Childhood & Early Life
Blackbeard was born as Edward Teach, sometimes spelt as Thatch/Thack in Bristol. While the exact date remains unknown, he is estimated to have born in 1680. Little else is known about his early life as pirates generally adopted a pseudonym without revealing their past. It is therefore unlikely that his real name will ever be known.
The global shifts in Britain’s colonies and the expansion of the slave trade proved pivotal for Bristol, an international sea port and the then second-largest city in England. His association with the sea and easy access to ports have led to the speculations that he might have been raised in Bristol.
Early historians had traced a letter he possessed that was written by Tobias Knight, Chief Justice to the Province of Carolina, thus establishing the fact that he could read and write. Other suppositions indicate that he arrived in the Caribbean on a slave ship in the late 17th century.
Author Charles Johnson hinted that Blackbeard might have worked as a sailor in Jamaica on private ships during the War of Spanish succession. His unmatched courage and bold personality peaked during this time and contributed to him gaining infamy as a pirate.
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Blackbeard went to the island of New Providence, a thriving pirate location cultivated by Henry Jennings, a privateer who had become a pirate. It is speculated that Blackbeard later followed Captain Benjamin Hornigold’s crew. The captain grew impressed with him and assigned him more individual tasks.
Blackbeard set out for his own journey to the mainland in early 1717 and successfully managed to steal 100 barrels of wine in Bermuda. He later stole the cargo from ‘Betty’, another ship near Cape Charles.
Hornigold mentored Blackbeard and finally asked him to command a ship by himself. The ship ‘Revenge’ was among the three of Hornigold’s ships. The duo soon emptied the cargo of ‘Robert’, from Philadelphia; and ‘Good Intent’, from Dublin.
Hornigold later left the island after receiving the King’s pardon; Blackbeard remained in command at this juncture. He attacked ‘La Concorde’, a French captain’s slave-carrying vessel. He renamed it ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ and loaded it with 40 guns.
After his initial conquests, he became unstoppable. The mighty ‘Great Allen’ and ‘Margaret’ are among the ships he looted. His reputation and his fierce looks made him one of the most feared pirates in the sea. However, despite popular opinion, there are no records of him murdering anyone he held captive.
In 1718, he increased the size of his crew by taking over ‘Protestant Caesure’ and several other unnamed smaller vessels across the Bay of Honduras, Cuba, and Florida. He eventually steered his crew to Charles Town in South Carolina.
The year of 1718 proved to be the most successful year for him, and he granted himself the rank of Commodore. At Charles Town, where the port had no guard, his crew stopped all vessels and ransacked their contents. He looted as many as 10 vessels here.
His fleet sailed towards the Atlantic coast and hovered around Beaufort Inlet. His ships, ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ and ‘Adventure’, were damaged during this journey, leaving only ‘Revenge’ and other small sailing boats.
Blackbeard heard of a royal pardon being offered and considered it around the time his ships were wrecked. After several guesswork and adventures, he and his crew finally received Governor Eden’s pardon in June 1718. He was asked to settle in Bath after this.
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Despite receiving an official pardon, he returned to piracy within a couple of months, leading to an arrest warrant. He escaped the main waters by spending more time at Ocracoke Inlet along with Israel Hands, Calico Jack, and Robert Deal, other fabled criminals of the time.
The Governor of Virginia Alexander Spotswood issued a proclamation, commanding all pirates to report to the authorities. He eventually joined hands with Governor Edward Mosely and Colonel Maurice Moore to hunt down Blackbeard in hope of eliminating him and finding his treasures.
Blackbeard was finally found by Maynard’s crew, backed by Spotswood, in Ocracoke Island. However, the pirate won the initial battle before being surprised by the hidden crew in Maynard’s vessel. He was finally attacked repeatedly by many members of the crew and subsequently killed.
The loot in his vessels was sold at an auction, and the prize money of £400 was split between HMS Lyme and HMS Pearl. His severed head was mounted on the ship’s bowsprit, and it was later hung from a tall pole near Hampton across James rivers. It stood there for the next couple of years, warning others of a similar fate if treaded his path.
Family & Personal Life
When Blackbeard received his pardon from Governor Eden, he settled down in Bath. He was rumored to have married Mary Ormond, the daughter of William Ormand, a plantation owner. It has been said that he offered his ship ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ as a gift to her.
He was killed on 22 November, 1718 by the crew led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard in Ocracoke, North Carolina. When Maynard examined his body, he noted that Blackbeard was shot five times and cut over 20. He threw the corpse in the sea and suspend his head from the ship to receive his bounty.
Blackbeard’s legacy continues in media and the popular culture today. Among the most famous retellings of his life are the movies, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ (2011) and ‘Pan’ (2015). BBC produced a miniseries titled, ‘Blackbeard’ (2005), which chronicled the pirate’s life.
Several documentaries have paid homage to his courage, including BBC’s ‘Journeys to the Bottom of the Sea: Blackbeard's Revenge’, History Channel’s ‘Real Pirates of the Caribbean’ and PBS’s ‘Secrets of the Dead: Blackbeard's Lost Ship’.
His charisma has crossed centuries and continues to interest people of all age groups. Videos games too have included him as a character. His character appears in ‘Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag’ and ‘Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat’.