Edward Teach - Early Life of Blackbeard
During the height of the Golden Age of Piracy across the seas of Caribbean and West Indies, the sight of the black flag adorned with the sight of the skeleton spearing a red heart was a sight that all merchantmen and their crew members feared. That was the calling card of the most notorious pirate of all time, the pirate who by the end of his career managed to amass such infamy and popularity that he remained remembered to this day. His name was Blackbeard, but he was not always known by that name.
This pirate captain and the ruler of the mighty ship Queen Anne's Revenge was according to most accepted historian findings born around the year 1680 as Edward Teach in Bristol, England. The exact date of his birth and information about his family has not survived to this day, and written records even cast in doubt the correct spelling of his surname. In the official records of his illegal activity when he became famous he was usually named by his pirate name or as or Edward Teach, but the alternative surname spelling such as Thatch, Thache, Thach, Thatche, Theach, Thack, and Tack were also used regularly. Some obscure reports also claim that his original surname in England was Drummond, but their concrete proof for such claim was never produced. The cause for such wild variations in his name cannot be contributed only to the inaccuracies of historical records because pirates of that time intentionally spread false information about themselves and their names. This was done mostly so that they would not tarnish family names while they were conducting illegal and dangerous pirate work.
Not much is known about the early life of young Edward Teach, but history records that during his upbringing the port of his hometown Bristol was a buzzing epicenter of sea trade where military, passenger and merchant ships all prepared themselves for long journeys across numerous destinations to the New World, Africa, India, and Asia. Even though we cannot be certain about his education and upbringing, at the time of his death it was discovered that he indeed knew how to read and write which is a reason some historians speculate that he was born in the relatively wealthy family.
Exact reasons for picking the life on the sea and traveling to the New World are not known, but such journey across the Atlantic Ocean was commonplace those years. New World territories of Americas were viewed as a chance for a new beginning, and the power struggles between powerful countries of England, France, and Spain caused much friction on the seas where privateers, buccaneers, and pirates sacked merchant fleets and coastal cities, taking away incredible wealth and distributing them across North and Central America. Some government officials in that area viewed the arrival of the first two waves of Caribbean piracy (1650-1680 during England confrontation with Spain and 1693–1700 when pirates turned against all merchant fleets in Caribbean and West Indies) as beneficial to them because the wealth, gold, and goods that those pirates gathered eventually all became distributed back on their territories.
Edward Teach arrived in the Caribbean in the very last years of the 17th century either as the crew-member on the merchant or slave vessel, or that he was a sailor on a privateer ship. By that time, pirate legends such as Henry Every already managed to plunder incredible amount of wealth for themselves, and pirate heavens such as Port Royal and New Providence provided a way for pirates to sell their captured goods. The year 1716 was a turbulent one, marking an end of an era for many “legitimate” privateers and buccaneers that were employed by Spain, England, and France. The end of the so-called “War of the Spanish Succession” brought the end of hostilities in the Europe, causing the sudden unemployment of many privateer crews. Not wanting to give up turbulent (and often very profitable) life on the sea, many privateers elected to become pirates and continue plundering merchant vessels in the Caribbean and West Indies.
It is not known when did Tech exactly joined forces of English privateers that were given permission by the English government to harass Spanish ships and towns, but it is known that he around 1716 became crew-member of English Captain Benjamin Hornigold who operated out of pirate and privateer heaven of New Providence, Nassau. Captain Hornigold was a renowned naval commander who spotted the talent and abilities of young Edward Teach, eventually awarding thin the command of the small sloop he has taken as a prize. Thus, began the pirate career of Edward Teach who was by then still operating as a partner of the Captain Hornigold. Their initial success covered the capture of several merchant ships that transported flour and wine around Bermuda. During this trip Captain Hornigold wrote the first historical record of Edward Teach, describing him as a capable captain of a sloop that had 6 guns and crew size of 70 men. This report eventually reached the hands of the English government, which took serious notice of the Tech's description.
1717 was a year in which Edward Teach expanded his influence and presence in the Caribbean. The small fleet of Captain Benjamin Hornigold grew with the arrival of Stede Bonnet, the pirate captain who gave the control of his ship “Revenge” to the Hornigold. By the end of 1717, Hornigold retired from the piracy and taking the pardon that was offered by the English crown, most likely because his crew became dissatisfied with the Hornigold's orders never to attack English sea vessels. At that point, Edward Teach became captain of the small fleet that Hornigold created during his career as privateer and pirate. By the 28 November 1717, Tech completed his transformation into one of the most formidable pirates of the Caribbean with the capture of the French merchant vessel “La Concorde”, which he would significantly upgrade and rename into his famous 40-gun flagship “Queen Anne's Revenge”.