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The Background of Blackbeard the Pirate’s Flagship Vessel

The Background of Blackbeard the Pirate’s Flagship Vessel

Photo: History.com

The waters off the coast of the Outer Banks of North Carolina have claimed the lives of thousands of ships throughout the past several centuries. However, few vessels that have met their fate in their shoals along the Graveyard of the Atlantic are as well-known as the one sailed by a pirate named Edward Teach—better known as Blackbeard—in the early 1700s. In true pirate fashion, Blackbeard commandeered the merchant vessel—which he renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge—then overtook its crew and outfitted the ship with a series of armaments he would need to wreak havoc on the high seas and earn his title as one of the most notorious pirates who has ever lived.

Photo: Trip Advisor

Although Blackbeard—who was seen as a menace by merchants and a threat to the supplies sailing in and out of area ports—was killed by a lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1718, the whereabouts of his infamous vessel remained a mystery for hundreds of years, until it was discovered at the bottom of the ocean in 1996. The flagship of Blackbeard’s small fleet of ships, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was a 200-ton frigate built in Rochefort, France. Originally named La Concorde, the ship was owned by Rene Montaudoin—a prominent French merchant who ran a slave-trafficking company—and used primarily for slave-trading operations. According to the Queen Anne’s Revenge Project, the ship operated out of a port in western France called Nantes, which was situated at the mouth of the Loire River and became the heart of the French slave trade during the 18th century.

Photo: Leah Marie Brown Historicals

From 1713 to 1717, La Concorde made three journeys. Each trip, the vessel was stocked with trade goods at the port of Nantes during the spring, and then it sailed south to the west coast of Africa, where its captain was responsible for purchasing enslaved Africans who would be kept as “cargo.” La Concorde would then set sail from the shores of Africa and head to the New World—a transatlantic voyage that typically took up to two months. The 500-plus slaves transported as human cargo during each trip were typically taken to islands in the Lesser Antilles, where they were sold as laborers to work in the sugar cane fields. Once the enslaved Africans were taken off La Concorde, the ship was loaded with new cargo—often sugar from the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe—before it set off en route to France once again.

Photo: Replica of the Queen Anne’s Revenge pirate flag

During La Concorde’s third and final voyage transporting slaves from Africa to these island nations, the vessel was sailing through the shipping lanes of the Caribbean—an area known for the presence of pirates who would commandeer the ships and ruthlessly pillage any trade goods they found onboard. On November 28, 1717, La Concorde was captured by Blackbeard and his pirate crew as the ship was sailing near the island of Martinique. Blackbeard quickly converted the former merchant vessel into a ship better suited for acts of piracy, mounting 40 guns on the 103-foot-long frigate and renaming her the Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Photo: PirateShipVallarta.com

Blackbeard and his crew of 300-plus men—including some who had worked aboard La Concorde before it was plundered—continued to sail back and forth between Africa and the islands of the Caribbean, attacking merchant ship after merchant ship along the way. Eventually, his flotilla made its way up the Eastern Seaboard to South Carolina, where Blackbeard famously blockaded the port of Charleston and looted virtually every vessel that sailed into or out of what was at that time one of the busiest ports in the southeastern United States. After successfully plundering dozens of ships in South Carolina, Blackbeard headed up the coast toward the Outer Banks, where he would frequently anchor the Queen Anne’s Revenge in the waters of Ocracoke Inlet—a high-traffic waterway that vessels making their way from the open ocean to mainland settlements along the Pamlico Sound frequently passed through.

Photo: Daily Mail

However, during a voyage that took his flotilla of pirate ships farther south, toward the Shackleford Banks on June 10, 1718, Blackbeard ran the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on a sandbar near Beaufort Inlet. Supplies and stolen goods from other vessels were quickly transferred from his flagship to a smaller vessel in his flotilla, and Blackbeard and his crew escaped the ordeal. The damaged Queen Anne’s Revenge, however, was left stranded on the sandbar, where it eventually was claimed by the shifting shoals and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: Queen Anne’s Revenge Project

The notorious 18th century pirate was later killed in combat on November 22, 1718, when he and his crew were the recipients of a surprise attack by British sailors who sought to put an end to piracy. For centuries, the exact whereabouts of his sunken flagship were unknown—that is until a marine archaeology team found what they believed to be the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge on November 21, 1996. Strewn along the seafloor, the team discovered several 18th century artifacts, including anchors and cannons. In 2004, the site where the Queen Anne’s Revenge was found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and many of the artifacts were transported to a conservation lab in Greenville, North Carolina, where visitors can view these pieces of piracy up close and personal during a tour of the facility.

*Stay tuned for our upcoming blog about the discovery of the Queen Anne’s Revenge off the coast of North Carolina as well as the numerous centuries-old artifacts that were found within the wreckage of Blackbeard the pirate’s famous flagship.

