What Everyone Should Know About Blackbeard the Pirate

Submitted by David M. Ullian


Edward Teach (c. 1680[1]November 22, 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate in the Caribbean Sea during the early 18th century, a period of time referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy. His best known vessel was the Queen Anne's Revenge, which is believed [citation needed] to have run aground near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina in 1718.

The General History claims that he had as many as fourteen wives, most of them common-law, but documentation is lacking. His last wife was Mary Ormond (or Ormand) of Bath, North Carolina, to whom he was married for only a short while.[citation needed] A painting of him hangs in Van Der Veer House (ce. 1790), in Bath.

Blackbeard often fought, or simply showed himself, wearing a big feathered tricorn, and having multiple swords, knives, and pistols at his disposal. It was reported in theGeneral History of the Pirates that he had hemp and lighted matches woven into his enormous black beard during battle. Accounts of people who saw him fighting[citation needed] say that they thought he "looked like the devil" with his fearsome face and the smoke cloud around his head. This image, which he cultivated, has made him the premier image of the seafaring pirate.

 
 
 
 
 
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Blackbeard's real name is not definitely known, though he was generally called Edward Teach. Nevertheless, he is referred to in some documents as Edward Thatch or even Edward Drummond. He is thought to have been born in Bristol, but some writers claim New York, California, Philadelphia, or even Denmark as his home.[1] Teach (or Thatch) went to sea at an early age. He served on an English ship in the War of the Spanish Succession, privateering in the Spanish West Indies and along theSpanish Main. At the war's end in 1713, Teach, like many other privateers, turned to piracy.

[edit]Blackbeard the Pirate

Teach began as a pirate under Benjamin Hornigold. In 1718, Hornigold retired, taking advantage of anamnesty offered to former privateers by the British government. Teach then took command of his own ship.

During the next two years, Teach cultivated a reputation for cruelty, repeatedly preying on coastal settlements of the West Indies and the Atlantic coast of North America. According to Charles Johnson, Blackbeard fought a running duel with the British thirty-gun man-of-war HMS Scarborough, which added to his notoriety. However, historian David Cordingly has noted that the Scarborough's log has no mention of any such battle.

Blackbeard would plunder merchant ships, forcing them to allow his crew to board their ship. The pirates would seize all of the valuables, food, liquor, and weapons. Ironically, despite his ferocious reputation, there are no verified accounts of him actually killing anyone. He generally prevailed by fear alone.

However, colourful legends and vivid contemporary newspaper portrayals had him committing acts of cruelty and terror. One tale claims he shot his own first mate, saying "if he didn’t shoot one or two [crewmen] now and then, they’d forget who he was." Another legend is that having had too much to drink, he said to his crew, "Come, let us make a hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it." Going into the ship's hold, they closed the hatches, filled several pots with brimstone and set it on fire. Soon the men were coughing and gasping for air from the sulphurous fumes. All except Blackbeard scrambled out for fresh air. When Blackbeard emerged, he snarled, "Damn ye, ye yellow ___ ___ ___! I'm a better man than all ye milksops put together!"[2] According to Captain Charles Johnson's 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.

Teach had headquarters in both the Bahamas and the Carolinas. He lived on the island of Nassau where he was named the magistrate of the "Privateers Republic". Governor Charles Eden of North Carolina received booty from Teach in return for unofficial protection and gave him an official pardon. He left Nassau to avoid meeting with Royal Governor Woodes Rogers, unlike the majority of the pirate inhabitants who welcomed the governor and accepted the royal pardons he brought.

[edit]Blockade of Charleston

Blackbeard's chief claim to fame is his blockade of Charleston, South Carolina. In approximately late May of 1718, Blackbeard entered the mouth of Charleston harbor with the Queen Anne's Revenge and three lighter vessels. He plundered five merchant freighters attempting to enter or leave the port. No other vessels could transit the harbor for fear of encountering the pirate squadron.

Aboard one of the ships that Blackbeard captured in the harbor mouth was a group of prominent Charleston citizens, including Samuel Wragg. Blackbeard held these hostages for ransom, making an unusual demand: a chest of medicines. He sent a deputation ashore to negotiate this ransom. Due partly to his envoys' preference for carousing rather than bargaining, the ransom took some days to be delivered, and Blackbeard evidently came close to murdering his prisoners. Eventually, the medicines were turned over, and Blackbeard released the hostages, sans all their clothing but otherwise unharmed. Blackbeard's whole squadron then escaped northward.

