When we think about our past history in South Carolina we usually don’t think about pirates. But, there is one pirate that caused much turmoil in Charleston, South Carolina, his name was “Blackbeard.”
There has been debate on his actual name, Edward Teach or Edward Thatch. With the confusion about his real name he became known only has “Blackbeard.” With the uncertainty about his real name it has thwarted researchers on Blackbeard’s background, his birthplace and many other fact about his life are still unknown.
It has been shown that Blackbeard has a connection with Jamaica, London, and Bristol, England. There has been ample speculation about the number of wives he had but, only two are mentioned in documents both are unnamed women in London and Bath, North Carolina.
Blackbeard emerged in Jamaica sometime in 1717, during an eighteen months period he became an extraordinarily popular pirate, creating an engrained image of “the fiercest pirate of them all” and making him a worldwide icon. A tall and domineering figure possessing an unpredictable and captivating personality, Blackbeard developed a reputation as “a Devil incarnate” that was boosted by his boarding ships while brandishing various weapons and while covered in smoke from his burning ends of his beard and hair.
Like many of his fellow pirates, Blackbeard knew the importance of image. His beard was wild and unruly; it came up to his eyes and he twisted colorful ribbons into it. Before each battle he would dressed in all black, with several pistols attached to his chest and would wear a large black captain’s hat. He would also place slow burning fuses in his hair and beard. The fuses constantly sputtered and gave off smoke, which covered him in a continuous lubricious fog.
He must have looked like a devil who had stepped right out of hell and onto a pirate ship and most of his victims simply surrendered their cargo rather than fight him. Blackbeard intimidated his opponents this way because it was good business: if they gave up without a fight, he could keep their ship and he lost fewer men.
Like most pirates in this time period, he began as a privateer during Queen Anne’s War (1701–1713) under the command of Benjamin Hornigold, who at war’s end became a pirate chief on New Providence Island, Bahamas.
Blackbeard’s first piratical voyage was with Hornigold in summer 1717 to the North American coast from the Carolinas to Delaware Bay. In the fall Blackbeard commanded Stede Bonnet’s sloop Revenge in another rampage on the same coast, taking eleven flagships. Cruising in the Leeward Islands in November, Blackbeard seized the French slave ship Concorde, heavily armed it, and named it Queen Anne’s Revenge as ne moved across the Caribbean.
In March 1718 off the Central American Spanish Main, Blackbeard sailed north to the coast of South Carolina with a four-ship flotilla, mounting at least sixty guns, the most powerful maritime force in the world. Arriving just off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, in mid-May, he blockaded the port for a week, seizing treasures and hostages for ransom. This brought about great panic to the entire coast of South Carolina. Robbing eight or nine ships for supplies, Blackbeard held hostages, including Samuel Wragg, a councilman. Under the threat of the hostages being murdered, a reluctant Governor Robert Johnson agreed to a ransom of a valuable chest of medicine.
From Charleston, Blackbeard sailed to isolated part North Carolina, where he married in Bath, and scaled down his illegal activities. Blackbeard established a camp at Ocracoke Inlet, the main entrance to the colony, and looked as if had retired from piracy. Uneasy at having a notorious pirate nearby, however, Virginia governor Alexander Spottswood invaded North Carolina with a naval and land force. Blackbeard was surrounded at Ocracoke on November 22, 1718, by Lieutenant Robert Maynard’s flotilla and killed. His surviving men were tried, and the condemned pirates were executed in Williamsburg, Virginia.