operated by one man.
Blackbeardís reputation began with his first attack as captain. This battle was with the large merchant ship, the Great Allen, off St. Vincent. After a lengthy battle Blackbeard took the ship, plundered the cargo, then burned and sank it.
Blackbeard crafted his appearance to enhance his reputation. He was tall, had a powerful physique and a bushy black beard from which he took his name. Before battle he would plait the beard into little pigtails, tie them with colored ribbons and twist some braids behind his ears. Immediately before battle he would light several long, slow-burning hemp cords and tuck them under his hat, allowing wisps of smoke to curl up around his face.
He wore pistols, daggers and a cutlass in a belt about his waist. Across his chest he wore a sling that held three brace of pistols, all six primed, cocked and ready to fire.
Blackbeard victimized ships from the Caribbean to New England. Legend has it that he used several hideouts in North Carolina and that Ocracoke Inlet was a favorite. An anchorage inside Ocracoke Inlet is still known as "Teachís Hole."
In May, 1718, perhaps Blackbeardís most outrageous attack was made upon the city of Charleston, S.C., which was the busiest and most important port in the southern colonies. Blackbeardís flotilla settled outside the entrance to the harbor and took several merchant ships, capturing gold and other valuables. His most significant demand was for supplies to refill his medicine chest, and he received supplies valued between 200 and 300 pounds.
Many believed that Blackbeard had a cozy relationship with North Carolinaís colonial Gov. Charles Eden, and that Eden and some of his associates shared in some of Blackbeardís booty, possibly looking the other way on his infractions.
Virginiaís Gov. Alexander Spotswood was alarmed that Blackbeard would continue his pirating even though he had been pardoned by Gov. Eden in June, 1718. Pirates continued to attack along the Atlantic Coast and some of the larcenies were thought to be Blackbeardís work. Since it seemed clear Eden was not going to interfere with Blackbeardís operations, Spotswood convinced the local British naval force, the Virginia Assembly and some of Edenís opponents to aid him in capturing Blackbeard, and offered 100 pounds sterling as reward to whoever captured or killed Blackbeard.
On Friday, Nov. 22, 1718, Blackbeard met his death in a battle off Ocracoke Island. Gov. Spotswood leased two sloops, with British commanders and crew; each had a pilot from North Carolina. Caught by surprise, short handed, and tricked into doing battle on the attacking vessel, Blackbeard came to a bloody end.
On the blood soaked deck of the small sloop sent to attack the pirate, Lt. Robert Maynard confronted Blackbeard. It seemed a classic face-off of good and evil that demanded death as the only resolution. Reportedly, each pulled pistols and fired upon meeting; Blackbeard missed his mark; Maynardís shot plowed through Blackbeardís great body. They continued to fight with swords; as Blackbeard moved in for a finishing blow with his cutlass, another seaman approached and slashed his throat. The legend says Blackbeard fought on, in spite of bullet wounds and gashed neck, as other British seamen joined in for the kill. Even while being stabbed, he yet cocked a pistol to continue the fight as he fell dead. His head was then cut off and hung from the bowsprit of Maynardís ship.
(Note to editor: This information was collected from "Blackbeard the Pirate", 1974, by Robert E. Lee and "The Pirates of North Carolina", 1960, by Hugh F. Rankin. Additional information from Richard Lawrence, unit head, underwater archaeology unit, N.C. Division of Archives and History; Phil Masters of Intersal, Inc., and David Moore, registrar, N.C. Maritime Museum.)