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What we know about Blackbeard

Most of what we know about the Blackbeard and his fellow pirates come from one source, A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates. The text covers in great detail his plundering, murdering exploits and turns up some fascinating facts about the most notorious pirate to sail the seven seas.

Engraving of Blackbeard holding a cutlass in front of a shipyard scene

An etching from Charles Johnson’s ‘A General History of the Pyrates’

His real name was Edward Teach

We know almost certainly that Blackbeard’s real name was Edward Teach – sometimes recorded as Edward Thatch. Whilst information about his early life is scarce, it is widely believed that he was born in Bristol around 1680 and served in the Royal Navy or as a privateer during the Queen Anne’s War.

He put lit fuses under his hat to make him appear even more terrifying

It is documented that:

“In time of action, he… stuck lighted matches under his hat, which appearing on each side of his face, his eyes naturally looking fierce and wild, made him altogether such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury, from hell, to look more frightful.”

He joined the crew of renowned pirate Captain Benjamin Hornigold

Like many other privateers, lacking legitimate and legal employment after the war against France, Blackbeard returned to what he knew best – piracy. In 1716, he joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, a notorious pirate operating out of the Bahamas. Soon Hornigold gave Teach the command of his own vessel, and together they plagued the Caribbean.

In 1718, Blackbeard blockaded the port of Charles Town and demanded medical equipment

In May 1718, Blackbeard took part in one of his most audacious and famous acts. In an incredibly bold move, he blockaded the port of Charles Town in the Province of South Carolina. He held the town for ransom, capturing ships, cargo and sailors until his demands for medicine were met.

Blackbeard was killed in battle on 22nd November 1718

Lieutenant Robert Maynard “an experienced Officer, and a Gentleman of great Bravery and Resolution” finally killed Blackbeard, in a bloody battle at the mouth of the Okracoke Inlet. Maynard and Blackbeard clashed in a sword duel which saw Blackbeard sustain more than twenty wounds. We are told though:

“he stood his Ground, and fought with great Fury, till he received five and twenty Wounds, and five of them by Shot. At length, as he was cocking another Pistol (famously carrying three pairs slung across his shoulders), having fired several before, he fell down dead”.

His severed head was tied to one of the bowsprits of a ship

Blackbeard’s severed head was erected on the prow of the Lieutenant Robert Maynard’s ship as a warning to other pirates in the area as a trophy of Maynard’s victory.

He was the most famous pirate ever to have lived

The answer to Blackbeard’s continued fame is ultimately given in the pages of General History of Pyrates as this:

“In the Commonwealth of Pyrates, he who goes the greatest Length of Wickedness, is looked upon with a kind of Envy amongst them… The Hero of whom we are writing, was thoroughly accomplished this Way, and some of his Frolicks of Wickedness, were so extravagant, as if he aimed at making his Men believe he was a Devil incarnate”.

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