Edward Teach or Edward Thatch (c. 1680 – 22 November 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was a notorious English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of Britain’s North American colonies. Although little is known about his early life, he was probably born in Bristol, England. Recent genealogical research indicates his family moved to Jamaica where Edward Thatch, Jr. is listed as being a mariner in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Windsor in 1706. He may have been a sailor on privateer ships during Queen Anne’s War before settling on the Bahamian island of New Providence, a base for Captain Benjamin Hornigold, whose crew Teach joined sometime around 1716. Hornigold placed him in command of a sloop he had captured, and the two engaged in numerous acts of piracy. Their numbers were boosted by the addition to their fleet of two more ships, one of which was commanded by Stede Bonnet, but toward the end of 1717 Hornigold retired from piracy, taking two vessels with him.
Teach captured a French merchant vessel, renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge, and equipped her with 40 guns. He became a renowned pirate, his cognomen derived from his thick black beard and fearsome appearance; he was reported to have tied lit fuses under his hat to frighten his enemies. He formed an alliance of pirates and blockaded the port of Charles Town, South Carolina. After successfully ransoming its inhabitants, he ran Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina. He parted company with Bonnet and settled in Bath Town, where he accepted a royal pardon. But he was soon back at sea, where he attracted the attention of Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia. Spotswood arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to try to capture the pirate, which they did on 22 November 1718. During a ferocious battle, Teach and several of his crew were killed by a small force of sailors led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard.
A shrewd and calculating leader, Teach spurned the use of force, relying instead on his fearsome image to elicit the response he desired from those he robbed. Contrary to the modern-day picture of the traditional tyrannical pirate, he commanded his vessels with the permission of their crews and there is no known account of his ever having harmed or murdered those he held captive. He was romanticized after his death and became the inspiration for pirate-themed works of fiction across a range of genres.