Blackbeards Crew historical primer - an introduction to piracy

Historical Pirate Timeline

1630Hispaniola and Tortuga - Settled by Buccaneers
Buccaneers settle on the Isle of Tortuga the small island just north of Hispaniola (both shown at right).

1650 - 1700    
During this time, most Buccaneers were more like land troops in dress and weaponry.  Major Buccaneer attacks were fought on land with muskets using linear tactics. 

1655   May     Port Royal, Jamaica
English capture Jamaica from Spanish and establish a colony with the capital city of Port Royal (shown at right). Henry Morgan is among the troops.

Henry Morgan becomes most powerful Buccaneer as well as a rich plantation owner on Jamaica.  Many ventures are partnered with other Buccaneer crews from Tortuga.  Morgan was eventually knighted, and made Deputy Governor of Jamaica.  He dies in office in 1682. 

First buccaneers settle at Nassau as Port Royal cracks down on pirates. 
Edward Teach (Drummond) may have been born in Bristol, England.                       

Port Royal is destroyed by a massive earthquake causing the ruins to sink into the Caribbean.

King William dies, Anne becomes Queen of England (shown at right).  Queen Anne of England

1702 - 1713    
War for the Spanish Succession (Known as Queen Anne's War in colonies). War was over both French Prince Phillip's and the Hapsburg's claim to the thrown of Spain. The 2 sides were: France, Spain, Bavaria, Portugal and Savoy versus Austria, England, and Netherlands (with Portugal and Savoy switching sides half way through) France won the throne but lost land in Canada and Netherlands. War ends with the treaty of Utrecht.

With end of war, privateers turn to piracy, Nassau re-opened.  Queen Anne dies, George I from Hanover becomes King of England.

1718    August
Woodes Rogers arrives in Nassau as Governor, pardons all pirates who promise to go straight, and hangs those who do not.  Of note: Charles Vane refuses, leaves for NC                                    

1719    August
Calico Jack Rackman steals sloop William and returns to piracy with Anne Bonney and Mary Read on board.  Rackman and male crew hanged in 1721 near where Port Royal used to be, Read dies in prison, Anne Bonney released and disappears.                                         

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Well Known Pirate Associates

Benjamin Hornigold 
1714 – 1717 / Caribbean / up to VA / possibly DE
Blackbeard’s captain / Took pardon 1717, and retired

Samuel Bellamy 
1715 – 1717 / Caribbean / VA / New England
Ships - Mary Anne (sloop) / Sultana (ship) / Whydah (28 gun ship rigged galley)
Friends with Blackbeard, / Part of Hornigold’s crew / Treated prisoners well, releasing them in his ships after he took theirs / Dies in 1717 when he strikes a reef off Cape Cod and capsizes

The flag of the pirate Stede BonnetStede Bonnet 
1717 – 1718 / Barbados / east coast to NY / mostly SC-NC

Ships - Revenge (Jamaican sloop of 10-14 guns) / Known as The Gentleman Pirate/ Possibly a Major from Barbados / Poor sailor / fancy dresser / had lots of books on board / well educated / With Blackbeard from Sep 1717 to sinking of QAR / From Sep 1717 Blackbeard captain of Revenge, Bonnet on board / After QAR sinking, left as Capt of the Revenge / Received pardon from Gov Eden and went after Blackbeard / Bonnet is captured off Cape Fear and hanged in Charles Town

Charles Vane
1715-1720 / Caribbean / Long Island / Caribbean / Honduras
Possible friend of Blackbeard - was with him at Ocracoke party
Bad leader, outvoted as captain by crew in 1719 for cowardice
Caught in 1720 and hanged near the site of Port Royal                                                         

Calico Jack Rackam's pirate flag"Calico" Jack Rackman
1718 – 1721 Nassau / long Island / Cuban waters /
Named so for his festidious manner of dress / Small time pirate / Charles Vane's Quartermaster / Attended Blackbeard’s Ocracoke party / Most famous because of his two female crew members- Anne Bonney &  Mary Read / Hanged near the site of Port Royal in 1721



The flag of the pirate Edward EnglandEdward England
1717 – 1720 / Caribbean to 1718 / W Africa / Indian Ocean / This Irish born pirate is probably best known for his jack (left) which has been used as the universal pirate flag, the skull and crossbones



