Blackbeard: A Brief History

Updated on May 8, 2019
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson received his Masters Degree in History at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.

Blackbeard, the notorious pirate.
Blackbeard, the notorious pirate. | Source

Introduction

Birth Name: Edward Teach (Also Known as “Blackbeard”)

Date of Birth: 1680 (Exact Date is Unknown by Scholars)

Place of Birth: Bristol, England

Date of Death: 22 November 1718 (Thirty-Five to Thirty-Eight Years of Age)

Place of Death: Ocracoke, Province of North Carolina

Cause of Death: Killed by British Navy

Spouse(s): Mary Osmond

Children: Unknown

Father: Unknown

Mother: Unknown

Occupation(s): Pirate

Years Active: 1716-1718 Along Atlantic Coastline (Particularly the Carolinas and West Indies)

Pirate Rank: Captain

Ship: Queen Anne’s Revenge

Other Names/Nicknames: Edward Thatch; Blackbeard

Best Known For: One of the most famous pirates of all time; Blockaded Charleston Harbor in 1718; Plundered numerous ships across his short career.

Blackbeard.
Blackbeard. | Source

Quick Facts About Blackbeard

Quick Fact #1: Little is known about Blackbeard’s origins or his real name, for that matter. However, it is believed by many scholars that his actual name was Edward Teach. Early records indicate that Teach was an Englishman, and likely served as a privateer during Queen Anne’s War (1701-1714). Following the end of the war, however, Teach turned to piracy as he saw the venture as far more profitable than traditional military or navy service.

Quick Fact #2: Blackbeard was first declared a pirate in 1716. In the following year, he commandeered a captured French merchant ship that he transformed ,into a forty-gun warship dubbed the “Queen Anne’s Revenge.” Teach became notorious for his exploits along the Carolina and Virginia coastline, as well as the Caribbean. However, Blackbeard’s major area of operations was along a North Carolina inlet that connected to the Pamlico Sound. Historical records from this time period indicate that Blackbeard and his crew collected tolls (forcefully) from ships entering the Pamlico Sound, and may have also entered into a “prize-sharing agreement with Charles Eden” who was governor of the Carolina colony at the time (Britannica.com).

Quick Fact #3: In addition to collecting tolls along the Carolina coast, Blackbeard and his men also resorted to the outright theft and pillaging of local ships. Blackbeard also engaged with multiple ships during his pirate-career, sinking dozens of British, French and Spanish freighters in his search for money and loot. With nearly forty guns on his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard’s ship was a formidable opponent in any naval fight. With the addition of a second ship under his direct command, known as the Revenge, Blackbeard’s power in the Atlantic only grew more powerful, allowing him and his crew to attack well-armed merchant ships with relative ease. By March of 1718, Blackbeard succeeded in enlarging his fleet further with the addition of five ships, and added at least two more to his flotilla by the end of the month.

Quick Fact #4: By May of 1718, Teach and his growing fleet of ships approached the port of Charles Town, South Carolina (now known as Charleston). With no guard ships in the harbor, Blackbeard and his pirate-crew blockaded the town, ransacking nine different vessels as they attempted to escape, and while simultaneously taking multiple colonists hostage. A few days later, Blackbeard moved eight ships into Charles Town harbor, causing widespread terror and panic to ensue in the city. After capturing medical supplies and loot, Blackbeard released each of his prisoners and set sale for Beaufort Inlet along the coast of North Carolina.

Artist rendering of Blackbeard.
Artist rendering of Blackbeard. | Source

Quick Facts Continued...

Quick Fact #5: After reaching Beaufort Inlet in May 1718, Blackbeard’s fleet was reduced to two ships after most of his flotilla ran aground in the shallow, rock-laden water there. While several of his pirate crew deserted Blackbeard in order to take advantage of a royal pardon that was in effect for all pirates that surrendered to British authorities, Blackbeard stripped the wrecked ships of all valuables and set sail for Ocracoke Island, marooning approximately twenty-five men in his hasty departure.

Quick Fact #6: The Ocracoke Inlet became one of Blackbeard’s favorite areas due to its perfect vantage spot. From here, Blackbeard and his crew could spot a variety of ships entering and exiting settlements across the northeast sector of Carolina. Several attempts by the nearby colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania were carried out to arrest or kill Blackbeard and his crew. However, each of these early attempts proved unsuccessful. With backing from Carolina’s governor (who was sharing in the spoils of Blackbeard’s looting and theft), Blackbeard and his crew continued to operate in the Carolinas with little hindrance. For several months, his crew harassed local ships, demanding high tolls and stealing large quantities of valuable materials from merchant ships operating in the area.

Quick Fact #7: After suffering from months of high tolls and theft along the Carolina coastline, a large group of Carolina planters appealed to the Lieutenant Governor of the Virginia Colony, Alexander Spotswood, to request assistance from the British Navy in dealing with Blackbeard and his men. After learning of Blackbeard’s location in the Carolinas from several informants (including a former pirate that had served with Teach and his men), Spotswood appealed directly to the British Crown for assistance in capturing Blackbeard. After garnering support from England (through the enaction of a substantial reward for his capture), Spotswood personally financed the expedition to capture Teach and his men, and ordered Captain Gordon and Captain Brand of the HMS Pearl and Lyme, respectively, to lead the campaign. Lieutenant Robert Maynard was also given command of two additional ships that would prove monumental in the upcoming battle with Blackbeard. On 17 November, the small fleet of ships arrived outside of Bath, Carolina (present-day North Carolina).

