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Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, is killed off North Carolina’s Outer Banks during a bloody battle with a British navy force sent from Virginia.
Believed to be a native of England, Edward Teach likely began his pirating career in 1713, when he became a crewman aboard a Caribbean sloop commanded by pirate Benjamin Hornigold. In 1717, after Hornigold accepted an offer of general amnesty by the British crown and retired as a pirate, Teach took over a captured 26-gun French merchantman, increased its armament to 40 guns, and renamed it the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
During the next six months, the Queen Anne’s Revenge served as the flagship of a pirate fleet featuring up to four vessels and more than 200 men. Teach became the most infamous pirate of his day, winning the popular name of Blackbeard for his long, dark beard, which he was said to light on fire during battles to intimidate his enemies. Blackbeard’s pirate forces terrorized the Caribbean and the southern coast of North America and were notorious for their cruelty.
READ MORE: 8 Famous Pirates from History
In May 1718, the Queen Anne’s Revenge and another vessel were shipwrecked, forcing Blackbeard to desert a third ship and most of his men because of a lack of supplies. With the single remaining ship, Blackbeard sailed to Bath in North Carolina and met with Governor Charles Eden. Eden agreed to pardon Blackbeard in exchange for a share of his sizable booty.
At the request of North Carolina planters, Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia dispatched a British naval force under Lieutenant Robert Maynard to North Carolina to deal with Blackbeard. On November 22, Blackbeard’s forces were defeated and he was killed in a bloody battle of Ocracoke Island. Legend has it that Blackbeard, who captured more than 30 ships in his brief pirating career, received five musket-ball wounds and 20 sword lacerations before dying.
READ MORE: How Blackbeard Lost His Head in a Bloody, Sword-Swinging Battle
Blackbeard's Ship Discovered off North Carolina
+ Read More
Photograph by <p> Robert R. Clark, National Geographic</p>
Editor's Note: This article was updated on July 24, 2017 to reflect the current legal status of the shipwreck.
The struggle for Blackbeard's legacy is continuing 300 years after history's most infamous pirate was killed in the coastal waters of North Carolina.
The state of North Carolina is defending itself against two lawsuits brought by private interests in the excavation of the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of Blackbeard’s small fleet of pirate ships. The Queen Anne’s Revenge went aground in 1718 just offshore from Beaufort. A few months after the grounding, Blackbeard was killed in a battle with British naval forces in the Pamlico Sound.
The wreck was found in 1996 by Intersal Inc., private salvagers based in Palm Bay, Florida. The state and Intersal made an agreement in 1998 that gave Intersal rights to make copyrighted photos and videos of the wreck. Meanwhile, divers from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources began excavating the wreck.
Disputes about intellectual property rights emerged, however. Those disagreements were resolved in 2013 with a new arrangement involving the state and Intersal and Nautilus Productions of Fayetteville, North Carolina, which had made videos and photos of the site and artefacts that had been recovered.
But in 2015, the North Carolina State Legislature passed a law declaring that all images related to the Queen Anne’s Revenge excavation were automatically the property of the state and thus are public records not subject to copyright protection.
Intersal and Nautilus Productions have filed suit, and the legal actions are working their ways through courts in North Carolina. Meanwhile, no excavation work has been done at the Queen Anne’s Revenge wreck site since 2015.
Lawyers for the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources did not respond to a request for comment on the legal issues.
The Most Iconic Episode From the Life of Blackbeard Is How It Ended. Here's How the Pirate Really Died
B lackbeard is arguably the best-known pirate from the Golden Age of Piracy, which stretched from the late 1600s to the mid-1720s. Although his pirating career lasted only a few years, and he failed to accumulate much in the way of treasure, he and his men plundered many ships, and, in an audacious move, their mini pirate armada blockaded the city of Charleston for nearly a week. But the most iconic scene in Blackbeard&rsquos storied life is his death, the 300th anniversary of which falls on Nov. 22. Here is how Blackbeard &mdash whose real name was probably Edward Thatch or Teach &mdash met his gruesome end, at the hands of British naval Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who was sent by Virginia Governor, Alexander Spotswood, to track him down.
Tipped off that Blackbeard and his men might be moored off North Carolina&rsquos Ocracoke Island, Maynard&rsquos forces departed Williamsburg on Nov. 17, 1718, and sailed down the James River. Although Maynard would have preferred to have the services of a British man-of-war to take on the fearsome pirate, such a ship could not navigate the shallow waters of Pamlico Sound, so Maynard had to rely on the services of two small sloops, the Ranger and the slightly larger Jane, with 25 men placed on the former, 35 on the latter, which would be the vessel on which Maynard sailed. While these sloops could easily navigate the shallow and twisting channels around Ocracoke, they had no cannons, which meant that Maynard&rsquos men would have to rely on their personal weapons in going up against a foe with nine cannons at his disposal.
