Edward Teach (also Edward Thatch, c. 1680 – 22 November 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate who operated around the West Indies and
the eastern coast of the American colonies. Although little is known about his early life, he was probably born in Bristol, England. He may have been a sailor on privateer
ships during Queen Anne's War before settling on the Bahamian island of New Providence, a base for Captain Benjamin Hornigold, whose crew Teach joined sometime
around 1716. Hornigold placed him in command of a sloop he had captured, and the two engaged in numerous acts of piracy. Their numbers were boosted by the addition to
their fleet of two more ships, one of which was commanded by Stede Bonnet, but toward the end of 1717 Hornigold retired from piracy, taking two vessels with him.
Teach captured a French merchant vessel, renamed her Queen Anne's Revenge, and equipped her with 40 guns. He became a renowned pirate, his cognomen derived from
his thick black beard and fearsome appearance; he was reported to have tied lit fuses under his hat to frighten his enemies. He formed an alliance of pirates and blockaded
the port of Charleston, South Carolina. After successfully ransoming its inhabitants, he ran Queen Anne's Revenge aground on a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina. He
parted company with Bonnet, settling in Bath Town, where he accepted a royal pardon. But he was soon back at sea and attracted the attention of Alexander Spotswood,
the Governor of Virginia. Spotswood arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to try to capture the pirate, which they did on 22 November 1718. During a ferocious battle,
Teach and several of his crew were killed by a small force of sailors led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard. A shrewd and calculating leader, Teach spurned the use of force,
relying instead on his fearsome image to elicit the response he desired from those he robbed. Contrary to the modern-day picture of the traditional tyrannical pirate, he
commanded his vessels with the permission of their crews and there is no known account of his ever having harmed or murdered those he held captive.
He was romanticised
after his death and became the inspiration for a number of pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.
Edward Teach, better known as "Blackbeard," was the most feared pirate of his day and perhaps the figure most often associated with the Golden Age of Piracy in the
Caribbean (or piracy in general for that matter). Blackbeard was a skilled pirate and businessman, who knew how to recruit and keep men, intimidate his enemies and use
his fearsome reputation to his best advantage. Blackbeard preferred to avoid fighting if he could, but he and his men were deadly fighters when they needed to be. He was
killed on November 22, 1718, by English sailors and soldiers sent to find him. Little is known of Edward Teach's early life, including his exact name: other spellings of his
last name include Thatch, Theach and Thach. He was born in Bristol sometime around 1680. Like many young men of Bristol, he took to sea, and saw some action in
English privateers during Queen Anne's War (1702-1713). According to Captain Charles Johnson, one of the most important sources for information on Blackbeard, Teach
distinguished himself during the war but did not receive any significant command. Sometime in 1716, Teach joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, at that time one of the
most feared pirates in the Caribbean. Hornigold saw great potential in Teach, and soon promoted him to his own command. With Hornigold in command of one ship and
Teach in command of another, they could capture or corner more victims and from 1716-1717 they were greatly feared by local merchants and sailors. Hornigold retired from
piracy and accepted the King's pardon in early 1717. Stede Bonnet was a most unlikely pirate: he was a gentleman from the Barbados with a large estate and family who
decided he would rather be a pirate captain. He ordered a ship built, the Revenge, and fitted her out as if he were going to be a pirate hunter, but the minute he was out of
port he hoisted the black flag and began looking for prizes. Bonnet did not know one end of a ship from the other and was a terrible captain. After a major engagement with a
superior ship, the Revenge was in bad shape when they limped into Nassau sometime between August and October of 1717. Bonnet was wounded, and the pirates on board
begged Blackbeard, who was also in port there, to take command. The Revenge was a fine ship, and Blackbeard agreed. The eccentric Bonnet stayed on board, reading his
books and walking the deck in his dressing-gown. Blackbeard, now in charge of two good ships, continued to prowl the waters of the Caribbean and North America. On
November 17, 1717, he captured La Concorde, a large French slaving ship. He kept the ship, mounting 40 guns on it and naming it Queen Anne's Revenge. The Queen
Anne's Revenge became his flagship, and before long he had a fleet of three ships and 150 pirates. Soon the name of Blackbeard was feared on both sides of the Atlantic
and throughout the Caribbean. Blackbeard was much more intelligent than your average pirate. He preferred to avoid fighting if he could, and so cultivated a very fearsome
reputation. He wore his hair long and had a long black beard. He was tall and broad-shouldered. During battle, he put lengths of slow-burning fuse in his beard and hair.
would sputter and smoke, giving him an altogether demonic look. He also dressed the part: wearing a fur cap or wide hat, high leather boots and a long black coat. He also
wore a modified sling with six pistols into combat. No one who ever saw him in action forgot it, and soon Blackbeard had an air of supernatural terror about him.
Official views on pirates were sometimes quite different from those held by contemporary authors, who often described their subjects as despicable rogues of the sea.
Privateers who became pirates were generally considered by the English government to be reserve naval forces, and were sometimes given active encouragement; as far
back as 1581 Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, when he returned to England from a round-the-world expedition with plunder worth an estimated £1,500,000.
Royal pardons were regularly issued, usually when England was on the verge of war, and the public's opinion of pirates was often favourable, some considering them akin to
patrons. Economist Peter Leeson believes that pirates were generally shrewd businessmen, far removed from the modern, romanticised view of them as murderous tyrants.
After Woodes Rogers' 1718 landing at New Providence and his ending of the pirate republic however, piracy in the West Indies fell into terminal decline. With no easily
accessible outlet to fence their stolen goods, pirates were reduced to a subsistence livelihood, and following almost a century of naval warfare between the British, French
and Spanish during which sailors could find easy employment lone privateers found themselves outnumbered by the powerful ships employed by the British Empire to
defend its merchant fleets. The popularity of the slave trade helped bring to an end the frontier condition of the West Indies and in these circumstances, piracy was no longer
able to flourish as it once did.