- Education and Science
Blackbeard-The Terror of the Seas
Edward Teach of Bristol, also known as Blackbeard the Pirate, The terror of the Seas. He terrorised the West Indies and the Carolinas on the East Coast of America, plundering the cargoes of ships and killing their crews. He was a fearsome looking man, huge in stature and of immense strength, with a black beard that reached to his waist. To further his demonic appearance when engaging in hand to hand fighting, he plaited his beard and fixed fuses into the plaits and also under his hat. When Blackbeard charged into battle with his sword flashing, his pistols firing and his fuses lit, sending out streams of sparks and smoke, his opponents were absolutely terrified, quaking in fear and almost dying of fright as the monster rushed towards them, slashing and stabbing and shooting.
It is thought that Teach reached the Caribbean in the late seventeenth century, probably on a merchant ship from his home town of Bristol. While he was there, he joined the crew of an infamous pirate, Benjamin Horngold, who taught him the trade of piracy, and schooled him in the arts of disabling ships and of killing their crews. Teach showed such enthusiasm and daring that Horngold soon promoted him to Captain in one of their captured vessels. Together they sailed the seas amassing huge fortunes by stealing ships and their cargoes and selling the proceeds in Havana, Cuba or Honduras on the South American shore, before hiding out in the thousands of bays and creeks along the coastlines. For many years they plied their trade, always keeping one step ahead of the Royal Navy, gradually becoming immensely rich in gold, in silks,in coffee, cocoa, and in fine wines and brandies.
Pardons for all
To try to lessen the mayhem that pirates were causing in the colonies, King George in England issued a proclamation to the effect that if pirates gave up their trade and settled ashore then they would be given a free pardon, and they could keep all their ill gotten gains.
Horngold decided to get his pardon and sailed to New Providence in the Bahamas to surrender to the Governor. Blackbeard had no intention of giving himself up and he continued to raid and plunder ships, revelling in the terror he was causing. He soon had a fleet of three pirate ships and they scourged the oceans, stealing cargoes, killing crews and sinking and burning ships of any nationality. Greed was the force that drove Blackbeard and he devised a plan so that he could get rid of the other two ships and all their crews and keep the amassed fortune for himself and a chosen few. Ordering the three ships into a creek for overhauling, he ran his ship aground. Israel Hands, commanding another of the ships and in the know of what Teach was about to do, pretended to go to Blackbeard's assistance, but also ran his ship aground. Blackbeard and Israel Hands then took over their third ship and while most of the crews were trying to re-float the marooned vessels, they themselves became marooned on the island when Blackbeard and Hands disappeared in the third vessel with the chosen crew members.
They headed for North Carolina where the Governor, Charles Eden was friendly and who would do almost anything for a sum of money. Taking a huge bribe, Eden signed certificates of pardon for Blackbeard and his men and they settled down ashore, but kept their ship handy as they certainly were not giving up the piracy. After a time ashore they went back to sea and started their old habits again. Near the Bahamas they captured two French ships. After transferring the cargo of one of the ships to the other, they took it and let the other go with the two crews on board. The pirates then headed back to North Carolina where Blackbeard gave Eden a part of the booty and in return Eden declared that the ship was a lawful prize as the pirates had found the ship adrift with no crew. Blackbeard swore that the prize ship was leaking and a danger to shipping, so he was given authority to tow it away and sink it, thereby getting rid of the evidence.
The pirates thought they were immune from the law with Eden on their side but they were wrong. The local community and the planters were fed up with the pirate's behaviour, their drunken escapades, womanising and insults, and the way that Eden turned a blind eye to their piracy, so they got together and petitioned Governor Spotswood of Virginia. Spotswood was apalled at their report of corruption and piracy and sent two Naval ships, under the command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard, to hunt them down.
Blackbeard's luck was about to run out.
Maynard's two flat bottomed sloops sailed down to the sand bar that enclosed Pimlico Sound, the Ocracoke Inlet, and there they spied Blackbeard's ship at anchor.The sloops were tiny compared to the pirate vessel with its massive armaments, but Maynard's orders were to take Blackbeard and his crew into custody, and he would not shirk his duty. The two vessels crept into the inlet, but were immediately spotted by the pirate lookouts and the alarm was raised. With his crews of tough Royal Navy sailors who were well used to hand to hand combat, Maynard raised the White Ensign and went in with his crews cheering mightily. Blackbeard slipped his anchor while running out the guns and fired a broadside at the sloops, disabling one of them. Then Blackbeard's ship ran aground on a sand bar. Maynard sailed his vessel under Blackbeard's bow to avoid the guns with the plan to board her, but Blackbeard had smoke grenades prepared and they were thrown onto the deck of the little sloop, covering her in black smoke. Blackbeard and his cuthroats boarded the sloop, yelling curses and firing their pistols. The Royal Navy fought like demons, their cutlasses taking many lives, then suddenly a gust of wind cleared the smoke. Maynard and Blackbeard were face to face. Both men fired at the same time and Blackbeard took a bullet in the chest. Enraged he slashed at Maynard with his sword and they fought toe to toe. With a vicious swipe, the pirate took away Maynard's sword and the Officer prepared for death, when one of the British seamen leaped between them and slashed with his cutlass across Blackbeard's throat. At the same time, another seaman shot Blackbeard again, the bullet piercing his side and he crashed to the deck, thrashing in agony until his body was lifeless. The remaining pirates lost heart when their leader fell and threw away their weapons. They were all taken into custody. The damaged sloop was repaired and they sailed for North Carolina with Blackbeard's head mounted on the bowsprit of Maynard's ship. Armed with documents found on the pirate ship, incriminating Eden, Maynard seized his assets and arrested him. Back at Virginia the captured pirates were tried, found guilty and hanged. An enquiry was set up to investigate the corrupt Governor and his illegal dealings with the pirates, but no conclusion was ever reached as Eden pleaded his innocence, and had answers to every accusation. He was freed. The town of Edenton, North Carolina is named after him.
Many stories of Blackbeard circulated over the years and he gradually became a legend. As so often happens in the telling and re - telling of these stories, the truth is hidden and the romantic side of the legend grows. But Blackbeard from Bristol, The terror of the Seas, was exactly that: a murdering brigand who brought terror to the hearts of honest folk.
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