By the afternoon of Nov. 21, Maynard&rsquos sloops had reached the southern tip of Ocracoke. They soon spied two sloops at anchor in an inlet facing Pamlico Sound, which to this day is known as Teach&rsquos (or Thatch&rsquos) Hole. With evening coming on, Maynard anchored the Jane and the Ranger for the night.
Unaware of the force amassed nearby, Blackbeard, along with about 20 of his men on board the sloop Adventure, spent that evening drinking and carousing with local trader Samuel Odell, who had arrived earlier on his own sloop. The following morning, the sea was calm and the winds very light, and the only sounds to be heard were birds greeting the break of day. At nine, Maynard ordered the Ranger to make way for the sloops, still not certain that one of them was Blackbeard&rsquos. The Jane followed close behind. Not long after setting out, the Jane grounded, and then the Ranger did the same. Men on the Jane began furiously throwing heavy materials overboard to lighten its load, while the Ranger&rsquos crew staved their water casks to the same end. Both sloops were soon afloat again, but that precious element of surprise had been lost.
Even if they had been in drunken stupors, Blackbeard&rsquos men would have been alerted by all the nearby commotion. Realizing that he was under attack, Blackbeard ordered his men to cut the Adventure&rsquos cable and get underway. To intimidate their attackers, the pirates began shooting at the approaching sloops. It appeared that Blackbeard&rsquos plan was to head out of the channel that the sloops had just entered by engaging them in a running battle. As Blackbeard tried to reach the channel&rsquos mouth, the Ranger headed straight for the Adventure, with the Jane right behind, its men straining at their oars to close in.
When the Jane pulled to within about half a pistol shot of the Adventure, there was a brief conversation between Maynard and Blackbeard. According to a second-hand account in the Boston News-Letter, the exchange was as follows:
Teach called to Lieutenant Maynard and told him he was for King George, desiring him to hoist out his boat and come aboard. Maynard replied that he designed to come aboard with his sloop as soon as he could, and Teach, understanding his design, told him that if he would let him alone, he would not meddle with him Maynard answered that it was him he wanted, and that he would have him dead or alive, else it would cost him his life whereupon Teach called for a glass of wine, and swore damnation to himself if he either took or gave quarter.
Maynard&rsquos own account of the conversation is similar, but briefer, and makes one wish that the naval officer had not been so laconic. &ldquoAt our first salutation,&rdquo Maynard wrote, Blackbeard &ldquodrank damnation to me and my men, whom he styled sniveling puppies, saying, he would neither give nor take quarter.&rdquo
As soon as the talking was over, Blackbeard took full advantage of his superior firepower and unleashed a booming broadside of partridge and swan shot that killed the commander of the Ranger and severely wounded five of his men, including the second and third in command. Shorn of its officers, the Ranger fell behind and was not a factor until the very end of the battle. The broadside also wounded many men on the Jane, but they continued to fight. In an amazing display of marksmanship, or, more likely, a lucky shot, they severed the Adventure&rsquos jib halyard, the line holding the jib &mdash a triangular sail &mdash up, which caused the sail to collapse and thus slowed the vessel down. Not wanting to expose any more of his men to blasts from Blackbeard&rsquos cannons, Maynard ordered all of them below decks, while he went into the cabin at the stern of the ship. Maynard was not only retreating to get out of harm&rsquos way, but he was also setting a trap. Before going to the cabin, Maynard ordered the pilot and a midshipman to stay on deck and alert him as to what Blackbeard was doing. If it worked out as Maynard hoped, the pirates would soon come to him.
Seeing that the Jane&rsquos decks were clear, Blackbeard thought that his cannons had done their deadly work, and the battle was all but won. To deliver the coup de grâce, Blackbeard brought the Adventure alongside the Jane and led his men over the rails, with a rope in his hand to lash the vessels together. As soon as Blackbeard was aboard, the pilot signaled Maynard, who, along with 12 of his men, rushed to the main deck, catching the pirates off guard. During the six-minute melee that ensued, the combatants slashed, thrust, and shot at one another at close range, their grunts, screams, and groans intermingled with the sounds of clashing steel and exploding gunpowder.
When the smoke finally cleared, the great Blackbeard lay dead, and the rest of his men who had followed him onto the Jane were either killed or severely wounded. At about the same time, the Ranger arrived, and its men boarded the Adventure and beat the remaining pirates into submission. While doing so, one of the navy sailors was killed by friendly fire. Pirates who lost their nerve and jumped overboard, rather than fight to the end, were shot in the water as they tried to escape. None of them survived, and one corpse was found in the reeds days later, with buzzards circling overhead.
According to Maynard, none of his men on the Jane, whom he said &ldquofought like heroes,&rdquo were killed during the fight, but many of them were &ldquomiserably cut and mangled.&rdquo Although various accounts disagree on the numbers, overall, approximately ten navy sailors and ten pirates died, and more than 20 sailors were wounded. Maynard took nine pirates prisoner, three of whom were white, and the rest black.
