north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     The “Golden Age of Piracy” flourished, if only briefly, along the North Carolina coast in the early eighteenth century. Foremost among the pirates was Edward Teach (also spelled Thatch), aka “Blackbeard.” A figure of boundless interest to beachgoers, maritime historians, and other audiences worldwide, Teach led a life that remains, in many ways, shrouded in mystery. Teach lived briefly in the town of Bath during the summer of 1718 at which time he received a pardon from Governor Charles Eden pursuant to a royal proclamation intended to suppress piracy.

     Teach is reported to have served as a privateer during Queen Anne's War (1701 - 1714) and turned to piracy sometime after the war. By the fall of 1717 Blackbeard was operating off Delaware and Chesapeake bays in conjunction with two other pirate captains, Benjamin Hornigold and Stede Bonnet. Late in the fall of 1717, the pirates made their way to the eastern Caribbean. It was there, off the island of Martinique, that Blackbeard and his fellow pirates captured the French slaveship La Concorde.

     The 200-ton ship was armed with sixteen cannon and had a crew of seventy-five. On July 8, La Concorde arrived in present-day Benin. There the French crew took on a cargo of 516 captive Africans. The captain and officers also obtained about twenty pounds of gold dust for their own account. La Concorde took nearly eight weeks to cross the Atlantic and the hardships of the notorious Middle Passage took their toll on both the Africans and the French crew. By the time they reached the New World, sixty-one slaves and sixteen crewmen had perished. After crossing the Atlantic, the French ship encountered Blackbeard and his company and surrendered the ship.

     The pirates took La Concorde to the Grenadines where the French crew and the enslaved Africans were put ashore. While the pirates searched La Concorde, the French cabin boy informed them of the gold dust that was aboard. The pirates seized the gold. The cabin boy and three of his fellow French crewmen voluntarily joined the pirates, and ten others were taken by force. Blackbeard with his new ship, renamed Queen Anne's Revenge, cruised the Caribbean taking prizes and adding to his fleet. In the Bay of Honduras Blackbeard captured the sloop Adventure. In May 1718, the pirates arrived off Charleston, South Carolina, with Queen Anne's Revenge and three smaller sloops. In perhaps the most brazen act of his piratical career, Blackbeard blockaded the port of Charleston for nearly a week.

     Soon after leaving Charleston, Blackbeard's fleet attempted to enter Old Topsail Inlet in North Carolina, now known as Beaufort Inlet. During that attempt, Queen Anne's Revenge and the sloop Adventure grounded on the ocean bar and were abandoned. Blackbeard's piratical career ended six months later at Ocracoke Inlet. There he encountered an armed contingent sent by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood and led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard. In a desperate battle aboard Maynard's sloop, Blackbeard and a number of his fellow pirates were killed. Maynard returned to Virginia with the surviving pirates and the grim trophy of Blackbeard's severed head.

     
References:
Captain Charles Johnson, A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates (1998)
Lindley S. Butler, Pirates, Privateers, and Rebel Raiders of the Carolina Coast (2000)
Hugh F. Rankin, The Pirates of North Carolina (1960)
Richard Lawrence and Mark Wilde-Ramsing, “In Search of Blackbeard: Historical and Archaeological Research at Shipwreck Site 003BUI,” Southeastern Geology (February 2001)
Queen Anne's Revenge website:
http://www.qaronline.org -- essay by David Moore
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Blackbeard the Pirate

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