The Death of the Pirate Blackbeard
Fact or Fiction
Do you believe Blackbeard was fact or fiction?
Blackbeard's Reign of Terror
On the day Edward Teach was born, around 1680 in Bristol, England, few would have imagined that the little baby would someday become the infamous Blackbeard, who would terrorize the Caribbeans and other seas. Part of what made him such a successful pirate is that he had a presence that few could match. Not only did he have a large build, but he dressed in black with guns and swords strewn across his body, and adorned his long black beard with threads of hemp that he would light on fire. With a glowing beard, large dark appearance, and covered in weaponry, he had a demonic presence when he stormed aboard a ship, which instilled fear in all those who saw him in action.
From 1716 to 1718, he mainly sailed in the Caribbean. He was so feared that few ships ever put up a fight once they saw him. He could pillage whatever they had aboard, whether it be weapons, medicine, liquor, and even food. Although few put up a fight, this did not mean Teach did not know how to fight. He could kill an entire ship, which he would do if they tried to resist his acts of piracy.
One of the pirate's most infamous moments was in April 1718, when he imprisoned a few men a little north of the Charleston harbor. He kept them for ransom asking for medicine from a nearby town. It was not because he was sick, rather, it was because medicine was as valuable as gold at the time. He earned his bounty a week later and gave up the men.
Although he was able to stay pretty evasive for a couple of years, his downfall came soon after he teamed up with Charles Eden, the governor of North Carolina. The governor was crooked, making him a good ally for Edward. He even gave Blackbeard an official pardon of his crimes. In return, Eden received some of Teach's plunder.
On one occasion, Blackbeard attacked a ship and stole cocoa and sugar. When he brought it to the governor, Teach claimed it was found aboard an abandoned ship. No one believed this lie, but they feared Eden and Blackbeard too much to challenge the story. Eden turned a blind eye and instead rewarded him for his find.
Blackbeard became comfortable with Eden and set up not far from the town he resided. His easy trackability is what would eventually become Blackbeard's downfall.
Governor of Virginia: Alexander Spotswood
Governor Alexander Spotswood Commissions Death
Many people grew weary of Blackbeard's raids, causing a great deal of anxiety amongst merchants, sailors, and business owners. With Blackbeard and Eden teamed up, they seemed unstoppable, until Alexander Spotswood became aware of the incidents. Spotswood, governor of Virginia, knew Eden was a crooked man and was not afraid of challenging him or Blackbeard, unlike many others. Therefore, he began a mission to put an end to the pirate and his tirades.
Spotswood bought two war sloops, originally named the Pearl and the Lyme. He arranged for 50 soldiers and sailors to board these ships along with Lieutenant Robert Maynard. Maynard being more experienced in such things, explained that the war sloops would not chase Blackbeard into shallow inlets, so Spotswood provided two more smaller ships known as the Ranger and the Jane.
Fortunately for Spotswood and his men, Blackbeard was not very secretive about where his haunts were, and he was very easy to track down.
Blackbeard Climbing Aboard
Lieutenant Robert Maynard Attacks
At the time Maynard was hired, Blackbeard was staying at his favorite hideout off Ocracoke Island, nicknamed Teach's Hole. Blackbeard chose this Hole as his hideaway, because it was a very shallow inlet and difficult for others to chase him, plus he owned shallow-bottomed ships, perfect for this area.
He was hosting a wild party like he did most days he was not sailing. There was heavy drinking, dancing, and large bonfires. The party lasted for days. During this particular party, some of the citizens in North Carolina reported to Alexander Spotswood of Teach's whereabouts. Spotswood soon sent Lieutenant Robert Maynard on the infamous attack that would take Blackbeard's life.
It was November 17, 1718, when Maynard began his quest with his men down the James River. They arrived near Ocracoke Island on the evening of November 21, where they first saw the pirate. Maynard was very purposeful and patient and knew they needed to wait until the next day to attack.
Due to Blackbeard's wild parties, most of his men were on shore that day. Those with him were most likely intoxicated from the night before. As soon as the lights came up, Maynard sailed forward, becoming stuck in the sandbar. Once stuck, they were spotted by the pirates. Blackbeard sent some shots through his cannon killing six of Maynard's men and wounding ten more. Those who survived were sent below the deck in order to deceive Teach of how many men there really were aboard the ships. Maynard and two others remained on deck holding weapons. His hopes were that they would not be viewed as a threat and Blackbeard would approach with very few men himself.
In a stroke of good luck, the rising tide came in, which sent Maynard's sloops free. They were able to continue towards the Adventure, Blackbeard's ship.
Since Blackbeard saw that the deck was almost empty of survivors, he approached with only ten of his men. He assumed his guns had killed the majority of the crew. Once aboard, the sailors came up from below and a brawl began.
Maynard and Blackbeard fought one another with their swords. Teach only managed to harm Maynard's finger, which caused him to drop his sword. He then jumped back and shot his gun at Blackbeard. This was not a deadly blow. Blackbeard shot back but missed. Maynard was able to grab his sword, but Teach struck the hilt of the lieutenant's sword, busting it in half. With Maynard injured and weaponless, things progressed quickly.
The Death of Blackbeard
Suddenly, without warning, a British sailor crept behind the pirate, slitting his throat. Blackbeard taunted him, saying, "Well done, lad," as blood spurted from his throat. Then the sailor struck the deadly blow, which decapitated the infamous pirate. According to Maynard, Edward Teach received five shots and 20 cuts before he died, and did not slow until his head was cut clean off.
Once dead, his head was displayed proudly on the bowsprit of the Adventure, which they took as proof of the pirate's death. They hoped to receive a plentiful bounty.
Although he was infamous in life, he became a legend in death. There are many ghost stories that have arisen from his gruesome end. One of the most famous being at the site of his death, where his body was thrown to sea.
Demonic in Appearance
Blackbeard's Revenge: A Ghost Story
After he decapitated, it is rumored that as they threw his body overboard, his head shouted, "Come on! Edward!" His body then circled, though some argued swam, around the ship three times before sinking to the bottom.
It is believed by the legend that his body still haunts Teach's Hole, searching for his missing head. Some have reported seeing his headless ghost floating on the surface of the water, swimming around in circles, glowing just below the surface of the water.
There have been rumors of his body occasionally rising from the water, holding a lantern and coming to the shore looking for his head. The light from the lantern is sometimes seen glowing from the shore on the Pamlico Sound side of Ocracoke Island that locals refer to as "Teach's light." When the light appears, people supposedly have heard him yelling, "Where's my head?"
Though the ghost stories are probably false, the story of his life is true.
© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz