Let us leave Africa behind. The most famous pirate of them all was Blackbeard. I am wondering how many of you realize that many of Blackbeard's dastardly deeds took place right here in the Americas.
At the end of the 17th century, wars were ending in Europe and one time privateers -- essentially pirates who worked for governments -- were finding themselves without gainful employment. Blackbeard fits that category.
Little is known about Blackbeard, but his legend is strong. Historians do not know for sure if he was born in Jamaica or, more likely, if he came from Bristol, England. They believe that his name was Edward Teach. This was the golden age of pirates and many of them, including Blackbeard, preyed on merchant ships. Popular pirate routes were waters in the Caribbean and those off the Atlantic coast of North America.
What is a pirate without a ship? Initially, Blackbeard captured a French ship off the coast of Africa. He rechristened the "Concorde" as the "Queen Anne's Revenge" and it became his flag ship. The pirate crew numbered three hundred and the ship had an arsenal of forty guns.
Blackbeard (Teach), to make his job easier, cultivated the image of a cut-throat brute. He realized that the crews on merchant ships were more likely to surrender peacefully if he was fearsome. To augment his brutal reputation, Teach went into battle with cords or fuses tied into his beard. These were lit so his whole head was smoking. He must have looked like the devil himself.
In 1718, Blackbeard vanished. There is no record of that missing time. But, not to fear, he resurfaced when he led a fleet of eight ships into Charleston harbor, in the Americas. Remember we were British colonies back then. The pirate blockaded the port for weeks and held some of the town's leading citizens for ransom. Teach did not want gold, silver or jewels -- typical booty -- he wanted medicine. Finally, Blackbeard aimed all of his guns on the town and, at that time, the medicine was delivered to his ship.
Legend is that 300 years ago, Blackbeard lived in a house in Beaufort, North Carolina. The house is still standing and it is known as "the Hammock House." It is a ghostly story that you can read if you click on the house below.
Blackbeard arrived at Ocracoke Island on the outer banks of North Carolina. His initial plan was to retire and to receive a pardon from the king. He had too many pirates in tow to achieve that goal. Being clever, Teach ran Queen Anne's Revenge aground. At that time, he divested himself of many of the excess pirates and he took more than his share of the booty. Teach, and a few of his pirates, sailed on to Bath Towne where the governor pardoned the famous pirate.
Blackbeard lived the celebrity life of a retired pirate. He even got married to a young woman and turned over a new leaf -- becoming a smuggler instead of a pirate. His operation was based at Ocracoke Island. Problem is, it is hard to take the pirate out of the man and, within a short while, Blackbeard was back to his old ways. He had a new ship and Teach was committing acts of piracy and his celebrity had turned Ocracoke Island into a pirate's den. Townspeople were very afraid. Pirates from all over were coming ashore just to party with the big guy.
The British Navy was responsive and they decided to deal with Blackbeard and the pirates. In 1718, Lieutenant Maynard and fifty-eight men engaged in a battle with Blackbeard and twenty pirates. Blackbeard died in the battle. He was shot and stabbed several times. Maynard then beheaded the famous pirate and hung the head on the ship for public display. Perhaps the last legend of Blackbeard -- and I believe it for sure -- is that the pirate's headless torso, when it was tossed in the water, swam around the ship seven times before it sank down into the depths of the ocean.
The legend of Blackbeard is still alive at Ocracoke Island in North Carolina. You can imagine that there are many tourists who are fascinated by this most famous of all pirates who was operating in the land that would become America. Click on Blackbeard's flag to visit Ocracoke Island today, where Blackbeard lives on.
In 1952, Hollywood took on the legend of Blackbeard. Robert Newton's accent has shaped our perception of "pirate-speak" for more than half a century. You might get a kick out of the film trailer.
Also, there is an underwater recovery operation taking place. It began around 1996 and divers have reclaimed thousands of artifacts in Beaufort Inlet. It is believed that these are from the Queen Anne's Revenge. Below is a video of divers reclaiming one of Blackbeard's cannons.
Finally, if you would like to read the previous post on the pirates of Africa, please click on the buccaneer below.
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspections