“On this day in 1718, Blackbeard, the most notorious of all pirates, was killed in a gun battle off the coast of North Carolina. It brought to an end the brief but bloody career of a figure who came to epitomise the romantic and swashbuckling excesses of the “”Golden Age”” of piracy. With his vast black beard, and full-length crimson coat, Blackbeard attained an almost mythological status when alive, and continued to be feared and revered long after his death.
Very little is known about Blackbeard’s early life, and even his real name is a question of some doubt. He is thought to have been born in the English city of Bristol around 1680, and early records give his surname as Thache, Thatch, Thack or something similar.
Edward Teach, as he is most commonly known, served in the navy in the Caribbean during Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), before turning to life as a pirate. In around 1716, Teach joined the crew of the pirate Benjamin Hornigold. It appears that his naval prowess was already apparent, as Hornigold quickly placed him in charge of a sloop and gave him his own crew.
Towards the end of 1717, Teach captured the French slave galley La Concorde off the coast of St Vincent. He renamed the ship Queen Anne’s Revenge, arming her with 40 canons and a fearsome crew. Over the following months, Blackbeard, as he became known, augmented his coffers and his terrible reputation through the plundering of countless merchant vessels.
In 1718, alarmed at the number of ships lost to piracy in the volatile waters of the New World, the British dispatched several naval ships to the region with the intention of subduing the pirate threat. That summer, tempted by an amnesty offered to all retiring pirates, Teach renounced his pirate status. But it was clear that he only paid lip service to his pledge, and by the autumn he was once again terrorising the Caribbean.
On 22 November, Blackbeard’s vessel The Adventurer was sheltering in the Ocracoke Inlet, on the coast of North Carolina, when it was discovered by a Royal Navy patrol under the command of Captain Maynard. Maynard waited until morning, and then entered the inlet with two commandeered sloops.
Blackbeard immediately commenced battle, and aimed a volley of cannon fire at his would-be captors. After several exchanges of fire, The Adventurer drew alongside Maynard’s sloop, and seeing that the enemy had suffered considerable losses, Blackbeard gave the signal to board. But Maynard had played a canny game, ordering a number of his men to hide below deck and surprise the pirates when they boarded. The ambush proved decisive. Caught unawares, Blackbeard’s pirates had little time to prepare for hand-to-hand combat and were soon overrun by the navy contingent.
Blackbeard was said to have fought ferociously, supposedly taking five musket shots to the body and enduring over twenty cutlass lacerations before he fell. His head was subsequently detached from his body; a macabre trophy for his captors, and an ignominious end for a pirate who lives on in folklore as the greatest that ever sailed the seas.”
Credit: Getty 91844892
Caption: Known as a notorious pirate, Blackbeard came to epitomise the “Golden Age” of piracy.