Blackbeard and Beyond: Famous Pirates on the N.C. Coast

Blackbeard and Beyond: Famous Pirates on the N.C. Coast

by June 26, 2017 0 comments

From Cape Fear to Currituck, These Five Raiders Left Bold Marks on History

Edward Thatch

Edward Thatch (or Teach)

Notoriety: He was the most notorious pirate of them all: daring, crafty and frightful looking, with a long black beard that he twisted and tied into tails – hence the name Blackbeard.

Key places: Beaufort, Bath and Ocracoke.

His story: Teach transitioned into piracy after serving as a privateer during Queen Anne’s War. His exploits include the capture of a French trade ship called La Concorde, which he renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge; a blockade of Charleston, S.C.; and running the Queen Anne’s Revenge and a sloop aground at Beaufort Inlet, marooning crewmen and making off with the loot; and a weeklong pirate party at Ocracoke. He had a home in Bath, where he married a local girl and socialized with polite society, including Gov. Charles Eden, who performed the wedding ceremony.

Unhappy ending: Capt. Robert Maynard, dispatched by Virginia Gov. Alexander Spotswood, found Blackbeard at Ocracoke. The morning of Nov. 22, 1718, Blackbeard opened fire and believed he’d won the battle, but upon boarding Maynard’s sloop, the pirates were overpowered by crewmen concealed in the hold. Teach was killed and his head suspended from the bowsprit of Maynard’s sloop. His headless body was either thrown into the sea or buried onshore in an unmarked grave.

Stede Bonnet

Notoriety: With an unusual career path from planter to pirate, he was known as the “gentleman pirate.”

Points of interest: Southport, Bath, Beaufort and Ocracoke.

His story: Abandoning his family in 1717, Bonnet bought a sloop and hired a crew. He sailed with Blackbeard, only to lose his command, his crew and his loot to the craftier corsair. After the fateful landing in Beaufort Inlet, Bonnet went to Bath and received a pardon from Gov. Charles Eden, then mustered a new crew, resupplied his ship and set out to exact revenge. Failing to find his prey at Ocracoke, he returned to pirating under the name Captain Thomas.

Unhappy ending: Anchored at Bonnet’s Creek on the Cape Fear Inlet In September 1718, Bonnet was captured by Col. William Rhett, dispatched by South Carolina’s governor, and taken to Charleston. Bonnet escaped, only to be recaptured. He was hanged on Dec. 10, 1718, despite his well-written plea for clemency.

Charles Vane

Notoriety: He was skilled, cunning, ruthless and cruel, and a cheater to boot.

Point of interest: Ocracoke, where he attended Blackbeard’s famous final party.

His story: Commanding a brigantine called the Ranger, Vane dramatically escaped from New Providence in August 1718 after rejecting a royal pardon and royally insulting Gov. Woodes Rogers. He even threatened to join forces with Blackbeard and throw the Brits out. A few months later Vane’s crew deemed him a coward for fleeing a French warship and threw him out to sea in a small boat. Vane managed a comeback that lasted until a hurricane scattered his fleet in the Bay of Honduras. Most of the crew drowned, and Vane found himself stranded on an uninhabited island.

Unhappy ending: An old sailing mate declined to rescue the stranded pirate, but a merchant ship took him aboard. Unfortunately for Vane, the merchant and former mate were friends, and upon learning the pirate’s identity, the merchant had Vane arrested. He was hanged in Port Royal on March 29, 1721, and his body displayed in a gibbet.

Jack Rackham

Notoriety: His flag was famous (Jolly Roger with crossed swords), he counted Anne Bonny and Mary Read among his crew, and he earned the nickname “Calico Jack” for his colorful garb.

Point of interest: Ocracoke Inlet, where he attended Blackbeard’s famous final party.

His story: Rackham was Charles Vane’s quartermaster when Vane ordered the Ranger to flee from a French warship after leaving Blackbeard at Ocracoke. After second-guessing Vane, the crew elected Rackham to command the ship. In New Providence, Rackham accepted a pardon and took up with Anne Bonny, wife of an informant for Gov. Woodes Rogers. The two stole a sloop and returned to piracy.

Unhappy ending: In 1720, the crew was overtaken in Jamaica with only Bonny and Read standing their ground. Rackham was convicted of piracy and hanged in Port Royal on Nov. 20 and his body displayed on a gibbet. Bonny was quoted as saying she was sorry to see him go, “but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang’d like a Dog.” Bonny’s and Read’s executions were stayed because they were pregnant. Read died in prison; Bonny’s fate is unknown.

William Kidd

Notoriety: He allegedly left treasure buried on Money Island, N.C., and elsewhere.

Point of interest: Money Island.

His story: After a successful career as a privateer, Kidd married and settled down in New York. Within a few years, he accepted a new privateering commission. On Jan. 30, 1698, he seized an Armenian ship with an English captain and became a wanted man. Deserted by his crew in Madagascar, he sailed to the Caribbean and headed for home, possibly stopping to bury treasure. He reached New York in June 1699.

Unhappy ending: Lured to Boston by one of his backers, Gov. Richard Coote, Kidd was arrested, sent to London and held in Newgate Prison. Convicted of piracy and murder, Kidd was hanged on May 23, 1701, and his body displayed in a gibbet over the River Thames. Some maintain that his conviction was unjust.

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