This year marks the 300th Anniversary of Blackbeard's momentous adventures along North Carolina's coast. Blackbeard, the legendary English pirate, swarmed the seas in the early 1700s. He served as a privateer in the British Navy during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13). Like many privateers, Blackbeard turned to a life of piracy after the war ended. Despite his reputation, there is little known about Blackbeards early life. His real name is believed to be Edward Thatch or Edward Teach. Blackbeard gained his reputation in a few short years as he and his crew ruled the Caribbean Sea and traveled along the Atlantic Coast of North America.
Blackbeard was first known as a pirate in late 1716. A year later, he captured a French slave ship and renamed the vessel Queen Anne's Revenge. The pirates then traveled to the island of Bequia in the Grenadines. The French crew and enslaved Africans were kept ashore while Blackbeard and his men searched the vessel. A cabin boy, Louis Arot, informed the pirates of the gold dust aboard which they seized. The cabin boy and three Frenchmen voluntarily joined the pirates while ten others were taken by force. Blackbeard and his men kept Queen Anne's Revenge and left two smaller ships for the remaining Frenchmen. The French renamed one vessel Mauvaise Rencontre, meaning Bad Encounter, and in two trips carried the remaining Africans from Bequia to Martinique.
After leaving Bequia, Blackbeard and his men sailed the Caribbean continuing to add to their fleet. Sources say the pirates cruised north along the Lesser Antilles taking ships near St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Nevis, and Antigua. In December of 1717, the crew arrived at the Eastern end of Puerto Rico. By April of 1718, Blackbeard and his fellow pirates had reached the Turneffe Islands in the Bay of Honduras. This is where captain David Herriot of the Adventure was forced to join the pirates. Blackbeard and his men then sailed near the Cayman Islands capturing ships and making additions.
Turning north, Blackbeard's crew cruised through the Bahamas and headed towards the North American coast, arriving in Charleston, South Carolina in May 1718. By this time, the crew of pirates had grown with Queen Anne's Revenge and three smaller vessels. Blackbeard boldly blockaded the port of Charleston for roughly a week making this his most notable venture. The pirates seized ships attempting to enter or leave the port and captured one ship in particular - the Crowley. Once captured, they detained everyone aboard as prisoners until a medicine chest was traded as a ransom.
Blackbeard and the pirates then continued up the coast until they reached Old Topsail Inlet in North Carolina, now known as Beaufort Inlet. However, the ships were stopped on the ocean bar and soon abandoned. Some sources say Herriot claimed Blackbeard grounded the ships on purpose to break up the crew of over 300 pirates.
Blackbeard's journey ended in 1718 at Ocracoke Inlet on the coast of North Carolina. Halted by an armed vessel sent by the Governor of Virginia and led by Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard, a battle began. Blackbeard and a number of his men were killed aboard Maynard's ship. Maynard returned to Virginia with the remaining pirates and the trophy Blackbeard's severed head. Blackbeard's ventures are remembered to this day.
Take a day trip to Ocracoke and visit Teach's Hole, a Blackbeard museum and pirate specialty shop. Enjoy local restaurants and stay overnight for a historic treat at the family-friendly Blackbeard's Lodge.