The Newgate Calendar - Supplement 3
EDWARD TEACH was a native of Bristol, and, having gone to Jamaica, he frequently sailed from that port, as one of the crew of a privateer, during the French war. In that station, he gave frequent proofs of his boldness and personal courage; but he was not intrusted with any command, until Captain Benjamin Hornigold gave him the command of a prize which he had taken.
In the spring of 1717, Hornigold and Teach sailed from Providence, for the continent of America, and in their way captured a small vessel, with a hundred and twenty barrels of flour, which they put on board their own vessels. They also seized other two vessels; from one they took some gallons of wine, and from the other, plunder to a considerable value. After cleaning upon the coast of Virginia, they made a prize of a large French Guineaman, bound to Martinique, and Teach, obtaining the command of her, went upon a cruise. Hornigold, with the two vessels, returned to the island of Providence, and surrendered to the king's clemency.
Teach now began to act an independent part. He mounted his vessel with forty guns, and named her The Queen Anne's Revenge. Cruising near the island of St. Vincent, he took a large ship, called the Great Allan, and, after having plundered her of what he deemed proper, he set her on fire. A few days after, Teach encountered the Scarborough man-of- war, and engaged her for some hours; but, perceiving his strength and resolution, she retired, and left Teach to pursue his depredations. His next adventure was with a sloop of ten guns, commanded by Major Bonnet, whose actions we have already related; and these two having united their fortunes, they co-operated for some time; but Teach finding him unacquainted with naval affairs, gave the command of Bonnet's ship to Richards, one of his own crew, and entertained Bonnet on board of his own vessel. Watering at Turniff, they discovered a sail, and Richards, with the Revenge, slipped her cable, and ran out to meet her. Upon seeing the black flag hoisted, the vessel struck, and came to, under the stern of Teach, the commodore. This was the Adventure, from Jamaica. They took the captain and his men on board the great ship, and manned his sloop for their own service.
They weighed from Turniff, where they remained during a week, and, sailing to the bay, found there a ship and four sloops. Teach hoisted his flag, and began to fire at them, upon which the captain and his men left their ship, and fled to the shore. Teach burned two of these sloops, and let the other three depart.
They afterwards sailed to different places; and, having taken two small vessels, they anchored off the Bar of Charlestown for a few days. Here they captured a ship bound for England, as she was coming out of the harbour. They next seized a vessel coming out of Charlestown, and two pinks coming into the same harbour, together with a brigantine with fourteen Negroes. The audacity of these transactions, performed in sight of the town, struck the inhabitants with terror, as they had been lately visited by some other notorious pirates. Meanwhile there were eight sail in the harbour, none of which durst set to sea, for fear of falling into the hands of Blackbeard. The trade of this place was fatally interrupted, and the inhabitants were abandoned to despair. Their calamity was greatly augmented from this circumstance, that a long and desperate war with the natives had just been terminated, when they began to be infested by these robbers.
Teach having detained all the persons taken in these ships, as prisoners, they were soon in great want of medicines, and he had the audacity to demand a chest from the governor. This demand was made in a manner not less daring than insolent. Teach sent Richards, the captain of the Revenge, with Mr. Marks, one of the prisoners, and several others, to present their request. Richards informed the governor, that unless their demand was granted, and he and his companions returned in safety, every prisoner on board the captured ships would instantly be slain, and the vessels consumed to ashes.
During the time that Mr. Marks was negotiating with the governor, Richards and his associates walked the streets at pleasure, while indignation flamed from every eye against them, as the robbers of their property, and the terror of their country. Though the affront thus offered the government was great and most audacious, yet, to preserve the lives of so many men, they granted their request, and sent on board a chest valued at three or four hundred pounds.
Teach, as soon as he received the medicines and his fellow pirates, pillaged the ships of gold and provisions, and then dismissed the prisoners with their vessels. From the bar of Charlestown they sailed to North Carolina. Teach now began to reflect how he could best secure the spoil, along with some of the crew, who were his favourites. Accordingly, under pretence of cleaning, he run his vessel on shore, and grounded; then ordered the men in Hands' sloop to come to his assistance, which they endeavouring to do, also run aground, and so they were both lost. Then Teach went into the tender with forty hands; and, upon a sandy island, about a league from shore, where there was neither bird nor beast, nor herb for their subsistence, he left seventeen of his crew, who must have inevitably perished, had not Major Bonnet received intelligence of their miserable situation, and sent a long-boat for them. After this barbarous deed. Teach, with the remainder of his crew, went and surrendered to the governor of North Carolina, retaining all the property which had been acquired by his fleet.
This temporary suspension of the depredations of Blackbeard, (for so he was now called,) did not proceed from the conviction of his former errors, or a determination to reform, but to prepare for future and more extensive exploits. As governors are but men, and not, unfrequently, by no means possessed of the most virtuous principles, the gold of Blackboard rendered him comely in the governor's eyes, and, by his influence, he obtained a legal right to the great ship called The Queen Anne's Revenge. By order of the governor, a court of vice-admiralty was held at Bath-town, and that vessel was condemned as a lawful prize that he had taken from the Spaniards, though it was a well-known fact that she belonged to English merchants. Before he entered upon his new adventures, he married a young woman of about sixteen years of age, the governor himself performing the ceremony. It was reported that this was only his fourteenth wife, about twelve of whom were yet alive; and, though this woman was young and amiable, he behaved towards her in a manner so brutal, that was shocking to all decency and propriety, even among the abandoned race of pirates.
