The following is the first in a series of excerpts from the book: Pirates of the Carolina’s by author, illustrator and historian Miller Pope:
Pirates of the Carolinas
The pirates who had some connection with or preyed off the coast of one or both of the Carolinas could doubtlessly be counted in the hundreds if records could have been kept, but pirates were not in the business of keeping records.
Ship’s logs could be used as evidence to get them hung if they were captured.
All the pirates discussed here have some recorded connection with the Carolinas.
Some are tenuous, but among them are some of the most famous and infamous pirates of all time.
During most of the period that constituted “The Golden Age of Piracy” both North and South Carolina were joined as one province: Carolina.
In 1725 they were seperated into two provinces North Carolina and South Carolina.
In this book we will place events in the state that exists today. During the heyday of piracy the Carolinas were ideally situated for piratical operations.
They contained the principal and almost only city on the southern coast of the English Colonies and it was perhaps the richest city on the continent.
They were close enough to the Caribbean to serve as bases to rest, repair, refit and resupply ships and the numerous inlets without population to inform the authorities of their presence created a pirate heaven.
The fact that all commerce bound for Boston, new York, Philadelphia, and other ports of the north sailed up the hundreds of miles of Carolina coast was the icing on the pirate’s cake.
Several locales were named for pirates. Drunken Jack Island allegedly was named for a pirate who died on the island.
Murrels Inlet supposedly was named for Captain John Murrel, who used the inlet as his headquarters.
This is at least partially due to the fact that one of his ships, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, is the only pirate ship with all it’s relics found where she sank.
If his victims surrendered peacefully without a fight despite Blackbird’s fearsome visage and his reputation, he would usually allow them to sail away with their lives after only taking their valuables and anything else of value. If they resisted, he would often maroon the crews and burn their ship.
Teach worked hard at establishing Blackbeard’s devilish image, but there is no archival evidence to indicate that he ever killed anyone but those trying to kill him.
Blackbeard’s lawless career began as a crewman aboard a Jamaican sloop commanded by the pirate Benjamin Hornigold. In 1716 Hornigold gave Teach command of a captured vessel. By mid 1717 the two pirates, sailing in concert, were among the most feared pirates of their day. In November 1717, Hornigold accepted the British Crown’s recent offer of a general amnesty and retired as a pirate. Teach rejected the pardon, made the recently captured Concord his flagship, increased her armament, and renamed her Queen Anne’s Revenge.
A short time later he encountered Stede Bonnet’s pirate sloop Revenge. Bonnet was known as “The Gentleman Pirate.” because he had been an educated and wealthy landowner in Barbados before becoming a pirate.
The Revenge was invited to sail along with the Queen Anne’s Revenge, but Bonnet proved to be a lousy leader and an incompetent sailor. Bonnet was forced to become a “guest” aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge and another pirate was put in command of Revenge. Bonnet’s “guest” status continued until Queen Anne’s Revenge wrecked six months later.
Through out the winter of 1717-1718, both the Queen Anne’s Revenge and Revenge cruised the Caribbean, taking many prizes. Blackbeard kept two of the smaller ships he had captured and sailed up the American coast in command of over three hundred pirates and four vessels.
Towards the end of May 1718 Blackbeard terrorized the port of Charleston, S.C. for over a week The Queen Anne’s Revenge was lost one week later at Beaufort Inlet NC. One of the smaller vessels in the flotilla was lost on that same day attempting to assist the stranded flagship.
Blackbeard marooned about five of his crew on a deserted sandbar and stripped Bonnet’s sloop Revenge of her provisions. He then, along with a few picked men, absconded with much of the accumulated booty aboard another smaller vessel. He had decided not to share the loot with all his crews .
Bonnet rescued the marooned men and with them Bonnet resumed his piratical career aboard the Revenge, which he re-named the Royal James.
Blackbeard in the meantime had sailed to Bath, then the capital of North Carolina with his confidants. At Bath they all received pardons from Governor Charles Eden. It was rumored that Eden had shared in Teache’s ill-gotten gains.
Blackbeard and his men continued taking ships long after the period of amnesty had expired. Governor Spottswood of Virginia had tired of Blackbeard’s piracy. A Royal Navy contingent was dispatched to North Carolina and Blackbeard met his maker on November 22, 1718 in a bloody battle at Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina. In the battle Blackbeard is said to have received five musket ball wounds and more than twenty sword lacerations before dying.
During his piratical career Blackbeard had captured over forty ships.