Of the Turbulent Death of
Blackbeard the Pirate;


Along with a Short Addendum Concerning his Beard, the Location of his Treasure, and his Nefarious association with the Devil himself.

A chapter from “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates

By Captain Charles Johnson (Daniel Defoe)

edited by Brian Anderson

Daniel Defoe is probably best known as the author of “Robinson Crusoe” and “Moll Flanders.” But he also found time to write political pamphlets for both the Whigs and the Tories in the early 1700s (and we thought political consultants were getting a bit out of hand in the U.S.A.) In 1724 he published yet another classic, on the pirates of the Americas. The book was published under the name Capt. Charles Johnson, and there remains some doubt about the author. But considering the subject matter and the need of a well-regarded and politically-connected writer like Defoe to steer clear of such a seamy subject, it seems understandable that he might use a pen name for what turned out to be a best seller that probably made him more than his subjects ever dreamed of.

Blackbeard was born Edward Teach (or Thatch) in Bristol, England in around 1685. He turned up in the Caribbean in the early part of the 1700s, and made his name as the right-hand man of another pirate, Captain Benjamin Hornigold in about 1716. When Hornigold retired and accepted the King’s pardon, Blackbeard inherited a French ship, which he named the “Queen Anne’s Revenge.” He fitted her out with 40 guns, and took her to sea on his own account. He cruised from the Gulf of Honduras to Cape Hatteras, taking prizes, blockading the port of Charleston, SC, and even fighting a couple of single-ship actions with the Royal Navy before taking a pardon from Charles Eden, the Royal Governor of North Carolina. Defoe writes that along the way Blackbeard greased the palms of a number of Royal Governors, especially Eden, to good effect, “These proceedings show that Governors are but men,” Defoe noted delicately.

In any case, after a short time ashore, Blackbeard hoisted his black flag once more, and the worthies of the Southern seaboard, seeing which way the wind was blowing, decided to petition the governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood.

“THEREFORE, with as much secrecy as possible, they sent a deputation to Virginia, to lay the affair before the Governor of that Colony, and to solicit an armed force from the men-of-war lying there to take or destroy this Pirate.

This Governor consulted with the captains of the two men-of-war, viz., the Pearl and the Lime, who had lain in James's River about ten months. It was agreed that the Governor should hire a couple of small sloops, and the men-of-war should man them. This was accordingly done, and the command of them given to Mr. Robert Maynard, first lieutenant of the Pearl, an experienced officer and a gentleman of great bravery and resolution, as will appear by his gallant behavior in this expedition. The sloops were well manned and furnished with ammunition and small arms, but had no guns mounted.

About the time of their going out, the Governor called an Assembly in which it was resolved to publish a proclamation offering certain rewards to any person or persons, who, within a year after that time, should take or destroy any Pirate. The original proclamation being in our hands is as follows:

By His Majesty's Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia,

A PROCLAMATION.

Publishing the Rewards Given for Apprehending or Killing Pirates.

WHEREAS, by an Act of Assembly, made-at a Session of Assembly, begun at the Capital in Williamsburg, the eleventh day of November in the fifth year of His Majesty's Reign, entitled An Act to Encourage the Apprehending and Destroying of Pirates: It is amongst other things enacted, that all and every person or persons, who, from and after the fourteenth day of November, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighteen, and before the fourteenth day of November, which shall be in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Nineteen, shall take any Pirate or Pirates, on the sea or land, or in case of resistance, shall kill any such Pirate or Pirates, between the degrees of thirty four and thirty nine Northern latitude, and within one hundred leagues of the Continent of Virginia, or within the Provinces of Virginia, or North Carolina, upon the conviction, or making due proof of the killing of all, and every such Pirate, and Pirates, before the Governor and Council, shall be entitled to have, and receive out of the public money, in the hands of the, Treasurer of this Colony, the several rewards following that is to say, for Edward Teach, commonly called Captain Teach or Blackbeard, one hundred pounds; for every other commander of a pirate ship, sloop or vessel, forty pounds; for every lieutenant, master or quartermaster, boatswain or carpenter, twenty pounds; for every other inferior officer, fifteen pounds, and for every private man taken aboard such ship, sloop, or vessel, ten pounds; and that for every Pirate which shall be taken by any ship, sloop or vessel, belonging to this colony, or North Carolina, within the time aforesaid, in any place whatsoever, the like rewards shall be, paid according to the quality and condition of such pirates. Wherefore, for the encouragement of all such persons as shall be willing to serve His Majesty and their Country, in so just and honorable undertaking, as the suppressing a sort of people, who may be truly called enemies to mankind: I have thought fit, with the advice and consent of His Majesty's Council to issue this Proclamation; hereby declaring, the said rewards shall be punctually and justly paid, in current money in Virginia, according to the directions of the said Act. And, I do order and appoint this Proclamation, to be published by the Sheriffs at their respective County houses, and by all Ministers and Readers in the several Churches and Chapels throughout this Colony.

Given at Our Council Chamber at Williamsburg, this 24th day of November, 1718. In the Fifth year of His Majesty's Reign.