Shortly afterward, Blackbeard ran two of his vessels aground at Topsail Inlet (now Beaufort Inlet), including the Queen Anne's Revenge. He has been accused by many, including his own crew, of doing this deliberately in order to downsize his crew and increase his own share of the treasure. Deliberate or not, he stripped three of the ships of all treasure, beached or marooned most of his crew, and went to Bath, North Carolina, where he finally accepted a pardon under the royal Act of Grace. He then went off to Ocracoke Inlet in the last of his four vessels, the sloop Adventure, to enjoy his loot.

[edit]Death

Having accepted a pardon, Teach had apparently retired from piracy. However, Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia became concerned that the notorious freebooter lived nearby. Spotswood decided to eliminate Blackbeard, even though he lived outside of Spotswood's jurisdiction.

Blackbeard operated in coastal waters; it was difficult for ships of the line to engage him in battle. As such, two smaller hired sloops were therefore put under the command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard, with instructions from Spotswood to hunt down and destroy Blackbeard, offering a reward of £100, and smaller sums for the lesser crew members. Maynard sailed from James River on November 11, 1718, in command of thirty men from HMS Pearl, and twenty-five men and a midshipman of HMS Lyme, and in command of the hired sloops, theRanger and Jane (temporarily commissioned as His Majesty's Ships to avoid accusations of piracy themselves). Maynard found the pirates anchored in a North Carolina inlet on the inner side of Ocracoke Island, on the evening of November 21. Maynard and his men decided to wait until the following morning because the tide would be more favourable. Blackbeard's Adventure had a crew of only nineteen, "Thirteen white and six Negroes", as reported to the Admiralty. A small boat was sent ahead at daybreak, was fired upon, and quickly retreated. Blackbeard's superior knowledge of the inlet was of much help, although he and his crew had been drinking in his cabin the night prior. Throughout the night Blackbeard waited for Maynard to make his move. Blackbeard cut his anchor cable and quickly attempted to move towards a narrow channel. Maynard made chase; however his sloops ran aground, and there was a shouted exchange between captains. Maynard's account says, "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", although many different versions of the dialogue exist. Eventually, Maynard's sloops were able to float freely again, and he began to row towards Blackbeard, since the wind was not strong enough at the time for setting sail. When they came upon Blackbeard's Adventure, they were hit with a devastating broadside attack. Midshipman Hyde, captain of the smaller HMS Jane, was killed along with six other men. Ten men were also wounded in the surprise attack. The sloop fell astern and was little help in the following action. Maynard continued his pursuit inHMS Ranger, managing to blast the Adventure's rigging, forcing it ashore. Maynard ordered many of his crew into the holds and readied to be boarded. As his ship approached, Blackbeard saw the mostly empty decks, assumed it was safe to board, and did so with ten men.

Blackbeard's severed head hanging from Maynard's bowsprit
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Blackbeard's severed head hanging from Maynard's bowsprit

Maynard's men emerged, and the battle began. The most complete account of the following events comes from the Boston News-Letter: [3]

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. Demelt struck in between them with his sword and cut Teach's face pretty much; 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.

Despite the best efforts of the pirates (including a desperate plan to blow up the Adventure), Teach was killed, and the battle ended. Teach was reportedly shot five times and stabbed more than twenty times before he died and was decapitated. Legends about his death immediately sprang up, including the oft-repeated claim that Teach's headless body, after being thrown overboard, swam between 2 and 7 times around the Adventure before sinking. Teach's head was placed as a trophy on the bowsprit of the ship (it was also required by Maynard to claim his prize when he returned home). After the sheer terror of the battle with the pirates, and the wounds that the crew received, Maynard still only acquired his meager prize of £100 from Spotswood. Later, Teach's head hung from a pike in Bath.

[edit]Legend

An actor playing the role of Blackbeard.
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An actor playing the role of Blackbeard.

History has romanticized Blackbeard. Many popular contemporary engravings show him with the smoking lit ends of his pigtails or with lit cannon fuses in his hair and the pistols stuck in his bandoliers, and he has been the subject of books, movies, and documentaries. There is a Blackbeard Festival in Hampton, Virginia every year and the crew of the modern day British warship HMS Ranger commemorate his defeat at the annual Sussex University Royal Naval Unit Blackbeard Night mess dinner in November.

There is significant evidence supporting the claims that Teach was prone to burying treasure[citation needed]. In times as desperate and difficult as the American Revolution, it was common for the ignorant, credulous, and desperate to dig along these banks in search of hidden treasures; impostors found an ample basis in these rumours for schemes of delusion. A ship believed to have been Blackbeard's was discovered near Beaufort, North Carolina in 1996 and is now part of a major tourist attraction.