Three Centuries After His Beheading, a Kinder, Gentler Blackbeard Emerges
Since his head was separated from his body 300 years ago this month, Edward Teach (or Thache), also known as Blackbeard the pirate, has served as the archetype of the bloodthirsty rogues who once roamed Caribbean and Atlantic coastal waters.
Only in the past few years have genealogists, historians and archaeologists, thanks to a combination of hard work and good luck, unearthed surprising clues that reveal the man behind the legend, one that Blackbeard himself helped spawn. In his day, merchants whispered his name in fright. Reports circulated of a large man with “fierce and wild” eyes who kept a brace of three pistols on a holster across his chest and a tall fur cap on his head. Lighted matches made his luxurious beard smoke “like a frightful meteor.”
This pirate, according to a British account written a half-dozen years after his death, “frightened America more than any comet that has appeared there [for] a long time.” But Blackbeard vanished abruptly when a British naval expedition personally funded by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood ambushed him and most of his men in a bloody battle off Ocracoke Island on November 22, 1718. Blackbeard’s head was stuck on a piling off Hampton, Virginia, as a warning to other lawbreakers.
The fearsome buccaneer never scared Hollywood producers, however. Blackbeard gained new notoriety in the mid-20th century, when the 1952 movie Blackbeard the Pirate proved popular. A half-dozen films centered on his exploits followed, and he emerged as the quintessential cinematic pirate. In 2006, he garnered his own miniseries detailing his search for Captain Kidd’s treasure. He even had an encounter with Jack Sparrow in the 2011 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. These representations further embellished a legend that long ago overwhelmed historical truth. “The real story of Blackbeard has gone untold for centuries,” says Baylus Brooks, a Florida-based maritime historian and genealogist.
Even the most basic biographical details about Blackbeard have been hotly disputed. No one knows the year of his birth or even its location some claim Bristol, in western England others point to Jamaica. Still others insist he was from North Carolina or Philadelphia. His early life was a complete mystery. But few had attempted to trace Blackbeard’s family tree.
On a lazy summer morning in 2014, Brooks wondered if there might be records of any Teaches or Thaches in Jamaica, one of the places the pirate was said to consider home. Then he remembered his subscription to Ancestry.com and began his research there. “I expected nothing, but I got a hit,” he says. It was the baptismal record of Cox Thache, a son of Edward and Lucretia Theach (Thache and Theach were common variants of Teach), in the Jamaican settlement of Spanish Town in 1700. “This was all in about two hours over coffee in my favorite chair,” Brooks recalls.
Brooks knew that an English visitor to Jamaica in 1739 made reference to meeting members of Blackbeard’s family residing in Spanish Town, and his mother was said at that time to be still living. “My life had changed,” said Brooks. Ever since, he has been on the paper trail of the pirate’s family tree. With the help of Jamaican researcher Dianne Golding Frankson, he discovered that Edward Thache—who Brooks believes was Blackbeard’s father—was a captain and a man of status who remarried twice Lucretia was his last wife.
The real treasure that Brooks found, however, was a yellowed 1706 document on a shelf in the parish archives retrieved by Frankson. Written aboard the 60-gun Royal Navy ship Windsor while it was anchored in the harbor of Jamaica’s Port Royal, the author was Edward Thache’s son, who bore the same name. In this deed, Thache turns his late father’s estate over to his stepmother, Lucretia, for the “love and affection I have for and bear towards my brother and sister Thomas Theache and Rachel Theache”—his half siblings.
If Brooks is right, then Blackbeard joined the Royal Navy and magnanimously turned his father’s estate, which as the oldest son he inherited by law, over to his Jamaican family. Checking the Windsor logbooks, he discovered an Edward Thache who had arrived in England aboard a Barbados merchant ship. On April 12, 1706, the young man joined the crew while the ship was anchored off England’s Isle of Wight near Portsmouth.
In Brooks’ telling, Blackbeard’s family left Bristol while the pirate was still young to seek their fortune on the wealthy island of Jamaica, where sugar was known as white gold. They owned enslaved Africans and appear to have been of high social status. Why the young Edward, likely in his mid-20s, would leave home to join a merchant ship and then the Royal Navy is not clear, but it may have been a natural step to achieve advancement as well as nautical experience.
This historical Blackbeard is far different from the rampaging maniac or Robin Hood figure of myth. Brooks’ Thache is a well-educated man of social grace, literate and capable of using complex navigational equipment. This background would explain why, shortly before his death, he hit it off so well with North Carolina’s governor Charles Eden and other leading members of the colony. The pirate might have even been upset over the demise of the House of Stuart that put George I—a German speaker—on the English throne, perhaps the reason he renamed a stolen French ship the Queen Anne’s Revenge, after the last Stuart monarch.
Other historians have recently noted that despite Blackbeard’s terrible reputation, no evidence exists that he ever killed anyone before his final battle at Ocracoke, near Cape Hatteras, when he was fighting for his life. “He likely cultivated that murderous image,” says Charles Ewen, an archaeologist at East Carolina University. “Scaring people was a better option than to damage what you are trying to steal.”