GOD SAVE
THE KING.

A. Spotswood.
[Governor of Virginia, 1710-1722]

The 17th of November, 1718, the lieutenant sailed from Kicquetan, in James River, in Virginia, and the 21st in the evening came to the mouth of the Ocracoke Inlet where he got sight of the pirate. This expedition was made with all imaginable secrecy, and the officer managed with all the prudence that was necessary, stopping all boats and vessels he met with in the river from going up, and therefore preventing any intelligence from reaching Blackbeard, and receiving at the same time an account from them all of the place where the pirate was lurking. But notwithstanding this caution, Blackbeard bad information of the design from His Excellency of the province, whose secretary, Mr. Knight, wrote him a letter particularly concerning it, intimating that he had sent him four of his men, which were all he could meet with in or about town, and so bid him be upon his guard. These men belonged to Blackbeard, and were sent from Bath-Town to Ocracoke Inlet, where the sloop lay, which is about twenty leagues.

Blackbeard had heard several reports which happened not to be true, and so gave the less credit to this, nor was he convinced till he saw the sloops, whereupon he put his vessel in a posture of defence. He had no more than twenty-five men on board, so he gave out to all the vessels he spoke with that he had forty. When he had prepared for battle, he set down and spent the night in drinking with the master of a trading sloop who, 'twas thought, had more business with Teach than he should have had.

Lieutenant Maynard came to an anchor, for the place being shoal and the channel intricate, there was no getting in where Teach lay that night. But in the morning he weighed and sent his boat ahead of the sloops to sound, and coming within gunshot of the Pirate, received his fire. Whereupon Maynard hoisted the King's colours and stood directly towards him, with the best way that his sails and oars could make. Blackbeard cut his cable, and endeavoured to make a running fight, keeping a continual fire at his enemies with his guns. Mr. Maynard not having any, kept a constant fire with small arms, while some of his men laboured at their oars. In a little time Teach's sloop ran aground, and Mr. Maynard's drawing more water than that of the Pirate, he could not come near him; so he anchored within half a gunshot of the enemy, and in order to lighten his vessel, that he might run him aboard, the lieutenant ordered all his ballast to be thrown overboard, and all the water [i.e., watercasks] to be staved, and then weighed and stood for him. Upon which Blackbeard hailed him in this rude manner: Damn you for villains, who are you? And from whence came you? The Lieutenant made him answer, You may see by our colours we are no pirates. Blackbeard bid him send his boat on board, that he might see who he was: but Mr. Maynard replied thus, I cannot spare my boat, but I will come aboard of you as soon as I can, with my sloop. Upon this, Blackbeard took a glass of liquor, and drank to him with these words: Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarter or take any from you. In answer to which Mr. Maynard told him That he expected no quarter from him, nor should he give any.

By this time Blackbeard's sloop floated, as Mr. Maynard's sloops were rowing towards him, which, being not above a foot high in the waist and consequently the men all exposed, as they came near together (there being hitherto little or no execution done on either side), the Pirate fired a broadside, charged with all manner of small shot—a fatal stroke to them—the sloop the lieutenant was in having twenty men killed and wounded and the other sloop nine. This could not be helped for, there being no wind, they were obliged to keep to their oars, otherwise the Pirate would have got away from him, which, it seems, the lieutenant was resolute to prevent.

After this unlucky blow Blackbeard's sloop fell broadside to the shore. Mr. Maynard's other sloop, which was called the Ranger, fell astern, being, for the present disabled. So the lieutenant finding his own sloop had way and would soon be on board of Teach, he ordered all his men down for fear of another broadside, which must have been their destruction and the loss of the expedition. Mr. Maynard was the only person that kept the deck, except the man at the helm, whom he directed to lie down snug, and the men in the hold were ordered to get their pistols and their swords ready for close fighting, and to come up at his command; in order to which, two ladders were placed in the hatchway for the more expedition. When the lieutenant's sloop boarded the other, Captain Teach's men threw in several new-fashioned sort of grenadoes, viz., case bottles filled with powder and small shot, slugs, and pieces of lead or iron, with a quick match at the end of it, which, being lighted outside, presently runs into the bottle to the powder. As it is instantly thrown on board, it generally does great execution, besides putting all the crew into a confusion; but by good providence, they had not that effect here, the men being in the hold. And Blackbeard, seeing few or no hands aboard, told his men that They were all knocked on the head except three or four; and therefore, says he, let's jump on board and cut them to pieces.

Whereupon, under the smoke of one of the bottles just mentioned, Blackbeard enters with fourteen men, over the bows of Maynard's sloop, and were not seen by him until the air cleared. However, he just then gave a signal to his men, who all rose in an instant and attacked the Pirates with as much bravery as ever was done upon such an occasion. Blackbeard and the lieutenant fired the first pistol at each other, by which the Pirate received a wound; and then engaged with swords, till the lieutenant's unluckily broke, and [he] stepping back to cock a pistol, Blackbeard, with his cutlass, was striking at that instant that one of Maynard's men gave him a terrible wound in the neck and throat; by which the lieutenant came off with a small cut over his fingers.

