Edward Teach (c. 1680 – 22 November 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of the American colonies during the early 18th century.
Teach was most likely born in Bristol. Little is known about his early life, but in 1716 he joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, a pirate who operated from the Caribbean island of New Providence. He quickly acquired his own ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and from 1717 to 1718 became a feared pirate. His cognomen was derived from his thick black beard and fearsome appearance; he was reported to have tied lit fuses under his hat to frighten his enemies.
After parting company with Hornigold, Teach formed an alliance of pirates, and with his cohorts blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina. He successfully ransomed its inhabitants and then ran his ship aground. Teach accepted a royal pardon but was soon back at sea, where he attracted the attention of the Governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood. Spotswood arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to find and capture the pirate, which they did on 22 November 1718. During a ferocious battle, Teach was killed by a small force of sailors led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard.
A shrewd and calculating leader, Teach used his fearsome image instead of force to elicit the response he desired from those he robbed. Contrary to the modern-day image of the traditional tyrannical pirate, he commanded his vessels with the permission of their crews, and there are no known accounts of his ever having harmed or murdered those he held captive. He was romanticised after his death, and became the inspiration for a number of pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.
Little is known about Blackbeard’s early life. It is commonly believed that at the time of his death he was between 35 and 40, and thus born in about 1680. In contemporary records his name is most often given as Blackbeard, Edward Thatch, or Edward Teach, and it is the latter which today is most often used, but several spellings of his surname exist—Thatch, Thach, Thache, Thack, Tack, Thatche, and Theach. One early claim was that his surname was Drummond, but the lack of any supporting documentation makes this unlikely. It was the custom of pirates to use fictitious surnames while engaging in the business of piracy, so as not to tarnish the family name, and Teach’s real name will likely never be known.
The 17th-century rise of England’s American colonies and the rapid 18th-century expansion of the Atlantic slave trade had made Bristol an important international sea port, and Teach was most likely raised in what was the second-largest city in England. Teach could almost certainly read and write; he communicated with merchants, and on his death had in his possession a letter addressed to him by the Chief Justice and Secretary of the Province of Carolina, Tobias Knight. The author Robert Lee speculated that Teach may therefore have been born into a respectable, wealthy family. Teach may have arrived in the Caribbean in the last years of the 17th century, on a merchant vessel (possibly a slave ship).The 18th-century author Charles Johnson claimed that Teach was for some time a sailor operating from Jamaica on privateer ships during Queen Anne’s War, and that “he had often distinguished himself for his uncommon boldness and personal courage”. At what point during the war Teach joined the fighting is, like most of his life before he became a pirate, unknown.
With its history of colonialism, trade, and piracy, the West Indies was the setting for a great many maritime incidents during the 17th and 18th centuries. The privateer-turned-pirate Henry Jennings and his followers had early in the 18th century decided to use the then empty island of New Providence as a base for their operations; the island was within easy reach of the Florida Strait and its busy shipping lanes filled with European vessels going to and from Europe. New Providence’s harbour could easily accommodate hundreds of ships, and was too shallow for the Royal Navy’s larger vessels to navigate. The island then was not the popular tourist destination it later became; the author George Woodbury described it as “no city of homes; it was a place of temporary sojourn and refreshment for a literally floating population,” continuing, “The only permanent residents were the piratical camp followers, the traders, and the hangers-on; all others were transient.” Law and order were unheard of; in New Providence the pirates found a welcome respite.
Teach was one of those who came to enjoy the island’s benefits. Probably shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht he moved there from Jamaica, and along with most of those who had been privateers during the war became involved in piracy. Possibly about 1716, Teach joined the crew of Captain Benjamin Hornigold, a renowned pirate who operated from New Providence’s safe waters. In 1716, Hornigold placed Teach in charge of a sloop he had taken as a prize. In early 1717, Hornigold and Teach, each captaining a sloop, set out for the mainland. They captured a boat from Havana which carried 120 barrels of flour, and shortly thereafter took 100 barrels of wine from a sloop from Bermuda. A few days later they stopped a vessel sailing from Madeira to Charleston, South Carolina. Teach and his quartermaster, William Howard,may at this time have been struggling to control their crews. By now they had probably developed a taste for Madeira wine, and on 29 September near Cape Charles all they took from the Betty of Virginia was her cargo of Madeira, before they scuttled her with the remaining cargo.
It was during this cruise with Hornigold that the earliest known report of Teach was made—recorded as a pirate in his own right, and in command of a large crew. In a report made by a Captain Mathew Munthe on an anti-piracy patrol for North Carolina, “Thatch” was described as operating “a sloop 6 gunns [sic] and about 70 men”. In September Teach and Hornigold encountered Stede Bonnet. A landowner and military officer from a wealthy family, he had turned to piracy earlier that year but his crew of about 70 were reportedly dissatisfied with his command. With Bonnet’s permission, Teach took control of his ship Revenge. The pirate flotilla now consisted of three ships; Teach on Revenge, accompanied by his old sloop, and Hornigold’s Ranger. By October, another vessel had been captured and added to the small fleet.The sloops Robert of Philadelphia and Good Intent of Dublin were stopped on 22 October 1717, and their cargo holds emptied.
