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The Death of the Pirate Blackbeard

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

Blackbeard was very demonic in appearance while he battled.

Blackbeard was very demonic in appearance while he battled.

Blackbeard's Reign of Terror

On the day Edward Teach was born, around 1680 in Bristol, England, few would have imagined that the baby would someday become the infamous Blackbeard, who would terrorize the Caribbean and other seas.

Part of what made him such a successful pirate is that he had a presence that few could match. Not only did he have a large build, but he also dressed in black with guns and swords strewn across his body and adorned his long black beard with threads of hemp that he would light on fire.

He had a demonic presence when he stormed aboard a ship with a glowing beard, a large, dark appearance, and much weaponry, all of which instilled fear in those who saw him in action.

From 1716 to 1718, he mainly sailed in the Caribbean. He was so feared that few ships ever put up a fight once they saw him. He could pillage whatever they had aboard, whether weapons, medicine, liquor, or even food. Although few put up a fight, this did not mean Teach did not know how to fight. He could kill an entire ship, which he would do if they tried to resist his acts of piracy.

One of the pirate's most infamous moments was in April 1718, when he imprisoned a few men north of the Charleston harbor. He kept them for ransom, asking for medicine from a nearby town. It was not because he was sick; instead, because medicine was as valuable as gold at the time. He earned his bounty a week later and gave up the men.

Although he was able to stay pretty evasive for a couple of years, his downfall came soon after teaming up with Charles Eden, the governor of North Carolina. The governor was crooked, making him a good ally for Edward. He even gave the infamous Blackbeard an official pardon for his crimes. In return, Eden received some of Teach's plunder.

On one occasion, Blackbeard attacked a ship and stole cocoa and sugar. When he brought it to the governor, Teach claimed it was aboard an abandoned ship. No one believed this lie, but they feared Eden and Blackbeard too much to challenge the story. Eden turned a blind eye and instead rewarded him for his find.

Blackbeard became comfortable with Eden and set up not far from the town he resided. His easy trackability is what would eventually become Blackbeard's downfall.

The governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, was not afraid of Blackbeard and hired Lieutenant Robert Maynard to capture and kill him.

The governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, was not afraid of Blackbeard and hired Lieutenant Robert Maynard to capture and kill him.

Governor Alexander Spotswood Commissions Death

Many people grew weary of Blackbeard's raids, causing anxiety amongst merchants, sailors, and business owners. With Blackbeard and Eden teamed up, they seemed unstoppable until Alexander Spotswood became aware of the incidents. Spotswood, governor of Virginia, knew Eden was a crooked man and was not afraid of challenging him or Blackbeard, unlike many others. Therefore, he began a mission to end the pirate and his tirades.

Spotswood bought two war sloops, originally named the Pearl and the Lyme. He arranged for 50 soldiers and sailors to board these ships along with Lieutenant Robert Maynard. Being more experienced in such things, Maynard explained that the war sloops would not chase Blackbeard into shallow inlets, so Spotswood provided two smaller ships, the Ranger and the Jane.

Fortunately for Spotswood and his men, Blackbeard was not very secretive about where his haunts were, and he was easy to track down.

Blackbeard Climbing Aboard

Blackbeard used many scare tactics when hopping aboard a ship, which would cause so much fear that few put up a fight.

Blackbeard used many scare tactics when hopping aboard a ship, which would cause so much fear that few put up a fight.

Lieutenant Robert Maynard Attacks

When Maynard was hired, Blackbeard was staying at his favorite hideout off Ocracoke Island, nicknamed Teach's Hole. Blackbeard chose this Hole as his hideaway because it was a very shallow inlet and difficult for others to chase him. Plus, he owned shallow-bottomed ships, perfect for this area.

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He hosted a wild party like he did most days when he was not sailing. Heavy drinking, dancing, and large bonfires lasted for days. During this particular party, some of the citizens in North Carolina reported Teach's whereabouts to Alexander Spotswood. Spotswood soon sent Lieutenant Robert Maynard on the infamous attack that would take Blackbeard's life.

On November 17, 1718, Maynard began his quest with his men down the James River. They arrived near Ocracoke Island on the evening of November 21, where they first saw the pirate. Maynard was very purposeful and patient and knew they needed to wait until the next day to attack.

Due to Blackbeard's wild parties, most of his men were on shore that day. Those with him were most likely drunk from the night before. Maynard sailed forward as soon as the lights came up and got stuck in the sandbar. Once trapped, the pirates spotted them. Blackbeard sent some shots through his cannon, killing six of Maynard's men and wounding ten more.

They sent those who survived below the deck to deceive Teach of how many men were aboard the ships. Maynard and two others remained on deck, holding weapons. He hoped they would not be viewed as a threat, and Blackbeard would approach with very few men himself.

The rising tide came in in a stroke of good luck, which sent Maynard's sloops free. They were able to continue towards the Adventure, Blackbeard's ship.

Since Blackbeard saw that the deck was almost empty of survivors, he approached with only ten of his men. He assumed his guns had killed the majority of the crew. Once aboard, the sailors came up from below, and a brawl began.

Maynard and Blackbeard fought one another with their swords. Teach only managed to harm Maynard's finger, which caused him to drop his sword. He jumped back and shot his gun at Blackbeard, which was not a deadly blow. Blackbeard shot back but missed. Maynard was able to grab his sword, but Teach struck the hilt of the lieutenant's blade, busting it in half. With Maynard injured and weaponless, things progressed quickly.


The Death of Blackbeard

Suddenly, a British sailor crept behind the pirate without warning, slitting his throat. Blackbeard taunted him, saying, "Well done, lad," as blood spurted from his throat. Then the sailor struck the deadly blow, which decapitated the infamous pirate. According to Maynard, Edward Teach received five shots and 20 cuts before he died and did not slow until his head was cut clean off.

Once dead, his head was displayed proudly on the bowsprit of the Adventure, which they took as proof of the pirate's death. They hoped to receive a plentiful bounty.

Although he was infamous in life, he became a legend in death. Many ghost stories have arisen from his gruesome end.

Blackbeard's Revenge: A Ghost Story

After his beheading, supposedly, as they threw his body overboard, his head shouted, "Come on! Edward!" His body then circled (though some argued it swam) around the ship three times before sinking to the bottom.

The legend says his body still haunts Teach's Hole, searching for his missing head. Some have reported seeing his headless ghost floating on the water's surface, swimming around in circles, and glowing just below the water's surface.

There have been rumors of his body occasionally rising from the water, holding a lantern, and coming to the shore looking for his head. The light from the lamp is sometimes seen glowing from the coast on the Pamlico Sound side of Ocracoke Island, which locals call "Teach's light." When the light appears, people supposedly have heard him yelling, "Where's my head?"

Though the ghost stories are probably false, the story of his life is real.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


Tim from Los Angeles, CA on December 11, 2012:

Very informative Hub! I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would about Blackbeard!

Dianna Mendez on September 27, 2012:

I caught this earlier, but wanted to stop in again to leave a comment on how much I enjoyed the history of this notorious pirate. Great post and information on this legendary figure.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on September 25, 2012:

Wow, I thought I read all of his legends, many I have not included, but I had not heard about his skull turning into a goblet. Interesting. I like it!

Natasha from Hawaii on September 25, 2012:

I liked that you included the legend that his body swam around the boat three times before sinking. I try to convince kids of that all the time, but they never want to believe me...You know, legend also has it his skull was turned into a goblet! It went missing after being hung in the Hampton Rhodes harbor and some say his followers took it and transformed in into a drinking vessel. Cheerful stuff!

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