As seen on the first page there has been a major find from Blackbeards Pirate Shipwreck, the Queen Annes Revenge. The researchers were searching in about 20 feet of water. Conservation of the anchor may take up to 4 years to complete. There is an exhibit starting June 11, 2011 at N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort.
‘Edward Thatch’ or ‘Edward Teach’, commonly referred to as “Blackbeard”, was born in 1680. He was a notorious English pirate and one of the most remembered pirates in history. He mostly sailed in the Caribbean Seas and Western Atlantic Ocean, around the 18th century, which is also called the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’. His famous ship was called “Queen Anne’s Revenge” and historians believe that it went aground in 1718 near North Carolina in a place called ‘Beaufort Inlet’.
Although, not too much information is available about the early life and family of ‘Blackbeard’, but it is believed that he was born in 1680 at Bristol, in Britain. It is also believed that his father was also part of ‘the privateers’ as a senior sailor, near Jamaica from 1688 to 1697, during the ‘Nine Year’s War’ or ‘the Grand Alliance War’. His first biographer, Captain Charles Johnson, whole real identity is unknown but is thought to be the famous novelist Daniel Defoe, writes that Blackbeard became a pirate at a young age, and gave services in a British Ship during the Spanish War of Succession. He was involved in privateering near the Spanish West Indies and the Spanish Main, which included areas of Florida, Mexico and Central America.
As the war ended, and the British distanced themselves from it, most of the privateers became pirates. Blackbeard started his time as a pirate under Captain Benjamin Hornigold, a former British privateer. But soon Captain Hornigold decided to quit piracy and received pardon from King George I. Blackbeard continued his life as a pirate and was made the Captain of Hornigold’s first stolen ship, La Concorde; it was later named ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’.
Blackbeard the Pirate:
His biographer, Charles Johnson who also wrote the book, ‘A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirate’, states that as Edward Teach or Blackbeard continued his life as a pirate, his encounter with the British ship, HMS Scarborough, a 30-canon Man-Of-War, added to his notoriety. Man-of-war was a powerful vessel, and was considered as the most powerful ship from 16th to the 19th Century. But there is little evidence of this event, as both the log and the official letters of the captain of HMS Scarborough do not mention any encounter with Blackbeard. Historian and biographer Colin Woodard suggests that Captain Charles Johnson mixed up two historical events that occurred around the same period. Woodard gives evidence that HMS Scarborough’s fight with John Martel’s crew, and Blackbeard’s conflict with a warship named HMS Seaford, were the real events that were misreported.
It is believed that Blackbeard and his men used to loot and plunder every ship that they overtook. The most precious prizes used to be weapons, food and liquor which were snatched from merchant ships. But despite his cruel portrayal, there is no evidence suggesting that he ever killed a person. He deliberately tried to portray himself as ruthless and cruel in nature and barbaric in habits, as his biggest weapon was fear, through which he conquered others’ hearts.
Meanwhile the newspapers continuously published his deeds of cruelty, with one story describing his words, “if he didn’t shoot one or two crewmen now and then, they’d forget who he was”, after he shot his first mate. Another story about him says that one day, when he was really drunk asked his crew, “Come, let us make a hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it.” They went into their ships’ hatches and fastened them and started to burn several pots of brimstone. Soon after most crew members were desperately gasping for air, but none except Blackbeard came out, and said to them, “Damn ye, ye yellow-bellied sapsuckers! I’m a better man than all ye milksops put together!”
Marriages of Blackbeard:
Captain Charles Johnson, the biographer of Blackbeard states in his book, A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates:
‘Before he sailed upon his adventures, he married a young creature of about sixteen years of age . . . and this I have been informed, made Teach’s fourteenth wife . . . with whom after he had lain all night, it was his custom to invite five or six of his brutal companions to come ashore, and he would force her to prostitute herself to them all, one after another, before his face.’
But historians have not been able to confirm if she was his fourteenth wife, as there is no information available about the other thirteen. As Blackbeard spent most of his adult life on the sea; therefore, he had short time to marry continuously, moreover, there exist no accounts of his other marriages. Some of the stories related to Blackbeard also show his kind attitude to common people, which endangers the authenticity of the above story about his mistreatment of his teenage wife.