Quick Fact #8: After learning of Blackbeard’s location through a questioning of local ships, Maynard and his ships blockaded the only known entry points along Ocracoke inlet, and entered the shallow channel. By daybreak, a naval battle ensued, as Blackbeard’s newest ship, the Adventure, opened fire on the approaching fleet. As Maynard’s fleet forced Blackbeard into a narrow channel along Ocracoke’s beach, the Adventure suddenly ran aground on a sandbar. Before Maynard and his men could board the ship, however, Blackbeard’s crew unleashed a devastating barrage of cannon fire on their fleet, killing nearly a third of Maynard’s forces in the blink of an eye. As Maynard’s men recovered from the stunning blow, Blackbeard’s crew managed to escape the sandbar and hastily boarded Maynard’s remaining ships, using handmade grenades to cut down additional crew members. Teach and his men, however, were quickly outgunned and outmaneuvered by the highly trained British forces, who managed to surround him and his crew. Refusing to surrender, Blackbeard made one last attempt to attack Maynard directly, but was cut down by one of Maynard’s men with a sword. Suffering from a serious neck wound, Blackbeard continued to fight, but was quickly killed by Maynard’s crew, sustaining multiple sword and gunshot wounds. After the battle, Blackbeard’s head was cut off, and mounted atop Maynard’s ship so that all could see that the famous pirate was finally dead.

Blackbeard.
Blackbeard. | Source

Fun Facts About Blackbeard

Fun Fact #1: Blackbeard first became famous (as a pirate) when he seized over fifteen ships along the coasts of Pennsylvania and New York in the fall of 1717. Naturally, stories and myths began to swirl around Blackbeard and his origins, adding to his fearful image. To further propagate such stories, Blackbeard was known to place lighted fuses under his hat and beard to give himself a fiery and wilder look during sea battles. The fuses, in turn, would continuously spark and give off smoke. He also allowed his long beard to grow unruly upon his face, and would often dress in solid black before battles. Out of fear, most of Blackbeard’s victims often surrendered to the famous pirate without offering any sort of resistance.

Fun Fact #2: One of the most famous legends pertaining to Blackbeard is that he buried a massive amount of treasure along the Carolina coast. Although there is no proof to substantiate the legend, many believe that his treasure is located on Ocracoke Island. To this day, no treasure has been found, however.

Fun Fact #3: Blackbeard’s former ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was rediscovered in 1996 off the coast of Beaufort, North Carolina. The research team, headed by Intersal Inc., discovered the ship on 21 November. After fifteen years of study and inspection from various expeditions to the shipwreck, scholars were able to confirm with certainty that the ship matched Blackbeard’s flagship in 2011.

Fun Fact #4: Blackbeard’s flagship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was originally a slave ship known as the La Concorde. Scholars believe that hundreds of captured slaves were transported to Martinique and the Caribbean via this ship. In July of 1717, Blackbeard and his crew boarded the ship approximately one-hundred miles off the coast of Martinique where he forced the slaves ashore, and left the crew and officers on a smaller vessel.

Fun Fact #5: Some scholars believe that Blackbeard may have briefly retired from piracy in 1718, after accepting a pardon from Carolina’s Governor, Charles Eden. During this time, it is rumored that he even got married to a woman named Mary Osmond. Retirement proved too much for the famous pirate, however, as he quickly returned to his old lifestyle after only a brief period.

Fun Fact #6: Despite his violent reputation, Blackbeard actually preferred non-violence during his seizure of ships. Damaged ships were far less valuable than undamaged ones. To minimize potential losses, therefore, Blackbeard always tried to overcome his opponents through fear alone, by promising mercy to anyone that surrendered. For those who chose to fight, however, Blackbeard would often put these individuals to death in the most horrific manner possible. By working in this manner, stories of his mercy and ruthlessness spread through the testimonies of survivors that had encountered Blackbeard firsthand.

“If I didn’t shoot one or two now and then, they’d forget who I was.”

— Blackbeard

Famous Pirate Quotes

Quote #1: “It is a blessing for a man to have a hand in determining his own fate.” -- Blackbeard

Quote #2: “Let’s jump on board, and cut them to pieces.” -- Blackbeard

Quote #3: “Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you.” -- Blackbeard

Quote #4: “If I didn’t shoot one or two now and then, they’d forget who I was.” -- Blackbeard

Quote #5: “Yes, I do heartily repent. I repent I had not done more mischief; and that we did not cut the throats of them that took us, and I am extremely sorry that you aren’t hanged as well as we.” -- Anonymous Pirate

Poll

Do you believe Blackbeard buried treasure along the North Carolina coast?

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Conclusion

In closing, Blackbeard remains one of the most famous pirates in history due to his image, reputation, and exploits along the Atlantic coastline and the Caribbean. Although little is known about this fascinating pirate, scholars are continuously unlocking the mysteries that surround Blackbeard and his career. With the discovery of the Queen Anne’s Revenge in 1996, historians have gained access to approximately 250,000 additional artefacts that were previously unavailable to the scholarly community (many of which have been put on display at the “North Carolina Maritime Museum”). Only time will tell what new information can be learned about Blackbeard and his famous crew. Until then, Blackbeard’s legend and reputation continues to live on.

Works Cited:

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Blackbeard.” Encylopaedia Britannica, Inc. 10 January 2019. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Blackbeard. (accessed May 3, 2019).

Defoe, Daniel (Captain Charles Johnson). A General History of the Pyrates. Edited by Manuel Schonhorn. Mineola: Dover Publications, 1972/1999.

Wikipedia contributors, "Blackbeard," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blackbeard&oldid=893284889 (accessed May 3, 2019).

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Larry Slawson

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      • Miebakagh57 profile image

        Miebakagh Fiberesima 

        2 months ago from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA.

        Hi, Larry, reading such a good read. Thanks for sharing.

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