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Biography of Edward "Blackbeard" Teach

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Biography of Edward "Blackbeard" Teach

Edward "Blackbeard" Teach

Artist Unknown

The Hunt for Blackbeard

Local merchants soon grew infuriated with a pirate operating nearby, but were powerless to stop it. With no other recourse, they complained to Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia. Spotswood, who had no love for Eden, agreed to help. There were two British warships currently in Virginia: he hired 57 men off of them and put them under the command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard. He also provided two light sloops, the Ranger and the Jane, to carry the soldiers into the treacherous inlets of North Carolina. In November, Maynard and his men set out to look for Blackbeard.

Blackbeard's Final Battle

On November 22, 1718, Maynard and his men found Blackbeard. The pirate was anchored in Ocracoke Inlet, and fortunately for the marines, many of Blackbeard's men were ashore including Israel Hands, Blackbeard's second-in-command. As the two ships approached the Adventure, Blackbeard opened fire, killing several soldiers and forcing the Ranger to drop out of the fight. The Jane closed with the Adventure and the crews fought hand-to-hand. Maynard himself managed to wound Blackbeard twice with pistols, but the mighty pirate fought on, his cutlass in his hand. Just as Blackbeard was about to kill Maynard, a soldier rushed in and cut the pirate across the neck. The next blow took off Blackbeard's head. Maynard later reported that Blackbeard had been shot no fewer than five times and had received at least twenty serious sword cuts. Their leader gone, the surviving pirates surrendered. About ten pirates and ten soldiers died: accounts vary slightly. Maynard returned victorious to Virginia with Blackbeard's head displayed on the bowsprit of his sloop.

Legacy of Blackbeard the Pirate

Blackbeard had been seen as an almost supernatural force, and his death was a great boost to the morale of those areas affected by piracy. Maynard was hailed as a hero and would forever after be known as the man who had killed Blackbeard, even if he didn't do it himself.

Blackbeard's fame lingered long after he was gone. Men who had sailed with him automatically found positions of honor and authority on any other pirate vessel they joined. His legend grew with every retelling: according to some stories, his headless body swam around Maynard's ship several times after it was thrown into the water following the last battle!

Blackbeard was very good at being a pirate captain. He had the right mix of ruthlessness, cleverness and charisma to be able to amass a mighty fleet and use it to his best advantage. Also, better than any other pirates of his time, he knew how to cultivate and use his image to maximum effect. During his time as a pirate captain - about a year and a half - Blackbeard terrorized the shipping lanes between the Americas and Europe.

All told, Blackbeard had little lasting economic impact. He captured dozens of ships, it's true, and his presence greatly affected transatlantic commerce for a time, but by 1725 or so the so-called "Golden Age of Piracy" was over as nations and merchants worked together to combat it. Blackbeard's victims, the merchants and sailors, would bounce back and continue their business.

Blackbeard's cultural impact, however, is tremendous. He still stands as the quintessential pirate, the fearsome, cruel specter of nightmares. Some of his contemporaries were better pirates than he was - "Black Bart" Roberts took many more ships - but none had his personality and image, and many of them are all but forgotten today.

Blackbeard has been the subject of several movies, plays and books, and there is a museum about him and other pirates in North Carolina. There is even a character named Israel Hands after Blackbeard's second-in-command in Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. Despite little solid evidence, legends persist of Blackbeard's buried treasure, and people still search for it.

The wreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge was discovered in 1996, and has turned out to be a treasure trove of information and articles. The site is under continuing excavation. Many of the more interesting relics found there are on display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in nearby Beaufort.

Sources:

Cordingly, David. Under the Black Flag New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 1996

Defoe, Daniel. A General History of the Pyrates. Edited by Manuel Schonhorn. Mineola: Dover Publications, 1972/1999.

Konstam, Angus. The World Atlas of Pirates. Guilford: the Lyons Press, 2009

Woodard, Colin. The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down. Mariner Books, 2008.

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