In his first voyage, Blackboard directed his course to the Bermudas, and, meeting with two or three English vessels, emptied them of their stores and other necessaries, and allowed them to proceed. He also met with two French vessels bound for Martinique, the one light, and the other loaded with sugar and cocoa; he put the men on board the latter into the former, and allowed her to depart. He brought the loaded vessel into North Carolina, where the governor and Blackboard shared the prizes. Nor did their audacity and villainy stop here. Teach and some of his abandoned crew waited upon his excellency, and swore that they had seized the French ship at sea, without a soul on board; therefore, a court was called, and she was condemned. The honourable governor received sixty hogsheads of sugar for his share, his secretary twenty, and the pirates the remainder. But, as guilt always inspires suspicion. Teach was afraid that someone might arrive in the harbour that might detect the roguery; therefore, upon pretence that she was leaky, might sink, and so stop up the entrance to the harbour, where she lay, they obtained the governor's liberty to drag her into the river, where she was set on fire, and when burnt down to the water, her bottom was sunk, that so she might never rise in judgment against the governor and his confederates.
Blackboard now being in the province of friendship, he passed several months in the river, giving and receiving visits from the planters; while he traded with the vessels which came to that river, sometimes in the way of lawful commerce, and sometimes in his own way. When he chose to appear the honest man, he made fair purchases on equal barter; but when this did not suit his necessities, or his humour, he would rob at pleasure, and leave them to seek their redress from the governor; and, the better to cover his intrigues with his excellency, he would sometimes outbrave him to his face, and administer to him a share of that contempt and insolence which he so liberally bestowed upon the rest of the inhabitants of the province.
But there are limits to human insolence and depravity. The captains of the vessels who frequented that river, and had been so often harassed and plundered by Blackboard, secretly consulted with some of the planters what measures to pursue, in order to banish such an infamous miscreant from their coasts, and to bring him to deserved punishment. Convinced, from long experience, that the governor himself, to whom it belonged, would give no redress, they represented the matter to the governor of Virginia, and entreated that an armed force might be sent from the men-of-war lying there, either to take or to destroy those pirates who infested their coast.
Upon this representation, the governor of Virginia consulted with the captains of the two men-of-war as to the best measures to be adopted. He was resolved that the governor should hire two small vessels, which could pursue Blackbeard into all his inlets and creeks; that they should be manned from the men-of-war, and the command given to Lieutenant Maynard, an experienced and resolute officer. When all was ready for his departure, the governor called an assembly, in which it was resolved to issue a proclamation, offering a great reward to any who, within a year, should take or destroy any pirate.
Upon the 17th of November, 1717, Maynard left James's river in quest of Blackbeard, and, on the evening of the 21st, came in sight of the pirate. This expedition was fitted out with all possible expedition and secrecy, no boat being permitted to pass that might convey any intelligence, while care was taken to discover where the pirates were lurking. His excellency the governor of Bermudas, and his secretary, however, having obtained information of the intended expedition, the latter wrote a letter to Blackbeard, intimating, "that he had sent him four of his men, who were all he could meet with in or about town, and so bidding him be upon his guard." These men were sent from Bath-town to the place where Blackbeard lay, about the distance of twenty leagues.
The hardened and infatuated pirate, having been often disconcerted with false intelligence, was the less attentive to this information; nor was he convinced of its accuracy, until he saw the sloops sent to apprehend him. Though he had then only twenty men on board, he prepared to give battle. Lieutenant Maynard arrived with his sloops in the evening, and anchored, as he could not venture, under cloud of night, to go into the place where Blackbeard lay. The latter spent the night in drinking with the master of a trading-vessel, with the same indifference as if no danger had been near. Nay, such was the desperate wickedness of this villain, that it is reported, that, during the carousals of that night, one of his men asked him, "that in case anything should happen to him during the engagement with the two sloops that were waiting to attack him in the morning, whether his wife knew where he had buried his money;" he impiously replied, "that nobody but himself and the devil knew where it was, and the longest liver should take all."
In the morning Maynard weighed, and sent his boat to sound, which coming near, the pirate received her fire. Maynard then hoisted royal colours, and made directly towards Blackbeard with every sail and oar. In a little time the pirate ran a-ground, and so also did the king's vessels. Maynard lightened his vessel of the ballast and water, and made towards Blackbeard. Upon this he hailed him in his own rude style, "D– you, for villains, who are you, and from whence come you?" The lieutenant answered, "You may see from our colours we are no pirates." Blackbeard bid him send his boat on board, that he might see who he was. But Maynard replied, "I cannot spare my boat, but I will come on board of you as soon as I can, with my sloop." Upon this Blackbeard took a glass of liquor and drank to him, saying, "I'll give no quarters, nor take any from you." Maynard replied, "he expected no quarters from him, nor should he give him any."
