“So our Heroe, Captain Teach, assumed the Cognomen of Black-beard, from that large Quantity of Hair, which, like a frightful Meteor, covered his whole Face, and frightened America more than any Comet that has appeared there a long Time.”
History records Blackbeard as one of the most notorious pirates; but his early years weren’t as infamous or inglorious. Edward Teach, the man who would later become the pirate known as Blackbeard, had a relatively normal childhood. His criminal lifestyle that brought him fame later in life wasn’t fueled by exposure to a sketchy upbringing.
Edward Teach Becomes Blackbeard
Edward was born to a well-educated, aristocratic family who were able to read and write, a skill afforded very few in his lifetime. Edward was an equally educated youth who spent most of his childhood enthralled by tales about privateering and new world explorations.
Before Edward became a pirate, he was a privateer in Queen Anne’s war which lasted from 1702 to 1713. This war was one of several wars fought between Britain and France for control of the North American continent. Both sides brutally raided one another for land and booty during the war and it is likely that during this conflict that Edward became fascinated with the idea of seizing goods to amass his own personal fortune.
“Capt. Teach alias Black-Beard” colored print, engraved on copper, Oliver Payne 1736 ( Public Domain )
After this war was over, Edward returned to civilian life which wasn’t easy or adventurous by any stretch of the imagination. For a boy who spent most of his youth fanaticizing about the life of a buccaneer, he wanted more out of this privateering experience. He would get his wish in 1716 when he met a man by the name of Captain Benjamin Hornigold. Edward became Hornigold’s protégé, learned the skill of piracy from him, and took on the name Captain Blackbeard.
La Concorde – A Slave Ship Becomes a Pirate Ship
Blackbeard was very educable due to his aristocratic upbringing, so it didn’t take long for him to absorb all of the knowledge that Hornigold imparted to him and become acclimated to life as a pirate. Blackbeard seized his first ship Betty in September of 1717 and nearly a month later he seized the ships Robert and Good Intent . Toward the end of the same year, Blackbeard set his sights on a French slave ship by the name of La Concorde .
The Black Pearl film prop used in Pirates of the Caribbean, representative of Blackbeard’s ship Queen Anne’s Revenge ( CC BY-ND 2.0 )
Blackbeard wasn’t interested in the human cargo onboard the vessel, however. He was much more interested in the vessel itself because slave ships were much faster and more reliable than most ships on the high seas. This was because the cargo it carried was much more “perishable” and therefore needed to be transported as quickly as possible from one continent to the other. Also, these ships were usually well armed because the human cargo was so valuable and needed to be well-protected in order to be delivered in tact in order to be profitable. Blackbeard believed that such a formidable vessel as La Concorde would give Blackbeard the ferocity needed to rule the maritime world. Indeed, it did make him a force to be reckoned with, but to make the ship even more ferocious, he tricked it out with many more cannons, created more deck space and named it Queen Anne’s Revenge .
Blackbeard in Smoke and Flame Frank E. Schoonover (1877–1972) (Public Domain)
Blackbeard’s Beloved Ship – Queen Anne’s Revenge
Blackbeard’s ship was his prized possession. He used Queen Anne’s Revenge to pillage other boats throughout the Caribbean. On one of his many voyages, he met Captain Stede Bonnet who would become his partner in crime. Together, these two men along with a crew of nearly 300 other pirates, terrorized the Atlantic coast seizing food, supplies, weapons and anything of value that they could steal. One such attack involved the seizure of passenger ship Crowley, in which Blackbeard demanded a ransom of medical supplies in exchange for the passengers. Once he achieved this feat, he continued to sail the Atlantic seeking more opportunities to seize goods.