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Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, was an English pirate during the Golden Age of Piracy. After serving as a privateer in the British navy, he, like many other privateers, turned to a life of piracy when the War of Spanish Succession ended in 1713.
In a few short years, Blackbeard gained a notorious reputation as he and his crew attacked settlements in the Caribbean Sea and along the Atlantic Coast of North America. Blackbeard would plunder merchant ships, board them, and steal all of the gold, jewels, coins, food, liquor, and weapons. It was said that Blackbeard’s appearance alone was enough to cause the enemy to surrender. According to legend, Blackbeard would often tie burning fuses to the end of his beard when the enemy was in his presence. Despite his reputation, there are no accounts of Blackbeard killing or torturing anyone.
Blockade of Charleston Harbor
Blackbeard is perhaps most famous for his legendary blockade of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. In 1718, Blackbeard entered Charleston Harbor in his ship known as Queen Anne’s Revenge with three smaller ships. He proceeded to plunder five merchant ships entering or leaving the harbor. Shipping traffic in the harbor came to a standstill in fear of the pirates. In one of the vessels, Blackbeard took a group of prominent Charleston citizens as hostages, who were later ransomed (without their clothes) for a chest full of medicine. Then, Blackbeard escaped north, where he ran three of the ships aground and marooned most of his crew. Many believe Blackbeard marooned his crew so he could keep a greater portion of the treasure acquired from Charleston. Nevertheless, Blackbeard escaped to North Carolina and accepted a pardon under the royal Act of Grace.
The Dreadful End
Blackbeard finally met his end in November of 1718 after the governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood, had placed a bounty on his head. He was killed in a naval battle off the coast of North Carolina by Robert Maynard. Maynard cut off Blackbeard’s head and hung it on his ship.
Blackbeard's End as Pictured in The Pirates Own Book (1837)
In Popular Culture
Today, Blackbeard is perhaps the most well-known of all the pirates. He is referenced in many works of literature including Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, as well as in numerous video games, theme park rides, cartoons, comics, and movies.