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Blackbeard the Pirate
1680? - 1718
 

 


With three hundred years between his birth and present day, it is hard to distinguish the difference between fact and myth when the subject is the man known as Blackbeard the pirate.

Born in or around 1680 in Bristol, England, Blackbeard’s birth name was Edward Drummond. He adopted a name during his pirating years but historians have been unable to decide exactly what Blackbeard’s chosen name was. Some say Teach while others say Thatch, Thach or Thatche. He acquired the nickname Blackbeard because of his bushy set of pitch-black whiskers that he braided into tails and tied in slow burning matches when entering battle. Legend states he was a huge man but recorded eyewitness accounts tell of a “Very spare man with an exceptionally long, wide black beard.”

Blackbeard is said to have served as a privateer during the Queen Anne Wars (1702-1713) but historians even argue over this, as little can be documented before he began his pirating career.

The first written record of Blackbeard occurs in a report written by Captain Matthew Musson after the wreck of his own ship. His report stated that he had been on Catt Island in the Bahamas and he had seen various pirates who made the island a rendezvous point. The name “Thatch” was one mentioned. This particular report was dated July 5, 1717. Since he was described as the commander of his own ship at that time, it is more than likely he had been sailing as a pirate for quite some time.

The next record of Blackbeard was by Henry Bostock, master of the sloop Margaret. He told of how he was taken by Blackbeard off Crab Island on December 5, 1717. After staying on board Blackbeard’s ship, the “Queen Anne’s Revenge” for several hours, Bostock was able to give authorities a clue as to the make (Dutch), size, armament (thirty-six guns) and number of men (three hundred) aboard the ship.

Blackbeard’s ship had originally been the 200 ton French slaver “Concord” out of Nantes, France. Historians believe Blackbeard overtook the Concord near St. Vincent, which is just west of Barbados on November 17, 1717. The Concord was on her way with a cargo hold full of slaves to Martinique under the command of Captain Pierre Dosset.

Blackbeard took command of the Concord and traveled to the island of Bequia where they refitted and renamed her. Oddly enough, Blackbeard was in command of two ships when he boarded the Concord. While the average reputation of a pirate would be to keep all the spoils and kill those who would defend them, Blackbeard turned the small of his two original ships over to the crew of the Concord. He also left them their cargo of slaves to transport as well.

In the early part of 1718, Blackbeard was seen in the Western Caribbean where he captured the sloop “Adventure” and a large merchant ship, the “Protestant Caesar.” It is said the Protestant Caesar had escaped an earlier run in with Blackbeard and he was determined to make sure her captain couldn’t brag about having bested the pirate. After hunting the Protestant Caesar down, Blackbeard burned her.

Also in 1718 Blackbeard, with about four hundred men, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, and three other sloops orchestrated an amazing raid upon Charleston, South Carolina. His ships set up a blockade of Charleston Harbor for five days, boarding and plundering any ships that came into the harbor and in essence, held the entire town for ransom. With many of the most influential inhabitants of Charleston as prisoners, Blackbeard negotiated the lives of the prisoners for a chest of medicines. Knowing Blackbeard’s reputation, the authorities paid the chest of medicine as well as between 1,000 and 1,500 British pounds in gold and silver.

Blackbeard’s luck changed on June 10, 2001 when the Queen Anne’s Revenge was run aground while trying to enter the Topsail Inlet (now known as Beaufort Inlet) near Charleston. In an attempt to get her back out to sea, the Adventure went aground as well. Unable to salvage either ship, Blackbeard transferred some of his men and goods to the Royal James while marooning many of his other men.

Leaving Topsail Inlet, Blackbeard headed to Ocracoke where he settled for several months. There are records of him taking the King’s pardon in Bath, which was the central government seat at the time in North Carolina
. Some say Blackbeard intentionally ran the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground to downsize his fleet and number of men. That he was already looking towards retirement.

Officially retired, Blackbeard built a home on Plum Point on Ocracoke Island. Local legend has it the home was directly across from that of Colonial Governor Charles Eden. While the house has disappeared into legend, archaeologists have indeed found remains of a brick foundation in the area with artifacts that would date from the time of Blackbeard.

Blackbeard’s retirement didn’t last long. Armed with an unwritten agreement made with Governor Eden, Blackbeard often preyed upon the tobacco rich vessels that originated from Virginia. His raids proved to be financially difficult for many of the wealthy Virginians including Governor Alexander Spotswood.

Since Governor Eden wouldn’t take action, Spotswood sent Lt. Robert Maynard with two sloops to kill or capture Blackbeard and on November 22, 1718 they came upon the pirates. At first taking a beating by the pirate’s broadside shots, Maynard planned an inspired bluff that Blackbeard fell for.

With the exception of himself and two other seamen, Maynard had his men hide below decks and allowed Blackbeard and his men to board Maynard’s ship. Once on board, the pirates were surprised as the ship’s full crew began emerging from their hiding places.

Blackbeard lost the battle that day but put up a valiant fight. During the hand-to-hand fight, he was shot five times and suffered twenty-five stab wounds. Eyewitness accounts tell of how Maynard himself had engaged Blackbeard and was wounded. As he fell back others jumped into the fray until finally an unknown highlander with a broadsword struck Blackbeard’s neck. After complimenting the highlander on the stroke, the unknown man is reported to have said, “If it be not well done, I’ll do it better.” He then cut Blackbeard’s head off with one stroke of the sword.

While the body was dumped into the sea, Blackbeard’s head was hung below the bowspirit of Maynard’s sloop as a warning to all other pirates. It was also his proof of Blackbeard’s death required to receive the reward money the government had placed upon the pirate.

Today there is a silver plated skull in the Maritime Museum located in Newport News, Virginia. Legend says it is that of Blackbeard and that it had been silver plated to be used as a drinking cup.

 

 

 

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This web page was last updated on: 09 December, 2008