Brooks admits he cannot definitively prove his Thache is our Blackbeard, but other scholars find Brooks’ case compelling. “It makes sense and it seems credible,” says Ewen. Some are more cautious. “There is some validity,” adds historian Angus Konstam, “but it is not yet tied up.”
What drew Blackbeard to piracy a decade after joining the Royal Navy, however, is not a matter of dispute. In 1715, a fleet of Spanish ships left Havana, Cuba, for Spain filled with treasure, including vast quantities of silver. An early hurricane wrecked the ships on Florida’s Atlantic coast, drowning more than a thousand sailors. English pirates, privateers, and others—particularly Jamaicans—descended on the area to plunder the vessels, sparking what Trent University historian Arne Bialuschewski calls “a gold rush.”
Blackbeard first appears in the records as a pirate at this moment.
His career, like so many of his colleagues, was short-lived within two years he was dead. “People have this romantic notion of piracy, but it was not a cushy lifestyle,” says Kimberly Kenyon, field director for excavation of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which went aground outside Beaufort, North Carolina, and was abandoned shortly before Blackbeard’s death.
Kenyon’s team has hauled more than 400,000 artifacts to the surface, from two-dozen massive cannons to a fragment of a page from a 1712 travel book—Blackbeard was known to plunder books as well as commodities. The pirate may have had a fondness for good food too, since records show that he kept the ship’s French cook. The archaeological team has also found remains of wild boar, deer, and turkey, a sign that the crew hunted fresh meat. And the team has only excavated half of the wreck—the world’s only pirate wreck to be scientifically studied.
But if Blackbeard was loath to use violent means, he certainly was ready to do so. The ship was heavily armed with 250,000 bits of lead shot, 400 cannonballs, dozens of grenades, and many muskets, as well as a total of 40 English and Swedish cannon. Disease likely posed a greater threat than the Royal Navy, however, as evidenced by the urethral syringe found by archaeologists still bearing traces of mercury, a popular treatment at the time for syphilis.
The recent archaeological finds coupled with Brooks’ research may make Blackbeard “even more enigmatic,” says Kenyon. He is no longer the cardboard villain of the past, but his personality and motives are still unclear. “He continues to be so elusive. There are so many facets to this person. That’s what makes him fascinating.
Editor's note, November 20, 2018: This story has been corrected to indicate that Blackbeard joined his crew near Portsmouth, not Plymouth.
Blackbeard killed off North Carolina - HISTORY
August 10, 2012 —Growing up in the Mid-Atlantic, I would often find myself in nearby North Carolina for various reasons. My impression was always that it was a nice, if innocuous, place. It took me a long time to learn that North Carolina is much more exotic than just one-half of a pair of bookend states, for a few reasons. The relevant one here? Blackbeard was offed there.
That’s right. If North Carolina hadn’t of been first in flight, its license plates would bear that infamous pirate’s feral mug with a red circle and slash over it.
Known by his mom as Edward Teach, British-born Blackbeard had a two-year reign of salty-wet terror in the early 18th century that stretched the length of the southeast coast of what was not yet the United States, as well as throughout the Caribbean. His flag bore a demon skeleton spearing a bleeding heart while lifting a glass in toast to the devil (or an hourglass in warning to his victims), and it flew at the masts of four vessels crewed by some 400 pirates under his leadership. He captured at least 45 vessels in his short career and at one point blockaded the entire city of Charleston, South Carolina.
The best part about a pirate is how they look, of course, and Blackbeard wore villainy like it was custom-tailored. He was absolutely demonic with a long, braided black beard laced with lit cannon fuses, a blood-red coat under a metal armor of pistols and knives, and brandishing a pair of swords like they were the eating utensils of a starving man.
The North Carolina coast was a regular hunting and hiding grounds for him. I’ve already written about seeing a house where he’s supposed to have lived, in the town of Beaufort, and every once in a while the news throws us progress updates on the status of the dredging up of one of his pirate ships, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, just off the coast of that same town.
And now I can report to you that I’ve been to the site where they fed his flesh to fish.
Piracy isn’t exactly an occupation with a great retirement plan, and Blackbeard met his end on November 22, 1718, after a fierce battle with some Royal Navy men who had been sent down by the British governor of Virginia, Alexander Spottswood, to do just that. Led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard, they tracked Blackbeard down in a pair of ships to a channel that’s come to be called Teach’s Hole, one of his favorite places to weigh anchor. It’s adjacent to Pamlico Sound, just off Ocracoke Island, where he like to go ashore to drink his rum, bury his treasure, and shiver his timbers. I’m obviously not researching very deeply here.
Blackbeard was aboard his ship, the Adventure, at the time he was intercepted by the hunting party. Accounts differ about the details of the battle out in the sound, but at some point it moved from cannon- and insult-firing to hand-to-hand combat aboard one of the Royal Navy ships. Blackbeard really didn’t want to pay his dues in pirate hell that day, because it took 20 sword cuts, five musket-ball wounds, and one beheading to take the monster down.