[edit]Fiction

[edit]Books and comics

  • Blackbeard appears as a character in Stephen Vincent Benét's drama, The Devil and Daniel Webster(1937). He is part of the Jury of the Damned summoned by the Devil.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island contains two references to Blackbeard. (1883). 1) Squire Trelawney: "Blackbeard was a child to Flint." 2) In the book, one of Long John Silver's pirates is namedIsrael Hands, after one of Blackbeard's officers.
  • Blackbeard is a significant character in the novel On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. (1987)
  • Edward Teach appears in Neal Stephenson's series: The Baroque Cycle, commanding a fleet of pirate vessels. A large portion of the opening book Quicksilver involves Blackbeard pursuing Daniel Waterhouse, the protagonist, along the coast of New England (2004)
  • The children's book Pirate Chase, by Earl Schenk Miers, tells the story of Blackbeard's demise, written from the perspective of a fifteen year old boy who helps in the chase.
  • In Marvel Comics, Doctor Doom sends the Fantastic Four back in time to find Blackbeard's treasure, but events unfold in such a way that the Thing turns out to be Blackbeard. As well, in the 1967 episode of the Spiderman cartoon series, Blackbeard appears in "The Night of the Villains."
  • In DC Comics, the immortal Vandal Savage took the alias Edward Teach and earned the nickname 'Blackbeard'. He later faked his own death.
  • A character named Blackbeard (Marshall D. Teach instead of Edward Teach) is one of the most powerful pirates in the world of One Piece.
  • Blackbeard appeared in one of the Time Warp Trio book series titled The Not-So-Jolly Roger.
  • Edward Teach is an important secondary character in Gregory Keyes' series The Age of Unreason.
  • In Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Master of Ballantrae" there is a pirate captain with a black beard called Teach, but he is distinguished from the Teach of this article.
  • According to Peter Pan, Captain Hook was Blackbeard's boatswain.
  • The 1986 DC Comics mini-series "Watchmen" features a fictional pirate-themed comic book called "Tales of the Black Freighter." It features horror stories surrounding a ship from hell, crewed by the damned and captained by Edward Teach.
  • In the 2002 Novel Plum Island by Nelson Demille, the plot revolves around the discovery of Blackbeard's treasure.
  • J. Meade Falkner's novel Moonfleet centres around John Trenchard's discovery of the last resting place of Blackbeard. On his body, John finds a riddle that leads both John and is friend, Elzevir Block to a large diamond, Blackbeards hidden treasure.

[edit]Films and miniseries

Blackbeard in the Anne of the Indies
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Blackbeard in the Anne of the Indies

[edit]Music

  • Rob Gardner, a local Mesa, Arizona composer created a musical named "Blackbeard the Musical."

This musical story surrounds Blackbeard’s most brazen act: the blockade of Charleston harbor. In the process, a ship full of wealthy passengers is taken hostage and among them, newlyweds Miss Anne Johnson, daughter of the colonial governor and her husband, Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy. Meanwhile, despite warnings of bad luck, Blackbeard has invited aboard his latest pursuit, a woman named Mary, who challenges his fearsome facade and sets in motion events that will change everything. http://www.blackbeardthemusical.com/

  • The Irish-American punk band Flogging Molly produced a song on their album Within a Mile of Home entitled "Queen Anne's Revenge."
  • American pirate-themed folk band The Jolly Rogers wrote a song about Blackbeard entitled 'The Devil's Son', which includes a surprisingly detailed, popular account of Blackbeard's last days and final battle with Maynard. The song was later recorded by American rock bandJessica's Crime for their debut album Psychosemantic (1998).
  • American stoner-metal band Scissorfight included a song entitled 'The Gruesome Death of Edward Teach' on their album 'New Hampshire', released in 2000 by Tortuga Records.

