Blackbeard


Blackbeard was certainly one of the most notorious pirates of his time. Born Edward Drummond around 1680 in Bristol, England, according to history books. He assumed the surname Teach, also spelled Thatch, Tache or Tatch, as a pirate. His more well-known nickname Blackbeard, came from his dark, bushy whiskers. He served the British crown on Jamaican ships raiding French and Spanish ships during the War of Spanish Succession (1702- 1713 ).

He enlisted with Benjamin Hornigold in 1716 at New Providence Island. On one excursion, Blackbeard was given command of a captured sloop. Hornigold and Blackbeard plundered several ships off the American coast and in the Caribbean in 1717. Toward the end of the year, they seized a large well built ship that had been trading between Africa and Martinique. After dividing their plunder, Hornigold and Blackbeard went their own ways. Blackbeard keeping the prize ship and renaming her "Queen Anne's Revenge".

Blackbeard armed her with 40 cannon then captured and burned a large British merchantman near Saint Vincent. He then took several sloops off Crab Island and Saint Kitts with a crew of around 300. Blackbeard was very charismatic, a natural born leader. His crew was highly disciplined and Blackbeard was shown the utmost respect as were his officers. He was a skilled navigator, literate, and physically impressive. In January 1718, he arrived at Bath, North Carolina. He was given a pardon by Governor Charles Eden after he swore an oath to give up piracy. At Bath Blackbeard found a new window of opportunity. He sold pirate loot, finding that the locals would pay a higher price for the goods than the fences he was accustomed to using.

In March, 1718 Blackbeard sailed for the Bay of Honduras. He met Stede Bonnet along the way. Then took Bonnet's ship the "Revenge" and made Bonnet his guest against Bonnet's will. A member of Blackbeard's crew by the name of Richards was given command of Bonnet's ship. Not long after Bonnet's impressment, Blackbeard captured the sloop "Adventure" putting Israel Hands in charge of her. Captain David Herriot had been in charge of the "Adventure" and decided to join Blackbeard's crew after losing his ship. Blackbeard would soon add another sloop, the name not known. This brought his fleet to 4 sloops. With this he looted several ships in the Bay of Honduras. He then struck north where he would take several more prizes.

In May of 1718 Blackbeard blockaded Charleston, South Carolina and plundered around 9 ships. One of the prizes carried several high-ranking citizens of Charleston as well as 1,500 in coinage. He informed the governor that ransom was demanded for the prisoners. He demanded a medicine chest and certain drugs ( Venereal disease was a common affliction among pirates ) worth less than 400. His demands were met and all the prisoners were released unharmed.

Blackbeard next made his way to North Carolina going by way of the Topsail Inlet ( Beaufort Inlet ). He ran his ships "Adventure" and "Queen Anne's Revenge" aground striking a sandbar. It is speculated that he did this deliberately to cut down on the number of crewmen before splitting up their booty. Some of the crew were upset at Blackbeard's tactics and voiced their opinion. The riotous men were marooned on the sandbar. Blackbeard gave the ship "Revenge" back to Bonnet. Blackbeard then sailed away in the fourth unnamed sloop with about 40 men and the loot.

Blackbeard arrived back at Bath where he was welcomed as an important member of the community. He received a second pardon from Governor Eden. At Bath, he purchased a house across from the governor's house and anchored his sloop at Ocracoke Island. He then married Mary Ormond the 16 year old daughter of a wealthy plantation owner.(Blackbeard was said to have had many wives.) At the celebration Blackbeard was wined and dined by the local gentry. He would show his appreciation by lavishly entertaining them in return. Blackbeard would stay at Bath for several months.

He then went to Philadelphia where a warrant was issued for his arrest. Blackbeard left Philadelphia, sailing for Bermuda where he seized 2 French ships. One of the ships was loaded with coca and sugar, the other ship empty. Blackbeard released the French crew giving them the empty ship. He took his prize back to Bath, arriving there in September. At Bath, Governor Eden and Tobias Knight, the colony's chief justice declared the French ship a derelict. Blackbeard was allowed to keep the cargo after burning the ship. For their fee, Governor Eden received 60 barrels of sugar, Tobias Knight received 20. In October 1718, Blackbeard was visited at Ocracoke by Charles Vane. The two enjoyed a drunken feast.

Meanwhile, the governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood had become wary of the pirates settled to his south. During the trial of William Howard (Blackbeard's former quartermaster), Howard testified to some of Blackbeard's crimes. Governor Spotswood coveting Blackbeard's supposed riches seized the opportunity to dispatch 2 sloops to attack Ocracoke. He further sent forces overland to attack in tandem with the two sloops commanded by Robert Maynard. On December 2, 1718, Maynard arrived at Ocracoke with about 60 men. They attacked Blackbeard's force of about 20 the following morning. Maynard's force tried to board Blackbeard's vessel as they had no cannon. Supposedly Blackbeard raised a glass and toasted Maynard with the oath:

"Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you."

Maynard trying to close in ran both his ships aground on a sandbar. Blackbeard fired a broadside, disabling one of Maynard's sloops and killing about 20 of Maynard's men. Maynard tried to close again after hiding his men below deck. Blackbeard's men threw grenades when Maynard's ship closed, but they were ineffective as only Maynard's pilot and helmsman were on deck. Blackbeard grappled and boarded with about 12 others. Then Maynard's force swarmed on deck and commenced to fight hand to hand. Blackbeard and Maynard met in personal combat. Blackbeard was shot by Maynard but the ball had no visible effect. Maynard's cutlass stopping a powerful blow from Blackbeard snapped at the hilt. When Blackbeard moved in to finish Maynard a British seaman attacked him from behind wounding Blackbeard in the throat and neck. Blackbeard continued to swing his cutlass as blood was spurting from his neck. But his efforts were in vain as he was then encircled by Maynard's men. In all he received five pistol shots and 20 severe sword wounds before finally succumbing.

Maynard soon after decapitated Blackbeard, displaying his head on the prow of his ship. Spotswood's dreams of riches were unfulfilled as only a small amount of booty was collected from Blackbeard's haven. Many have searched the area for supposed buried treasure only to find nothing. It is doubtful that Blackbeard ever had any treasure to bury as he never took a prize of much value and that which he took was more than likely spent on his lavish lifestyle.