As a former British privateer, Hornigold attacked only his former enemies. For his crew, the sight of British vessels filled with valuable cargo passing by unharmed became too much, and at some point toward the end of 1717 Hornigold was demoted. Whether Teach had any involvement in this decision is unknown, but Hornigold soon retired from piracy. Hornigold took with him Ranger and one of the sloops, leaving Teach with Revenge and the remaining sloop. The two pirates never met again, and along with many of the other occupants of New Providence, Hornigold accepted the King’s pardon from Woodes Rogers in June the following year.
On 28 November Teach’s two ships attacked a French merchant vessel off the coast of Saint Vincent. They each fired a broadside across its bulwarks, killing several of its crew, and forcing its captain to surrender. The ship turned out to be La Concorde of Saint-Malo, a large French guineaman carrying a cargo of slaves. Teach and his crews sailed the vessel south along Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, to Bequia, where they disembarked her crew and cargo, and converted the ship for their own use. The smaller of Teach’s two sloops was left for the crew of La Concorde, who renamed her Mauvaise Recontre (Bad Meeting) and sailed for Martinique. Teach may have recruited some of the slaves, but the remainder were left on the island and were later recaptured by the returning crew of Mauvaise Recontre.
Teach immediately renamed La Concorde as Queen Anne’s Revenge, and equipped her with 40 guns. In late November he attacked the Great Allen, near Saint Vincent. Teach forced the large and well-armed merchant ship to surrender after a lengthy engagement. He ordered the Great Allen to move closer to the shore, disembarked her crew, and emptied her cargo holds. The ship was then burned and sunk. The incident was chronicled in the Boston News Letter, which described Teach as in command of a “French ship of 32 Guns, a Briganteen of 10 guns and a Sloop of 12 guns.” When or where Teach collected the ten gun Briganteen is unknown, but by this time it is estimated he was in command of at least 150 men, split between three vessels.
On 5 December 1717 Teach stopped the merchant sloop Margaret off the coast of Crab Island, near Anguilla. Captain Henry Bostock and his crew remained Teach’s prisoners for about eight hours, and were forced to watch as their sloop was ransacked. Bostock, who had been held unharmed aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge, was returned to Margaret, and was allowed to leave with his crew.He returned to his base of operations on Saint Christopher Island, and reported the matter to Governor Walter Hamilton, who requested that he sign an affidavit explaining the encounter. Bostock’s deposition details Teach’s command of two vessels: a sloop, and a large French guineaman, Dutch-built, with 36 cannon and a crew of 300 men. The captain believed that the larger ship carried valuable gold dust, silver plate, and “a very fine cup” supposedly taken from the commander of Great Allen. Teach’s crew informed Bostock that they had destroyed several other vessels, and that they intended to sail to Hispaniola and lie in wait for an expected Spanish armada, supposedly laden with money to pay the garrisons. Teach questioned Bostock about the movements of local ships, but seemed unsurprised when Bostock told him of an expected royal pardon from London for all pirates.
So our Heroe, Captain Teach, assumed the Cognomen of Black-beard, from that large Quantity of Hair, which, like a frightful Meteor, covered his whole Face, and frightened America more than any Comet that has appeared there a long Time. This Beard was black, which he suffered to grow of an extravagant Length; as to Breadth, it came up to his Eyes; he was accustomed to twist it with Ribbons, in small Tails, after the Manner of our Ramilies Wiggs, and turn them about his Ears
Bostock’s deposition describes Teach as a “tall spare man with a very black beard which he wore very long”. This provides the first recorded account of Teach’s appearance, and is the source of his cognomen, Blackbeard. Later descriptions mention that his thick black beard was braided into pigtails, and sometimes tied in with small coloured ribbons. Johnson (1724) described Teach as “such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury from hell to look more frightful.” Whether Johnson’s description of Teach was entirely truthful or embellished is unclear, but it seems likely that Teach understood the value of appearances; better to strike fear into the heart of one’s enemies, than rely on bluster alone. Teach was tall, with broad shoulders. He wore knee-length boots and dark clothing, topped with a wide hat, and sometimes a long coat of brightly-coloured silk or velvet. Johnson also described Teach in times of battle as wearing “a sling over his shoulders, with three brace of pistols, hanging in holsters, like bandoliers; and struck lighted matches under his hat”,the latter apparently to emphasize the fearsome appearance he wished to present to his enemies. Despite his ferocious reputation, there are no verified accounts of his ever having murdered or harmed those he held captive. Teach may also have used other aliases; on 30 November, the Monserrat Merchant encountered two ships and a sloop, commanded by a Captain Kentish and Captain Edwards (the latter a known alias of Stede Bonnet).
