Monday, August 10, 2009


Englishman Edward Teach, much better known as Blackbeard, was a widely feared pirate of the 18th century. In accordance with his nickname, he had a long, black beard that fell to his waist; he adorned it with black ribbons. He had a way of drinking rum after setting fire to it with gunpowder. Along with his habit of putting slow-burning fuses in his hair, the general effect was memorable and frightening.

Blackbeard achieved his piracy in part because, rather than sailing under the skull and crossbones, he would approach trade ships flying a flag of a friendly country. Only at the last minute (in the hard-to-see conditions of dawn or dusk) would he hoist the pirate flag. Once, when Blackbeard demanded that a prisoner hand over a diamond ring, the man refused. Blackbeard then cut off the finger holding the ring. He once used his many ships to blockade the port of Charleston, South Carolina, then took several prominent citizens as hostages until ransom was paid.

In November of 1718, Blackbeard held a rowdy party at Teach's Hole, off Ocracoke Island (North Carolina). The party lasted long enough for local citizens to inform Alexander Spotswood, the governor of Virginia. Spotswood sent two sloops to Ocracoke to capture Blackbeard; they were commanded by Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy.

On November 21, 1718, Blackbeard's final battle began. He sailed his ship, the Adventure, into a narrow channel, luring one of Maynard's ships onto a sand bar when it attempted to follow. Blackbeard fired his cannons at the second ship, killing several men on board. Maynard ordered the rest of the men, temporarily hidden by the dense smoke, below decks in an attempt to make the pirates believe they were victorious. It worked; the pirates boarded the ship and Maynard and his men attacked.

In the climax of the wild battle, the two leaders, Blackbeard and Maynard, came face to face. Each man fired a shot at the other. Blackbeard's missed, but Maynard hit his target. Blackbeard swung his cutlass and removed Maynard's sword blade close to the hilt. As Blackbeard readied himself to kill Maynard with his next swing, one of Maynard's men came up behind Blackbeard and cut his throat. Not surprisingly, Blackbeard's attempted death blow missed, only skinning Maynard's knuckles. Now suffering from a gunshot wound and a slit throat, Blackbeard continued to fight, blood spurting from his neck. Maynard and several of his men now attacked Blackbeard at once; after five gunshots and approximately twenty sword injuries, Blackbeard fell dead.

In the gruesome aftermath, Blackbeard's head was severed from his body. The head was hung from the ship's bowsprit; the body was thrown overboard. When the body hit the water, the head in the bowsprit began to shout, "Come on, Edward!" Blackbeard's headless body swam around the ship three times before sinking.

Blackbeard's ghost still haunts Teach's Hole, searching for the head that adorned Maynard's bowsprit. Sometimes the ghost is seen floating on the water; sometimes, glowing, it swims underwater around Teach's Hole. Sometimes a ghost light is seen on the Pamlico Sound side of the island; the light is accompanied by the sound of Blackbeard bellowing, "Where is my head?"

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