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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Adventures Of Blackbeard And His Trail Of Blood and Gold

The late 17th century sees the rise of piracy in European nations. Among the most infamous and notorious names that existed in pirating history is Blackbeard whose name at this day strikes fear into the heart of sea-dwellers and bottom-dwellers alike. 

Pirate, Blackbeard
Image: BBC

With his long black beard that is separated in tails and lit by wicks, a demanding stature, a menacing gaze, and a proficiency to commandeer a fleet into victory, it is no wonder why men cower at the first glance of the sails of his flagship – Queen Anne's Revenge. However, before there was Blackbeard, there was a man born in 1680 that serves the British crown as a privateer whose job was to impound illegal ships from the Spaniards and Frenchmen. His name was Edward Teach (or Edward Drummond). 

Although much of his early life remains coveted for protection, his succession to life as a pirate is noteworthy. Edward Teach was among many individuals that were laid-off after peace treaties were signed that ended the wars of Spanish Succession. He moved to New Providence in the Bahamas (a proprietary colony) where he worked under another ex-privateer named Captain Benjamin Hornigold and found respite from the law. It is important to note that Edward Teach was an educated man who knows how to read and write. He is also well-versed in the piracy trading system based on his experience during the wars of Spanish Succession. He quickly rose to the ranks and commandeered a small vessel with a small crew. 

Blackbeard, Pirate, Ship
Image: Maritime Herald

Together with his record of plundering dozen of ships, his reputation permitted him to succeed Captain Hornigold who decided to retire. Their last loot was a slave ship named La Concorde which has a powerful 300-ton frigate with 26 guns of whom Edward Teach (now known as Blackbeard) used as a flagship, revamped with 40 guns, and renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge. Although many of the tales of victory by Blackbeard and the Queen Anne’s Revenge were romanticized, it was true that he pillaged, plundered, and laid waste to merchant vessels in the Caribbean Sea. It is also true that he showed theatrics in combat. However, contrary to popular belief, he showed mercy against opponents, generosity to allies, and held democratic votes in accordance with the pirate code. 

From time to time he held alliances with fellow pirates including Stede Bonnet who commandeered Revenge. Among his most remarkable feats was the prolonged siege near Charles Town (now Charleston) where he seized eight vessels that held prominent and high-ranking figures. Among those figures was Samuel Wragg, a councilman whom he gave an ultimatum to give medicine in exchange for each prisoner which the councilman did. This feat is an example of how Blackbeard rose to notoriety and prominence. His actions toward big cities and small towns alike brought fear and admonition to all European citizens in the 18th century. 

Blackbeard, Pirate, Ship
Image: Blasting News

Despite his growing influence and fame (or in this instance, infamy), he decided to retire in North Carolina and his entire loots were sold during his return to Bathe Town. He was also granted a pardon by Governor Eden. Blackbeard, realizing he is not cut out for an ordinary life, decided to reenlist as a privateer. His tenure as a privateer was cut short because his covert acts of piracy have come to light. These acts culminated in the swansong of Captain Blackbeard. 

His demise was a tale of wits, manhunt, and remorseless battle. With five shots and twenty stabs in the body and the neck as recounted by his opponent Lieutenant Maynard, Captain Blackbeard eventually came to the light. Scholars described this event as one of the most important events in the golden age of piracy. His legacy and exploits, on the other hand, were immortalized through films, pirating lore, superstitions, and stories in general. Even inspiring the term Teach’s light that is attributed to unexplained lights at sea

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