Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dead Men Tell No Tales....

Musket balls are flying. Grenades are exploding. Pirates, screaming and snarling, board the merchant ship, swinging cutlasses cutting men down wily nily. No, we are not trapped in yet another sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean. We are aboard the ship of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Her name, the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Now I know that Blackbeard isn’t technically American History but in a way he is. Blackbeard made his home base in North Carolina (Of course it was around 1716 so North Carolina was still a British colony but cut me some slack. Pirates are cool.)

Teach was born in Britain around 1690. As a young man he served on a privateer ship that was based in Jamaica. Privateers are basically pirate ships with the government of one country supporting them. Teach’s ship was British which meant they were backed by Queen Anne (Who was known as Brandy Nan because she was a bit of lush and according to a very funny tour guide I once had in London built a little bit like a box. Four feet tall and four feet wide.) That meant they could loot and plunder French and Spanish ships. By the time Teach left the Navy at the end of the War of Spanish Succession he was an experienced sea robber.

Blackbeard soon rose to the rank of Captain aboard the ship he sailed, one he had stolen with the help of fierce Caribbean Pirates (Pirates of the Caribbean? Been to Disneyland one too many times Captain Ron?) As his power and reputation grew…so did good old Blacky’s beard and hair. He took to calling himself Blackbeard, braiding his beard and tying it with black ribbons. He stuffed burning rope under his hat to make himself fiercer, and to have his own personal fog machine I guess. (Pirate fashion sense was not that great. You know, since they tended not to bathe all that much)

By the fall of 1718, the townspeople of Virginia, and probably just about every other person except his crew on the face of the earth, was tired of his murdering thieving ways. Blackbeard was the most feared, most dangerous, and most deadly pirate to every live. Seriously NOT A NICE GUY. When he returned to his base off of Orcacoke Island, Blackbeard planned a huge pirate party. (I would hate to have been a chick anywhere near this shindig. It would have been bad.)

The Governor of Virginia spent the next two weeks plotting how to stop Blackbeard. He sent two sloops to the island commanded by Lt. Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy. The sloops chased Blackbeard and his ship down a narrow channel between the beach and an almost invisible sandbar. One sloop crashed into the sandbar because they had no idea it was there. Blackbeard and Myanard’s ships edged close together, with the British soldiers hiding below decks with weapons drawn. (Think a seaworthy Trojan Horse.) Blackbeard ordered his men to lobe grenades at the ship, thinking it was deserted. Then he ordered her boarded. When the pirates boarded the ship, Maynard’s men rushed from below and the battle began.

Maynard and Blackbeard faced off mano-e-mano. Both fired with Teach missing but Maynard’s shot hitting his mark. Teach managed, despite, having a hole in his chest, to swing his cutlass and snap Maynard’s blade. As Blackbeard raised his arm to finish off the British commander, a sailor came up behind and slashed Blackbeard’s throat.

As a warning to other pirates, Blackbeard’s head was cut off and suspended from the bow of Maynard’s sloop. The secret location, if there even is one, of Blackbeard’s treasure has never been revealed.
Two interesting trivia bits about Blackbeard (at least I think they are and this my freaking blog)

1. His ship has never been found. Researchers have searched and searched for the Queen Anne’s Revenge but it has never been confirmed that any of the wrecks they have found have been her. I think she’s still out there somewhere.
2. He was not the most successful pirate. That would be Black Bart Rogers, a contemporary, who captured hundreds of ships. Also Henry Avery took a single treasure ship worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in 1695, which was more than Blackbeard took in his whole career.

See sometimes real life is way cooler then the movies.

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