PO Box 248
October 29, 2007
Hardly anyone who has visited Ocracoke hasn't heard about Blackbeard, the
fiercest seafarer ever to fly the black flag of piracy. The basic story is
fairly well known:
- Although virtually everyone knew the pirate as Blackbeard, he often went
by the name Edward Teach, Tatch, or Theach....or even Edward
Drummond. There is little doubt that all of these monikers were
aliases. His real name may be permanently lost to history, but see
below for some fascinating new research.
- Historians suggest that he was of English descent, born perhaps in
Bristol. Some think he was from Jamaica, or even Philadelphia.
Again, no one actually knows.
- During his brief career as a pirate (about 18 months in 1717 & 1718)
Blackbeard terrorized shipping from the West Indies to New England.
- Captain Teach appears to have been a close personal friend of North
Carolina Governor Charles Eden and his secretary, Tobias Knight.
- In November of 1718 Virginia's governor, Alexander Spotswood, sent Lieutenant
Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy in pursuit of Blackbeard because
Governor Eden was doing little or nothing to halt piracy along the Virginia
- North Carolina coast.
- Maynard caught up with Blackbeard as he lay anchored in Pamlico Sound,
near Ocracoke Island.
- During the battle (on November 22, 1718) Captain Teach took five pistol
wounds and twenty cutlass & dagger wounds before he succumbed and had his head
chopped off. His crew immediately surrendered. This effectively
ended the "Golden Age of Piracy" in the colonies.
There are, of course, many more stories about Blackbeard -- how he got his
start in piracy with Captain Hornigold in the West Indies, how he captured the
French vessel, "Concorde," and renamed her the "Queen Anne's
Revenge," how he terrorized captains, crews, and passengers on numerous
ships as he plundered their cargo, how he took fourteen wives, how he blockaded
Charleston Harbor and demanded nothing more than medicines, how he scuttled the
Queen Anne's Revenge in Beaufort Inlet and marooned most of his crew, then fled
to Ocracoke in the "Adventure,"....as well as many other
Within the last several years I was alerted to a paper published in the North
Carolina Genealogical Society's Journal entitled "Legends of Black Beard
and his Ties to Bath Town: A Study of Historical Events Using Genealogical
Methodology."¹ In it the authors argue that some evidence
suggests that Blackbeard may have been native to eastern North Carolina.
It is a fascinating article, one worth more attention and research. I will
summarize the main points below.
Governor Charles Eden and his secretary, Tobias Knight, chief justice of
the colony, both owned plantations on the west side of Bath Town Creek in Bath,
the colonial capital of North Carolina. Knight's property lay at the mouth
of the creek where it joined the Pamtico (Pamlico) River. Just to the
north was Governor Eden's plantation. Next in line, across the narrow Whitby
Creek, was the plantation of Captain James Beard. These plantations included 300
- 400 acres each.
An intriguing aspect of Governor Eden's property is that a tunnel reputedly
joined his cellar to the bank of the creek. It was by means of this
tunnel, many believe, that Blackbeard secretly carried a portion of his
ill-gotten gains to the governor in exchange for protection from
Black Beard's Flag:
On September 5, 1717 King George signed his "Act of Grace," an
offer of amnesty designed to pardon any piratical acts committed after Queen
Anne's War. The proclamation was signed on September 5, 1717 and extended
for one year.
Blackbeard accepted the king's "Act of Grace" in June of
1718. Tellingly, Captain Teach chose to accept the pardon, not from
Governor Woodes Rogers in the West Indies, as did most other buccaneers, but
from Governor Charles Eden in Bath, NC.
Could it be, ask the authors of the genealogical journal, that the
"inhabitants of Bath County did not see Black Beard as the rogue that
history records" because his home town was in Bath? This would
explain why he decided to return to Bath to accept the king's pardon
there. As the authors say, perhaps Black Beard "was just coming
Intriguingly, Captain James Beard, Governor Eden's neighbor on Bath Town
Creek, had a son who was born about 1690. This son, whose name has been
lost to history, died between September 1718 and sometime in 1721, according to
information gleaned from various deeds. Could this son be the pirate who
came to be known as Black Beard?
The Genealogical Society's Journal article points out that Captain James
Beard's son may have chosen to identify himself by the appellation
"Black" plus his own authentic surname. As they say, "his
own beard being black, he was able to play on this concept to good advantage,
using it to terrorize his victims." They go on to ask, "Was
irony involved in this man's choice of an alias, just as there was irony in the
selection of the name Queen Anne's Revenge for Black Beard's
flagship?" It seems entirely plausible to me.
Perhaps Captain Edward Teach, Black Beard the pirate, was actually a native
of eastern North Carolina. No doubt he knew these waters well.
Ocracoke was one of his favorite anchorages. And his one-time
quartermaster, William Howard, may have been the same individual who purchased
Ocracoke Island four decades later, after Lieutenant Maynard put an end to
piracy at what became known as Teach's Hole.
This theory is at least worth further research.
Springer's Point (Teach's Hole channel is nearby):
¹ August, 2002 issue
All photos on this page courtesy of http://www.teachshole.com/