Enlargement of Teach’s fleet
Teach’s movements from late 1717 to early 1718 are a mystery. He and Bonnet were probably responsible for an attack off Sint Eustatius in December 1717. Henry Bostock claimed to have heard the pirates say they would head toward the Spanish-controlled Samaná Bay in Hispaniola, but a cursory search revealed no pirate activity. Captain Hume of HMS Scarborough reported on 6 February that a “Pyrate Ship of 36 Guns and 250 men, and a Sloop of 10 Guns and 100 men were Said to be Cruizing amongst the Leeward Islands”. Hume reinforced his crew with musket-armed soldiers and joined up with HMS Seaford to track the two ships, to no avail. They did however discern that the two ships had sunk a French vessel off St Christopher Island, and reported also that they had last been seen “gone down the North side of Hispaniola”. Although no confirmation exists that these two ships were controlled by Teach and Bonnet, author Angus Konstam believes it very likely they were.
In March 1718, while taking on water at Turneffe Island east of Belize, both ships spotted Adventure (a sloop from Jamaica) making for the harbour. The sloop was quickly stopped and its captain, David Harriot, invited to join the pirates. Harriot and his crew agreed, and Teach sent over a crew to run Adventure. They sailed for the Bay of Honduras, where they added another ship and four sloops to their flotilla. On 9 April Teach’s enlarged fleet of ships looted and burnt Protestant Caesar. His fleet then sailed to Grand Cayman where they captured a “small turtler”.Teach probably sailed toward Havana, where he may have captured a small Spanish vessel that had left the Cuban port. They then sailed to the wrecks of the 1715 Spanish fleet, off the western coast of Florida. There he disembarked the crew of the captured Spanish sloop, before proceeding north to the port of Charleston, South Carolina, attacking three vessels along the way.
Blockade of Charleston
Toward the end of May 1718, Teach’s flotilla of ships blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina. By now he had awarded himself the rank of Commodore, and was at the height of his power. All vessels entering or leaving the port were stopped. Charleston (known then as Charles Town) had no Guard ship, and its pilot boat was the first to be captured. Over the next five or six days, about nine vessels were stopped and ransacked as they attempted to sail past Charleston Bar, where Teach’s fleet was anchored. One of these, headed for London with a group of prominent Charleston citizens which included Samuel Wragg (a member of the Council of the Province of Carolina), was the Crowley. Its passengers were questioned about the vessels still in port, before being locked below decks for about half a day. Teach informed the prisoners that his fleet required medical supplies from the colonial government of South Carolina, and that if none were forthcoming all the prisoners would be executed, their heads sent to the Governor, and that all captured ships would be burnt.
Wragg agreed to Teach’s demands. A Mr. Marks and two pirates were given two days to collect the drugs, and Teach moved his fleet, and the captured ships, about five or six leagues from land. After three days, a messenger, sent by Marks, returned to the fleet; Marks’s boat had capsized and delayed their arrival in Charleston. Teach granted a reprieve of two days, but still the party did not return. Teach called a meeting of his fellow sailors, and eight ships were moved into the harbour. General panic within the town ensued, before Marks’s small boat finally approached the fleet. Marks had presented the pirates’ demands to the Governor, and the drugs were quickly gathered. Marks’s escort had not been so easy to find; they had been busy drinking with friends and were finally discovered, drunk.
Teach kept to his side of the bargain, and released the captured ships and his prisoners—albeit relieved of their valuables, including the fine clothing worn by some of them.
Whilst at Charleston, Teach had learnt that Woodes Rogers had left England with several men-of-war, with orders to purge the West Indies of pirates. Teach’s flotilla of ships sailed northward along the Atlantic coast, and into Topsail Inlet (commonly known as Beaufort Inlet), on the coast of North Carolina, to careen the ships for the purpose of scraping their hulls. Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground on a sandbar, cracking her main-mast and severely damaging many of her timbers. Teach then ordered several sloops to throw ropes across the flagship in an attempt to free her from the obstruction. One of the sloops, commanded by Israel Hands of Adventure, also ran aground; both vessels appeared to be damaged beyond repair, leaving only Revenge and the captured Spanish sloop.
Teach had at some stage learned of the offer of a royal pardon, and probably confided in Bonnet that he intended to accept it. The pardon was open to all pirates who surrendered on or before 5 September 1718, but contained a caveat which stipulated that immunity was offered only against crimes committed before 5 January. Although in theory this left Bonnet and Teach at risk of hanging for their actions at Charleston Bar, most authorities could waive such conditions. Teach thought that Governor Charles Eden was a man he could trust, but to make sure he waited to see what would happen to another captain. Bonnet left immediately for Bath Town on a small sailing boat where he surrendered to Governor Eden and received his pardon. He then travelled back to Beaufort Inlet to collect the Revenge and the remainder of his crew, intending to sail to Saint Thomas Island where he would receive his commission. Unfortunately for him, Teach had stripped the vessel of all its valuables and provisions, and marooned its crew; Bonnet set out for revenge, but was unable to find him. He and his crew returned to piracy, and were captured on 27 September 1718 at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. All but four of those caught were later tried and hanged in Charleston. The captured Revenge was later included in a fleet of ships commanded by the Governor of South Carolina, which made a ferocious attack on a group of pirates near the entrance to Charleston Harbour, resulting in the execution of 49 pirates inside a month. Their bodies were hung in gibbets near White Point.
