Many of us find pirates, these outlaws of the sea, exciting and heroic. Pirates are often portrayed as fearless, living a fascinating life, often accumulating impressive wealth and always going as close as possible to danger. The image is not different in the case of Blackbeard, one of the most feared and most powerful pirates of the 18th century, so let’s have a look at this mighty pirate captain and his doings!
Blackbeard was born around 1680 as Edward Teach or Edward Thatch. He was most probably raised in Bristol, an important center of slave trade of the time. He is thought to have worked on a slave ship when he arrived in the Caribbean and he joined Queen Ann’s War sometime during the first years of the 18th century, later on settling on the island of New Providence, the infamous pirate paradise in the Atlantic Ocean. Around 1716, he joined one of the most well-known pirates of the age, Benjamin Hornigold, who made Teach the captain of one of his sloops. He soon became a pirate in his own right, he owned three ships and his flotilla was rapidly growing.
The first record of Teach’s appearance dates from 1717, as it was recounted by Henry Bostock, the captain of a ship captured by the pirate. Teach was described as a tall man sporting a very long, thick black beard that he often wore braided or tied, making his large figure threatening and scary.
Blackbeard captured 40 ships during his career, the captures including merchant ships and battle ships alike, loaded with riches and guns. What started as a fleet of only one ship was enlarged by a second one when, in 1717, Blackbeard joined forces with Stede Bonnet, a wealthy landowner turned pirate. He soon captured two more British vessels, and then, in November the same year, he turned against two French vessels. However, it was not only by violent means that Teach acquired new ships. In March 1718, Blackbeard stopped a British sloop, inviting her captain and crew to join his fleet – which they did. Blackbeard and his fleet plundered the waters of the sea from Belize to Honduras, from the Grand Cayman to the shores of South Carolina, sometimes being able to add four more ships to his fleet in one go. At the height of his glory, in May 1718, he even blockaded the port of Charleston.
In 1718, Blackbeard decided to surrender and obtain pardon from Charles Eden, the governor of North Carolina. He settled in Bath. According to some, he even got married and was allowed to undertake commissions as a privateer. However, he decided to resume his pirating activity and, soon, there was an arrest warrant on him. The hunt for Blackbeard started – hunt that ended in November, 1718 with a last, ferocious and bloody battle at Ocracoke Island between Teach’s last ship, the Adventure, and HMS Pearl, with Lieutenant Robert Maynard in command.