Blockade of Charleston, his greatest achievement:
The event which really heightened the fame of Blackbeard as a notorious pirate is his blockade of the city of Charleston in South Carolina. Blackbeard attacked the harbor of Charleston at the end of May 1778, with Queen Anne’s Revenge and three smaller ships. He looted five merchant ships which were either entering or leaving the harbor. After the entrance of Queen Anne’s Revenge, no more vessels dared to enter Charleston for fear of getting plundered.
Among one of the ships which Blackbeard and his crew had captured in Charleston harbor, they found many well known citizens of the city of Charleston which included Samuel Wragg. Blackbeard held these people as hostages and asked for an unlikely ransom, a chest of medicines. Blackbeard dispatched an envoy to Charleston city, in order to make negotiations. But historians state that as the envoy was more inclined towards drinking, the settlement took some time. Blackbeard had even planned to kill the hostages, when the medicines were delivered, after which he let go the prisoners after taking their clothes off.
After some time had passed, Blackbeard ran two of the vessels, Queen Anne’s Revenge and Adventure, aground at Topsail Inlet, nowadays known as Beaufort Inlet. Many believe, which include most of his crew members, that he committed this act deliberately, in order to get rid of some of crew so that he would get a bigger share of treasure. Killing fellow pirates in order to increase personal share in treasure was a common practice in those days; therefore, there is strong possibility that he did it on purpose. After leaving behind most of crew and losing two ships, Blackbeard visited Bath, North Carolina where he received a pardon as under the Royal Act of Grace. Blackbeard later visited Ocracoke Inlet with his remaining four ships in order to enjoy the remaining loot.
Death of Blackbeard:
After receiving the pardon, Blackbeard had decided to retire from piracy, but the Governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, got alarmed due to presence of the notorious pirate in close areas. Although, Blackbeard lived in an area which did not fall under his jurisdiction, but still Spotswood made the decision to kill Blackbeard. As Blackbeard was hard to defeat with a large vessel, so Spotswood sent a sloop, a small sail-boat, under Lieutenant Robert Maynard with the instructions to kill Blackbeard. A reward of 100 pounds was offered to Maynard, with smaller amounts promised to the rest of the crew.
James Maynard started his fleet from James River on November 11, 1718, with thirty men from the HMS Pearl, one midshipman and twenty five crew members from the HMS Lyme, and two sloops. These were commissioned as Her Majesty’s Ships so that he could not be charged for piracy himself. Upon the evening of November 21, He and his party found Blackbeard and his crew members anchored near North Carolina. Maynard and his company waited for the next sunrise to kill Blackbeard and the rest of the pirates. The Admiralty reported that Blackbeard had a crew of only nineteen people comprising ‘Thirteen white and six negroes’. Although Blackbeard and his crewmen had been drinking the whole night, but his superior knowledge about the inlet did not allow his enemies to attack. Maynard sent a small boat, but soon had to retreat. Afterwards, Blackbeard waited for his opponents to make the move, but they hesitated. Teach decided to sail to a narrow channel, but was followed by Maynard. According to Maynard’s records, both the enemies had a heated exchange of words, in his own speech, “At our first salutation, he drank Damnation to me and my Men, whom he stil’d Cowardly Puppies, saying, He would neither give nor take Quarter”.
As the wind was steady, Maynard successfully chased Adventure along with his sloops, but he was struck with a surprise broadside attack. This attack resulted in six men killed including the mid-ship crew member, while ten others were injured. But Maynard continued his pursuit in Ranger and forced the Adventure to go ashore. As Maynard commanded his people to go into the cabins and get ready to be boarded, Blackbeard saw this as an opportunity to attack with his men. As Blackbeard started the assault by throwing grenades, made by putting gunpowder into empty rum bottles, smoke and broken glass obscured Maynard’s vision.
The events that followed have been described by disputing accounts, but the most reliable source was the story by Boston-Newsletter, while other direct sources were Maynard and his crew member’s letters.
Maynard and Teach themselves begun the fight with their swords, Maynard making a thrust, the point of his sword against Teach’s cartridge box, and bent it to the hilt. Teach broke the guard of it, and wounded Maynard’s fingers but did not disable him, whereupon he jumped back and threw away his sword and fired his pistol which wounded Teach. Abraham Demelt struck in between them with his sword and cut Teach’s face; in the interim both companies engaged in Maynard’s sloop. Later during the battle, while Teach was loading his pistol he finally died from blood loss. Maynard then cut off his head and hung it from his bow.