The story goes that they threw his headless body into the drink, where it swam around the boat multiple times before finally sinking into the brine. The seamen held onto his head, as they wanted the bounty, and tied it to the front of one of their ships and returned to Virginia. There, in Hampton River, Blackbeard's head was hung from a pole in an area now known as Blackbeard's Point.
There’s a legend that his skull was stolen and eventually silver-plated as a drinking chalice, and the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, actually has a silver plated skull chalice in its collection that most people point to as Blackbeard’s. Unfortunately, the museum doesn’t often display the piece itself (usually lending it out to other museums) and doesn’t give any official credence to the Blackbeard rumor. They wouldn’t even answer my emails when I looked into it for The New England Grimpendium.
The island of Ocracoke isn’t as apathetic about its morbid Blackbeard connection, although they don’t exactly revel in it, either.
The island is located in the Outer Banks, and is both a thin and thinly populated place. Less than 1,000 people live on this one-town strip of land, and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. There’s a free auto ferry that goes to it every half hour or so from Hatteras, though, which was really easy to use.
The ferry drops you off at the northern end of the island, where you can drive the 12 miles passed its famous, uncrowded beaches until you get to the bulge of land at the opposite end that is the small town of Ocracoke. The only official acknowledgement that I saw that one of history’s great villains went down there was a historical sign downtown. However, some of the local businesses have picked up the slack. Like Teach’s Hole.
This Teach’s Hole is a small, pirate-themed gift shop that takes up part of the first floor of a two-story red building. However, for a fee, you can walk through its Blackbeard Exhibit, a small section of the building with various paintings of Blackbeard, a life-sized model of the man himself, items dredged from the waters thereabouts, and reproductions of his ship and various weapons from the period. It’s a little cheesy, but if like me you’re there for Blackbeard, that’s where you’ll find his black heart the most prominent.
After we visited Teach’s Hole, I wanted to get as close to the real Teach’s Hole as we could without getting wet. He was killed and dumped out in Pamlico Sound somewhere, but you can see the general area where his blood mixed with seawater from the 120-acre Springer’s Point Nature Preserve. It’s adjacent to the residential part of the small town, although by residential I just mean where all the houses that get rented out to tourists through VRBO are.
There’s a public trail to Springer’s Point right there in the neighborhood, but the trailhead is easy to miss. It’s off Loop Road, and there’s a small sign, but it looks like it just goes to the back yard of one of the properties. There’s no parking anywhere near it, so you’ll have to make arrangements. The path isn’t too long and wends through a pleasant forest, past a lonely tombstone for a local philanthropist named Sam Jones (who’s buried with his horse), and ends at a beach overlooking the channel and sound. The only signs I saw there talked about birds and crabs. Nothing about the death of Blackbeard.
I assume there must be a thousand tales about Blackbeard’s headless ghost wandering the area, though. And, with the nature sanctuary preserving what it must’ve been like when Blackbeard black-booted it across the island, and his headless skeleton somewhere there offshore, it makes me want to hit up VRBO for an overnight stay.
He and other pirates plagued shipping lanes off North America and throughout the Caribbean in the early-eighteenth century: an era commonly referred to as the "Golden Age of Piracy."
From Anonymity, a Life of War and Roguery
Despite his legendary reputation, little is known about the early life of Blackbeard. Even his true name is uncertain, though it is usually given as some variation of Edward Thatch or Teach.
He is reported to have served as a privateer during Queen Anne's War (1701 - 1714), and turned to piracy sometime after the war's conclusion.
In Pursuit of a Famous Pirate
The earliest primary source document that mentions Blackbeard by name dates to the summer of 1717. Other records indicate that by the fall of 1717 Blackbeard was operating off Delaware and Chesapeake bays in conjunction with two other pirate captains, Benjamin Hornigold and Stede Bonnet.
Blackbeard served an apprenticeship under Hornigold before becoming a pirate captain in his own right.
Learn More About Stede Bonnet
A Queen in the Caribbean
Late in the fall of 1717, the pirates made their way to the eastern Caribbean. It was here, off the island of Martinique, that Blackbeard and his fellow pirates captured the French slaveship La Concorde -- a vessel he would keep as his flagship and rename Queen Anne's Revenge.
After crossing the Atlantic during its third journey, and only 100 miles from Martinique, the French ship encountered Blackbeard and his company. According to a primary account, the pirates were aboard two sloops, one with 120 men and twelve cannon, and the other with thirty men and eight cannon.
With the French crew already reduced by sixteen fatalities and another thirty-six seriously ill from scurvy and dysentery, the French were powerless to resist. After the pirates fired two volleys at La Concorde, Captain Dosset surrendered the ship.
