Blackbeard received his nickname because he had an extraordinary long beard that he styled to look as menacing as possible. His theatrical approach to pirate encounters made him one of the most popular Pirates in the reports of his time, and during years and centuries, after he left, he and his striking presence managed to make of him the most popular pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy.
The famous Caribbean pirate Blackbeard did not easily gain control of his first pirate vessel. He first served for two years under Captain Benjamin Hornigold, a famous pirate captain who operated from the pirate heaven base of New Providence in the Bahamas. After he had proven himself as tactician and leader, Hornigold awarded Blackbeard first with the command of the small sloop that accompanied him on raids, and eventually with his flagship. During the years Blackbeard was active as a pirate, he made connections with several other pirate captains such as Stede Bonnet and Israel Hands who served as his 2nd in command. He was also acquainted with Governor Charles Eden who granted him a royal pardon in June of 1718.
Blackbeard became popular and feared across Caribbean and coast of eastern North America not only because of his skilled naval tactics and bold actions but also because whenever he had contact with his victims, he strives to put the chills into their bones bu merely his looks. He had very long black beard that he braided into several thick pigtails. To add to the image of the fierce warrior, he often pierced his beard and his hat with lit cannon fuses and tied small ribbons all over his hair and beard. His appearance was further enhanced by his natural frame (he was tall and with very broad shoulders), dark clothing, knee-length boots, wide coat, and a sling that could hold more than three pistols in holsters.
Even though Blackbeard was active as a pirate for only a few short years, during the middle of his illegal career on the sea he made a break from it all after he lost his prize possession, a converted French merchant vessel that he named Queen Anne's Revenge. Some say that the ship was lost due to an accident, while some claim that Blackbeard rammed it to the shallows off the coast of North Carolina intentionally due to the unmanageable increase of his pirate crew over the preceding months. Quickly after that, Blackbeard sailed to Bath with much of his crew left behind and successfully got a Royal Pardon that cleared him from all wrongdoings on the sea in exchange for him becoming law abiding citizen on the land. But he could not rest. Not a month later he applied to the government to become a privateer, and quickly after that he returned to piracy.
The final stand of Blackbeard remains remembered today as one of the most important moments in the history of Golden Age of Piracy. On the day of 22 November 1718, Lieutenant Robert Maynard of HMS Pearl acting on the orders of the Governor of Virginia Alexander Spotswood managed to spot and corner Blackbeard into the trap finally. The surprise attack happened at the worst possible moment, at the dawn when the Blackbeard and his crew were recovering from the celebration of recent plundering. At the end of the battle, Blackbeard fought one on one against Lieutenant Maynard on the deck of the pirate ship. Blackbeard was first wounded by one of Maynard’s men, and then quickly killed by several of other soldiers. The death of famous Blackbeard sent instant waves across the entire Caribbean, heralding the end of the Golden Age of Piracy that plagued Atlantic ocean for decades.
Even though the modern pirate lore has many tales describing pirate captains hiding their treasures in places that are still undiscovered today, many believe that Blackbeard was not one who practiced this method of concealing his wealth from the authorities (and other pirates). However, the legends of his hidden treasure are still strong today, giving hope to treasure seekers that he has indeed left some of his sizable wealth in the wreck of his famous ship Queen Anne’s Revenge, blasted from the cannons to the coast of North Carolina moments before Lieutenant Maynard killed him, in his residence at Bath, North Carolina, where Blackbeard spent few months living after he got pardoned, on many locations across the Caribbean where he operated, and many other places. According to the famous 1724 book “A General History of the Pyrates”, when asked about his treasure moments before the final battle against Lieutenant Maynard’s force, Blackbeard said, “that no-body but himself and the Devil, knew where it was, and the longest liver should take all”.
Little is known about Blackbeard's early years, but we do know that he was born as Edward Teach or Edward Thatch around 1980 in Bristol, England. Around the turn of the century, he traveled to the West Indies where he served as a sailor on privateer ships, eventually becoming crew member under pirate Captain Benjamin Hornigold. Several alternative spellings of his surname exist today, including such as Thatch, Thach, Thache, Thack, Tack, Thatche and Theach. Some records even claim in that his name was Edward Drummond, although there is not enough proof to legitimize it or to prove that Blackbeard used it when he wanted to remain hidden from authorities.
The first historical reference of Edward Teach happened in 1716 when he was still crewman on pirate captain Benjamin Hornigold’s ship, but all that changed managed to get command of his pirate sloop and his mentor retired (eventually becoming pirate hunter). Blackbeard managed to become feared pirate captain during only two years at sea, during which he even took a short sabbatical from the plundering when he took Royal Pardon that grounded him on North Carolina shores for two months. Even though his career was short and he never managed to claim any large treasure for himself, during the two years and over 30 captured ships, Blackbeard still managed to become one of the most remembered pirates of all time.
The battle that resulted in the death of Blackbeard and capture of his crew represented on the most important developments in the efforts of reducing the rampant piracy in Atlantic waters during early 18th century. The body of the dead Blackbeard was thrown into the water where the battle took place, but Lieutenant Maynard kept his head and hanged it from ships mast. He had done so so that he could prove Blackbeard’s death to the authorities and claim his reward. The image of severed Blackbeard’s head was showcased in many books over the years, most notably in the Charles Elles' “The Pirates Own Book” (1837).
The bold naval tactics, showmanship, and theatricality, the popularity that was built over centuries of appearances in various books and plain name recognition caused Blackbeard to become the most popular pirate of all time. Even though he was a fierce pirate, historical records are in modern times used only as a foundation on which his “romanticized” version is created. Many modern books TV, movie productions paint him as a righteous swashbuckler or charismatic anti-hero. Most notable examples of his presence in modern media are from Tim Powers' 1988 novel “On Stranger Tides”, 2014 TV show “Black Sails” and his appearance as the antagonist in the 2011 film “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”.
The history has seen many pirates who managed to acquire incredible wealth during their raids, and few who even managed to live long to spend it in peace, but Blackbeard defeats them all in the field of popularity. He never managed to grab the large wealth of coin and gold, but he spread fear across the Caribbean and west Atlantic by his fierce naval tactics that won him several famous ships – his flagship Concorde which he renamed into Queen Anne’s Revenge, sloops Adventure, and Revenge.
On November 21, 1996, a private research company Intersal, Inc. managed to discover the wreck of the famous Blackbeard’s ship 1.6 km off the shore of the Fort Macon State Park, Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. The ship proved to be one of the most successful diving sites in the entire world, bringing to the surface over 250 thousand artifacts, ranging from the ship parts, combat gear all to the tiniest personal belongings of the pirate crew. As of late 2014, 23 of the 44 cannons mentioned in historical data were recovered from the sea floor.