One of the most colorful—and dangerous—men of the colonial period was Edward Teach—better known as the pirate Blackbeard. Almost nothing is known for certain about his life until he first surfaced as a pirate in the West Indies in 1716.
Some evidence suggests he was born in Bristol, England, a major English port. It is also believed that he sailed in the West Indies as a ship captain and privateer— kind of a black market merchant working for the benefit of the crown—during Queen Anne’s War between 1702 and 1713. When the war ended, Teach became a pirate acting solely for his own gain.
By 1717, Teach had captured a French ship and converted it into his own private warship which he named Queen Anne’s Revenge. In the months that followed, he commanded a small flotilla of pirate ships that cruised throughout the West Indies. They sailed along the Spanish Main—the routes taken by Spanish ships going to and from their colonies in Central and South America—and then up the coast of North America to Carolina and Virginia.
That spring, Blackbeard— so named forhis prominent and lengthy black beard—sent some of his men into what was then Charles Town, Carolina, demanding that the inhabitants give them a complete chest of valuable medicines. When Blackbeard had what he wanted, he continued up the coast of Carolina, where his ship was wrecked by a storm. Blackbeard escaped in one of his smaller vessels and made his way to modern-day Bath, North Carolina.
He then set up a base on the Pamlico Riveron the northern coast of North Carolina and proceeded to attack ships offshore. He alsoforced ships passing up or down the Pamlico to pay him a fee.Supposedly, Blackbeard was paying bribes to the Carolina governor, Charles Eden, who allowed the piracy to continue.
The merchants, plantation owners, and shippers were furious at this situation.Finding no satisfaction from Governor Eden, they turned to Virginia, where Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spottswood assigned two British ships to Lieutenant Robert Maynard.
Maynard sailed to North Carolina, and on November 22, 1718, confronted Blackbeard in the inlet of Ocracoke Island, off Pamlico Sound. A fierce battle ensued, during which Maynard shot and killed Blackbeard. Maynard then ordered the pirate’s head severed and tied to the bowsprit of his own ship.
The legend of Blackbeard continued after his death. It was soon rumored that he had deposited large amounts of gold and other treasures on some beach along the coast. Many people have sought this buried treasure over the years—all to no avail.