Flag of Blackbeard

Blackbeard, aka Edward Teach
(c.1680–November 22, 1718)

Blackbeard is perhaps the most famous pirate of all time. In his day he was thought to be the devil incarnate. He wasn’t the most successful pirate in terms of acquired loot, captured vessels, or glorious career, but his infamy stems from his incredible visage and panache as a pirate’s pirate.

Little is known of the life of Blackbeard before he took to seafaring. He is known to have sailed under Captain Benjamin Hornigold using the name of Edward Teach for himself. Captain Hornigold was a pirate for only a few years (1713-1717), but in those years he is known to have taught many of the famous pirates of the day. Captain Hornigold captured a sloop and put Teach in command of it, so the two could raid together using the raiding strategy of two vessels versus one rather than one versus one. After plundering at least a half dozen ships together, they came upon a particularly large prize – a French slave ship named La Concorde. They conquered the vessel and Hornigold gave it over to Teach. Hornigold then retired from piracy by taking advantage of an amnesty offered by the King of England.

Captain Teach was now a captain by himself. He made La Concorde his flagship by adding more cannon and renaming her Queen Anne’s Revenge. He also adopted the name of Blackbeard, given to him for his beard, which grew rapidly from ear to ear and nearly to his eyes. During his career as a pirate, Blackbeard sailed the Carribean and the east coast of America.

Blackbeard had a firm grasp of psychological warfare before the term was even coined. He was a tall and robust man with a bushy beard and a wild look in his eyes. Before engaging his enemies he would weave hemp into his beard and set it alight. The hemp would smolder for hours and it struck terror into any who looked upon him. He carried two swords, a sash with a number of guns slung on, pistols in his belt and knives wherever he still had room. He often dressed in black to further the terror of his name. Blackbeard was also one of the earliest seamen to use grenades, whose novelty made them fearsome for their ability to create chaos and harm.

A woodcut of Blackbeard

The man was also a legendary powerhouse. He is said to have been unable to become drunk no matter how much liquor he consumed. He was known to have put gunpowder in his rum and light it on fire before swigging down the concoction. There is even a story whereby he told a crewman they would make their own Hell onboard the ship, then filled a room with terrible smoke and sat in it with crewmen until he was the last left and exited at his leisure. In fact, when Blackbeard was finally defeated it was only after an inhuman amount of damage had been done to his physical body that he fell.

Blackbeard’s most famous battle, aside from his last, was with the HMS Scarborough. It was a British naval vessel with 30-guns that battled with Queen Anne’s Revenge for hours, before conceding that the match was too close and disengaged from the battle. His defeat of the Scarborough mixed with his reputation of giving no quarter for those who resisted allowed Blackbeard to challenge nearly any vessel without a fight. Merchants in all the seas he traveled knew enough to surrender if they valued their lives more than their cargo. At one point, his power was so much that he blockaded the main seaport in South Carolina for nearly a week and the government was powerless to drive him away. He finally left after he received a chest of medicines he was demanding.

Blackbeard received a pardon for his crimes by the governor of North Carolina. He took a wife there (his fourteenth) and it was thought he would settle to a quieter life. That wasn’t the kind of man Blackbeard was though and so he renewed his piracy by traveling through many major waterways in North Carolina, plundering as he went. The governor of Virginia dispatched two vessels and an overland force to put a stop to him.

On November 22, 1718, Blackbeard was killed in a short and bloody battle at Ocracoke Inlet. The battle was a dramatic one in which Blackbeard was outnumbered some three to one. His naval prowess and cannon allowed him to even the score for a time, however he was ultimately boarded by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the HMS Pearl. After a vicious melee to the death by all participants, Blackbeard was finally brought to his end. In the fight, Blackbeard is known to have smashed an opponent’s sword to the hilt, taken five shots to the body, had his throat sliced open, and received at least twenty other cuts before his body collapsed dead. Lieutenant Maynard, took Blackbeard’s head as a trophy and hung it from the bowsprit of his vessel.

A modern drawing of Blackbeard

A timeline of Blackbeard's life

Circa 1680: Edward Teach is born in Bristol, England, probably under the name of Edward Drummond or Edward Thatch.

1702-1713: During Queen Anne’s War, Teach is reported to have served as a privateer out of Jamaica.

Circa 1713: Edward Teach begins his pirate career working aboard a Jamaican sloop commanded by Captain Benjamin Hornigold.

Circa 1716: Captain Hornigold has given Captain Teach command of his own vessel. The two pirates sail together as a team.

July 5, 1717: First historical record of Edward Teach is filed. The report states that in March 1717, Captains Teach, Hornigold, Jennings, Burgiss, and White had made an island in the Bahamas their rendezvous point.

October 24, 1717: The Boston News-Letter reports Blackbeard off the Delaware Capes, where he takes the vessel of Captain Codd of Liverpool and Dublin. Of special note in the article is a quote from Captain Codd stating that Major Stede Bonnet was aboard Teach’s vessel.

