300th Anniversary of the Demise of Blackbeard
Thanksgiving Day will just happen to mark the 300th anniversary of one of the most historical “battles” to have ever occurred in North Carolina. While certainly not of the same magnitude of Guilford Courthouse or Bentonville, the ultimate demise of Blackbeard the Pirate came to pass in Ocracoke Inlet on November 22nd of 1718.
Given the perpetual interest regarding pirates in general (and Blackbeard in particular), the Richmond Observer offers a series of articles chronicling the life and times of arguably the most recognized (if not indeed the most nefarious) pirate of all time. This is Part IV of the saga.
Blackbeard Part IV: Taking Charles Town Hostage
During the few months that Bonnet was relegated to the status of “guest” upon Blackbeard’s “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” perhaps the most outlandish of all of Teach’s daring acts was his holding of the city of Charles Town (present-day Charleston), in the province of South Carolina, as a virtual hostage.
While in the general vicinity of Charles Town, Blackbeard had realized that he was running low on a number of essential provisions, especially medical supplies. Given that the port was, at the time, the busiest and most important one in the southern colonies, it most certainly had everything that the pirate needed to continue his adventures. Further, there was no significant military presence stationed there, thus rendering the port relatively defenseless at the time.
Blackbeard subsequently sailed to the mouth of Charles Town Harbor and anchored his “fleet” off of Charles Town Bar in May of 1718, and the hunting had never been easier. Within the span of only six days, no less than nine ships had been taken and plundered. And these were not mere merchant vessels; they carried very rich cargoes of slaves, gold, and other treasures.
One such “treasure” that proved to be quite valuable was Samuel Wragg, a member of the Council of the Province of South Carolina. As a rich and influential political official, Wragg was used as a special hostage to further bolster Blackbeard’s position in the pursuit of his objectives.
The city itself was in a state of panic. Trade had come to a virtual halt, with the remaining eight ships that had not been taken still remaining tied to the wharves, not daring to attempt a run past the pirates.
Having achieved the desired effect on the town, Blackbeard sent his trusted second-in-command Richards into the city with the pirate’s demands for supplies and medicines. Richards steered into the harbor with two other pirates and one of the hostages, Mr. Marks, who was brought along to convey the magnitude of the situation to the governor. Blackbeard was threatening to execute the prisoners and sack the city; there was little choice but to comply with his terms.
Unfavorable weather conditions (and unreliable pirate emissaries who got drunk and were unable to be located in a timely manner) effectively delayed the exchange of supplies for prisoners beyond the two day deadline, but Blackbeard surmised as much and fortunately delayed the executions. Ultimately, all hostages were released unharmed, save for having been relieved of their valuables, including fancy clothing and refinery of any type.
This was perhaps the ultimate “victory” of Blackbeard’s relatively short career as a pirate. Having achieved his primary objectives of procuring necessary medicines and other supplies, Teach had also plundered nine ships and rendered ultimate humiliation upon the city of Charles Town.
It was this level of embarrassment that could be neither forgiven nor forgotten by the citizens. While they would never be able to bring Blackbeard himself to justice, some of the pirate’s crew members – and one in particular – would indeed suffer the wrath of Charles Town seven months hence.