It’s well known that the Outer Banks has a love affair with pirates, which is based more on imagination than reality. The truth is that pirates, by nature of their business, were not often revered in this manner.
If there’s one pirate who stands out as an Outer Banks original, it would definitely be Blackbeard who met his demise on November 22, 1718 off of Ocracoke Island. Angered by the support the pirate was receiving from North Carolina officials, Governor Spotswood of Virginia sent Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy to hunt down the pirate.
Blackbeard is an interesting figure and much of what is repeated about him seems shrouded in myth and half-truths. It is well known that his real name was Edward Teach, but here are a few lesser known facts:
Blackbeard did not kill his victims.
Unlike many pirates, Blackbeard realized if the crew of captured ships knew they were likely to die, they would fight that much harder, increasing the possibility that the ship would be lost. But, if word got out that surrender was an option, the ship’s crew would be more likely to surrender the ship and its contents with minimal damage.
Blackbeard cultivated his frightening image to his advantage.
As far as Blackbeard was concerned, the faster his opponent surrendered the better for everyone concerned. To facilitate this image, he carried multiple pistols, knives and swords, and he put slow burning fuses in his hair and beard. The fuses sputtered, put off smoke and reeked of brimstone. According to eyewitness accounts, this made him look like the devil incarnate.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge was a massive pirate ship.
Carrying 40 cannons and a crew of one hundred, Blackbeard’s ship was larger and more powerful than anything he was likely to encounter. The ship was originally a French slaving ship, the Concorde, which was captured in 1717 by another pirate, Benjamin Hornigold.
Blackbeard apprenticed under Benjamin Hornigold.
Hornigold was a very successful pirate who prowled the waters off Nassau. Over time, Blackbeard became a favored apprentice. When the Concorde was captured, he awarded it to Blackbeard by making him the captain. In 1717, Hornigold accepted a blanket pardon for pirates extended by the Governor of Nassau, and the apprentice and his master parted ways. Blackbeard sailed away in the newly named ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge.
The name, Queen Anne’s Revenge, tells a tale of English history and politics.
It may seem odd that a pirate preying on British shipping would name his ship after an English Queen. History shows that Blackbeard was a Jacobite, a political faction of England that favored the return of the House of Stuart to the throne.
When Queen Anne died in 1714, she had no children of her own, and so her second cousin, George I, who was a Dutch prince of the House of Hannover, was named king. However, she had a half-brother, James, who was living in exile in France, and it was that brother who the Jacobites wanted as their king.
Blackbeard was actively supported by the Governor of North Carolina
Charles Eden, the Governor of North Carolina in 1718, recognized a good thing when he saw it. Looking the other way when Blackbeard landed his loot at North Carolina ports was profitable for everyone except for, of course, the owners of the ships that had been seized. The town of Edenton is named after the Governor.