About Blackbeard

Edward Teach
(AKA Blackbeard, Edward Thatch, Edward Drummond)

Edward Teach

Edward Teach was born in Bristol, England. He served the crown raiding the French and Spanish during the War of Spanish Succession (1702–1713), then enlisted with Benjamin Hornigold in 1716 to plunder ships in the Caribbean. Toward the end of the year, they seized a large, well-built ship that had been trading between Africa and Martinique. When Hornigold and Teach separated, Teach kept the prize as his personal warship. He also captured the ship Scarborough and took several sloops off Crab Island and Saint Kitts with a crew of 300.

In January 1718, Teach arrived at Bath, North Carolina. There he was pardoned by the governor after he swore to give up piracy. Instead he sold pirate loot, finding that the locals paid higher prices for the goods than fences. Soon tiring of life inland, Teach sailed for the Bay of Honduras in March 1718. Along the way, he captured the ships Revenge, Adventure, and Myrmidon, bringing his fleet to five sloops. With this fleet, he then looted several ships in the Bay of Honduras.

Turning north, Teach blockaded Charleston, South Carolina, and plundered nine ships there in May 1718. One of the prizes carried several high-ranking citizens of Charleston, as well as £100,000 in coinage. Teach demanded ransom for the prisoners but asked only for a medicine chest and certain drugs worth less than £400 (venereal disease was a common affliction among pirates). Teach’s demands were met, and all prisoners were released unharmed.

It is not known precisely where Teach went next or what happened to the other four ships in his fleet. In July 1718, he returned to Bath from the north with just his warship. This fueled speculation that he had hidden the treasure somewhere up the Chesapeake Bay and killed most of his companions.

Upon arriving at Bath, Teach was welcomed as an important member of the community and received a second pardon from Governor Eden. He rented a house across from the governor, anchoring his ship at Ocracoke Island, and married the 16-year-old daughter of a wealthy plantation owner.

But time was drawing short for Edward Teach. Alexander Spotswood, the governor of Virginia, heard rumors that Teach’s treasure was buried in his own colony. In September 1718, he summoned Teach to Virginia to stand trial on charges of tax evasion. The jury found there was not enough evidence to convict him, and Teach returned to Bath to celebrate. This was somewhat premature, as Governor Spotswood had already dispatched troops under the command of Robert Maynard to attack Ocracoke. On December 2, 1718, Maynard arrived at Ocracoke with about 60 men. After a short but vicious struggle, Teach and his shipmates were slain. The treasure was not found.

Contrary to the usual image of a pirate, Teach apparently was a charismatic leader, a skilled navigator, literate on topics from Italian poetry to Vigenere ciphers, and physically impressive. Had he not been ruled by goldlust, Teach might have joined Nelson on the list of English naval heroes.

Where to next?

Infinity Symbol