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Blackbeard: The Brutal Pirate

Like so many pirates from our sordid history, Blackbeard is legend. Many people don’t even know that Blackbeard was a real pirate. The fact is, Blackbeard was one of the most notorious pirates to sail the seven seas.

Edward Teach (Blackbeard) shouted his first infant’s mewl in around 1880 in the town of Bristol, England. At an early age, Blackbeard went to sea aboard a privateer in the Spanish West Indies during the war of the Spanish Succession.

When England withdrew from war in 1713, many privateers turned pirate. Blackbeard, not yet commanding his own ship, followed suit. He sailed under Benjamin Hornigold, a notorious pirate, for four years until, in an effort to quell piracy, King George I offered clemency to pirates. Hornigold retired as a sea-rogue; Blackbeard didn’t.

Hornigold allowed Blackbeard to take one of his recent prizes, a slave ship called the Le Concorde. Blackbeard promptly renamed this ship The Queen Anne’s Revenge and outfitted her with 40 guns.

Though Blackbeard’s career was short as a pirate, running from 1717 through 1718, he succeeded, with his brutality, to scratch his name into the history books as one of the most notorious pirates ever to live. Accounts of Blackbeard’s ferocity include him shooting his own first mate then uttering that: “if he didn’t shoot one or two crewmen now and then, they’d forget who we was.”

Another account states that, after drinking heavily with his crew he said: “Come, let us make a hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it.” He and his crew went to the hull of his ship and closed the hatches. After filling several pots with brimstone, they set their hell alight by touching off the nauseous fires. After fits of sputtering and coughing, all but Blackbeard fled to the main deck. When Blackbeard finally climbed through the hatch, he stood poised and rebuked his men, saying: “Damn ye, ye yellow-bellied sapsuckers. I’m a better man than all ye milksops put together.”

Eventually, Blackbeard accepted clemency and retired as a pirate. However The governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, feared Blackbeard’s proximity and offered a reward of 100 pounds for his death. Lieutenant Robert Maynard took up the challenge. With three sloops, he went after Blackbeard.

Maynard found Blackbeard ported in North Carolina on the inner side of Ocracoke Island. After waiting the night for better tidal conditions, Maynard launched his attack. Accounts of the battle depict bloody swordplay, grenades made from kegs of gunpowder, and plenty of shouted insults and oaths.

In the end, Maynard defeated Blackbeard. Reports indicate that Blackbeard suffered more than twenty stab wounds and was shot over five times before dyeing. Once Blackbeard’s body lied lifeless, Maynard decapitated the pirate and hung his head from the bow of his ship.

Accounts of Blackbeard often contradict. It is difficult to sort the fact from the legend. But one thing stands clear: Blackbeard was one of the most brutal pirates to sail. His escapades and romance provide a model for many pirate books and movies even today.