The author Robert Lee surmised that Teach and Hands ran both ships aground on purpose, to reduce the crew complement of the fleet and therefore increase their share of the spoils. During the trial of Bonnet’s crew Revenge‘s boatswain Ignatius Pell testified that “the ship was run ashore and lost, which Thatch [Teach] caused to be done.” Lee also considers it plausible that Teach let Bonnet in on his plan, which was to accept a pardon from Governor Eden. He suggested Bonnet do the same, and consider taking a privateer’s commission from England in prospect of a threatened war between the Quadruple Alliance of 1718 and Spain. Teach offered Bonnet the return of his ship, Revenge.Konstam (2007) proposes a similar idea, explaining that Teach began to see Queen Anne’s Revenge as something of a liability; while anchored, news of a pirate fleet would be sent to neighbouring towns and colonies, and any vessels nearby would delay sailing. It was prudent therefore for Teach not to linger for too long, although wrecking the ship was a somewhat extreme measure.
Before sailing northward on his remaining sloop to Ocracoke Inlet, Teach marooned about 25 men (presumably they had guessed their captain’s plans, and had protested; they were rescued two days later by Bonnet) on a small sandy island about a league from the mainland. He continued on to Bath, where in June 1718—only days after Bonnet had departed with his pardon—he and his much-reduced crew received their pardon from Governor Eden.
Teach settled in Bath, on the eastern side of Bath Creek at Plum Point, near the home of Eden. During July and August he traveled between his base in the town and his sloop off Ocracoke. Johnson’s account stated that he married the daughter of a local plantation owner, although his is the only known evidence for this. Eden gave Teach permission to sail to St Thomas to seek a commission as a privateer (a useful way of removing bored and troublesome pirates from the small settlement), and Teach was given official title to his remaining sloop, which he renamed Adventure. By the end of August, Teach had returned to piracy, and in the same month the Governor of Pennsylvania issued a warrant for his arrest, but by this time Teach was probably operating in Delaware Bay, some distance from the colony. Teach then took two French ships leaving the Caribbean, moved one crew across to the other, and took the remaining ship back to Ocracoke.In September 1718 he told Eden that he had found the French ship at sea, deserted. A Vice Admiralty Court was quickly convened, presided over by Tobias Knight and the Collector of Customs. The ship was judged as a derelict found at sea, 20 hogsheads of sugar were awarded to Knight, and sixty to Eden; Teach and his crew were given the rest of the boat’s cargo.
Ocracoke Inlet was Teach’s favourite anchorage. It was a perfect location from which to view ships traveling between the settlements of northeast Carolina, and it was from this vantage point that Teach first spotted the approaching ship of another English pirate, Charles Vane. Vane had rejected the pardon brought by Woodes Rogers, and escaped the men-of-war the English Captain brought with him to Nassau, on 26 July 1718. He had also been pursued by Benjamin Hornigold (Teach’s old commander, now turned pirate-hunter). The two captains spent several nights on the southern tip of Ocracoke Island, accompanied by such notorious figures as Israel Hands, Robert Deal, and Calico Jack.
News of Teach and Vane’s impromptu party spread throughout the neighbouring colonies, worrying the Governor of Pennsylvania enough to send out two sloops to capture the pirates. They were unsuccessful, but Governor of Virginia Alexander Spotswood was also concerned that the supposedly retired freebooter and his crew were living in nearby North Carolina. Some of Teach’s former crew had already moved to several Virginian seaport towns, and on 10 July 1718 Spotswood had issued a proclamation requiring all former pirates to make themselves known to the authorities, to give up their arms, and to not travel in groups larger than three. As head of a Crown colony, Spotswood viewed the proprietary colony of North Carolina with contempt; he had little faith in the ability of the Carolinans to control the pirates, who he suspected would be back to their old ways, disrupting Virginian commerce, as soon as their money ran out.
Spotswood learnt that the former quartermaster of Queen Anne’s Revenge, William Howard, was in the area, and believing that he might know of Teach’s whereabouts, had the pirate and his two slaves arrested. However, Spotswood had no legal authority to have pirates tried, and Howard’s attorney, John Holloway, brought charges against Captain Brand of HMS Lyme (where Howard was imprisoned). He also sued on Howard’s behalf for damages of £500, claiming wrongful arrest.
