Blackbeard: A pirate’s life

  • Saturday, March 8, 2014

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Mateys, climb aboard to learn about one of the most famous pirates who savaged the East Coast, hiding, stealing, marauding and causing trouble along shanty villages on the S.C. and N.C. sealine.

To get in the mood, I turn on a pair of EU ultimate ears Mini Boom speakers with its Bluetooth connection. Now I'm playing a CD of ocean waves crashing. Make yourself a virgin tropical drink.

The Little River Chamber of Commerce advertises the history of this area by including its past as including Blackbeard, the infamous pirate.

“The small protected harbor was a haven for shipwreck survivors and pirates who needed a place for rest and repairs,” writes retired history teacher Blanche Floyd on the chamber's website.

Smithsonian Magazine's February 2014 issue has just released newly discovered information about Blackbeard. The article reports Blackbeard and his men camped on North Carolina's Okracoke Island, according to the Davidson College Archives.

The new article gives the tale of Blackbeard overtaking two ships which were twice the size of his ship. The article reports these two ships would be the last ones he overtook three months before he and his crew were to die.

This article was written by Colin Woodard who has written four books, including “The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Carribean Pirates and the Man Who Brought Them Down.” This is what the new NBC drama “Crossbones” is based on. Woodard writes for the Portland Press Herald, and he won the George Polk Award for investigative reporting last year.

He has written “The Republic of Pirates.” Another book of his is “The Real Pirates of the Caribbean.”

“The Last Days of Blackbeard” is the name of the new article. “An exclusive account of the final raid and political maneuvers of history's most notorious pirate,” the article is subbed.

The new information involves 18 men on the Rose Emelye, a French merchant ship the night of Aug. 23, 1718. They had been onboard 167 days since leaving Nantes and traveling through currents and winds in the Atlantic to Martinique. They offloaded French cargo and took on cocoa bags and sugar barrels, just refined.

Going home in the Gulf Stream, they were near the La Toison d'Or, a French merchant ship. Then someone saw sails on the stern, and in three hours it became dark, and the ship was coming closer. It was a small ship, but they sensed trouble. Capt. Jan Goupil was about to meet three cannon muzzles.

He and his crew of 17 men got the Rose Emelye's four cannons ready. The article reports on the tiny sloop there was a tall, slim man with a long black bear yelling an order.

“His helmsman threw the tiller hard to lee, men released ropes, and, sail briefly flapping, the strange vessel suddenly swung hard about, shooting by in the opposite direction,” the magazine reports. The Toison d'Or had no arms, and pirates suddenly jumped aboard.

The article notes Blackbeard is the most famous pirate, above Capt. William Kidd and Sir Henry Morgan, “privateers.” Blackbeard died in a sword fight on a ship with Royal Navy sailors.

Have you heard of Assassin's Creed with its new video game series “Black Flag” at Wal-Mart? The author was a script consultant. Look for “Black Sails” on Starz. It started in January. Check out “Crossbones” on NBC with John Malkovich as Blackbeard, based on the author's book.

Pirates hovered around the Bahamas doing deeds around 1713 to 1720. There were female pirates, Mary Read and Anne Bonny, and the gentleman pirate Stede Bonnet. Calico Jack Rackham dressed up like a prince. There was Charles Vane. There was a base in Nassau.

You could not trust anyone back then with the black market thriving. Bandits were the thugs of that day.

It was in early December 1716 that Blackbeard was Hornigold's lieutenant with his own eight-gun, 90-man pirate sloop. His name then was Edward Thatch, not Teach. It was a typo first made by the Boston Newsletter. He didn't kill anyone until his final fight with the Royal Navy, but most people called him a monster.

Stede Bonnet, 29, gave his ship, “Revenge,” to Thatch. Bonnet, son of a rich Barbados family, had been injured. He had hired a crew of 126 men to help him run away as a pirate. His family made money from planting sugar. He did not have experience and had kids, three, at home. Maybe he was mentally ill, the author says.

“A Pirate Looks at Forty” by Jimmy Buffett is a good tune to listen to while reading about Blackbeard.

Tim Bullard, 58, has a book published by The History Press of Charleston, “Haunted Watauga County.” He is married with a son, Conor. They live in Winston-Salem, N.C. He also has a column in the North Myrtle Beach Times and has won a S.C. Press Association feature writing award and a N.C. Press Association writing award. His web site is www.timbullard.com.

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