Blackbeard trod the sand, sailed the seas — and his ominous flies again

Blackbeard's flag displayed a skeleton toasting the devil, while holding a spear about to pierce a heart

Shrouded in more legend and mystery than discernible fact, Edward Teach — better known as Blackbeard — has maintained his reputation as one of the most fearsome pirates to set sail in naval history. Despite his fearsome reputation, the legendary pirate only exists in British records for fewer than 10 years.

One of his more notorious deeds was the capture of a French merchant vessel, which he renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge and equipped with 40 guns. Near the end of his short reign, Blackbeard came to Ocracoke as a favorite place to hide both because of its proximity to his preferred ports to plunder and because, as a British colony, it protected him from King George I’s raids of non-privateer pirates. By May 1718, Blackbeard commanded an estimated 400 men and executed regular raids in Philadelphia, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and of larger foreign vessels sailing along the East Coast.

While he was able to form a friendship of sorts through the exchange of gifts with North Carolina’s Governor Charles Eden, Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood was not as easily won over. Spotswood sent a fleet to confront Blackbeard and on Nov. 22, 1718, after a fearsome and violent battle, Blackbeard was killed in a bloody hand-to-hand conflict during which he suffered five musket-ball wounds and 20 sword lacerations before dying. He was decapitated. His body was tossed in the Pamlico Sound, while his head was returned to Hampton Roads as a trophy for Spotswood. Until the Battle of Ocracoke, Blackbeard had not been responsible for a single death during his pirating years.

A search team found cannon and anchors believed to be from Blackbeard’s flagship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, in 1996.

This year marks the 300th Anniversary of Blackbeard’s death, which occurred just off of Ocracoke Island. In commemoration of one of the Outer Banks’ most legendary and notorious residents, the Hatteras-Ocracoke Ferry has raised the pirate’s flag — which displayed a skeleton toasting the devil, while holding a spear about to pierce a heart — on routes to Ocracoke and Bath.

“Since the age of piracy is a major part of the state’s history, The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is marking the event with exhibits and events across the state. As part of that observance, the Ferry Division will be flying Blackbeard’s flag this season in the waters that he frequented,” says Timothy Hass, communications officer for NCDOT Ferry Division.

“The observance will end with Ocracoke’s Blackbeard Pirate Jamboree, which will take place Oct. 25-28 in Ocracoke Village.”

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