The British pirate “Blackbeard” was killed in battle off the coast of North Carolina today in 1718. Now WE know em

Blackbeard the Pirate: this was published in the General History of the Pyrates, 1725.

Blackbeard the Pirate: this was published in the General History of the Pyrates, 1725.

Edward Teach (or Thatch) was born in 1680 at Bristol, England.

Little is known of his early life before he entered history in the Bahamas around 1716.

Privateer Benjamin Hornigold placed Edward in command of one of his captured sloop pirate ships, earning him the nickname Blackbeard derived from his thick black beard and fearsome appearance. He was even known to tie lit fuses under his hat to frighten his enemies.

Then around 1717 Hornigold retired from piracy, presenting Blackbeard with an opportunity to take over the operation.

Blackbeard renamed the captured French merchant vessel La Concorde as “Queen Anne’s Revenge” and installed 40 guns.

His choice of Queen Anne’s Revenge indicates Blackbeard may have been a sailor operating on privateer ships during the Queen Anne’s War.

Then Blackbeard and his new alliance of pirates blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina. After successfully ransoming the port’s inhabitants, he made the mistake of running the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina.

After renouncing piracy and accepting a royal pardon, Blackbeard was soon back at sea doing what he did best now commanding his flagship the “Adventure.”

Soon Blackbeard attracted the attention of Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia.

Spotswood sent out a party of soldiers and sailors to capture Blackbeard led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard.

Maynard, along with 57 men and two armed sloops departed from Kecoughtan, Virginia along the James River.

Maynard was aboard the sloop Jane, and the second sloop Ranger was commanded by a mister Hyde.

They found Blackbeard and his pirates anchored on the inner side of Ocracoke Island on the evening of November 21st.

Blackbeard was busy entertaining guests and had not posted a lookout.

Maynard decided to wait until the following morning to launch his attack.

At dawn on November 22, 1718, Maynard’s two sloops entered the channel preceded by a small boat taking soundings.

The small boat was quickly spotted by Blackbeard’s sloop Adventure and fired at as soon as it was within range of her guns.

While the small boat made a quick retreat to the Jane, Blackbeard cut the Adventure’s anchor cable.

Blackbeard’s crew hoisted the sails as the Adventure maneuvered to point her starboard guns toward Maynard’s sloops, which were slowly closing the gap.

Mister Hyde moved the Ranger to the port side of Maynard’s Jane and the Union flag was unfurled on each ship.

Blackbeard’s Adventure then turned toward the beach of Ocracoke Island, heading for a narrow channel.

What happened next is uncertain. Some claim that there was an exchange of small-arms fire following which Adventure ran aground on a sandbar, while Maynard anchored and then lightened his ship to pass over the sandbar. Another version claimed that both the Jane and Ranger also ran aground, although Maynard made no mention of this in his log.

What is certain though is that Blackbeard’s Adventure turned her guns on the two ships and fired. The broadside was devastating; in an instant, Maynard had lost as much as a third of his men. About 20 on Jane were either wounded or killed and 9 on Ranger.

Mister Hyde was dead and his second and third officers either dead or seriously injured.

The Ranger sloop was so badly damaged that it played no further role in the attack.

Again, contemporary accounts of what happened next are confusing, but small-arms fire from Jane may have cut Adventure’s jib sheet, causing her to lose control and run onto the sandbar.

In the aftermath of Blackbeard’s overwhelming attack, Jane and Ranger may also have been grounded; the battle thenceforth would have become a race to see who could float their ship first.

Maynard had kept many of his men below deck and in anticipation of being boarded told them to prepare for close fighting.

Blackbeard watched as the gap between the vessels closed, and ordered his men to be ready.

The two vessels contacted one another as the Adventure’s grappling hooks hit their target and several grenades, made from powder and shot-filled bottles and ignited by fuses, broke across the sloop Jane’s deck.

As the smoke cleared, Blackbeard led his men aboard, buoyant at the sight of the apparently empty ship.

Then Maynard and his men began firing at Blackbeard’s group from the stern.

The rest of Maynard’s men then burst from the hold, shouting and firing.

The plan to surprise Blackbeard and his pirates worked.

Blackbeard tried to rally his men as the two groups fought across a deck slick with blood from those killed or injured.

Maynard and Blackbeard fired their flintlocks at each other, then threw them away.

Blackbeard drew his cutlass and managed to break Maynard’s sword.

Against superior training and a slight advantage in numbers, the pirates were pushed back toward the bow, allowing the Jane’s crew to surround Maynard and Blackbeard, who was by then completely isolated.

As Maynard drew back to fire once again, Blackbeard moved in to attack him, but was slashed across the neck by one of Maynard’s men.

Badly wounded, Blackbeard was then attacked and killed by several more of Maynard’s crew.

The remaining pirates quickly surrendered.

Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, painted in 1920

Capture of the Pirate, Blackbeard, 1718, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, painted in 1920

Those left on the Adventure were captured by the Ranger’s crew, including one who planned to set fire to the powder room and blow up the ship.

Varying accounts exist of the battle’s list of casualties; Maynard reported that 8 of his men and 12 pirates were killed.

Maynard later examined Blackbeard’s body, noting that it had been shot no fewer than five times and cut about twenty.

He also found several items of correspondence, including a letter to the pirate from Tobias Knight, the Chief Justice and Secretary of the Province of Carolina.

Blackbeard’s corpse was thrown into the inlet while his head was suspended from the bowsprit of Maynard’s sloop (so the reward could be collected).

The known record of Blackbeard’s deeds cover only two years, yet he has become perhaps the most widely known pirate of all time.

Blackbeard became the inspiration for a number of romanticized pirate themed works of fiction after his death.

Now WE know em

 

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