Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach
Blackbeard (c.1680- November 22, 1718) was the nickname of Edward Teach alias Edward Thatch, (other sources give his name as Edward Drummond) a notorious British pirate who had a short reign of terror in the Caribbean Sea between 1716 and 1718, during a period of time referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy. His final and best known vessel, the Queen Anne's Revenge, is believed to have run ashore near what is now the Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina in 1718. Blackbeard had over a dozen wives, most of which were common-law marriages. His last wife was Mary Ormond (or Ormand) of Bath, North Carolina, to whom he was only married for a short while. A painting of him hangs in Van Der Veer house (ca. 1790), in Bath N.C. He is thought to have been born in either Bristol, England or Jamaica.
Blackbeard often fought with, or simply showed himself wearing, multiple swords, knives, and pistols, and was notorious for weaving hemp and lighted matches into his enormous black beard during battle. This image, which he cultivated, has made him the premier image of the seafaring pirate.
Little is known about his early life, though it is believed he was born in Bristol, England in 1680. His career began as a seaman on privateers sailing out of Jamaica during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), and later served aboard a Jamaican ship commanded by the pirate Benjamin Hornigold, whom he met at New Providence in 1716. He was eventually made a captain while serving under Hornigold when, near the island of Martinique, they captured the French slave ship La Concorde out of Nantes, on November 28, 1717. According to the French governor of the island, 'Edoard Titche' commanded two boats of British pirates, one of 12 and the other of 8 guns, with 250 men. La Concorde was a prize: a 300-ton frigate armed with 40 cannon, which had ranged the west coast of Africa, taking British, Dutch and Portuguese ships. Teach renamed it Queen Anne's Revenge.
Hornigold then retired, taking advantage of an amnesty extended to privateers.
In the following two years Teach acquired a fearsome reputation for cruelty after repeatedly preying on shipping and coastal settlements of the West Indies and the Atlantic coast of North America. A running duel with the British 30-gunned man-of-war HMS Scarborough added to his notoriety.
He would raid merchant ships, coming up on them in major channels and forcing them to allow him and his crew to board their ship. Teach and his men would take all of the valuables, food, liquor, and weapons from the ship and if there was no resistance, let the merchant ship go. On ships that resisted, all aboard were killed.
Teach kept headquarters in both the Bahamas and the Carolinas. He lived on the island of Nassau where he was named the Magistrate of the 'Privateers Republic'. The governor of North Carolina, Charles Eden, received booty from Teach in return for unofficial protection and gave him an official pardon. He was forced to leave Nassau by Royal Governor Woodes Rogers when the island was raided and all pirate occupants were either killed or driven out.
Despite this setback, Teach went back to piracy after a few weeks. As his violent raids increased, the citizens of North Carolina lost patience and sent an appeal to the governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood. Spotswood replied by sending troops to hunt him down. It is questionable as to whether Spotswood had the jurisdiction to do so.
Because Blackbeard operated in littoral waters with shallow-bottomed ships, it was difficult for ships of the line to engage him in battle. Two smaller, hired sloops were therefore put under the command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard, Captain of the HMS Pearl, with instructions to hunt down and destroy Blackbeard. Maynard sailed from James River on November 17, 1718, and found the pirates in a North Carolina inlet on November 21st. Blackbeard and his crew of twenty-five were surprised by the pursuit. At first, Blackbeard's superior knowledge of the inlet allowed him to manoeuvre freely while the British ships frequently grounded. Eventually, however, Blackbeard's frigate ran aground. Rather than engaging in battle at a distance, he used his first broadside as the British boarded, killing 29 men and disabling one sloop.
Maynard, aboard the other sloop, lightened his ship and brought it close enough that he and his men could board Blackbeard's sloop. Maynard was overwhelmed at first by Blackbeard's size (Teach stood 6 feet 4 inches tall), but led his men forward. Despite the best efforts of the pirates (including a desperate plan to blow up their own ship), Blackbeard was killed and the battle ended. Teach was shot 5 times and stabbed more than 20 times before he died and was decapitated by Robert Maynard. His head was then placed as a trophy on the bowsprit of their ship.
Legend has romanticized Blackbeard. Many popular contemporary engravings show him with the smoking lit ends of his pigtails and the pistols stuck in his bandoliers, and he has been the subject of books, movies, and documentaries. He acquired immense wealth in his predatory voyages, and was accustomed to burying his treasures in the banks of creeks and rivers. In times as desperate and difficult as the American Revolution, it was common for the ignorant, credulous, and desperate to dig along these banks in search of hidden treasures; impostors found an ample basis in these current rumours for schemes of delusion. His ship is believed to have been discovered near Beaufort, North Carolina in 1996, and is now part of a major tourist attraction.
- North Carolina Office of Archives and History: Special Section on BlackBeard [dead link]
- Queen Anne's Revenge Archaeological Site [dead link]
- Edward Teach (Blackbeard): contemporary engravings [dead link]