Growing up in eastern North Carolina, it was the dread pirate Blackbeard that haunted my fantasies and dreams. I had spent time in Bath, where he supposedly had an underground tunnel into Governor Tryon’s residence through which he would clandestinely meet with his protector and split the take. The Outer Banks and the Pamlico Sound were my summer haunts as they were his. Everywhere about was evidence of wrecked and abandoned ships, Moonspinners, pirates, and the ghosts of another time. Treasure Island was one of my favorite films. The Queen Anne’s Revenge has been located and is being excavated.
“Teach was most likely born in Bristol, although little is known about his early life. In 1716 he joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, a pirate who operated from the Caribbean island of New Providence. He quickly acquired his own ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, and from 1717 to 1718 became a renowned pirate. His cognomen, Blackbeard, was derived from his thick black beard and fearsome appearance; he was reported to have tied lit fuses under his hat to frighten his enemies.
“After parting company with Hornigold, Teach formed an alliance of pirates and with his cohort blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina. He successfully ransomed its inhabitants and then soon after, ran his ship aground on a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina. Teach accepted a royal pardon but was soon back at sea, where he attracted the attention of the Governor of Virginia, Alexander Spotswood. Spotswood arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to find and capture the pirate, which they did on 22 November 1718. During a ferocious battle, Teach was killed by a small force of sailors led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard.
“A shrewd and calculating leader, Teach avoided 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 are no known accounts 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.”