No name in the annals of pirate lore strikes fear into the hearts of men more so than Edward Teach. If ol’ Eddie doesn’t do it for you, perhaps his nickname will. Blackbeard, the most fearsome pirate there ever was, ruled the high seas during the Golden Age of Piracy. To this day, his legend lives on even if, in reality, his time as Captain was rather short. Even so, Blackbeard the pirate commanded a cruel and vicious crew in his prime. The rise and fall of one of the most notorious pirates in history caused countless others to follow in his footsteps.
A Man of Mystery
As noteworthy as Blackbeard’s life as a pirate is, his origin story leaves much to the imagination. Most scholars assume that he began his naval career as a privateer working for the British. Plundering Spanish ships for the Crown could have been the start of his plundering career. At the time, the War of Spanish Succession (1701 to 1713) may have been the event that drew Blackbeard — simply Edward Teach at the time — to a life at sea.
There are no direct records of Edward Teach’s upbringing or life before taking his pirate name. Rather than sully a Blackbeard the Pirate biography, it adds to the allure of the Captain.
Following the conclusion of the war, Teach is known to have become part of Captain Hornigold’s crew. Hornigold, an infamous pirate Captain, would have been the best teacher for a young and spry Teach.
It wasn’t long before Teach proved himself seaworthy enough to gain rank within Hornigold’s crew. Soon after joining, Teach was given command of a captured frigate known as the Concord. It wouldn’t be long before Teach re-christened the ship with a name that sent shivers through the rumor mill in ports around the Caribbean: The Queen Anne’s Revenge.
The Man Behind the Name
Teach’s moniker as Blackbeard came about out of simplicity. The man was a beast and leaned into the image. Brandishing a large, black beard (go figure!), Teach became known to simpletons as Blackbeard. Not to be outdone by his facial hair, Teach provided his enemies with a little extra sauce to pepper fear behind the name.
Teach’s beard reached his belt line and was as bushy as an unkempt hedge. To make matters worse for his enemies (and his crew, too), Teach lit his beard on fire before boarding a vessel. He did so using fuses tied to his beard hair. The sight — and the smell — of the burning beard gave fright to those who would dare think to challenge him. Blackbeard the pirate built his reputation among notorious pirates off theatrical bravado, risking his own face as if it were a mask designed to ward off evil. Facts about Blackbeard pirate usually lead off with this tidbit.
Blackbeard was more than a scary face. The notorious pirate struck terror into his enemies and own crew alike. After all, maintaining order aboard The Queen Anne’s Revenge when most of your crew are pirates like yourself took more than a set of rules.
Legend has it that Blackbeard was particularly fond of torture. The pirate flag he flew depicted a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear while toasting the devil. The flag represented Blackbeard’s reported deal with the devil himself for his pirating prowess. Thus, his reputation as being worthy of a healthy dose of respect preceded his arrival.
The Most Infamous Attack
Blackbeard amassed a large flotilla of ships captured during his raids. At the command of dozens of ships, led by The Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard took moor off the coast of North Carolina. There, he demanded medical supplies from the village of Charlestown. When the local government captured two of Blackbeard’s pirates, he moved his ships into the harbor, causing mass panic among the locals.
Blackbeard the pirate story peaks with this incident. Under threat of beheading every man, woman and child in the city, the local leaders relented, releasing the prisoners and providing the pirates with the supplies they had requested. The siege continued until Blackbeard had enough and left.
This attack thrust Blackbeard into the news, where he became a household name.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge, loaded with loot from Charleston, was nearing it’s end. Blackbeard, ever the deviant, scuttled the ship off the coast and made off with the treasure, marooning his own crew in the process. Never trust a pirate, age-old words of advice, were never truer than when they were used in reference to Blackbeard the pirate.
The Fall of Blackbeard
Following the siege on Charleston, the notorious black sails (popularized once again by the television series Black Sails) that preceded his arrival began to lose their luster. Though his reputation as a villain of the high seas angered officials, who longed for him to be hanged by the neck.
Blackbeard’s headquarters rested on Ocracoke Island off of the North Carolina Coast. The governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, assembled The Avengers of pirate hunting led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard, commander of the ships HMS Pearl and HMS Lyme. With a strong crew, Maynard arrived on Ocracoke Island, sealing off all but one exit.
The siege didn’t go exactly to plan as Blackbeard had prepared for their arrival and sunk about one-third of Maynard’s ships with a barrage of cannon fire. Never the one to sit back and watch a battle from afar, Blackbeard and his crew boarded Maynard’s ship for hand-to-hand combat.
Maynard had expected that this would happen. As Blackbeard’s crew took the fight to ’em, Maynard’s hidden forces sprung from below deck and overwhelmed the pirates.
It’s said that Blackbeard died from no fewer than five gunshots and over twenty stab wounds. Following his and his crew’s deaths, his head was hung from the mast of the Pearl.
A Lasting Legacy
Details of Blackbeard’s exploits were first recorded in Charles Johnson’s “A General Historie of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates.” This book inspired the likes of Peter Pan and Treasure Island. It also introduced the Jolly Roger. Blackbeard, in other words, could be called the most influential pirate who ever lived. His ruthless aggression and fierce image made him a sight — and force — to behold.
The legacy of Blackbeard endures aboard the Pirate Ship Royal Conquest, the most thrilling pirate ship in Johns Pass. Here, you can learn facts about Blackbeard the pirate in a family-friendly environment. Tours depart daily from John’s Pass at Madeira Beach, St. Petersburg, Florida.