Story by Lois Carol Wheatley
An entire MBA program could be built around the business model of Blackbeard, whose marketing tactics took him straight to the top of the piratical pile. We're not really sure of his actual name or anything else due to strategic branding techniques, but it might have been Edward Teach, Edward Thatch, or even possibly Edward Drummond. He might have hailed from Bristol, England, and no one ever got a good look at his face either, with facial hair so thick and dark it could have sprouted from a werewolf during the full moon.
Blackbeard was just a boy when he served during Queen Anne's War as a privateer aboard two vessels that cumulatively held 250 men and 20 cannons. He and his mates captured a Dutch slave ship, the Concorde de Nantes, and added 20 more guns to make it the newly-christened Queen Anne's Revenge, the flagship of his pirate fleet.
Such gun power was hardly necessary, more useful as props in a theater set designed to inspire immediate surrender. When Blackbeard led a boarding party to the deck of a merchant ship, his beard was stuffed with lit matches and fumed with sulfur from the lighted punks tied in his hair with scarlet ribbons. He waved a cutlass, his leather holsters held six loaded pistols, and in his eyes was a fierce gleam of unearthly origins. Perhaps you've seen something like this in old Bela Lugosi movies.
Allegedly he shot one of his own men just to remind the others who was boss. Reportedly he ordered his crew to murder one of his 14 wives. Then there's the tale of the endurance test, wherein he lit sulfur pots and locked himself and several men in the hold to see who could last the longest. You might guess who lasted the longest.
Blackbeard's men needed medicine that could be found in Charles Town, and he blockaded the harbor, took citizens hostage, and sent men ashore to get what was needed. He advised the town that their husbands and fathers would be killed if the pirates didn't get what they wanted, and fairly promptly the pirates got what they wanted.
He was not always so considerate of his crew. In Beaufort Inlet Queen Anne's Revenge sank, and more than one historian has guessed that Blackbeard sank it deliberately to run off some of the crew and keep a larger share of the loot for himself. Underwater archeologists are excavating an offshore wreck believed to be the Queen Anne's Revenge and retrieving artifacts that have spent the last three centuries under the sea.
Blackbeard had a home and one of many wives in Bath, NC where, coincidentally, North Carolina's Governor Charles Eden also lived. It is said Governor Eden performed the marriage ceremony with that last wife and that it would be impossible for Blackbeard to operate from this small village without the governor's knowledge, not to mention support and encouragement. Bribery is also a term that has been mentioned in this connection.
Merchants losing ships and goods to Blackbeard were able to work all this out for themselves, and sent a delegation from the Cape Fear and Albemarle to petition Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia for aid. At his mansion in Williamsburg, Spotswood agreed to act on information that Blackbeard was holed up in Ocracoke, using a new ship called the Adventure.
Blackbeard was warned the British were coming and chose to disregard the warning. He'd been drinking all night when Lieutenant Robert Maynard arrived the morning of November 22, 1718, commanding two small British sloops that were thought to be capable of negotiating the tricky shoals surrounding Ocracoke Inlet. Still they ran aground and the pirates swung into action, bearing down on the smaller ships.
Maynard ordered most of his men below decks and waited for the pirates to board the sloop. Blackbeard saw few men on deck and figured he had them easily outnumbered. Once aboard, he had British sailors coming at him from all sides.
He slashed with his cutlass, fired his pistols, whirled like the devil, and Maynard hacked his way through fighting pirates to get to him. Maynard's sword broke and he pulled his pistol. Another man slashed Blackbeard's face and still the possessed pirate fought on. Blackbeard was shot five times and cut more than 20 times before he very reluctantly died. Cutting off his head seemed the only possible thing that would finalize the ordeal.
It is said when they threw his headless body overboard it swam around the Adventure several times. It is also said that Maynard hung Blackbeard's head from the bowsprit for his triumphant return to Virginia. And it is also said that ultimately Blackbeard's skull was silver plated and made into a punch bowl often used with a matching silver ladle.
Terms: North Carolina Pirates, Blackbeard
Information on North Carolina Pirate Blackbeard.