Blackbeard

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Blackbeard : biography

c. 1680 – November 22, 1718

Wragg agreed to Teach’s demands, and a Mr Marks and two pirates were given two days to collect the drugs. Teach moved his fleet, and the captured ships, to within about five or six leagues from land. Three days later a messenger, sent by Marks, returned to the fleet; Marks’s boat had capsized and delayed their arrival in Charleston. Teach granted a reprieve of two days, but still the party did not return. He then called a meeting of his fellow sailors and moved eight ships into the harbour, causing panic within the town. When Marks finally returned to the fleet, he explained what had happened. On his arrival he had presented the pirates’ demands to the Governor and the drugs had been quickly gathered, but the two pirates sent to escort him had proved difficult to find; they had been busy drinking with friends and were finally discovered, drunk.

Teach kept to his side of the bargain and released the captured ships and his prisoners—albeit relieved of their valuables, including the fine clothing some had worn.

Beaufort Inlet

Whilst at Charleston, Teach learned that Woodes Rogers had left England with several men-of-war, with orders to purge the West Indies of pirates. Teach’s flotilla sailed northward along the Atlantic coast and into Topsail Inlet (commonly known as Beaufort Inlet), off the coast of North Carolina. There they intended to careen their ships to scrape their hulls, but Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground on a sandbar, cracking her main-mast and severely damaging many of her timbers. Teach ordered several sloops to throw ropes across the flagship in an attempt to free her. A sloop commanded by Israel Hands of Adventure also ran aground, and both vessels appeared to be damaged beyond repair, leaving only Revenge and the captured Spanish sloop.

Teach had at some stage learnt of the offer of a royal pardon and probably confided in Bonnet his willingness to accept it. The pardon was open to all pirates who surrendered on or before 5 September 1718, but contained a caveat stipulating that immunity was offered only against crimes committed before 5 January. Although in theory this left Bonnet and Teach at risk of being hanged for their actions at Charleston Bar, most authorities could waive such conditions. Teach thought that Governor Charles Eden was a man he could trust, but to make sure, he waited to see what would happen to another captain. Bonnet left immediately on a small sailing boat for Bath Town, where he surrendered to Governor Eden, and received his pardon. He then travelled back to Beaufort Inlet to collect the Revenge and the remainder of his crew, intending to sail to Saint Thomas Island to receive a commission. Unfortunately for him, Teach had stripped the vessel of its valuables and provisions, and had marooned its crew; Bonnet set out for revenge, but was unable to find him. He and his crew returned to piracy and were captured on 27 September 1718 at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. All but four were tried and hanged in Charleston.

The author Robert Lee surmised that Teach and Hands intentionally ran the ships aground to reduce the fleet’s crew complement, increasing their share of the spoils. During the trial of Bonnet’s crew, Revenges boatswain Ignatius Pell testified that "the ship was run ashore and lost, which Thatch [Teach] caused to be done." Lee considers it plausible that Teach let Bonnet in on his plan to accept a pardon from Governor Eden. He suggested that Bonnet do the same, and as war between the Quadruple Alliance of 1718 and Spain was threatening, to consider taking a privateer’s commission from England. Lee suggests that Teach also offered Bonnet the return of his ship Revenge. Konstam (2007) proposes a similar idea, explaining that Teach began to see Queen Anne’s Revenge as something of a liability; while a pirate fleet was anchored, news of this was sent to neighbouring towns and colonies, and any vessels nearby would delay sailing. It was prudent therefore for Teach not to linger for too long, although wrecking the ship was a somewhat extreme measure.