The Legend of Blackbeard
Blackbeard, who’s real name is thought to be Edward Teach or Edward Thatch, was a notorious English pirate who terrorized the seas, mainly around the West Indies and what is now called America’s east coast. Although little is known about Blackbeard’s early life, it is said he was born in Bristol, England in 1680.
On his journeys across the Atlantic ocean, from Africa to the Caribbean and the United States, he plundered ships, and although he was allegedly described by his crew as a fair a decent man, he had a reputation for being a dangerous man, so much so he would intimidate his enemies by the clever use of lit fuses in his captain’s hat. He was known as a cutthroat and a killer.
In 1717, Blackbeard and his crew captured and converted a ship just off the island of Saint Vincent. The ship was a 200-ton french merchant vessel named The Concord which his crew transformed into a pirate ship with 40 cannons, renaming her Queen Anne’s Revenge. Using his new flagship, he formed an alliance of pirates and blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina. Blackbeard was now at the height of his career in piracy, operating four ships and over 300 pirates.
In 1718, he ran Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on a sandbar, just offshore of Beaufort, North Carolina. Experts believe the grounding was intentional and it was Blackbeard’s method of what we know as corporate downsizing. He stranded many of his crew and fled to land in a smaller ship. He returned to Bathtown where he settled and accepted a royal pardon, but he was soon back at sea praying on innocent victims.
Later that year, he attracted the attention of Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia. Spotswood arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to try to capture Blackbeard, and on 22 November, 1718, they did. Blackbeard and several of his crew mates were killed in a ferocious battle with British forces led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard at Ocracoke Island, a small island on the coast of North Carolina, USA. Blackbeard was gone and the Queen Anne’s Revenge was not to be seen again for hundreds of years.
In 1996, explorers discovered a shipwreck on the sea floor near Beaufort. Looking at the structure of the ship, scientists belief it is a match. There have been onion bottles used for storing wine found, along with navigational and medical instruments, and glassware dated before 1718, which all point to this being Blackbeard’s ship. However, there is still speculation whether or not the re-discovered ship is in fact Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Whether it is Blackbeard’s legendary flagship or not, it’s now an underwater archaeological site, administered by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
There have been immeasurable references to the legend of Blackbeard, one of the latest being in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, where he is introduced as the pirate all pirates fear.