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