Blackbeard may be the most famous pirate of the 18th century, but for many years, facts about Blackbeard were hard to come by. He left very little behind about his life. But, we do know that he did rely on fear, making himself famous throughout the Atlantic. Those legends still live on today. With thorough research, we can separate facts about Blackbeard from the legends of his infamy.
Who Is Captain Blackbeard?
Captain Blackbeard is the fake name that was used by Edward Teach, a man who's believed to have been born around 1680 in Bristol, England. Few facts are known about his early life, but some historians believe that Pirate Teach began his career on the high seas as a privateer for England. In other words, he was a pirate employed by the English government.
His real piracy career began around 1717 when he sailed the Caribbean under the command of Captain Benjamin Hornigold. Hornigold is the one who captured the famous ship Blackbeard would christen the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Why Was Blackbeard Famous?
The Blackbeard Pirates sailed an area that spanned from the Caribbean to the Atlantic coast of the 13 Colonies. Rumors say that he captured merchant vessels, stole their cargo and tortured passengers and crew. So, seeing the Blackbeard Pirates’ Jolly Roger on the horizon was a terrifying sight!
The Blackbeard Pirates’ infamy paled in comparison to the rumors about Captain Blackbeard himself. It's said that in battle he'd light a fuse in his beard on fire, creating such a fearsome image that those who lived to tell the tale couldn’t help but talk about their terrifying encounter with death.
How Did Blackbeard Die?
Though Blackbeard’s legends have lived long after the pirate himself, Captain Blackbeard’s time pillaging vessels was short.
By 1718, the colonial governor of North Carolina took notice of the piracy plaguing his waters. Because of Blackbeard and other pirates nearby, Ocracoke Inlet became a spot of treacherous waters. Blackbeard’s reign of terror there lasted for 18 months before Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard organized a trap.
Blackbeard fired on Maynard’s two ships. With both damaged, Maynard tricked Blackbeard into thinking his crews had abandoned ship. Maynard did this by ordering everyone to go below deck.
Thinking he was claiming victory, Blackbeard boarded Maynard’s ship. That’s when Maynard’s crew ambushed and killed him.
Fun Facts About Blackbeard
- Blackbeard never left any buried treasure. In fact, most of the things he stole consisted of trade goods like sugar.
- Blackbeard didn’t light his hair on fire in battles like some people think. He actually used bits of fuse or candles to create the same effect.
- Blackbeard tried to retire, and he lived in North Carolina for a while before realizing that life on land wasn’t for him. He soon returned to a life of piracy.
- One of the weirdest legends about Blackbeard says that his dead body swam around Maynard’s ship after he was killed. That’s not possible, but it does create an interesting image.
Rebecca Renner is a teacher and freelance writer from Daytona Beach, Florida. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour and elsewhere.