Spotswood’s council claimed that Teach’s presence was a crisis, and thus under a statute of William III the governor was entitled to try Howard without a jury present. The charges referred to several acts of piracy supposedly committed after the cut-off date of the pardon, in “a sloop belonging to ye subjects of the King of Spain”, but ignored the fact that they took place outside Spotswood’s jurisdiction, and in a vessel now legally owned. Another charge cited two attacks, one of which was the capture of a slave ship off Charleston Bar from which one of Howard’s slaves was presumed to have come. Howard was sent to await trial before a Court of Vice-Admiralty on the charge of piracy, but Captain Brand and his colleague, Captain Gordon (of HMS Pearl) refused to serve with Holloway present. Incensed, Holloway had no option but to stand down, and was replaced by the Attorney General of Virginia, John Clayton, who Spotswood described as “an honester man [than Holloway]”. Howard was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, but was however saved by a commission from London which directed Spotswood to pardon all acts of piracy committed by surrendering pirates before 23 July 1718.
Meanwhile, Spotswood had obtained from Howard valuable information on Teach’s whereabouts, and planned to send his forces across the border into North Carolina to capture him.Spotswood gained the support of two men keen to discredit North Carolina’s Governor—Edward Moseley and Colonel Maurice Moore. He also wrote to the Lords of Trade, suggesting that the Crown might benefit financially from Teach’s capture. Spotswood personally financed the operation, possibly believing that Teach had fabulous treasures hidden away. He ordered Captains Gordon and Brand of HMS Pearl and HMS Lyme to travel overland to Bath. Robert Maynard of HMS Pearl would take charge of two commandeered sloops, and approach the town from the sea. Extra incentive for Teach’s capture was given by the offer of a reward from the Assembly of Virginia, over and above any that might be received from the Crown.
Lieutenant Maynard took command of the two armed sloops on 17 November. He was given 57 men—33 from HMS Pearl and 24 from HMS Lyme. Maynard and the detachment from HMS Pearl took the larger of the two vessels and named her Jane; the rest took Ranger, commanded by one of Maynard’s officers, a Mister Hyde. Some of the civilian crews of the two ships remained aboard. They sailed out from Kecoughtan, along the James River, on 17 November.The two sloops moved slowly, to allow Brand’s force time to reach Bath. Brand set out for North Carolina six days later, arriving within three miles of Bath on 23 November. They had with them Colonel Moore and Captain Jeremiah Vail, along with a number of other North Carolinians, to dissuade the locals from objecting to the presence of foreign soldiers. Moore went into the town to see if Teach was there, and reported back that he was not, but was expected at “every minute.” Brand then went to Governor Eden’s home, and informed him of his purpose. The next day, Brand sent two canoes down Pamlico River to Ocracoke Inlet, to see if Teach could be seen. They returned two days later, and reported on what had transpired.
Lieutenant Maynard found the pirates anchored on the inner side of Ocracoke Island, on the evening of 21 November. He had ascertained their position from ships he had stopped along his journey, but unfamiliar with the local channels and shoals he decided to wait until the following morning to make his attack. He stopped all traffic from entering the inlet, preventing any warning of his presence, and posted a lookout on both sloops to ensure that Teach could not escape out to sea. Teach, on the other side of the island, was busy entertaining guests, and had not set a lookout. With Israel Hands ashore in Bath with about 24 of Adventure’s sailors, he now had a much-reduced crew. Johnson (1724) reported that the pirate had “no more than twenty-five men on board”, and that he “gave out to all the vessels that he spoke with that he had forty”. “Thirteen white and six Negroes”, was the number later reported by Brand to the Admiralty.
At daybreak Maynard’s two sloops entered the channel, just behind a small boat taking soundings for the two larger vessels. It was quickly spotted by Adventure, and fired upon as soon as it was within range of her guns. The boat made a quick retreat to the Jane, while Teach cut the Adventure’s anchor cable. As his crew hoisted the sails, the Adventure maneuvered to point her starboard guns toward Maynard’s sloops, which were now slowly closing the gap. Hyde moved Ranger to the port side of Jane, and the Union flag was unfurled on each ship. Adventure then turned toward the beach of Ocracoke Island, heading for a narrow channel.What happened next is uncertain. Johnson claimed that there was an exchange of small-arms fire before Adventure ran aground, while Maynard anchored and then lightened his ship to pass over the sandbar. Another version claimed that Jane and Ranger ran aground, but Maynard made no mention of this in his log.
Damn you for Villains, who are you? And, from whence came you? The Lieutenant made him Answer, You may see by our Colours we are no Pyrates. Black-beard bid him send his Boat on Board, that he might see who he was; but Mr. Maynard reply’d thus; I cannot spare my Boat, but I will come aboard of you as soon as I can, with my Sloop. Upon this, Black-beard took a Glass of Liquor, and drank to him with these Words: Damnation seize my Soul if I give you Quarters, or take any from you. In Answer to which, Mr. Maynard told him, That he expected no Quarters from him, nor should he give him any.
