Happy Halloween! One of the best pirate excerpts, Blackbeard, is below. Just before that, I'd like to point out just how much this Somalian piracy is exploding in the news recently. Exciting things happening in the world of piracy.
TEACH, CAPTAIN EDWARD, or THATCH, or THACH, _alias_ DRUMMOND, _alias_ BLACKBEARD. Arch-pirate.
A Bristol man who settled in Jamaica, sailing in privateers, but not in the capacity of an officer.
In 1716, Teach took to piracy, being put in command of a sloop by the pirate Benjamin Hornigold. In 1717, Hornigold and Teach sailed together from Providence towards the American coast, taking a billop from Havana and several other prizes. After careening their vessels on the coast of Virginia, the pirates took a fine French Guineaman bound to Martinico; this ship they armed with forty guns, named her the _Queen Ann's Revenge_, and Blackbeard went aboard as captain. Teach now had a ship that allowed him to go for larger prizes, and he began by taking a big ship called the _Great Allen_, which he plundered and then set fire to. A few days later, Teach was attacked by H.M.S. _Scarborough_, of thirty guns, but after a sharp engagement lasting some hours, the pirate was able to drive off the King's ship.
The next ship he met with was the sloop of that amateur pirate and landsman, Major Stede Bonnet. Teach and Bonnet became friends and sailed together for a few days, when Teach, finding that Bonnet was quite ignorant of maritime matters, ordered the Major, in the most high-handed way, to come aboard his ship, while he put another officer in command of Bonnet's vessel. Teach now took ship after ship, one of which, with the curious name of the _Protestant Cæsar_, the pirates burnt out of spite, not because of her name, but because she belonged to Boston, where there had lately been a hanging of pirates.
Blackbeard now sailed north along the American coast, arriving off Charleston, South Carolina. Here he lay off the bar for several days, seizing every vessel that attempted to enter or leave the port, "striking great Terror to the whole Province of Carolina," the more so since the colony was scarcely recovered from a recent visit by another pirate, Vane.
Being in want of medicines, Teach sent his lieutenant, Richards, on shore with a letter to the Governor demanding that he should instantly send off a medicine chest, or else Teach would murder all his prisoners, and threatening to send their heads to Government House; many of these prisoners being the chief persons of the colony.
Teach, who was unprincipled, even for a pirate, now commanded three vessels, and he wanted to get rid of his crews and keep all the booty for himself and a few chosen friends. To do this, he contrived to wreck his own vessel and one of his sloops. Then with his friends and all the booty he sailed off, leaving the rest marooned on a small sandy island. Teach next sailed to North Carolina, and with the greatest coolness surrendered with twenty of his men to the Governor, Charles Eden, and received the Royal pardon. The ex-pirate spent the next few weeks in cultivating an intimate friendship with the Governor, who, no doubt, shared Teach's booty with him.
A romantic episode took place at this time at Bath Town. The pirate fell in love, not by any means for the first time, with a young lady of 16 years of age. To show his delight at this charming union, the Governor himself married the happy pair, this being the captain's fourteenth wife; though certain Bath Town gossips were heard to say that there were no fewer than twelve Mrs. Teach still alive at different ports up and down the West India Islands.
In June, 1718, the bridegroom felt that the call of duty must be obeyed, so kissing good-bye to the new Mrs. Teach, he sailed away to the Bermudas, meeting on his way half a dozen ships, which he plundered, and then hurried back to share the spoils with the Governor of North Carolina and his secretary, Mr. Knight.
For several months, Blackbeard remained in the river, exacting a toll from all the shipping, often going ashore to make merry at the expense of the planters. At length, things became so unbearable that the citizens and planters sent a request to the Governor of the neighbouring colony of Virginia for help to rid them of the presence of Teach. The Governor, Spotswood, an energetic man, at once made plans for taking the pirate, and commissioned a gallant young naval officer, Lieutenant Robert Maynard, of H.M.S. _Pearl_, to go in a sloop, the _Ranger_, in search of him. On November 17, 1718, the lieutenant sailed for Kicquetan in the James River, and on the 21st arrived at the mouth of Okerecock Inlet, where he discovered the pirate he was in search of. Blackbeard would have been caught unprepared had not his friend, Mr. Secretary Knight, hearing what was on foot, sent a letter warning him to be on his guard, and also any of Teach's crew whom he could find in the taverns of Bath Town. Maynard lost no time in attacking the pirate's ship, which had run aground. The fight was furious, Teach boarding the sloop and a terrific hand-to-hand struggle taking place, the lieutenant and Teach fighting with swords and pistols. Teach was wounded in twenty-five places before he fell dead, while the lieutenant escaped with nothing worse than a cut over the fingers.
Maynard now returned in triumph in his sloop to Bath Town, with the head of Blackbeard hung up to the bolt-spit end, and received a tremendous ovation from the inhabitants.
During his meteoric career as a pirate, the name of Blackbeard was one that created terror up and down the coast of America from Newfoundland to Trinidad. This was not only due to the number of ships Teach took, but in no small measure to his alarming appearance. Teach was a tall, powerful man, with a fierce expression, which was increased by a long, black beard which grew from below his eyes and hung down to a great length. This he plaited into many tails, each one tied with a coloured ribbon and turned back over his ears. When going into action, Teach wore a sling on his shoulders with three pairs of pistols, and struck lighted matches under the brim of his hat. These so added to his fearful appearance as to strike terror into all beholders. Teach had a peculiar sense of humour, and one that could at times cause much uneasiness amongst his friends. Thus we are told that one day on the deck of his ship, being at the time a little flushed with wine, Blackbeard addressed his crew, saying: "Come let us make a Hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it," whereupon Teach, with several others, descended to the hold, shut themselves in, and then set fire to several pots of brimstone. For a while they stood it, choking and gasping, but at length had to escape to save themselves from being asphyxiated, but the last to give up was the captain, who was wont to boast afterwards that he had outlasted all the rest.
Then there was that little affair in the cabin, when Teach blew out the candle and in the dark fired his pistols under the table, severely wounding one of his guests in the knee, for no other reason, as he explained to them afterwards, than "if he did not shoot one or two of them now and then they'd forget who he was."
Teach kept a log or journal, which unfortunately is lost, but the entries for two days have been preserved, and are worth giving, and seem to smack of Robert Louis Stevenson in "Treasure Island." The entries, written in Teach's handwriting, run as follows:
"1718. Rum all out--Our Company somewhat sober--A damn'd Confusion amongst us!--Rogues a plotting--great Talk of Separation--so I look'd sharp for a Prize.
"1718. Took one, with a great deal of Liquor on Board, so kept the Company hot, damned hot, then all Things went well again."