Blackbeard the Pirate (of Belize)
If you enjoy reading about Belize history, then at some point you'll be reading about Blackbeard the pirate.
His name was actually Edward Thatch, Jr. (or Edward Teach), an Englishman born in Gloucestershire, England on or about 1680. He died on November 22, 1718 in battle. He was known for being one of the most notorious & famous pirates of all time. He controlled the Caribbean (to include Belize) during the years of 1716-1718.
Little is known about his early years. It is very possible, as a young man, he was a passenger (a sailor) working on a slave ship with Captain Benjamin Hornigold (who also later became a pirate). The two of them joined forces and Hornigold, placed Edward Thatch in command. The two of them engaged in numerous acts of piracy together. Pirates (in those days) habitually used fictitious surnames while engaging in piracy, so as not to tarnish the family name back home. This is why we will most likely never know his real name. After Hornigold retired, it is most likely that Thatch took his place.
In time, he became a renowned pirate, with the nickname "Blackbeard". This nickname was given him due to his thick black beard and fearsome appearance. He usually wore (6 to 8) guns strapped to his chest. He wore his beard in braids (or pigtails) twisting each braid with a ribbon at the end. He was accustomed to putting fuses (slow burning matches) in his braids and lighting them on fire. They would give off a lingering smoke, that gave the pirate a fearsome appearance, meant to terrify his enemies. In battle, this intimidation was very successful, as his enemies were terrified of him.
Blackbeard was not a particularly successful pirate in terms of treasure plundered, nor was he the fierce rouge he is made out to be. During his short time in history (less than two years), he rarely used violence. His motto was, a damaged ship is a useless vessel. An undamaged ship, is a useful vessel. So to minimize the lost due to fighting and gunfire, the pirates sought to overwhelm their victims (not with violence), but by building fear. He allowed some of his captives to escape, to further the stories of terror.
In March of 1718, while taking on water at Turneffe Island (off the eastern coast of Belize), he spotted a Jamaican logwood cutting ship named, "The Adventurer". The ship was captured and the captain (David Heriott), was invited to join their piracy (which he accepted).
By the autumn of 1717, Blackbeard had established himself as the head of a small fleet. On November 28 of that same year, two of pirates came across the La Concorde (a 200 ton French slave ship with 16 cannons). After claiming the ship as his own, he equipped the ship with 40 cannons (20 on each side), becoming the most feared pirate at sea. The French vessel (La Concorde), was on its third slave trading expedition across the Atlantic with hundreds of Africans on board when it was captured by Blackbeard. Thatch seized the La Concorde, and renamed it "Queen Anne's Revenge". It remained Blackbeard's primary ship until June of 1718, when it was ship wrecked on a sandbar near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina.
Later during the fall of 1717, Blackbeard and his crew claimed many other ships. In fact fifteen (15) ships alone were captured off the coast of New York (USA) in the fall of 1717. Blackbeard died in battle on November 22, 1718. It is believed that he was between 35 to 40 years old at the time of death.
Blackbeard was not the most successful pirate ever to sail the seven seas, several other pirates were far more successful than Blackbeard. It is his reputation, which made him notorious and famous. Despite his fearsome reputation, there is no account of him ever murdering or harming anyone he held captive. In fact, most of his captives later became loyal pirates under his command.
Researchers have recently discovered (in 1996) what seems to be the wrecked remains of Blackbeard's mighty "Queen Anne's Revenge" off the coast of North Carolina (USA). The discovery has lead to yielding many treasures from that ship, such as: cannons, anchors, musket, barrels, pipe stems, navigational instruments, gold flakes and nuggets, pewter dishware, a broken drinking glass and part of a sword.
Today movie producers and fictional script writers, tend to glamorize the life of pirates. But the reality is, life as a pirate was very hard. You were a fugitive, constantly on the run (having to look over your shoulder), and watch your own back. Pirates often lived without some of the basic necessities (running water, hot meals, proper shelter). There were often fights and misunderstandings among them. Many died of sickness, scurvy and dysentery, because they could not get proper medical attention. Pirates were criminals, who stole from the rich to pad their pockets, for selfish gain. Yes, piracy is part of our history, but pirates are hardly role models we want to imitate.
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