Reported exchange of views between Teach and Maynard
What is certain though is that Adventure turned her guns on the two ships, and fired. The broadside was devastating; in an instant, Maynard had lost as much as a third of his forces. About 20 on Jane were either wounded or killed, and 9 on Ranger. Hyde was dead, and his second and third officers were either dead or seriously injured. His sloop was so badly damaged that it played no further role in the attack. Again, contemporary accounts of what happened next are confused, but small-arms fire from Jane may have cut Adventure’s jib sheet, causing her to lose control and run onto the sandbar. In the aftermath of Teach’s overwhelming attack, Jane and Ranger may also have been grounded; the battle thenceforth would have become a race to see who could float their ship first.
The lieutenant had kept many of his men below deck, and in anticipation of being boarded told them to prepare for close fighting. Teach watched as the gap between the vessels closed, and ordered his men to be ready. The two vessels contacted one another as the Adventure‘s grappling hooks hit their target, and several grenades, made from powder and shot-filled bottles and ignited by fuses, broke across the sloop’s deck. As the smoke cleared, Teach led his men aboard, buoyant at the sight of Maynard’s apparently empty ship, his men firing at the small group formed by Maynard and his men, at the stern.
The rest of Maynard’s men then burst from the hold, shouting and firing. The plan to surprise Teach and his crew worked; the pirates were apparently taken aback at his assault. Teach rallied his men and the two groups fought across the deck, which was already slick with blood from those killed or injured by Teach’s broadside. Maynard and Teach fired their flintlocks at each other, before throwing them away. Teach drew his cutlass, and managed to break Maynard’s sword. Against superior training and a slight advantage in numbers, the pirates were pushed back toward the bow, leaving Teach and Maynard isolated, and allowing the Jane’s crew to surround them. As Maynard drew back to fire once again, Teach moved in to attack him, but was slashed across the neck by one of Maynard’s men. Badly wounded, Teach was then attacked by several more of Maynard’s crew, and killed. The remaining pirates quickly surrendered. Those left on the Adventure were captured by the crew of Ranger, including one who planned to set fire to the powder room, and blow up the ship. Varying accounts exist of the battle’s list of casualties; Maynard reported that 8 of his men and 12 pirates were killed. Captain Brand reported that 10 pirates and 11 of Maynard’s men were killed. Spotswood claimed ten pirates dead, and ten of the King’s men.
Maynard later examined Teach’s body, and noted that he had been shot no fewer than five times, and had about twenty severe cuts on his body. He also found several items of correspondence, including a letter to the pirate from Tobias Knight. His decapitated corpse was then thrown into the inlet, and his head suspended from the bowsprit of Maynard’s sloop (to enable the reward to be collected).
Lieutenant Maynard remained at Ocracoke for several more days, making repairs and burying the dead. Teach’s loot—sugar, cocoa, indigo, and cotton—found “in pirate sloops and ashore in a tent where the sloops lay”, was sold at auction along with sugar and cotton found in Tobias Knight’s barn, for £2,238. Governor Spotswood used a portion of this to pay for the operation. The prize money for capturing Teach was to be about £400, but was split between the crews of both HMS Lyme and HMS Pearl. Maynard thought this extremely unfair as Captain Brand and his troops had not been the ones fighting for their lives. Maynard lost much of his support when it was discovered that he and his crew had helped themselves to about £90 of Teach’s booty. The two companies did not receive their prize money for another four years,and despite his bravery Maynard was not promoted; instead he faded into obscurity.
The remainder of Teach’s crew and former associates were found by Brand in Bath, and were transported to Williamsburg, Virginia, where they were jailed on charges of piracy. Several of the pirates were black, and Spotswood asked his council if anything could be done about “the Circumstances of these Negroes to exempt them from undergoing the same Trial as other pirates.” The Council considered the request but decided that they should stand trial with the others. The trial, under admiralty law, took place on 12 March 1719, in Williamsburg’s Capitol building. No records of the day’s proceedings remain, but 14 of the 16 accused were found guilty; one was found not guilty, having proven that although he had partaken of the fight out of necessity, he had been on Teach’s ship only as a guest at a drinking party the night before and was not a pirate. Israel Hands, not present at the fight, claimed that during a drinking session he had been shot by Teach in the knee, and that he was still covered by the royal pardon. He was found not guilty.The remaining 13 pirates were hanged and left to rot in gibbets along Williamsburg’s Capitol Landing Road (later known as Gallows Road).
