Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1718, died Blackbeard the Pirate.

Blackbeard was a buccaneer who seized ships at will, murdered seamen at random, and conducted a reign of terror in the Caribbean.

Edward Teach (or Thatch or Drummond) was born in 1680, at Bristol. History does not record his early life but we know that in 1716, he was in the employ of Benjamin Hornigold, a pirate who worked out of the Island of Matinique. In 1717, Blackbeard was in command of a 40-gun warship, Queen Anne's Revenge, and soon became notorious for his exploits. He had his base in North Carolina, where he exacted levies from passing ships, with the threat of reprisal if his fees were not paid, and had a profit-sharing deal with the colony’s governor.

Blackbeard took his name his luxuriant black beard, which he adorned with lighted firebrands in the heat of battle. He carried multiple swords, knives, and pistols, and wore a distinctive cap, emblazoned with the pirate logo, the skull and crossbones. During his career, he had over a dozen wives, although he only entered into common-law marriages.  

There is an abundance of legends concerning Blackbeard. One says that he shot his own first mate, because ‘if he didn’t shoot one now and then, they’d forget who he was.’  Another story goes that Blackbeard challenged his crew to an endurance contest, in the ship's hold, filled with jars of brimstone set alight. Naturally, Blackbeard endured the longest and, when he finally emerged from the self created Hell, he cursed the crew as milksops, for not having his capacity for tolerating torture.  A crewman once asked Blackbeard if his current wife knew the whereabouts of his accumulated fortune, reputedly buried in a secret location. Blackbeard replied “Damn ye. Nobody but me and the Devil knows where it be hid, and the longest liver will get it all.  

Blackbeard finally exhausted the patience of the authorities when he attacked a Royal Navy man-of-war, HMS Scarborough, and the governor of Virginia ordered a group of militia to hunt him down. In 1718, Lieutenant Robert Maynard, set out on HMS Pearl, accompanied by 3 other vessels to seek out Blackbeard. Maynard caught up with Blackbeard anchored in a North Carolina inlet, unsuspecting any attempt to bring him to natural justice. Having sighted Blackbeard’s vessel, Maynard for a favourable tide, and attacked.  

Taken by surprise, Blackbeard cut anchor and moved towards shallow water, hoping to run Maynard’s craft against the sandbanks. Maynard steered a course to cut off Blackbeard before he arrived at shallow water, and came alongside him at which, according to Maynard’s account, Blackbeard screamed curses and cried “damnation to me and my men, whom he styled ‘cowardly puppies’. Blackbeard fired a broadside killing 7 of Maynard’s men and wounding many others, obliging Maynard to order his men to seek refuge in the hold. Blackbeard, seeing the empty decks on his adversary’s vessel, took 10 men and boarded her.  

Maynard, hearing the pirates coming aboard, emerged from the hold and engaged in a cutlass fight with Blackbeard. Blackbeard sliced off the tips of the fingers of Maynard’s left hand with one stroke and was on the point of striking the fatal blow when one of Maynard's men, Highlander, struck Blackbeard with his broadsword, about the neck. Maynard fired his pistol at Blackbeard several times, bringing him to his knees, when the Highlander made the final stroke cutting off his head. Blackbeard’s head was placed as a trophy on the bowsprit of Maynard’s ship, while his body was cast overboard. Legend that Blackbeard's body swam around the ship seven times after his body hit the water.  

In 1996, what is thought to be Blackbeard’s ship was discovered near Beaufort, North Carolina, and now serves as tourist attraction.

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