During this dialogue, the pirate's ship floated, and the sloops were rowing with all expedition towards him. As she came near, the pirate fired a broadside, charged with all manner of small shot, which killed or wounded twenty men. Blackboard's ship in a little after fell broadside to the shore; one of the sloops called The Ranger also fell a-stern. But Maynard, finding that his own sloop had way, and would soon be on board of Teach, ordered all his men down, while himself and the man at the helm, whom he commanded to lie concealed, were the only persons who remained on deck. He, at the same time, desired them to take their pistols, cutlasses, and swords, and be ready for action upon his call; and, for the greater expedition, two ladders were placed in the hatchway. When the king's sloop boarded, the pirate's case-boxes, filled with powder, small-shot, slugs, and pieces of lead and iron, with a quick match in the mouth of them, were thrown into Maynard's sloop. Fortunately, however, the men being in the hold, they did small injury on the present occasion, though they are usually very destructive. Blackbeard seeing few or no hands upon deck, cried to his men, that they were all knocked on the head, except three or four; "and therefore," says he, "let's jump on board, and cut to pieces those that are alive."
Upon this, during the smoke occasioned by one of these case-boxes, Blackbeard, with fourteen of his men, entered, and were not perceived until the smoke was dispelled. The signal was given to Maynard's men, who rushed up in an instant. Blackbeard and the lieutenant exchanged shots, and the pirate was wounded; then they engaged sword in hand, until the sword of the latter broke; but fortunately, one of his men at that instant gave Blackbeard a terrible wound in the neck and throat. The most desperate and bloody conflict ensued—Maynard with twelve men, and Blackbeard with fourteen. The sea was dyed with blood all around the vessel, and uncommon bravery was displayed upon both sides. Though the pirate was wounded by the first shot from Maynard, yet he fought with desperate valour, though he had received twenty cuts, and five more shot; at length, when cocking his pistol, he fell down dead. By this time eight of his men had fallen, and the rest being wounded, cried out for quarter, which was granted, as the ring-leader was slain. The other sloop also attacked the men who remained in the pirate-vessels, until they also cried out for quarter. And such was the desperation of Blackbeard, that, having small hope of escaping, he had placed a Negro with a match at the gunpowder-door, to blow up the ship the moment that he should have been boarded by the king's men, in order to involve the whole in general ruin. That destructive broadside, at the commencement of the action, which at first appeared so unlucky, was, however, the means of their preservation from the intended destruction.
Maynard severed the pirate's head from his body, suspended it upon his bowsprit-end, and sailed to Bath-town, to obtain medical aid for his wounded men. In the pirate sloop, several letters and papers were found, which Blackbeard would certainly have destroyed previous to the engagement, had he not determined to blow her up upon his being taken, which disclosed the whole villainy between the honourable governor of Bermudas and his honest secretary, and the notorious pirate, who had now suffered the just demerit of his crimes.
Scarcely was Maynard returned to Bath-town, when he boldly went and made free with the sixty hogsheads of sugar in the possession-of the governor, and the twenty in that of his secretary.
After his men were healed at Bath-town, the lieutenant proceeded to Virginia, with the head of Blackbeard still suspended on his bowsprit-end, as a trophy of his victory, to the great joy of all the inhabitants. The prisoners were tried, condemned, and executed; and thus all the crew of that infernal miscreant Blackbeard, were destroyed except two. One of these was taken out of a trading-vessel, only the day before the engagement, in which he received no less than seventy wounds, of all which he was cured.
The other was Israel Hands, who was the master of the Queen Anne's Revenge; he was taken at Bath-town, being wounded in one of Blackboard's savage humours. One night Blackbeard, drinking in his cabin with Hands, the pilot, and another man, without any pretence took a small pair of pistols, and cocked them under the table; which being perceived by the man, he went on deck, leaving the captain, Hands, and the pilot together. When his pistols were prepared, he extinguished the candle, crossed his arms, and fired at his company. The one pistol did no execution, but the other wounded Hands in the knee. Interrogated concerning the meaning of this, he answered with an imprecation, "that if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was." Hands was tried and condemned, but as he was about to be executed, a vessel arrived with a proclamation prolonging the time of his Majesty's pardon, which Hands pleading, he was saved from a violent and shameful death.
We shall close the narrative of this extraordinary man's life by an account of the cause why he was denominated Black Beard. He derived this name from his long black beard, which, like a frightful meteor, covered his whole face, and terrified all America more than any comet that had ever appeared. He was accustomed to twist it with ribbon, in small quantities, resembling those of some fashionable wigs, and turned them about his ears. In time of action he wore a sling over his shoulders with three brace of pistols. He stuck lighted matches under his hat, which appearing on both sides of his face and his eyes, naturally fierce and wild, made him such a figure that the human imagination cannot form a conception of even a fury more terrible and alarming; and if he had the appearance and look of a fury, his actions corresponded with that character.