[edit]TV

  • Malachi Throne portrayed Captain Teach in an episode of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV series)". In the 4th season episode "Blackbeard Returns" the crew of the Seaview discover the resting place of Queen Anne's Revenge and subsequently have to battle the presence of Blackbeard's ghost as the legendary scalawag tries to turn the crewmen into pirates.
  • On the Simpsons - Treehouse of Horror IV: The Devil and Homer Simpson, the Devil summons a "Jury of the Damned" to determine whether Homer should go to hell for exchanging his soul for a doughnut (this was inspired by "The Devil and Daniel Webster"). One of those chosen to be on the jury is Blackbeard. After Marge informs him that the only chair left to sit on is a baby's high chair, Blackbeard responds in a tautology, "Arr! This chair be high, says I!" Later, when trying to read Homer's note, he says "Looks to be some kind of treasure map!"Benedict Arnold snatches it from him, chiding him for not being able to read. Blackbeard blames that as the cause of his debauchery.
  • Blackbeard is featured in Time Squad as a pirate who wants to save the mammals (or animals). There was an error in his second appearance (Repeat Offender) that he is said to be a pirate operating along the Caribbean. (July 6, 2001)
  • Blackbeard can be seen sitting next to a customer in the Krusty Krab in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, Sailor Mouth. (September 21, 2001)
  • Blackbeard was among other infamous historical figures brought into the present time in an episode of Xiaolin Showdown.
  • Blackbeard is a traitor and deserter of The Whitebeard Pirates in the anime and manga series One Piece. His full name is Marshall D. Teach.
  • In Adventures in Odyssey episode 297: "Blackbeard's Treasure," two main characters discover Blackbeard's treasure while holidaying in Bath.
  • Snopes, a website that normally investigates and verifies the truth of urban legends, created a false rumour [2] that the rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence was used as a recruitment tool by Blackbeard. TLC (The Learning Channel) was taken in by this farce, and broadcast it as fact during one of their shows [3]. The board game urban myth also fell for the spoof [4]. Snopes claims they created the spoof to test readers' ability to use their common sense to judge for themselves the likelihood of urban legends [5]. (1999)
  • In the Time Warp Trio episode, "The Not so Jolly Roger", Fred, Sam, and Joe, are forced to join Blackbeard's crew.
  • National Geographic Channel "Blackbeard: Terror at Sea" 88 min. It is presented as a docu-drama. DVD release feature, "Fact vs. Folklore"
  • One of the artifacts on "Legends of the Hidden Temple" was "Blackbeard's Treasure Map".
  • Part of the History Channel's "True Caribbean Pirates" deals with Blackbeard.
  • Most Haunted have recently been in Bristol to try and find the ghost of Blackbeard
  • Blackbeard and his family(Nobeard and Greybeard) appears in Johnny Test where he faces his brother Nobeard, Johnny, and Dukey. Blackbeard's father is revealed to be Greybeard.

[edit]Computer and video games

  • In the game Sid Meier's Pirates!, Blackbeard plays a minor role as a rival pirate (at the start of the game, Blackbeard is the 2nd most notorious pirate in the Caribbean). (1987 and 2004)
  • In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, a card catalogue entry in the Phatt Island library mentions Blackbeard: "BIOGRAPHY: 'ME AND BLACKBEARD'" (1991)
  • In the computer role-playing game, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Edward Teach is the name of a famous pirate who transports the character to certain locations in the game world.
  • 'Baltor the Blackbearded' appears bin the Sega Dreamcast game Skies of Arcadia. His ship is called 'The Blackbeard', and Baltor himself resembles Blackbeard.
  • In the MMORPG, City of Villains, Blackbeard massacred the soldiers of a fort at the fictional location of Port Oakes, causing their ghosts to haunt the area. (2005)
  • In the adventure game Red Jack: The Revenge of the Brethren, Blackbeard is portrayed as one of the brethren under Red Jack's command.
  • In 7 Studios' video game Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow a character named Black Smoke James, voiced by Steven Jay Blum, bears some resemblance to Blackbeard.
  • In the computer game Port Royale I&II (by Ascaron Entertainment), he appears as a marauding pirate that loots merchant fleets and Spanish treasure fleets.
  • In the video game Golden Sun, there is an extra boss named Deadbeard, on Crossbone Island.
  • In the MMORPG, Earth & Beyond, there is a star system only accessible by Pirates called 'Blackbeard's Wake'. The space station in the system is the 'Queen Anne's Revenge'.
  • In Megaman Battle Network 6, he is only a WWW member who cause an incident in the Seaside Town in Cyber City. He is also an operator of his net navi Diveman.EXE
  • In the MMORPG game Voyage Century Online, Blackbeard is one of the Pirate bosses which you can fight.

[edit]Other

[edit]Other sources

  • Blackbeard was one of the many famous pirates reviewed in the Discovery Channel program, "True Caribbean Pirates", along with Henry Morgan, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and Black Bart Roberts.
  • A 2-hour special on National Geographic called "Blackbeard: Terror at Sea", in which a narrative is given about Teach's adventures.
  • A shipwreck that experts claim belonged to Blackbeard is currently being excavated off the North Carolina coast [6].