From La Concorde to Mauvaise Rencontre
The pirates took La Concorde to the island of Bequia in the Grenadines where the French crew and the enslaved Africans were put ashore. While the pirates searched La Concorde, the French cabin boy, Louis Arot, informed them of the gold dust that was aboard. The pirates searched the French officers and crew and seized the gold.
The cabin boy and three of his fellow French crewmen voluntarily joined the pirates, and ten others were taken by force including a pilot, three surgeons, two carpenters, two sailors, and the cook. Blackbeard and his crew decided to keep La Concorde and left the French the smaller of the two pirate sloops.
The French gave their new and much smaller vessel the appropriate name Mauvaise Rencontre (Bad Encounter) and, in two trips, succeeded in transporting the remaining Africans from Bequia to Martinique.
Sailing, Slaving, and Piracy
Learn about La Concorde's journeys prior to its capture by Blackbeard.
View Artifacts: Tools and Instruments
Examine some of the tools and instruments Blackbeard and his crew used to navigate and survive at sea.
An Increasingly Dangerous Pirate Force, 1717-1718
Leaving Bequia in late November, Blackbeard cruised the Caribbean in his new ship, now renamed Queen Anne's Revenge, taking prizes and adding to his fleet. From the Grenadines, Blackbeard sailed north along the Lesser Antilles plundering ships near St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Nevis, and Antigua, and by early December he had arrived off the eastern end of Puerto Rico.
From there, a former captive reported that the pirates were headed to Samana Bay in Hispaniola (Dominican Republic).
By April 1718, the pirates were off the Turneffe Islands in the Bay of Honduras. It was there that Blackbeard captured the sloop Adventure, forcing the sloop's captain, David Herriot, to join him. Sailing east once again, the pirates passed near the Cayman Islands and captured a Spanish sloop off Cuba that they also added to their flotilla.
Blackbeard Terrorizes Charleston, 1718
Turning north, they sailed through the Bahamas and proceeded up the North American coast. In May 1718, the pirates arrived off Charleston, South Carolina, with Queen Anne's Revenge and three smaller sloops.
In perhaps the most brazen act of his piratical career, Blackbeard blockaded the port of Charleston for nearly a week. The pirates seized several ships attempting to enter or leave the port and detained the crew and passengers of one ship, the Crowley, as prisoners.
As ransom for the hostages, Blackbeard demanded a chest of medicine. Once delivered, the captives were released, and the pirates continued their journey up the coast.
Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, p. 73
Mishaps Off the North Carolina Coast
Soon after leaving Charleston, Blackbeard's fleet tried to enter Old Topsail Inlet in North Carolina, now known as Beaufort Inlet. During that attempt, Queen Anne's Revenge and the sloop Adventure grounded on a sandbar and were abandoned. Research has uncovered two eyewitness accounts that shed light on where the two pirate vessels were lost.
According to a deposition given by David Herriot, the former captain of Adventure, "the said Thatch's ship Queen Anne's Revenge run a-ground off of the Bar of Topsail-Inlet." Herriot further states that Adventure "run a-ground likewise about Gun-shot from the said Thatch".
Captain Ellis Brand of HMS Lyme provided additional insight as to where the two ships were lost in a letter (July 12, 1718) to the Lords of Admiralty. In that letter Brand stated that: "On the 10th of June or thereabouts a large pyrate Ship of forty Guns with three Sloops in her company came upon the coast of North carolina ware they endeavour'd To goe in to a harbour, call'd Topsail Inlet, the Ship Stuck upon the barr att the entrance of the harbour and is lost as is one of the sloops."
See Artifacts in Beaufort
Visit the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort's popular exhibit featuring a huge selection of artifacts from Queen Anne's Revenge.
Was the Loss of QAR Blackbeard's Gambit?
In his deposition, Herriot claims that Blackbeard intentionally grounded Queen Anne's Revenge and Adventure in order to break up the company, which by this time had grown to over 300 pirates. Intentional or not, that is what happened as Blackbeard marooned some pirates and left Beaufort with a hand picked crew and most of the valuable plunder.
Blackbeard's piratical career ended six months later at Ocracoke Inlet on the North Carolina coast. There he encountered an armed contingent sent by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood and led by Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard.
In a desperate battle aboard Maynard's sloop, Blackbeard and a number of his fellow pirates were killed. Maynard returned to Virginia with the surviving pirates and the grim trophy of Blackbeard's severed head hanging from the sloop's bowsprit.
In 2015, historian Baylus Brooks examined official government records in Jamaica and Church of England records to gain new insight into the possible identity of Blackbeard. Brooks assembled the immediate lineage of an Edward Thache, a respected resident of Spanish Town, Jamaica.
Because of this work, it may be possible to place Blackbeard's actions in an appropriate historical context. Brooks's intriguing genealogical research and the Thache family tree contained in his book, Blackbeard Reconsidered: Mist's Piracy, Thache's Genealogy, offer a possibility for Blackbeard's mysterious background. Is the Edward Thache Brooks unearthed in Jamaica the same Edward Thache who assumed the alias of Blackbeard and terrorized the Caribbean? You decide!