Bartholomew Roberts pirate flagBartholomew Roberts (Black Bart)
1719 – 1722 / W Africa – New England- Caribbean  /
Ship - Rover (32 gun ship) / Royal Fortune (28 gun) / Royal Fortune (52 gun) / Most successful pirate of all time / Sometimes very brutal with captives (especially the French) / Very fancy dresser / Known as a teatotaller, he held church service aboard ship on Sundays /  Roberts killed in British attack off Cape Lopez 

Also the only pirate known to have had two signature flags or jacks that he flew.  The top flag obviously Bartholomew Roberts second pirate flagnotes his willingness to share a drink with death.  The lower image descibes his distain for the inhabitants of Martinique and Barbados.  The letters below the skulls refer to "A Barbadons Head" and "A Martiniscian's Head"    



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Blackbeard’s History

  • Most historians agree that Blackbeard (Edward Teach) was born around 1680 in Bristol, BlackbeardEngland.  His original name may have been Drummond.                      
  • Blackbeard began his career as a pirate in 1716 as part of Benjamin Hornigold’s crew.
  • Blackbeard’s homeport before he had the Queen Anne’s Revenge was Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas.                                    
  • Blackbeard captured Le Concorde (a French slave ship) which he re-named the Queen Anne’s Revenge on 17 Nov 1717 off Martinique.
  • The Queen Anne’s Revenge was a large ship of 3 masts and 40 guns.    
  • Stede Bonnet was a pirate captain and a “guest” of Blackbeard’s aboard the Queen Anne’s Revenge.           
  • In May 1718 Blackbeard blockaded Charles Town SC in an effort to obtain medicine for his men.  The blockade lasted longer than necessary when the men Blackbeard sent ashore chose to stay in town and drink before returning tto the ship.
  • The Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground and sank in Beaufort Inlet in June of 1718.  (extra credit – Beaufort was called Fish Town then, and the inlet was called Topsail Inlet)            
  • After the sinking of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, Blackbeard and many of his crew lived in Bath NC accepting the pardon of NC Governor Charles Eden in 1718.  He "retires" from piracy and "marries" for the 14th and final time.
  • Within months Blackbeard decides that this provincial life is not for him and he is believed to have orchestrated the capture of ships bound for Philadelphia.
  • By September of 1718, Blackbeard has amassed a collection of pirates for a multiple day party on the beaches of Orcacoke NC.  Chalres Vane and Jack Rackam are reported to be in attendance.
  • Virginia Governor Spotswood (technically the Lieutenant Governor - the true Governor Alexander Spotswood, Lt. Governor of Virginia during Blackbeard's timeresides in England), responding to his lackluster approval rating and the petitions of Virginia colonists, hires two sloops of war.  Neither ship has any great guns (cannons) on board.  He outfits them  with Royal Navy men as Lt. Robert Maynard leads the expedition to capture/kill Blackbeard.  The ships leave from Hampton at the foot of King Street on November 18, 1718.     
  • On the morning of November 22, 1718, the sloops Jane and Ranger discovered Blackbeard's sloop, Adventure, at anchor inside Ocracoke Inlet.  Armed with only small arms and long guns, the Royal Navy was at a great disadvantage.  Maynard used a ploy to draw the pirates aboard his ship by having his men pretend to be dead or incapacitated.  Blackbeard and his men boarded and the Royal Navy over powered them. 
  • Blackbeard received a reported 25 mortal wounds during the melee, the final blow Blackbeards final battledecapitating him.  His head was brought back to Hampton as proof of the victory and then displayed on a post in the harbor as a warning to pirates.               
  • The surviving 15 members of Blackbeard’s Crew were taken to Williamsburg for trial and 14 were found guilty and hanged.  Israel Hands, Blackbeard's former crew member, was captured after the battle and was eventually pardoned.  Samuel O’Dell was acquitted due to evidence that he did not participate in the battle nor had committed any acts of piracy.                

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17th & 18th Century Cultural Knowledge

  • Buccaneers get their name from the word “Buccan” which is a technique of smoking and preserving meat practiced by the natives of the West Indies.                                                   
  • In Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713) England principally fought both Spain and France. 
  • George I was King of England during Blackbeard’s time.                 
  • The English capital of all Caribbean provinces was Port Royal, Jamaica.                
  • A schilling worth 12 pence (pennies)                                                 Design of a sloop - a popular boat design among pirates
  • “Pieces of Eight” are 8 pieces of a silver Spanish dollar.                        
  • A sloop is a ship of a single mast (shown at right).  A sloop-of-war or any man-of-war is a ship outfitted to fight sea battles. 

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Historical primer of information on pirate history

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