Governor Eden was certainly embarrassed by Spotswood’s invasion of North Carolina. Spotswood disavowed himself of any part of the seizure. He defended his actions, writing to Lord Carteret, a shareholder of the Province of Carolina, that he might benefit from the sale of the seized property and reminding the Earl of the number of Virginians who had died to protect his interests. He defended the secrecy of the operation by suggesting that Eden “could contribute nothing to the Success of the Design”, and told Eden that his authority to capture the pirates came from the King. Eden was heavily criticised for his involvement with Teach, and was accused of being his accomplice. By criticising Eden, Spotswood intended to bolster the legitimacy of his invasion.Lee (1974) concludes that although Spotswood may have thought that the ends justified the means, he had no legal authority to invade North Carolina, to capture the pirates, and to seize and auction their goods. Eden doubtless shared the same view. As Spotswood had also accused Tobias Knight of being in league with Teach, Eden had Knight brought in for questioning on 4 April 1719. Israel Hands had, weeks earlier, testified that Knight had been on board the Adventure in August 1718, shortly after Teach had brought a French ship to North Carolina as a prize. Four pirates had testified that with Teach, they had visited Knight’s home to give him presents. This testimony and the letter found on Teach’s body by Maynard appeared compelling, but Knight conducted his defence with competence. Despite being very sick, and dying, he questioned the reliability of Spotswood’s witnesses. Israel Hands he claimed had given information under duress, and the other witness, an African, was under North Carolinian law unable to offer his testimony. The sugar, he argued, was stored at his house legally, and Teach had visited him only on business in his official capacity. The board found Knight innocent of all charges, and he died later that year.
Eden was annoyed that the accusations against Knight had arisen during a trial in which he played no part. The goods which Captain Brand had seized were officially North Carolinian property, and Eden considered him a thief. The argument raged back and forth between the colonies until 17 March 1722, when Eden died. His will named one of Spotswood’s opponents, John Holloway, a beneficiary. In the same year Spotswood, who for years had fought his enemies in the House of Burgesses and the Council, was finally replaced by Hugh Drysdale, once Robert Walpole was convinced to act.
We normally think about pirates as sort of blood-lusting, that they want to slash somebody to pieces. [It’s probably more likely that] a pirate, just like a normal person, would probably rather not have killed someone, but pirates knew that if that person resisted them and they didn’t do something about it, their reputation and thus their brand name would be impaired. So you can imagine a pirate rather reluctantly engaging in this behavior as a way of preserving that reputation.
The view of the authorities towards pirates could often be quite different to that held by contemporary authors, who often described their subjects as despicable rogues of the sea. Privateers who became pirates were generally considered by the English government to be reserve naval forces, and were sometimes given active encouragement; as far back as 1545 Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, when he returned to England from a round-the-world expedition with plunder worth an estimated £1,500,000. Royal pardons were regularly issued, usually when England was on the verge of going to war. Public sentiment was often on the side of the pirates also, many considering them to be akin to patrons. University of Chicago economist Peter Leeson believes that pirates were generally shrewd businessmen, far removed from the modern romanticised view of them as murderous tyrants.After Woodes Rogers landed in 1718 at New Providence and succeeded in putting an end to the former pirate republic however, piracy in the West Indies fell into terminal decline. With no easily accessible outlet to fence their stolen goods, pirates were reduced to a subsistence livelihood. Following almost a century of naval warfare between the British, French, and Spanish—during which sailors could find easy employment—lone privateers became easily outnumbered by the powerful ships employed by the British Empire to defend its merchant fleets. The popularity of the slave trade helped bring to an end the frontier condition of the West Indies, and under such circumstances, piracy could no longer flourish as it once did.
Since the end of this so-called golden age of piracy, Teach and his exploits have become the stuff of lore, inspiring books, films, and amusement park rides. Much of what is known about him can be sourced to Charles Johnson’s A General Historie of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, published in Britain in 1724. A recognised authority on the pirates of his time, Johnson’s descriptions of such figures as Anne Bonny and Mary Read were for years required reading for those interested in the subject. Readers were titillated by his stories, and a second edition was quickly published, however author Angus Konstam suspects that Johnson’s “version of Blackbeard’s life was coloured a little to make a more sensational story.” A General Historie is, however, generally considered to be a reliable source. Johnson may have been an assumed alias. Lee (1974) considers that whoever the author was, he had some access to official correspondence as his accounts have been corroborated in personal and official dispatches. Konstam speculates further, suggesting that Johnson may have been the English playwright Charles Johnson, the British publisher Charles Rivington, or the writer Daniel Defoe.In his 1951 work The Great Days of Piracy, author George Woodbury wrote that Johnson is “obviously a pseudonym”, continuing “one cannot help suspecting that he may have been a pirate himself.”
Teach’s flag depicted a skeleton spearing a heart, while toasting the devil. Flying such a flag was designed to intimidate one’s enemies.
Despite his infamy, Teach was not the most successful of pirates. Henry Every captured a fortune and retired on the proceeds, and Bartholomew Roberts took an estimated five times the amount Teach stole.Treasure hunters have long busied themselves searching for any trace of his rumoured hoard of gold and silver, but nothing found in the numerous sites explored along the east coast of the US has ever been connected to Teach. Some tales suggest that pirates often killed a prisoner on the spot where they buried their loot. Teach is no exception in these stories, but that no finds have come to light is not exceptional—buried pirate treasure is often considered a modern myth for which almost no supporting evidence exists. In the available records about pirates there is nothing to suggest that the burial of treasure was a common practice, except in the imaginations of the writers of such fictional accounts as Treasure Island. Such hoards would necessitate a wealthy owner, and their supposed existence ignores the command structure of a pirate vessel, in which the crew often served by free suffrage. The only pirate ever known to bury treasure was William Kidd,and the only treasure so far recovered from Teach’s exploits is the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge. In 1997, it was found and excavated,and as of 2007 more than 15,000 objects have been rescued and preserved, some of which are on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum.