-Lusardi, Richard and Mark Wilde-Ramsing. 2001. "In Search of Blackbeard: Historical and Archaeological Research at Shipwreck Site 003BUI," Southeastern Geology 40(1): 1-9.
Blackbeard’s Death: Off With His Head
On November 22, 1718, the infamous pirate Blackbeard was killed. Reported to have been a privateer during Queen Anne’s War, Blackbeard is said to have turned to piracy afterward. He is one of the most famous figures associated with the “Golden Age of Piracy,” which flourished briefly along the North Carolina coast in the early 1700s.
In 1717, Blackbeard and his fellow pirates captured the French slaveship La Concorde in the eastern Caribbean. With his new ship, which he renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard cruised the Caribbean taking ships along the way. Arriving off the cost of Charleston, S.C. in May 1718, Blackbeard blockaded the port for nearly a week in what was perhaps the most brazen act of his piratical career.
Blackbeard lived in the town of Bath briefly during the summer of 1718, and soon after, attempted to enter what is now Beaufort Inlet with his fleet. The vessels grounded on the ocean floor and were abandoned.
Six months later, at Ocracoke Inlet, Blackbeard encountered ships sent by the governor of Virginia, led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard. In a desperate battle, Blackbeard and several of his crew were killed. Maynard returned to Virginia with the surviving pirates and the grim trophy of Blackbeard’s severed head.
- State Historic Site
- Photos of pirates, shipwrecks and related subjects from the State Archives , shipwrecks and underwater archaeology on NCpedia
- The Queen Anne’s Revenge recovery project on Facebook and Twitter
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Day 1: North Carolina Maritime Museum & All-Ages Pirate Tours
Start your voyage at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. Here, you’ll find a fascinating exhibit that includes artifacts from Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and learn about the efforts to locate it. The wreckage was found in Beaufort Inlet by a private group Nov. 21, 1996, and confirmed the next day on the 278th anniversary of Blackbeard’s death. The site of the wreck is under about 20 feet of water just offshore from Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach.
For kids of all ages, the Beaufort Ghost Walk brings pirate stories to life on the waterfront district of downtown Beaufort.
Enjoy dinner at Clawson’s 1905 Restaurant & Pub and spend the night at the Inlet Inn, both on the town’s picturesque waterfront.
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris/Public Domain
This painting depicts Blackbeard being captured in a 1718 battle. The famed pirate terrorized the Philadelphia region in 1717, when he captured six or seven merchant ships in the Delaware Bay.
Benjamin Franklin once described a scene that left the young printer quite bewildered.
Fueled by "a vain hope of growing suddenly rich," Franklin wrote in 1729, many early Philadelphia residents had taken to searching for buried treasure "almost to the ruining of themselves and families."
Laborers and crafters could be seen wandering through the woods by day and returning there at night – only to be spooked by fears of "malicious demons" guarding the treasures.
"This odd humor of digging for money, through a belief that much has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for several years been mighty prevalent among us," Franklin wrote, "insomuch that you can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side, without observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps some lately opened."
Franklin penned those words in 1729, as the so-called "Golden Age of Piracy" was drawing to a close.
But Philadelphia – founded by William Penn in 1682 – was a hotbed for pirates in its early years, when some of the most notorious pirates freely roamed city streets. And tales of buried treasure quickly became part of local legend.
"There were pirates on the Delaware River," said Craig Bruns, chief curator at the Independence Seaport Museum. "We're talking in the 1700s, before the creation of the country. . Because Philadelphia is the largest port in the colonies at the time, it attracts a lot of commerce."
As dozens of merchant ships headed toward the West Indies each year, that commerce caught the eyes of pirates. With Philadelphia lacking naval protection, pirates could intercept the merchant ships and steal commodities to resell elsewhere.
"Yes, they would get some gold here and there," Bruns said. "But it was more about basic commodities that they could resell."
It did not hurt that many city leaders, including Gov. William Markham, sympathized with the pirates who frequented the city's taverns and conducted business in its marketplaces. Though Markham publicly denied associations with pirates, his daughter was married to wanted pirate John Avery.
Even those who railed against piracy were not always practicing what they preached.
The Rev. Edward Portlock, the rector at Christ Church, agreed to hide some 600 pieces of gold handed to him by Robert Bradenham, a physician to the famed Capt. William Kidd. Portlock, who decried piracy from the pulpit, hid the pirate treasure beneath the church floor.
But Portlock's secret was uncovered, leading to Bradenham's arrest. And Bradenham flipped on Kidd, serving as the primary witness at the pirate's trial in London.
Kidd, once a privateer, denied the accusations of piracy. But he was found guilty of murder and piracy and was executed in 1701.
BLACKBEARD IN PHILLY
Nearly two decades later, another famed pirate had Philadelphia business leaders in a tizzy.
Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, appeared off the mid-Atlantic coast alongside Stede Bonnet in the summer of 1717, effectively scaring off commerce.
