He was an immense man, extremely brave with exceptional strength, but was also cruel and sadistic. On one occasion he shot off his Mate’s knee for his own amusement. Another time, with all his crew, he burned brimstone in the hold with the hatches closed to simulate hell. He was the last man out. He grew a long plaited black beard to cover his face and tied ribbons in it for more effect. Carrying six pistols, three on each side, this massive figure with hair and beard aflame with firebrands boarded the ships that were his prey, striking terror into their crews. Daniel Defoe likened him to a ‘frightful meteor and frightened America more than any Comet.’
Early in his career he captured a French merchant ship in the Bahamas and liked the French ship so much that he chose to use it as his own, renamed ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’, with which he subsequently challenged and captured various other merchant ships.
The British, in the meantime, had heard of Blackbeard’s acts of piracy and sent a warship with heavy artillery to capture him and his ship. Unfortunately, the ‘Queen Anne’s Revenge’ proved too much of a match for the warship which, badly damaged, had to limp into port.
The King of England made an effort to end all piracy by offering complete pardon to any pirate who would voluntarily give himself up; when Blackbeard heard this he blockaded the port of Charleston, determined to let the authorities know that he was in command of the ports and he was not about to relinquish his title or let any of his comrades give themselves up.
Eventually Blackbeard did give himself up and became a respectable citizen; he married and became Mr Edward Teach but, being a man of rich tastes, soon ran out of money and returned again to piracy.
In 1718, when attempting to take a rich prize, Blackbeard finally met his match in the shape of two British naval vessels lying in the James River, and knew that it would be difficult for them to manoeuvre in the river’s close confines. However, Lieutenant Robert Maynard and a Captain Gordon set out in two small sloops with their men and guns ready. They used long sweep oars and approached the pirate ship that had her flag raised. Unfortunately, one of the sloops ran aground, leaving only Maynard to fight Blackbeard. Maynard and his crew steered their little ship straight at Blackbeard’s and steeled themselves for the worst.
After a short battle the two men met head on and fired their pistols at each other. Blackbeard’s shot missed its target but Maynard’s shot went deep into Blackbeard’s chest, although he continued fighting until another British sailor struck him with his sword and he dropped dead at last.
Legend has it that after his head was cut off and his body thrown overboard, it defiantly swam round the ship before finally sinking out of sight.
by Terry Took © 2015
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.