Famous Pirates #4: Edward Teach "Blackbeard" (English, 1680-1718)
Though there have been more successful pirates, Blackbeard is one of the best-known and widely-feared of his time. He commanded four ships and had a pirate army of 300 at the height of his career, and defeated the famous warship, HMS “Scarborough” in sea-battle. An unusually large man, he struck terror into the hearts of his own crew, never mind those he attacked. Before battle, Teach would weave hemp into his long, black beard and light it. The sight of his smoking form standing on deck - brandishing a multitude of swords, knives and pistols - was enough to make many merchantmen surrender before any shots were fired. If they gave up without a fight, Blackbeard would confiscate their valuables and weapons and let them sail away without bloodshed. However, if the crew showed any resistance, he would either kill or maroon them, abandoning them on a deserted island. Though he had many unofficial wives, he was “officially” married to a 16 year old girl - whom legend has it he offered as a gift to his crew after she tried to reform him. When Blackbeard lived in Nassau, his fellow pirates appointed him magistrate of their 'Privateers' Republic'. He enforced his own style of law and justice until Royal Governor Woodes Rogers arrived in 1718. Blackbeard was out to sea when Rogers drove the pirates out of Nassau, so he moved to another island and continued his raids. In 1718, a British ship trapped Blackbeard's vessel on a sandbar off the coast of Virginia. A bloody battle ensued, in which Blackbeard received five pistol balls and twenty cutlass wounds before he expired. The Royal Navy captain then decapitated Blackbeard and displayed his head on the ship's rigging. Although his pirating career only lasted about five years, it is believed that Blackbeard captured 40 ships, and his legend lives on today.