After desperate fight, plans were formulated that Adventure would be blown to pieces, but eventually, Blackbeard and his men were killed. There are many stories about the way Blackbeard was killed; it is reported that he was shot five times and was stabbed nearly twenty five times before his death was confirmed. Edward Teach’s head was placed as a trophy on the bowsprit of the ship, so that Maynard could claim his prize. While legend has it that his headless corpse was thrown overboard, and it swam nearly seven times around Adventure before sinking for good.
After this raging battle, which injured many, Maynard returned to receive his prize of 100 pounds. The head of Blackbeard was then hung on a pole along the north side of the Hampton River in Virginia as a warning to those who desired to become a pirate.
Blackbeard was mostly seen in a big feathered tricorne, a popular hat that had three corners. He had many swords, pistols, cutlasses and knives in his dress, so that he always was in a position to defend and attack. Captain Charles Johnson describes in A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, that Blackbeard had a hemp, and in order to instill fear into his enemies, he used to light matches in his enormous black beard. After all these years, the image of Blackbeard has become a standard picture of a pirate in the minds of the common man.
The only major book which records the life and habits of Edward Teach, or Blackbeard was written by Captain Charles Johnson in 1732, known as, A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates. Many also think of Captain Johnson as none other than Daniel Defoe, the famous fiction novelist who wrote Robinson Crusoe. This book describes several experiences and events that occurred in Blackbeard’s life, but historians believe that this book is a blend of fact and fiction, and it is quite hard to distinguish between the two.
A real problem is faced, as there is no concrete information that can be supported by evidence about Blackbeard’s early life and family. His appearance also seems to have been stated rather dramatically in a manner which is attributed to Defoe. The mentioned event of the confrontation with HMS Scarborough is also supported with weak evidence, but his blockade of Charleston has been confirmed by many sources.
Although, very few facts are known about his married life, it is believed that he had fourteen wives, out of which a wife and a son lived in England.
Blackbeard, the legend:
Over the years the character of Edward Teach has been dramatized and romanticized. His attributes and habits have inspired many artists to depict him in paintings, while writers and film makers have also based many books and films upon Blackbeard. People in Hampton, Virginia annually celebrate the Blackbeard Festival, while the present crew members of the HMS Ranger, a British warship, celebrate his defeat at the annual Surrey University Royal Naval Unit Blackbeard Night mess dinner.
Like most fictional pirates, Blackbeard had the habit of burying treasures. It is remarked that he used to accompany one sailor when he went ashore to bury his treasure chest, but returned alone leaving the dead sailor over the chest so that new treasure seekers would be discouraged. After reading such accounts, many people in America, even during the American Revolution, used to dig along beaches in pursuit of any hidden treasure chest. In the year 1996, a ship wreck was discovered near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina and is thought to be the great Queen Anne’s Revenge. Nowadays tourists and treasure hunters have turned this place into a tourist attraction.
Books and Comics based on Blackbeard:
Many writers have written novels and created comics based on the character of Edward Teach. Fictional accounts and imaginary events have been shown in these books to captivate the imagination of the readers.
Some of the famous literary works which include Blackbeard include ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster’ by Stephen Vincent Benet and Neal Stephenson’s series ‘The Baroque Cycle’, while many comics and books have references and similar characters as to Blackbeard. The famous novel, ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson also contains two instances where Blackbeard is referred to. While Stevenson’s ‘The Master of Ballantrae’ also contains a pirate with the name of Teach, but it is not depicted as Blackbeard.
Films based on Blackbeard:
Many filmmakers have also released movies which were based on the notorious pirate Blackbeard. ‘Blackbeard’ (2008), ‘Blackbeard the Pirate’ (1952), ‘Blackbeard’s Ghost’ (1968) and ‘Yellowbeard’ (2006) have been some of the more popular films based on Edward Teach.
The blockbuster movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean – At World’s End’ (2007) also contains a character called, ‘Captain Teague’ played by Keith Richards. Although ,the name is different, it is thought to be a tribute to the legendary pirate. The depiction of Davy Jones, with his large tentacles also reminds us of ‘Blackbeard’.
Blackbeards Sword Hilt
Blackbeard mortar pestle
Blackbeard fleur de lis
Blackbeard chart divider