Fear and Loathing on the High Seas
The stories of renowned pirates are riddled with questionable “facts,” sketchy personal descriptions, and tales of unbelievable depravity, all obscured by a mist of lore and legend. This is perhaps most true of Edward Teach, who in 1717 was described as “a tall spare man with a very black beard which he wore very long.”
In searching for facts about Teach's formative years, confusion begins with his surname, which is variously given as Thatch, Tach, Tache, Tash, Teach, and even Drummond. His true name will likely never be known with certainty. But that matters little in the scheme of things, given the fame and fortune that Mr. Teach enjoyed as a result of his piratical career. Blackbeard was by no means the most prolific pirate, but he was without a doubt the most famous.
The Privateering of Edward Teach
When piracy was at its height during the Golden Age, the public was in awe of the adventurous audacity of pirates, and Edward Teach was one of the most audacious pirates to command a crew. Teach is thought to have been born around 1680 in the British seaport of Bristol. Unlike most pirates, Teach could read and write, which suggests he was educated at some point in his youth. Many accounts of his early years suggest that he set his sights on becoming a merchant seaman, which seems plausible given the talent he later exhibited under his captain, Benjamin Hornigold.
There's little information about Teach until he signed on to become a privateer primarily focused on attacking the French. Some reports have it that he landed in Jamaica and became a privateer for the English sometime during the War of Spanish Succession, also known as Queen Anne's War, which lasted from 1702 to 1713.
Soon after Queen Anne's War, it is said that Edward Teach allegedly migrated to the Bahamas and ended up in the pirate haven of New Providence. It was there that he met renowned privateer Benjamin Hornigold and signed on to his crew.
Queen Anne's Revenge
During the war, Benjamin Hornigold, like many other privateers, was enjoying great success in capturing and plundering both Spanish and French vessels. The ending of that war and the subsequent peace agreements left privateers in a precarious position. Many were unable or unwilling to abandon the lifestyle that such freedom afforded them. As a result, Hornigold and many of his contemporaries turned to piracy as full-time employment. Teach proved to be a highly capable seaman when serving under Hornigold, a successful and well-respected privateer who had one fatal flaw. Being an Englishman, he refused to allow his pirate crew to attack British or Dutch vessels.
As is the case with most historical records of piracy, accounts vary as to what transpired next on Hornigold's ship. Some say that Hornigold's crew became angry about his loyalty to the British and they removed him as captain in favor of Samuel Bellamy. The more common version of the story has it that Hornigold maintained his captaincy despite his refusal to attack the British. Whether under Hornigold or Bellamy, it's known that the pirates captured a French slave ship named
One of Blackbeard's trusted compatriots was an escaped African slave called Caesar. It's said that Caesar was an African chieftain prior to his being captured by slavers. Bad weather enabled him to escape his captors and eventually serve under Blackbeard. Caesar was aboard Queen Anne's Revenge when she was taken in 1718. He was later hanged as a result of his loyalty and piracy.
Teach renamed the ship