1680 – Born – Bristol, England
1700 – Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard The Pirate, was probably born somewhere near Bristol, England. Little is known of his early life – except that he went to sea as a young man. As a privateer (legalized pirate) during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), he robbed ships in the West Indies. When the war ended in 1713, he turned to piracy, like many former privateers.
-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 A General Historie of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates that he had hemp and lit matches woven into his enormous black beard during battle to intimidate his enemies. Blackbeard is often regarded as the archetypal image of the seafaring pirate.
1716 – Teach was serving under the command of Benjamin Thornigold, a pirate captain. On Thornigold’s ship, he sailed from the pirate colony of New Providence in the West Indies to the American mainland. The pirates captured a number of ships, whose cargo ranged from flour and wine to silk and gold bullion still in raw or unrefinded form).
1717 – After the pirate crew attacked a large merchant ship headed for the French island of Martinique, Teach took over as the captured vessel’s captain. Equipping the boat as a warship, he added some forty guns and renamed it the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Shortly after Teach became the captain of his own ship, Thornigold gave up piracy. Captain Woodes Rogers, the British-appointed governor of the Bahamas, had been given the power to pardon pirates who agreed to mend their ways. Thornigold – and other members of Blackbeard’s circle – sailed to New Providence to accept the King’s pardon. Edward Teach, however, had just begun his short but active career as a pirate.
-A tall man with a booming voice, Teach deliberately developed a terrifying appearance. He had an enormous black beard, which he tied up with black ribbons and twisted into braids.
1717-1718 – Having spent the winter in the Caribbean, Teach’s crew landed in Charleston, South Carolina, in the spring. With three other pirate sloops (small, one-masted ships), the pirates blockaded the city’s harbor and attacked any ship that attempted to leave or enter. They also took prisoners and put ashore a landing party that had instructions to bring back medical supplies to treat diseases that plagued the crew. Teach promised to release the prisoners in exchange for the supplies. After he received a chest full of expensive medicine, he made good on his word (but not until after the captives had been robbed of their possessions). The governor of South Carolina described the incident in a report to officials in London, England: The pirates “appeared in sight of the town, took our pilotboat and afterwards 8 or 9 sail with several of the best inhabitants of this place on board and then sent me word if I did not immediately send them a chest of medicines they would put every prisoner to death, which for their sakes being complied with after plundering them of all they had were sent ashore almost naked. This company is commanded by one Teach alias Blackbeard who has a ship of 40 odd guns under him and 3 sloops tenders besides and are in all above 400 men.”
1718 – Unable to appeal to Governor Eden for assistance, local traders asked Thomas Spotswood, the governor of Virginia, for protection from the pirates. In November, Spotswood issued a proclamation offering rewards for the capture – dead or alive – of Teach and his shipmates. He also enlisted the help of British navy officers to organize an expedition to capture the infamous pirate, even though the Carolina shoreline was well beyond his jurisdiction.
1718 – Under the charge of Lieutenant Robert Maynard, an experienced officer, two ships sailed to the Carolina coast with specific orders to rout the pirates. Because the pirate ships were anchored in shallow waters that were difficult to navigate, Maynard took small vessels that had no guns, which meant his crew would be forced into hand-to-hand combat with knives and swords. Maynard’s ships – the Jane and the Ranger – headed for Ocracoke Island at dawn. Spotting the approaching ships, the pirates sounded the alarm and pulled in the anchor. Maynard’s vessels chased the pirate ships, using oars since there was very little wind to sail by. Navigating shallow waters that were filled with sandbars and submerged obstacles, Maynard’s ships ran aground
-Next came a shouting match between the navy lieutenant and the pirate captain. In his pirate history, Captain Johnson describes the exchange: “Black-Beard hail’d him in this rude Manner: Damn you for Villains, who are you? and from whence come you? The Lieutenant make him Answer, You may see by our Colours [the flags that identified a ship] we are no pyrates. Black-beard bid him send his Boat on Board, that he might see who he was but Mr. Maynard reply’d thus; I cannot spare my Boat, but I will come aboard of you as soon as I can, with my Sloop. Upon this Black-beard took a Glass of Liquor, & drank to him with these Words: Damnation seize my Soul if I give you Quarters [a place to stay], or take any from you. In Answer to which, Mr. Maynard told him, that he expected no Quarters from him, nor should he give him any.”
Eventually, Maynard’s crew managed to free its two vessels. Rowing toward Teach’s ship, the crew was hit by a broadside volley that killed several men and wounded others. (Broadsides could be devastating: firing at the enemy, a ship discharged all the guns on one side of the boat at once – and at close range.) Maynard ordered the remainder of his crew to conceal itself below deck.
Teach assumed that most of Maynard’s men had been killed by the broadside attack. But when he climbed aboard the Jane, he was surprised by Maynard’s sailors. The fight that followed was Blackbeard’s last battle. According to Captain Johnson’s account, he “stood his ground and fought with great fury till he received five and twenty wounds.” Of Teach’s twenty-five wounds, the last was fatal: the pirate had been decapitated.
1996 – In November, one day before the anniversary of Teach’s death in 1718, archaeologists found what they believe to be Teach’s long lost flagship. The wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge probably doesn’t contain any of the pirate’s treasure. Historians believe that Teach had already hidden most of his loot. Members of his crew could easily have hidden anything else of value as they jumped ship. What is most valuable about the find is the history that it may reveal – such as insights into the daily workings of life aboard a pirate ship. It may also fill in missing pieces about what is known of the eighteenth-century. For example, the chest full of medicines that the pirates received as a ransom payment could provide valuable clues about medicine and health care in Teach’s day.
The wreck was discovered in just twenty feet of water two miles off the North Carolina coast.
Towing an underwater metal detector over an eight-square-mile area, a team of archaeologists discovered numerous metal objects – including a bell dated 1709, large anchors, and a number of cannons. It may take four to five years to determine whether the wreck is what remains of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, but evidence suggests that the submerged vessel is, in fact, the flagship of the infamous Edward Teach.
According to legend, “Blackbeard’s treasure” is buried at various spots along the eastern seaboard. But chances are, there is no such treasure: a typical pirate’s plunder consisted of silk, cotton, tools, and assorted sailing supplies. Archaeologists are still hoping to recover the wreck of the Adventure – the vessel that carried the pirate to his last battle – and one other ship in his fleet. In those wrecks they hope to find not chests full of gold and jewels but a treasure of information on the age of piracy.
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