Blackbeard the Pirate
was the nickname of Edward Teach
, alias Edward Thatch
(other sources give his name as Edward Drummond
, although his birth name is not known), a notorious English pirate
who had a short reign of terror in the Caribbean Sea
between 1716 and 1718, during a period of time referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy
. His flagship vessel was the Queen Anne's Revenge.
Blackbeard the Pirate had over four dozen wives, although most of these were common-law marriages. His last wife was Mary Ormond
(or Ormand) of Bath, North Carolina
, to whom he was married for only a short while. A painting of Blackbeard hangs in Van Der Veer House in Bath.
Blackbeard fought with many pistols, swords and knives. He was also notorious for inserting lighted matches into his black beard during battle. This made him appear fearsome and contributed to our modern image of the pirate.
Little is known about Blackbeard's early life. It is believed he was born around 1680 in London, Bristol, England or Jamaica . His pirate career began as a seaman aboard English privateers. Later, Blackbeard served aboard a Jamaican ship commanded by the pirate Benjamin Hornigold. He was eventually made a captain while serving under Hornigold when, near the island of Martinique, they captured the French slave ship La Concorde.
According to the French governor of the island, "Edoard Titche" commanded two boats of British pirates, one of twelve and the other of eight guns, with 250 men. Le Concorde de Nantes was a prize: a two-hundred-ton frigate armed with twenty cannons, which had ranged the west coast of Africa, taking British, Dutch and Portuguese ships. Teach armed it with an additional twenty guns (bringing total cannons to forty) and renamed it Queen Anne's Revenge .
Hornigold then retired, taking advantage of an amnesty extended to privateers by the British government.
Blackbeard Becomes a Pirate
In the following two years Blackbeard the Pirate acquired a fearsome reputation for cruelty after repeatedly preying on shipping and coastal settlements of the West Indies and the Atlantic coast of North America. A running duel with the British thirty-gunned man-of-war HMS Scarborough added to his notoriety.
He raided merchant ships, suprising them in major channels and forcing them to allow him and his crew to board. Blackbeard the Pirate and his men would take all of the valuables, food, liquor and weapons from the ship and if there was no resistance, let the ship go. On ships that resisted, all aboard were killed.
One legend says that Blackbeard shot his own first mate because "if he didn't shoot one or two [crewmen] now and then, they'd forget who he was." Another says that on one occasion, having too much to drink, Blackbeard said to his crew, "Come, let us make a Hell of our own and try how long we can bear it." Going below into the ship's hold, they closed the hatches, filled several pots with brimstone and other combustible matter and set them on fire. Soon the men were coughing and gasping for air as the hold filled with sulfurous fumes. All of the men, with the exception of Blackbeard quickly scrambled for fresh air. When Blackbeard finally emerged he snarled, "Damn ye, ye yellow-bellied sapsuckers! I'm a better man than all ye milksops put together!"
Blackbeard the Pirate kept headquarters in both the Bahamas and the Carolinas . He lived on the island of Nassau where he was named the magistrate of the "Privateers Republic". Governor Charles Eden of North Carolina received booty from Blackbeard in return for unofficial protection and gave him an official pardon. Blackbeard was forced to leave Nassau by Royal Governor Woodes Rogers when the island was raided and all pirate occupants were either killed or driven out.
Despite this setback, Teach went back to piracy after a few weeks. As his violent raids increased, the citizens of North Carolina lost patience and appealed to the Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia. Spotswood then sent troops to hunt down Blackbeard the Pirate. It is questionable as to whether Spotswood had the jurisdiction to do so.
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