They were so closely and warmly engaged, the lieutenant and twelve men against Blackbeard and fourteen, till the sea was tinctured with blood round the vessel. Blackbeard received a shot in his body from the pistol that Lieutenant Maynard, discharged, yet he stood his ground, and fought with great fury till he received five-and-twenty wounds, and five of them by shot. At length, as he was cocking another pistol, having fired several before, he fell down dead; by which time eight more out of the fourteen dropped, and all the rest, much wounded, jumped overboard and called out for quarter, which was granted; though it was only prolonging their lives for a few days. The sloop Ranger came up, and attacked the men that remained in Blackbeard's sloop, with equal bravery, till they likewise cried for quarter.

Here was an end of that courageous brute, who might have passed in the world for a hero had he been employed in a good cause. His destruction, which was of such consequence to the plantations, was entirely owing to the conduct and bravery of Lieutenant Maynard and his men, who might have destroyed him with much less loss had they had 1 vessel with great guns. But they were obliged to use small vessels, because the holes and places he lurked in would not admit of others of greater draught. And it was no small difficulty for this gentleman to get to him, having grounded his vessel at least a hundred times, in getting up the river, besides other discouragements enough to have turned back any gentleman without dishonour who was less resolute and bold than this lieutenant. The broadside that did so much mischief before they boarded, in all probability saved the rest from destruction; for before that, Teach had little or no hopes of escaping, and therefore had posted a resolute fellow, a negro whom he had bred up, with a, lighted match in the powder room, with commands to blow up, when he should give him orders, which was as soon as the lieutenant and his men could have entered, that so he might have destroyed his conquerors; and when the negro found how it went with Blackbeard, he could hardly be persuaded from the rash action by two prisoners that were then in the hold of the sloop.

NOW that we have given some account of Teach's life and actions, it will not be amiss that we speak of his beard, since it did not a little contribute towards making his name to terrible in those parts.

Plutarch and other grave historians have taken notice that several great men amongst the Romans took their surnames from certain odd marks in their countenances, as Cicero from a mark or vetch on his nose. So our, hero, Captain Teach, assumed the cognomen of Black-beard, from that large quantity of hair which, like a frightful meteor, covered his whole face and frightened America more than any comet that has appeared there a long time.

This beard was black, which he suffered to grow of an extravagant length; as to breadth, it came up to his eyes. He was accustomed to twist it with ribbons, in small tails, after the manner of our Ramillies wigs, and turn them about his ears. In time of action he wore a sling over his shoulders, with three brace of pistols, hanging in holsters, like bandoliers; and stuck lighted matches, under his hat, which, appearing on each side of his face, his eyes naturally looking fierce and wild, made him altogether such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a Fury from Hell to look more frightful.

If he had the look of a Fury, his humours and passions were suitable: to it. We shall relate two or three more of his extravagances which we omitted in the body of his history, by which it will appear to what a pitch of wickedness human nature may arrive, if its passions are not checked.

In the commonwealth of Pirates he who goes the greatest length of wickedness is looked upon with a kind of envy amongst them, as a person of a more extraordinary gallantry, and is thereby entitled to distinguished by some post. And if such a one has but courage, he must certainly be a great man. The hero of whom we are writing was thoroughly accomplished this way, and some of his frolics of wickedness were so extravagant as if he aimed at making his men believe he was a Devil incarnate. For being one day at sea, and a little flushed with drink, Come, says he, let us make a hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it. Accordingly he, with two or three others went down into the hold and closing up all the hatches, filled several pots full of brimstone and other combustible matter, and set it on fire, and so continued until they were almost suffocated, when some of the men cried out for air. At length, he opened the hatches, not a little pleased that he held out the longest.

The night before he was killed he sat up and drank till the morning with some of his own men and the master of a merchant-man; and having had intelligence of the two sloops coming to attack him, as has been before observed, one of his men asked him in case anything should happen to him in the engagement with the sloops, whether his wife knew where he had buried his money? He answered, That nobody but himself and the Devil knew where it was, and the longest liver should take all.

Those of his crew who were taken alive told a glory which may appear a little incredible; however, we think it will not be fair to omit it, since we had it from their own mouths. That once, upon a cruise, they found out that they had a man on board more than their crew. Such a one was seen several days amongst them, sometimes below, and sometimes upon deck; yet no man in the ship could give an account who he was, or from whence he came, but that he disappeared a little before they were cast away in their great ship. But, it seems, they verily believed it was the Devil.

One would think these things should induce them to reform their lives; but so many reprobates together encouraged and spirited one another up in their wickedness, to which a continual course of drinking did not a little contribute. For in Blackbeard's journal which was taken, there were several memorandums of the following nature, found writ with his own hand: Such a day, rum all out:—Our company somewhat sober:—A damn'd confusion amongst us!—Rogues a-plotting:—Great talk of separation—so I looked sharp for a prize:—Such a day took one, with a great deal of liquor on board, so kept the company hot, damned hot; then all things went well again.

There is more good pirate stuff at, http://historicbeaufort.com/piratelinks.htm