The Legend of Blackbeard the Pirate

Photo: History.com

A popular vacation destination that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to its pristine stretches of shoreline each summer, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is home to a wealth of historical attractions. From the site where the Wright Brothers made the first successful powered flight on Dec. 17, 1903, to the place where some of the first English settlers vanished from Roanoke Island without a trace, the region has witnessed the happenings of an assortment of events that have since made their way onto the pages of history books. But when it comes to the people that put the beaches of these barrier islands onto the map centuries ago, few are more well-known than the infamous pirate by the name of Blackbeard.

Photo: ThoughtCo.com

Blackbeard the pirate—whose given name was reportedly Edward Teach—was born in Bristol, England, in 1680. Like the majority of pirates of his time—who sought to earn their fortunes and ultimately return home without soiling their family name—relatively little information is known about Blackbeard’s upbringing. It is believed by historians, however, that his first foray into piracy likely took place around the 1714 conclusion of Queen Anne’s War, during which Edward Teach served as a privateer aboard ships sailing out of Jamaica. When the war was over, Teach relocated his base of operations from Jamaica to the island of New Providence in the Bahamas, where he served an apprenticeship under Captain Benjamin Hornigold—the man who founded the pirate republic in the Bahamas.

Photo: Queen Anne’s Revenge Project

With one of the most influential pirates in history as his mentor, Edward Teach—by now referring to himself as Blackbeard in honor of the long, black beard he often wore in tiny braids secured by thin ribbons of various colors—quickly learned the ins and outs of piracy. The pair of pirates enjoyed considerable success on the high seas, commandeering many large merchant vessels sailing through the shipping lanes of the Caribbean and ruthlessly pillaging to acquire the goods onboard. Although Blackbeard and Hornigold made a top-notch team, Hornigold soon deemed the fortune he had amassed from plundering sufficient and retired from piracy in 1718. With Hornigold giving up piracy to become a planter on the island of New Providence, Blackbeard took the skills he had learned during his apprenticeship set out on his own.

Photo: Pinterest

His first order of business was to convert the Concord—a large French ship that he and Hornigold had captured together—into a vessel better suited for piracy. He mounted 40 guns onboard the ship and renamed her the Queen Anne’s Revenge. With a crew of 300 men, some of whom had served as crew aboard the Concord before it was commandeered by Hornigold and Blackbeard, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was ready to set sail in search of merchant ships whose booty could be plundered. According to historical accounts of Blackbeard’s escapades during the early 1700s, the vast majority of crews whose ships were overtaken by the ferocious pirate surrendered without a fight.    

Photo: Pinterest

By the late spring of 1718, Blackbeard’s piracy career had reached soaring new heights. He was the proud commander of at least a half dozen pirate ships, which at one time blockaded the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina, looting every vessel that sailed in and out of the entrance to one of the busiest ports in the southeastern United States. Following the success of the blockade, Blackbeard and a portion of his flotilla sailed further north to present-day Beaufort Inlet in North Carolina, and later to Ocracoke Inlet on the Outer Banks. In the summer of 1718, Blackbeard and about 20 members of his crew sailed through the Ocracoke Inlet and into the Pamlico Sound, heading for the nearby town of Bath, North Carolina. Sensing that the golden age of piracy was coming to a close soon, Blackbeard made his home in the tiny town on the Pamlico River and married his 14th wife, the daughter of a local planter.

Blackbeard the Pirate’s signature pirate flag.

Unable to resist the lure of the lucrative career of piracy for long, Blackbeard eventually set sail once again and continued to loot vessels and bring the stolen goods back to Bath. The pirate frequently anchored his flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, in Ocracoke Inlet, which served as the spot where the most of the ocean-bound vessels from mainland settlements had to pass through in order to reach the open water. Despite the number of ships Blackbeard had such easy access to in and around Ocracoke Inlet, his crew on the Outer Banks was significantly smaller than it had been in years past—leaving him vulnerable to an attack by those who sought to rid the barrier islands of piracy forever.

Photo: Ekabinsha.org

Having grown frustrated with the infamous pirate and his frequent—and typically successful—attempts to pillage their vessels, the people of North Carolina sought the help Alexander Spotswood, the governor of Virginia. Gov. Spotswood compiled a crew of British naval officers and sent them under the leadership of Lieutenant Robert Maynard to Ocracoke Island in search of Blackbeard. At dawn on Nov. 22, 1718, Blackbeard and his crew were on the receiving end of a ferocious attack by the British sailors.

According to reports, Blackbeard suffered 25 wounds—five of which were gunshot wounds—before finally succumbing to his injuries. To claim the bounty on his head and prove to the governor he had indeed slaughtered one of the most notorious pirates to ever sail the seven seas, Maynard beheaded Blackbeard and displayed the pirate’s head on the bow of the ship as it sailed back to Virginia—a sign to all who witnessed it that the age of piracy in the region had finally come to an end.    

 

 

 

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