Black Beard

Ch. 7: Blackbeard
Raleigh, North Carolina

Our Story:

Emily has inherited her aunt’s grand old home in North Carolina and is thrilled by the prospect of fixing it up and moving in. Her husband Sam is not so sure: the house appears not to have been updated since it was built in the mid-1700’s. But when the couple starts prepping walls for new wiring, they discover that the property once sheltered a pirate who might have had the last word on the fate of both the famous Blackbeard and his vast wealth.

The Real Story Behind Blackbeard 

Born Edward Teach in England around 1680, Blackbeard probably served briefly as a British privateer before joining the Jamaican crew of the pirate Benjamin Hornigold and becoming his second-in-command. When the crew overthrew Hornigold in 1717, Teach became their captain and made one of Hornigold’s recent conquests, a former French slave vessel, his flagship. Just a few short months later, he apparently ran the ship, called the Queen Anne’s Revenge, aground near Beaufort, North Carolina.

Despite a very short career — he died only a year after becoming captain — Blackbeard quickly became a legend. While there is no hard evidence that he actually killed anyone, he almost certainly encouraged tales of his brutality so that he would encounter no resistance when he seized merchant ships. As his nickname suggests, he might have woven hemp into his beard and ignited it during battles to appear more fearsome, and he seems to have draped himself with multiple weapons for added effect.
 
One of Blackbeard’s most daring ventures was to blockade the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, capturing several ships in a matter of days in May 1718 and effectively preventing all other departures from the city. Among the hostages from one of the pirated vessels were several prominent Charlestonians, and Blackbeard used them as leverage to bargain for a most unexpected ransom: a medicine chest. He never stated his purpose for his request, but syphilis was a common occupational hazard of piracy in those days. Over the next few days, the delivery of the medicines met with delays, and Blackbeard convincingly threatened his hostages several times; but ultimately he released them unharmed, after taking all of their personal possessions and most of their clothes. He then left as quickly as he had arrived. The whole escapade lasted only about two weeks and netted Blackbeard and his crew only around a quarter of a million dollars in today’s terms. Like many of his contemporaries, generations of historians have wondered why the pirate did not take more advantage of his stranglehold over a very rich city.
 
By all accounts, Blackbeard’s wealth was immense by mid-1718, and after he abandoned two of his ships and some of his crew, his personal share would have been even larger. Popular accounts suggested that he was very fond of burying parts of his treasure all along the Carolina coast; the most melodramatic stories claimed that he would choose a sailor to row him to land with a treasure chest but would return alone. The speculation about his wealth continued even after he renounced piracy and received a pardon from North Carolina Governor Charles Eden. For his “retirement,” Blackbeard chose to settle in the small town of Bath, near Eden’s own home. The foundations of both houses are still visible, though no-one has claimed to have found anything of value while digging around in them.

Despite his pardon in North Carolina, Blackbeard had made many enemies, among them the governor of nearby Virginia, who commissioned the pirate’s capture. Lieutenant Robert Maynard found Blackbeard and his associates anchored near Ocracoke Island on November 21, 1718. The exciting battle that followed helped to secure Blackbeard’s legacy: he inflicted a great deal of damage to one of Maynard’s vessels before unwisely boarding an evidently empty ship with only ten of his men. Maynard emerged from the holds with his crew and allegedly killed Blackbeard in a ferocious duel, displaying his quarry’s severed head on his ship’s bowsprit when he returned to Virginia to collect his reward.
 
Many believe that Blackbeard’s death was so sudden and unexpected that some of his treasure might still be buried near one of the many coves and inlets along his beloved Carolina coast.


The Chapters: 12 Lost Treasures

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