22 November 1718: The navy bring down Blackbeard
The notorious pirate is finally tracked down by the Royal Navy and meets a grisly end
Of all the men and women associated with the so-called ‘golden age of piracy’, none ever rivalled the legendary status of Blackbeard. Edward Teach was born around 1680. By the autumn of 1717, he is recorded as commanding a pirate sloop with six guns and some 70 men, operating around the Bahamas.
According to writers of the day, Teach was a tall, lean man, with “such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury from hell to look more frightful”, and black boots, a velvet coat and a wide hat.
But what really struck contemporaries was his black beard, “that large quantity of hair, which, like a frightful meteor, covered his whole face, and frightened America more than any comet that has appeared there a long time”. He is supposed to have worn ribbons in his hair and stuck lighted matches under his hat; if so, he must have appeared fearsomely bizarre.
Teach’s piratical career, however, did not last long. On 21 November 1718, a British naval lieutenant, Robert Maynard, tracked him down to Ocracoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. Early the next morning, Maynard’s two sloops moved in for the kill. But Blackbeard was not going down without a fight. In his first devastating exchange of fire, he effectively disabled one of Maynard’s ships; then Teach’s ship, the Adventure, closed in for boarding.
Convinced that most of Maynard’s men had been killed, Blackbeard led his men abroad, cutlasses and flintlocks in hand. But then Maynard’s men burst out of the hold, where they had been hiding, and took the pirates by surprise. The fighting was brief but savage. Pushed back, Teach was slashed across the neck by one of Maynard’s men; then the others moved in to finish the job.
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