November 17, 1717: Captains Hornigold and Teach capture Concorde about 100 miles south of Martinique. Concorde is very soon renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge.

February, 16, 1718: Captain Hume of Scarborough wrote in a letter to the Admiralty that Blackbeard’s vessel was seen in the Leeward Islands, near Nevis and St. Christophers where he sunk a French vessel laden with sugar. He is then said to have “gone down the North side of Hispanolia.” There is no record amongst the British Admiralty that the battle between Scarborough and Queen Anne’s Revenge ever took place.

Late March 1718: Blackbeard is in the Bay of Honduras, where he takes Adventure and Protestant Caesar as prizes. Adventure becomes Blaackbeard’s flagship in a few months, after he purposely beaches Queen Anne’s Revenge in a plot to rob his own crew. The Protestant Caesar had previously fought off a vessel in Teach’s flotilla, so upon its capture it was burned at sea.

May 1718: Blackbeard successfully blockades Charleston, South Carolina for six days until the governor pays the demanded ransom. During the blockade not a single shot was fired by either side and there are no reported casualties from the event.

May/June 1718: The Queen Anne’s Revenge is purposely beached at Topsail Inlet, North Carolina, thus effectively scattering Blackbeard’s fleet. It is said that Blackbeard beached his vessel to steal away the booty that the fleet had acquired for himself and a few trusted hands. In a letter dated July 12, 1718 a British naval officer reports having seen the three vessels that Blackbeard sacrificed.

June 1718: Blackbeard receives the “gracious pardon” of Royal Proclamation by Governor Eden in Bath, North Carolina. He then takes himself a 16-year-old bride (his fourteenth wife) and makes a residence in Bath at “Plum Point” with the intention of retiring.

August 1718: Blackbeard captures his last prize. Taking the vessels off Bermuda, he gives away one vessel to his crew and sails with the other prize, dubbed by historians as the “sugar ship” because of its cargo, to Ocracoke Island. At the island, he strips the vessel and tells Governor Charles Eden that he found the boat abandoned rather than taking it through piracy. He receives permission to burn the vessel, and so does.

November 22, 1718: Blackbeard is slain in Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina.

November 1996: Wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge is discovered at Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina.

Blackbeard's head

The Downfal of Pyracy
The Downfall of Piracy
by Benjamin Franklin

Will you hear of a bloody Battle,
Lately fought upon the Seas,
It will make your Ears to rattle,
And your Admiration cease;
Have you heard of Teach the Rover,
And his Knavery on the Main;
How of Gold he was a Lover,
How he lov'd all ill got Gain.

When the Act of Grace appeared,
Captain Teach with all his Men,
Unto Carolina steered,
Where they kindly us'd him then;
There he marry'd to a Lady,
And gave her five hundred Pound,
But to her he prov'd unsteady,
For he soon march'd of[f] the Ground.

And returned, as I tell you,
To his Robbery as before,
Burning, sinking Ships of value,
Filling them with Purple Gore;
When he was at Carolina,
There the Governor did send,
To the Governor of Virginia,
That he might assistance lend.

Then the Man of War's Commander,
Two small Sloops he fitted out,
Fifty Men he put on board, Sir,
Who resolv'd to stand it out:
The Lieutenant he commanded
both the Sloops, and you shall hear,
How before he landed,
He suppress'd them without Fear.

Valiant Maynard as he sailed,
Soon the Pirate did espy,
With his Trumpet he then hailed,
And to him they did reply:
Captain Teach is our Commander,
Maynard said, he is the Man,
Whom I am resolv'd to hang Sir,
Let him do the best he can.

Teach reply'd unto Maynard,
You no Quarters here shall see,
But be hang'd on the Main-yard,
You and all your Company;
Maynard said, I none desire,
Of such Knaves as thee and thine,
None I'll give, Teach then replyed,
My Boys, give me a Glass of Wine.

He took the Glass, and drank Damnation,
Unto Maynard and his Crew;
To himself and Generation,
Then the Glass away he threw;
Brave Maynard was resolv'd to have him,
Tho' he'd Cannons nine or ten:
Teach a broadside quickly gave him,
Killing sixteen valiant Men.

Maynard boarded him, and to it
They fell with Sword and Pistol too;
They had Courage, and did show it,
Killing the Pirate's Crew.
Teach and Maynard on the Quarter,
Fought it out most manfully,
Maynard's Sword did cut him shorter,
Losing his Head, he there did die.

Every Sailor fought while he Sir,
Power had to weild [sic] the Sword,
Not a Coward could you see Sir,
Fear was driven from aboard:
Wounded Men on both Sides fell Sir,
'Twas a doleful Sight to see,
Nothing could their Courage quell Sir,
O, they fought courageously.

When the bloody Fight was over,
We're inform'd by a Letter writ,
Teach's Head was made a Cover,
To the Jack Staff of the Ship:
Thus they sailed to Virginia,
And when they the Story told,
How they kill'd the Pirates many,
They'd Applause from young and old.

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