A Brief History
The 22nd of November is indelibly etched in the public’s mind with the death of a revered hero! (And John F. Kennedy also died on November 22nd.) Yes, pirate aficionados everywhere mourn the 1718 loss of one of the most colorful pirates of all time, Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.
Digging deeper, we find him born in England around 1680, and at some unknown point, becoming a sailor and finding himself in the West Indies.
Back in the bad old pirate days, pirates often took on an alias to avoid prosecution (the penalty of piracy being death) and Edward Teach may not even have been Blackbeard’s real name.
In any case, he began a life of piracy and terrorized the Caribbean and American coast, presenting a wild image of a large, ferocious maniac with burning “matches” (slow burning cords) and ribbons tied in his wild and bushy black beard. This image has become one of our standard images of what we think of as a pirate. With multiple pistols and a large cutlass, a fearsome image indeed.
Blackbeard and his crew received a pardon for piracy in June 1718, but quickly reverted to piracy. Not quite as bloodthirsty as his reputation, Blackbeard often spared the lives of his captives. Nonetheless, he was a highly wanted man by colonial authorities, and the colony of Virginia offered a reward to go along with a reward from the King.
Lt. R. Maynard of the Royal Navy led a force of 2 ships after Blackbeard and his ship the Adventure (note: Blackbeard is best known for previously commanding a ship he named Queen Anne’s Revenge) and on November 21, 1718 blocked their escape from shallow water off the North Carolina coast. On November 22, 1718 a fierce battle commenced, with the heavy and accurate fire from the Adventure taking a toll of Maynard’s men. Adventure then ran aground and Maynard’s ships were able to pull alongside with Blackbeard’s crew tricked into rushing aboard what appeared to be almost unmanned ships. Maynard and his men rushed from below where they were hiding and after a vicious battle defeated the pirates and Blackbeard was dead!
The legend got an exclamation point when after the battle it was found that Blackbeard, dying like a boss, had suffered at least 20 sword slashes and was shot at least 5 times. Hard man to kill, harder legend to kill!
Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite depiction of Blackbeard in popular culture? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more on Blackbeard’s legendary status in popular culture, please play Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and watch Pirates of the Caribbean on Stranger Tides.
For a video version of this article, please watch the following: