He was the most feared pirate of his time, who terrorized the Atlantic coast with his fearsome appearance and reputation. He was Edward Thatch, better known as Blackbeard, the illegitimate son of a tanner who rose to become a notorious sea bandit.
But his life of plunder and adventure came to a gruesome end on November 22, 1718, when he was killed by British naval forces in a fierce battle off the coast of North Carolina. His severed head was then displayed as a trophy and a warning to other pirates.
Blackbeard started his seafaring career as a privateer, authorized by the British crown to attack enemy ships during the War of Spanish Succession. But when the war ended in 1714, he turned to piracy and joined the crew of Benjamin Hornigold, who taught him the ropes of the trade.
He soon became Hornigold’s second in command and captured his own ship, which he named Queen Anne’s Revenge. He also cultivated a terrifying image by growing a thick black beard that he braided with ribbons and lit with slow-burning matches. He wore six pistols across his chest and carried a cutlass, knives, and daggers.
He formed a pirate alliance with other captains and committed his most notorious act in 1718, when he blockaded Charleston, South Carolina, for nearly a week. He demanded a ransom of medicine and supplies before he released his hostages and lifted the siege.
He then accepted a royal pardon from North Carolina’s governor Charles Eden, but soon reneged on it and resumed his piratical activities. He claimed to have found a French ship abandoned at sea and convinced Eden to declare it a wreck, giving him rights to its cargo of cocoa and sugar.
This angered Virginia’s governor Alexander Spotswood, who feared that Blackbeard and his fellow buccaneers would threaten Virginia’s shipping interests and tobacco trade. He decided to launch a raid against Blackbeard without legal authority or Eden’s consent.
He sent Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the Royal Navy with two sloops to hunt down Blackbeard at his base on Ocracoke Island. Maynard found him on November 22nd, 1718, at anchor on the inner side of the island. Most of Blackbeard’s men were ashore at the time, so he was severely outnumbered.
But he refused to surrender and put up a ferocious fight. He fired his cannons at Maynard’s sloops and boarded one of them with his cutlass drawn. He engaged Maynard in a fierce hand-to-hand combat, but was eventually overwhelmed by Maynard’s men.
He received five gunshot wounds and over twenty sword cuts before he finally fell dead on the deck of his ship. Maynard then cut off his head and hung it from the bowsprit of his sloop as a trophy. He also took his ship and the remaining pirates as prizes.
Blackbeard may have died, but his legend quickly gained a life of its own. He became the most famous pirate of all time, immortalized in books, movies, and songs. His exploits inspired generations of adventurers and treasure hunters who still search for his lost shipwreck and hidden loot.