Choptank River Trip - Pirate’s Treasure

Edward Teach (d. 1718) - The Real Blackbeard

A Pirate's Beginnings

The real Blackbeard was born Edward Teach (or Thatch) in or near London before 1690.  He was 6 feet 5 inches and weighed 220 pounds - an imposing figure with a thick, coal-black beard.  Little is known of his early life.  He probably began his career the way many pirates did in the early 1700s -- first as a "privateer" with permission from England's Queen Anne to prey on enemy French and Spanish merchant vessels.  When Queen Anne's War ended, many privateers turned to illegal piracy for personal gain.

Soon after England's war ended, Thatch joined pirate Benjamin Hornigold to raid vessels sailing off Providence, the Delaware Capes, St. Vincent, and Barbados. Near St. Vincent they captured the French ship La Concorde with a cargo of slaves.  Hornigold retired from piracy, and Thatch took possession of the ship and renamed her Queen Anne's Revenge. 

A Pirate's Business

Thatch fortified his new vessel with 40 cannons and over 200 men. At the height of his short piracy career (less than two years in 1717-1718), Thatch was known as "Blackbeard" and commanded 4 ships and up to 400 men.  (Some legends inflate his command to 25 ships and 2000 men.) 

Legend says that Blackbeard engaged a mighty British man-o-war in November 1717 and fought it to a draw.  There is more reliable historic evidence that a few months later, he capturing the 80-ton sloop Adventure, and the large merchant vessel, Protestant CaesarIn early 1718, Blackbeard and his crew attacked small merchant vessels in the Caribbean, demanded a small ransom from the colonial governor at Charleston, South Carolina, and sailed north to Beaufort, North Carolina. 

About this time, Blackbeard scuttled Queen Anne's Revenge on a sandbar in Ocracoke Inlet, near Beaufort, and transferred her armament and cargo to Adventure.  Blackbeard apparently settled down for several months near Beaufort, accepted the king's amnesty for "illegal privateers", took a wife, and socialized with the governor. However, he soon renewed his piracy along the Carolina and Virginia coasts. Virginia's governer sent the Royal Navy to stop him.

A Pirate's End

In November 1718, Virginia governor Spotswood dispatched Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard with two small sloops to Okracoke Inlet on the North Carolina coast. At daybreak on November 22, 1718, Lt. Maynard attacked Adventure with the sloop Ranger under his personal command.  Blackbeard brought the Adventure alongside and led the charge onto Ranger's decks. Blackbeard was reportedly struck first by a shot from Maynard's own pistol.  In hand-to-hand fighting, Blackbeard was killed by several sword thrusts, 18 of his men were killed, and the rest were subdued. Maynard severed Blackbeard's head from his body, hung the head on Ranger's bowsprit, and tossed the body overboard.