Tuesday, 20 November 2018 17:44

300th Anniversary of the Demise of Blackbeard: Part V

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Most Recognized Flag of Blackbeard's "Queen Anne's Revenge" Most Recognized Flag of Blackbeard's "Queen Anne's Revenge" Image from Pixabay

 300th Anniversary of the Demise of Blackbeard 

Thanksgiving Day will just happen to mark the 300th anniversary of one of the most historical “battles” to have ever occurred in North Carolina.  While certainly not of the same magnitude of Guilford Courthouse or Bentonville, the ultimate demise of Blackbeard the Pirate came to pass in Ocracoke Inlet on November 22nd of 1718. 

Given the perpetual interest regarding pirates in general (and Blackbeard in particular), the Richmond Observer offers a series of articles chronicling the life and times of arguably the most recognized (if not indeed the most nefarious) pirate of all time.  This is Part V of the saga.

 Blackbeard Part V: Pardon Me, Sir … Time to Retire?

Blackbeard had been very successful thus far.  In only eight months of operating as undisputed leader of a pirate clan, he had defeated a Royal Navy man-of-war; effectively “taken” fellow pirate Stede Bonnet and his ship; burned the well-armed merchant vessel “Great Allan/Allen”; assumed ownership of the Jamaican sloop “Adventure” and its crew; pirated the Boston ship “Protestant Caesar” (which he burned in revenge of Boston having recently hanged a number of pirates); conducted several profitable trades in Havana; and generally wreaked havoc throughout the Atlantic trade waters  at St. Eustatious, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Bequia, Martinique, Hispaniola, Anguilla, St. Christopher Island, Belize, the Bay of Honduras, Cayman Island, and all along the east coast of Florida prior to his blockade of Charles Town. 

Immediately after his total humiliation of Charles Town, Blackbeard returned to what had become his virtual “headquarters”: the more favorable waters (and harbors) of North Carolina. 

He favored North Carolina for multiple reasons.  Teach was very familiar with the North Carolina coastal waters and the many deep inlets that offered quick and safe shelter for his ships, and the province had developed a reputation as a safe haven for pirates who were willing to share their wealth with the governor, Charles Eden, and his de facto lieutenant governor, Secretary Tobias Knight. 

And so it was North Carolina that was his usual destination when replenishing supplies, resting up for his next excursion, and enjoying the lifestyle that his pirating enabled.  Multiple hideouts were available along the coast of what would become “The Old North State,” and Blackbeard took advantage of his choices.  

Of all of the NC “ports of refuge,” Ocracoke Inlet seems to have been his favorite stopover.  It is said that he went so far as to buy a house (known in local lore as “Blackbeard’s Castle”), and a nearby inlet is still known as “Teach’s Hole” where the pirate would “careen” (dry-dock and clean) his ships.  As it was less safe to return to the same area too consistently, Teach would alter his destinations in North Carolina, having anchored as far inland as Holiday’s Island in the Chowan River, but it was usually Ocracoke where he stayed most often and for the longest periods of time, and so it was there that he was headed. 

However, Blackbeard had important information that was probably quite instrumental in his decision to head to Ocracoke at this time.  While at Charles Town he had heard of the king’s offer of pardons to any pirates who would turn themselves in and take an oath to give up the outlaw lifestyle.  Intrigued, but not trusting, Blackbeard seems to have devised an elaborate scheme to ensure the veracity of this talk. 

As noted previously, Stede Bonnet was to benefit from what appeared to be a mishap at Topsail Inlet.  Two of Blackbeard’s four ships ran aground there on 18 June, causing some degree of angst among the crewmembers.  Citing this debacle as sufficient cause to give up pirating and accept the pardon, Teach confided in Bonnet that he himself had decided to do so, but could not leave until repairs had been completed on the two damaged ships.  Bonnet, who as a de facto “guest” on board, felt no such obligation to stay and, seeing this pardon process as an option for himself as well, asked for one of the ships to take him on to see the governor in North Carolina’s capital of Bath.  Uncharacteristically, Blackbeard agreed and soon ushered Bonnet on his way.  Of course, Teach, as usual, had ulterior motives. 

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 November 2018 17:52