He was a “tall spare man with a very black beard which he wore very long.” Men of his day described him as “such a figure that imagination cannot form an idea of a fury from hell to look more frightful.” His thick black beard was braided into pigtails, sometimes tied with small colored ribbons. He wore knee-length boots and dark clothing, topped with a wide hat and sometimes a long coat of brightly-colored silk or velvet. During battle, he would sometimes wear a sash with three pistols across his broad chest, and just to look especially fearsome, stuck lit, slow burning matches under his hat.

Blackbeard was the quintessential pirate, with a back story shrouded in mystery.

No one knows for certain his real name, although it is usually given as Edward Thatch or Teach. He was born some time around 1680, possibly in Bristol, England. Or maybe not.

He may have served as a privateer, essentially a mercenary, during Queen Anne’s War in the early 1700’s and turned to piracy sometime after the war’s conclusion in 1714.

Queen Ann’s War was the second in a series of wars fought between Great Britain and France in North America for control of the continent. (Of course, we know how that turned out eventually).

The earliest records mentioning Blackbeard by name date to the summer of 1717. By the fall of that year, Blackbeard was buckling his swash off Delaware and Chesapeake bays along with two other pirate captains, Benjamin Hornigold and Stede Bonnet.

Apparently, Blackbeard learned his pirate ways as an apprentice under Hornigold before becoming a pirate captain in his own right.

His first major battle was late in the fall of 1717, off the island of Martinique in the eastern Caribbean.

A French slave ship, La Concorde, was on its third crossing of the Atlantic, and about 100 miles from the island, encountered Blackbeard and his band aboard two sloops, one with 120 men and twelve cannon, and the other with thirty men and eight cannon.

The French crew was already reduced by sixteen fatalities from the perilous journey and another 36 were seriously ill from scurvy and dysentery. They were powerless to resist. After the pirates fired two volleys at La Concorde, the French captain surrendered the ship.

The pirates took La Concorde to the island of Bequia in the Grenadines where they put the French crew and enslaved Africans ashore.

The cabin boy and three of his fellow French crewmen voluntarily joined the pirates, and ten others were taken by force including a pilot, three surgeons, two carpenters, two sailors, and the cook. Blackbeard and his crew kept La Concorde and Blackbeard renamed her Queen Ann’s Revenge.

For the next year, Blackbeard and his crew sailed up through the Bahamas, adding to their fleet along the way. Eventually they arrived off Charleston, South Carolina, with Queen Anne’s Revenge and three smaller sloops.

In the most brazen act of his career, Blackbeard blockaded the port of Charleston for nearly a week. The pirates seized several ships attempting to enter or leave the port and took the crew and passengers of one ship as prisoners.

In return for their release, Blackbeard demanded a chest of medicine. He got it, released the prisoners, and continued up the coast.

He soon developed a fearsome reputation, a bounty on his head and was pursued by colonial authorities, including his ultimate nemesis, Royal Navy Lieutenant Robert Maynard.

Before his final battle, while anchored on the inner side of Ocracoke Island, in North Carolina, Blackbeard supposedly took a swig of liquor before promising Maynard, “Damnation seize my soul if I give you quarters, or take any from you.”

In other words, “I’ll be damned if I accept your surrender or surrender to you.”

In the end, Blackbeard was shot at least five times, and slashed at least 20. His corpse was thrown overboard and his head suspended from the bowsprit of Maynard’s sloop, which sailed back to Virginia where the reward could be collected.

By all accounts, Blackbeard was a shrewd and calculating leader who spurned the use of violence. He relied instead on his fearsome image to get what he wanted. And he’s captured the imagination of pirate admirers ever since.

Rep our Limited Edition, “Seize my Soul”, in memory of a brilliant strategist who managed to win most battles before they even begun.

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