Saturday, April 6, 2019

Blackbeard & Queen Anne's Revenge, Beaufort, North Carolina

We visited the North Carolina Maritime Museum where they had a special exhibit about Blackbeard. His ship was recently recovered with some of the artifacts from his ship on display here, and some of the ship itself is on display in Greenville, North Carolina. 

As one of the most notorious pirates who ever lived, little is known about the early life of Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard.  His known piracies only span a couple of years, but he was sailing as a pirate for much longer. His known prices numbered around 60, but he captured more. He met his end at Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, in a battle with the British Royal Navy in November 1718. His head was removed and and taken to Virginia as proof that the infamous pirate had been defeated. His exploits have survived for almost three centuries in numerous historical records, legends, myth, and folklore.

The Great Cabin
Captains of 18th century ships enjoyed more expansive accommodations than any of their subordinates. The great cabin stretched across the full width of the ship and accessed quarter galleries on either side that provided both sleeping space and toilet facilities for the captain. In large part the sheer spaciousness ofthe great cabin reflected the captain's status, but it also served a more practical function as a meeting place for the ship's officers and a center for the navigation of the vessel. In action, most of the cabin's luxury disappeared. The furniture, and the bulkheads that gave privacy, were struck below into the hold, and the great cabin became just another part of the main gun deck. 

On November 28, 1717, the French slave ship Concorde was captured by two small sloops with 250 men under the command of "Englishman Edoward Titche" about 45 leagues east of their destination of Martinique. The three vessels then sailed to Becoya just south of St. Vincent in the Grenadines where the pirates exchanged the smallest of their sloops with the French crew for Concorde, creating a new flagship and renaming her Queen Anne's Revenge.

The origin of Blackbeard remains in question. There are a few authors who have written about the infamous pirate, and each one places his origin in a different place. With all the genealogies surrounding the pirate, his origin has never been verified. Blackbeard and his pirates operated in the Windward Islands of the eastern Caribbean, around the Bay of Honduras in the western Caribbean, among the islands of the Bahamas, and along the North American coast between South Carolina and New York, and specifically North Carolina.

Documents relating to Blackbeard's activities reveal almost 70 vessels taken by Blackbeard. Plunder included weaponry, ship's cannon and small arms, clothing, alcoholic beverages, food and money.

Who were Blackbeard's pirates? Where did they come from? Some may have come from the slave ship Concorde, which they captured. Others:

Louis Arot
Louis was a 15-year old cabin boy aboard the Concorde, and was with Blackbeard's crew for a short time. 

William Howard
Howard sailed with Blackbeard as quartermaster until the loss of the ship. He left them and headed north where he was arrested as a suspected pirate. He paid for legal counsel with gold dust, was tried and convicted but was pardoned by the King.

William Cunningham
Cunningham had been a gunner on Blackbeard's crew. He was captured by ex-pirates turned pirate hunters; tried and hung in December 1718.

David Herriot
Herriot was the captain of the sloop Adventure when it was captured by Blackbeard. Blackbead kept the Adventure and Herriot joined Blackbeard. He stayed until Queen Anne's Revenge was lost and then left with Stede Bonnet but was taken with Bonnet's crew but was killed during his attempt to escape.

Caesar was an African member of Blackbeard's crew. Caesar remained on the Adventure with directions from Blackbeard to blow up the sloop if the battle went against the pirates. He was prevented from blowing up the sloop, was taken to Virginia, tried and executed with most of the pirate survivors in March 1719.

Stede Bonnet
Known as The Gentleman Pirate, he owned an estate in Barbados with a wife and children, and held the position of major in the local militia, before mysteriously joining the ranks of piracy in 1717. Blackbeard and Bonnet joined crews around July 1717 and continued together until the Queen Anne's Revenge was lost in June 1718. After being jilted by Blackbeard, Bonnet continued taking prizes on his own until his capture in September 1718. He was tried, convicted and executed on December 10, 1718.

Pirate crews were in a constant state of flux. Queen Anne's Revenge's most valuable crew were experienced former privateersmen from Queen Anne's War (1702-1713). Pirates often forced men from captured ships to join their ranks, particularly if they possessed a useful skill. Ships' doctors treated wounded and sick sailors with primitive instruments and techniques. 

Queen Anne's Revenge was "... Stuck upon the bar at the entrance of the harbour ..." and lost along with the sloop Adventure. Afterwards, Blackbeard sent Stede Bonnet and a number of his crew to Bath to claim the recently issued King's Pardon. With Bonnet gone, everything of value was seized and he sailed away on the small Spanish sloop, renaming her Adventure in order to fool government officials into believing the vessel was his.

Following the loss of Queen Anne's Revenge and the break up of his crew at the Beaufort Inlet, Blackbeard proceeded to move his base of operations to Ocracoke Inlet from where he would operate for the next six months. On November 22, 1718 two sloops sent down from Virginia under the command of a Royal Navy Lieutenant approached Blackbeard's new sloop Adventure and proceeded to engage the pirates in a bloody battle, defeating Blackbeard and his crew. The pirate captain was beheaded and his head taken back to Virginia as proof that Blackbeard had been defeated.

Captain's Liquor Chest
The rank of ship's captain carried many responsibilities as well as privileges, such as private quarters. These quarters afforded the luxury of personal items to make life onboard more comfortable. This 18th century captain's liquor chest is an excellent example of high rank's many advantages. The wooden chest holds eight flasks, three stemmed wine glasses, and two tumblers decorated in gold. The glass is handblown.

Mortar and Pestle

Clyster Syringe & Urethral Syringe
The clyster syringe is used for administering enemas, and the urethral syringe used mercury to treat for venereal disease.


Movies have romanticized the pirates of old to draw in audiences since the 1930s. Blackbeard has been a popular star of this genre, starting with the dramatic Blackbeard, the Pirate in 1952; the comedy Blackbeard's Ghost in 1968; and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 2011. 

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