Blackbeard, who reportedly had visited Philadelphia two years prior as a mate and likely had family here, stationed his ship, dubbed "The Queen Anne's Revenge," in Delaware Bay.
The waterway provided ample places for him to ambush merchant ships, according to Arne Bialuschewski, who detailed Blackbeard's movements – and the campaign against him – in the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography:
"During the peak years of pirate activity off the North American coast in the summer and fall of 1717 and 1718, several vessels from Philadelphia were captured by Blackbeard and Bonnet's marauding gang. However, the surviving evidence makes it easy to overestimate the losses. The number of vessels lost to pirate attacks, either through theft or destruction of a prize, appears rather small. More important was the fact that local shipowners were frightened by Blackbeard and his fellow pirates."
By October, Blackbeard had captured six or seven ships, prompting statesman James Logan to inform New York and New Jersey Gov. Robert Hunter of the problem, noting that many of the pirates were familiar with Philadelphia.
Blackbeard's Jolly Roger flag depicted a skeleton piercing a heart, whilst toasting the devil. This illustration is from an image in 'Blackbeard the Pirate' (2007) by Angus Konstam.
The news spread throughout the colonies. A newspaper account from Philadelphia, published in the Boston News-Letter, detailed the seizures, detailing the ship's weaponry and the pirates' treatment of passengers and cargo:
Seeking an end to the disruption in trade, the British government offered amnesty to any pirates who surrendered to colonial officials. Pennsylvania Gov. William Keith also offered an award to anyone who discovered pirates who chose not to surrender.
With winter approaching, Blackbeard steered his ship south, possibly pillaging ships in the Caribbean Sea before eventually accepting amnesty in South Carolina. It was short-lived.
By May 1718, Blackbeard had returned to sea, stationing his ship off the coasts of the Carolinas. Three months later, Keith issued a warrant for his arrest in Philadelphia.
An arrest was never made. A naval force killed Blackbeard in North Carolina, with the pirate's head famously being carried off to Virginia. A South Carolina militia captured Sted Bonnet, who was hanged.
Source/Library of Congress
“The Pirate's Ruse: Luring a Merchantman in the Olden Days” by is a 19th-century interpretation of pirates attempting to lure in a ship so they can board it.
A COMMON MOTIF
But the legend of Blackbeard and tales of buried pirate treasure continued to grow through the ensuing decades.
An 1846 book containing historical collections from New Jersey, tells of two haunted trees in Burlington County, including one large black walnut tree known as "Pirate Tree."
Blackbeard and his associates allegedly buried silver and gold there, doing so in silence on a stormy night. The legend claims a Spaniard, known for being a reckless outlaw, offered to guard the treasure by surrendering his life.
"He was shot through the brain by Blackbeard, with a charmed bullet, which penetrated without occasioning a wound, thus leaving him as well prepared as ever for mortal combat, except the trifling circumstance of his being stone dead," the historical collection states. "He was buried in an erect position and so well has he performed his trust, that, for any evidence we possess to the contrary, the treasure remains there to the present day."
There are countless tales of pirate treasure buried throughout the Jersey Shore, and even in Pennsylvania, said Dan Rolph, a historian at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
The treasures often allegedly belong to the most famous pirates – Blackbeard or Kidd – and are protected by spirits. But such tales involve a motif that dates back well before Blackbeard terrorized the Atlantic, Rolph said.
"This belief of treasure and spirits goes way back into early medieval literature, belief and superstition," Rolph said. "So it's not just something that came around in the 18th century, or is a product of Hollywood. This is something that's been with us as a culture for centuries."
But that doesn't mean pirates – or other people – didn't bury treasure. In fact, plenty of people have found pots of gold or coins buried in the ground.
"We have actual, literal documentation that piracy was a big problem in this area," Rolph said. "To then also have local legend to support the burial of treasures, I don't think, is beyond the imagination.
"Now whether all the legends are true, of course, no. There's all kinds of . poetic license that's come in. But that doesn't in any way negate the story or negate examples of actual treasure that has been found."
So maybe Ben Franklin shouldn’t have been griping about those early Philadelphians after all.
Edward Teach or Edward Thatch, nicknamed Blackbeard was a formidable pirate born in 1680. He died in 1718, during a battle against British ships. He owes his nickname to his thick black beard. He first worked for the pirate Benjamin Hornigold, before emancipating himself and penetrating in the Caribbean but also on the east coast of the British colonies in America. Until his death, he brought chaos everywhere he set sails to. For his attacks to be even more efficients, he allied with other famous pirates. After his death, he became a legend, even today he is considered as one of the greatest pirate of all time. On November 28, 1717, Barbe Noire seized the concord, a slave frigate belonging to the French shipowner René Montaudouin. He renames it “the revenge of Queen Anne.” In 1718, the ship ran aground on a sand bank off Beaufort, North Carolina. The crew and the pirate come out unharmed.