Various superstitious tales exist of Teach’s ghost. Unexplainable lights at sea are often referred to as “Teach’s light”, and some recitals claim that the notorious pirate now roams the afterlife searching for his head, for fear that his friends, and the Devil, will not recognize him. A North Carolinian tale holds that Teach’s skull was used as the basis for a silver drinking chalice; a local judge even claimed to have drunk from it one night in the 1930s.The name of Blackbeard has been attached to many local attractions, such as Charleston’s Blackbeard’s Cove.
Blackbeard’s name and persona have featured heavily in literature. He is the main subject of Matilda Douglas’s fictional 1835 work Blackbeard: A page from the colonial history of Philadelphia. In Gregory Keyes’ fictional The Age of Unreason, Blackbeard appears as the governor of a colony, and Tim Powers’ 1988 novel On Stranger Tides has him forming an alliance of pirates. Film renditions of his life include Blackbeard the Pirate (1952), Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968), Blackbeard: Terror at Sea (2005), and the 2006 Hallmark Channel miniseries Blackbeard. Parallels have also been drawn between Johnson’s Blackbeard, and the character of Captain Jack Sparrow in the 2003 adventure film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (AP) — Archaeologists recovered the first anchor from what’s believed to be the wreck of the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship off the North Carolina coast Friday, a move that might change plans about how to save the rest of the almost 300-year-old artifacts from the central part of the ship.
3,000 pound anchor from what is believed to be the wreck of the pirate Blackbeard’s flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, was recovered from the ocean on Friday.
Divers had planned to recover the second-largest artifact on what’s believed to be the Queen Anne’s Revenge but discovered it was too well-attached to other items in the ballast pile, said project Mark Wilde-Ramsing. Instead they pulled up another anchor that is the third-largest artifact and likely was the typical anchor for the ship.
Apparently, pirates had everyday anchors and special anchors just as the rest of us have everyday dishes and good china.
“That’s a big ship to be putting that out to stop it,” Wilde-Ramsing said admiringly as a pulley system of straps and men holding ropes moved the anchor from a boat to the back of truck. It’s the first large anchor that divers have retrieved; they earlier brought up a small, grapnel anchor.
The anchor is 11 feet, 4 inches long with arms that are 7 feet, 7 inches across. It was covered with concretion — a mixture of shells, sand and other debris attracted by the leaching wrought iron — and a few sea squirts. Its weight was estimated at 2,500 to 3,000 pounds.
The anchor’s size is typical for a ship the size of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, while the two other anchors probably were used in emergencies, such as storms, Wilde-Ramsing said.
Archaeologists had planned to remove the second-largest anchor, which is 13 feet long with arms that are 8 feet across, from the top of the ballast pile. But it was too well-attached, so instead the divers went in from the side to retrieve the everyday anchor. That means that future dives may involve going in from the side of the shipwreck rather than the top, he said.
Divers will work four days next week, when they’ll decide how to proceed.
State officials hope the anchor and other artifacts will attract tourists. The largest exhibit of artifacts from the shipwreck, which was discovered in 1996, will be shown starting June 11 at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Wilde-Ramsing has said the team hopes to recover all the artifacts by the end of 2013.
And the timing of the recovery of the anchor couldn’t be better for North Carolina officials, trying to increase tourism interest in the shipwreck. The Disney film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” starring Johnny Depp was released earlier this month and features both Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
The only remaining parts of the ship — the wooden hull structure, ribs and a plank — are at the bottom of the pile, protected by ballast that kept the ship upright. Six cannon and three other anchors are also in the pile.
Wendy Welsh, field conservator and QAR lab manager, and archaeologist Chris Southerly dived in the Atlantic to hook up the anchor for its lift to the ocean surface. “It lifted great,” said Welsh, who has worked with the project for nine years. “I didn’t think I’d see this day so soon.”
Southerly compared the retrieval to the child’s game of Pick-Up-Sticks, where players toss plastic sticks on a hard surface and then remove them one at a time without disturbing the ones underneath. “It’s really satisfying that I’ve had privilege of seeing it,” he said.
In 1717, Blackbeard captured a French slave ship and renamed it Queen Anne’s Revenge. Blackbeard, whose real name was widely believed to be Edward Teach or Thatch, settled in Bath and received a governor’s pardon. Volunteers with the Royal Navy killed him in Ocracoke Inlet in November 1718, five months after the ship thought to be Queen Anne’s Revenge sank.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck site, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, has already yielded more than 250,000 artifacts.