Blackbeard was the nickname of Edward Teach, a notorious pirate active in the Caribbean in the early 18th century. Though Blackbeard had a short career as a pirate, lasting about two years, he became the quintessential image of a fearsome pirate captain in the popular consciousness. Blackbeard was known for carrying multiple weapons and for having a huge black beard, from which he got his nickname, into which he would weave burning hemp and matches during battle.
Little is known about Blackbeard's early years. His birth date and birthplace are a matter of conjecture, and his surname is variously given as Teach, Thatch, or Drummond. He began his seafaring career as a British privateer, turning to piracy in 1716. Blackbeard commanded a ship he named Queen Anne's Revenge, formerly Le Concorde de Nantes, upon which he had served as a privateer. Blackbeard became the terror of the seas in the West Indies and along the Atlantic coast, as well as becoming the leader of the makeshift pirate settlement in Nassau, nicknamed the "Privateers Republic." The Queen Anne's Revenge had a standing rivalry with the British man-of-war HMS Scarborough.
Perhaps Blackbeard's most notorious feat as a pirate was his 1718 blockade of Charleston, South Carolina. Blackbeard commanded four vessels in blocking the trade route into the city, and the group plundered five ships and prevented many more from entering the port. They also held a number of prisoners hostage and demanded a ransom of a chest of medicines. Blackbeard shortly afterwards ran two of his ships aground in North Carolina, losing much of his crew, and retired to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina with his treasure.
After this disaster, which some historians suspect was deliberate on the part of Blackbeard, the pirate captain commanded a smaller ship, called the Adventure, with a crew of 19. In November 1718, Lieutenant Robert Maynard was offered a reward by Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia to find and kill Blackbeard. Maynard set about the task with two small sloops, HMS Ranger and HMS Jane. On 21 November, Maynard encountered the Adventure and tricked Blackbeard into boarding the Ranger with ten members of his crew. The ensuing battle was long and intense, but Maynard and his crew eventually prevailed, and Blackbeard was killed on the morning of the 22nd.
Blackbeard went down in history as one of the most renowned pirates of the Caribbean, and legends about the famed pirate captain abound. Interestingly, there are no verifiable records of Blackbeard killing anyone, but his image has come to epitomize the ruthless, bloodthirsty pirate of the Golden Age of Piracy. A shipwreck found off the coast of Atlantic Beach, North Carolina in 1996 is suspected to be the Queen Anne's Revenge, but research is ongoing.