Blackbeard wasn’t the most successful of pirates, but he was certainly one of the most feared. His famous two-tailed beard, tied with ribbons, and his six-pistol belt have become synonymous with piracy.
Blackbeard the Pirate is shrouded in mystery. Not much is known about his life; in fact, not even his real name is known for certain. But his acts of piracy and his reign of terror have made the history books, and Blackbeard is known as one of the most notorious pirates in world history.
Who Was Blackbeard?
As we mentioned, we don’t know Blackbeard the Pirate’s real name. He’s often referred to as Edward Teach, as this is how he introduced himself. However, it’s likely that his name was really Edward Drummond. Pirates frequently did not use their family names so as not to tarnish the reputation of their loved ones.
Blackbeard was most likely born in or around 1680, and he was probably born in Bristol, England. Again, we don’t know too much about his early years.
During the War of Spanish Succession, Blackbeard served as a privateer, which was a kind of a legal pirate. He learned quite a few tricks of the trade during this time, and after the war his career in piracy began.
Blackbeard served in the Bahamas under Captain Benjamin Hornigold; Hornigold was a pirate, but is most well-known not for his piracy but for his apprentices. He taught many pirates well, and Blackbeard was the most famed of these.
Blackbeard was, in a word, talented. His excellence in piracy was noted by Hornigold, and he was soon granted his own vessel and a small crew. Side by side, they captured 300 ton frigate “The Concorde.” This ship soon after became Blackbeard’s famous “Queen Anne’s Revenge.”
Hornigold retired from piracy and accepted the king’s amnesty, but Blackbeard sailed on. Over the course of his career, he amassed over 300 crewmen and eventually had a fleet of four ships. Through bloody reputation and strategic alliances, Blackbeard became the most feared pirate on the seas.
Blackbeard: A Pirate’s Life
Blackbeard had discovered the Carolinas. In early 1718, he had set up base in Bath, North Carolina, and by May of that same year he laid siege to what is now Charleston, South Carolina.
The pirate seized eight more ships, but by this time his crew were sick and in dire need of medical attention. Blackbeard threatened the highest ranking prisoner of those eight ships – their heads would be cut off and delivered to the Governor if medicines were not delivered to his crew. The Governor obliged, and, true to his word, Blackbeard released the innocents.
The capture of Charleston was the height of Blackbeard’s career. The mere mention of his name would cause widespread panic amongst civilians and pirates alike. A skilled captain and a daring criminal, Blackbeard truly earned a reputation as the most formidable pirate of his time.
Unfortunately, his reign didn’t last long. While on the Carolina coast, the “Queen Anne’s Revenge” ran aground, and the crew lost their ship off the coast of what is now Beaufort, North Carolina. The loss of the Queen Anne’s Revenge was the beginning of the fall of Blackbeard’s rule.
Following the sinking of his flagship, Edward Teach sought amnesty. He returned to Bath, sold his booty, bought a house and tried to live a civilian life. Granted a pardon from Governor Eden of North Carolina, Blackbeard resumed his former career of privateer.
Pirate Habits Die Hard
Edward Teach had tried for a few months to live on land amongst the civilians. This proved too difficult for him; he missed the sea. But his return to privateering wasn’t enough for the pirate, and before long he began to plunder innocent ships.
Local seamen began to fear Blackbeard, and expected that he would return to his old ways of piracy. These doubts about Teach were only amplified when he received a visit from an old friend – pirate Captain Charles Vane.
At the time of Vane’s visit, former crew members of Teach’s were beginning to move into the local area. Tensions were mounting, and the citizens of the Carolinas and Virginia were beginning to get nervous. It was Governor Spotswood, of Virginia, who finally took action.
Spotswood declared that all pirates who had received pardon must immediately make themselves known. They were to lay down arms, and were not to be seen together in groups. So began the wide-spread “pirate hunt,” and the personal quest of Spotswood to find Teach.
On November 21, 1718, Governor Spotswood of Virginia received reports that Blackbeard could be found in Bath. A British naval force was dispatched under Lieutenant Robert Maynard, and battle ensued.
How did Blackbeard Die?
The battle was a bloody one, but Maynard and Blackbeard were both prepared. Teach spotted the naval ships approaching and fired cannons. Almost instantly, a third of the naval force was killed.
Strategically sailing, Blackbeard’s crew then approached Maynard’s fleet, threw a grappling hook as well as smoke bombs and grenades, and boarded the navy ship. Resistance was light, and the pirates quickly overcame the sailors on board.
Maynard, however, had outsmarted Blackbeard. The majority of the crew was hiding below deck, and Maynard launched a surprise attack on Blackbeard’s crew. The pirates were outnumbered and eventually lost to naval sailors.
Blackbeard the pirate, or Edward Teach, died on November 22, 1718 from wounds sustained in the battle. Legends surround the death of Blackbeard and it’s been said that he received wounds from five musket balls and 20 lacerations before he finally succumbed to death.
Blackbeard was beheaded, and his head was hung from the mast of Maynard’s ship as both proof of Teach’s death and as a warning to other pirates.
During stormy weather on the coast of North Carolina, unexplained lights can be seen above the sea. Teach’s Light is rumored to be the great pirate Blackbeard, guarding a store of buried treasure he never recovered before his death.