Arriving off Charleston, South Carolina, in mid-May 1718, he blockaded the port for a week, seizing prizes and hostages for ransom. This infamous feat “struck a great Terror to the whole Province of Carolina.” Plundering eight or nine ships for supplies and specie, Blackbeard held hostages, including Samuel Wragg, a councilman. Under the threat of the hostages being murdered, a reluctant Governor Robert Johnson agreed to a ransom of a valuable chest of medicine.
Pirate. Most commonly known today as Edward Teach, in the Carolinas in the early eighteenth century Blackbeard was called Edward Thatch. Since confusion about his real name has confounded researchers into his background, his birthplace and parentage remain unknown. Contemporaries connected him with Jamaica, London, and Bristol, England. Although he was reputed to have had numerous wives, only two are mentioned in the documents–unnamed women in London and Bath, North Carolina.
Surfacing in Jamaica in mid-1717, Blackbeard in eighteen months carved an extraordinarily successful career as a pirate, creating an indelible image of “the fiercest pirate of them all” and making him a global icon. A tall and domineering figure possessing a volatile and charismatic personality, Blackbeard cultivated a reputation as “a Devil incarnate” that was enhanced by his boarding ships while brandishing numerous weapons and while wreathed in smoke from burning tapers in his beard and hair. Like most pirates of his era, he began as a privateer during Queen Anne’s War (1701–1713) under the command of Benjamin Hornigold, who at war’s end became a pirate chieftain on New Providence Island, Bahamas.
Blackbeard’s first piratical voyage was with Hornigold in summer 1717 to the North American coast from the Carolinas to Delaware Bay. In the fall Blackbeard commanded Stede Bonnet’s sloop Revenge in another rampage on the same coast, taking eleven prizes. Cruising in the Leeward Islands in November, Blackbeard seized the French slave ship Concorde, heavily armed it, and named it Queen Anne’s Revenge. With Revenge and Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard swept across the Caribbean.
The pirate captains separated over the winter but reunited by chance in March 1718 off the Central American Spanish Main. Blackbeard now sailed north to the Carolinas with a four-ship flotilla, mounting at least sixty guns, the most powerful maritime force in the hemisphere. Arriving off Charleston, South Carolina, in mid-May, he blockaded the port for a week, seizing prizes and hostages for ransom. This infamous feat “struck a great Terror to the whole Province of Carolina.” Plundering eight or nine ships for supplies and specie, Blackbeard held hostages, including Samuel Wragg, a councilman. Under the threat of the hostages being murdered, a reluctant Governor Robert Johnson agreed to a ransom of a valuable chest of medicine.
From Charleston, Blackbeard sailed to isolated North Carolina, where at Beaufort Inlet in June two of his vessels–Queen Anne’s Revenge and Adventure–wrecked. He took the royal pardon from Governor Charles Eden, married in Bath, and scaled down his illegal activities. Blackbeard established a camp at Ocracoke Inlet, the chief entrance to the colony, and appeared virtually to have retired from piracy. Uneasy at having a notorious pirate nearby, however, Virginia governor Alexander Spottswood invaded North Carolina with a naval and land force. Blackbeard was cornered at Ocracoke on November 22, 1718, by Lieutenant Robert Maynard’s flotilla and killed. His surviving men were tried, and the condemned pirates were executed in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Butler, Lindley S. Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Lee, Robert E. Blackbeard the Pirate: A Reappraisal of His Life and Times. Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, 1974.
Rankin, Hugh F. The Golden Age of Piracy. Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg, 1969.