Edward Teach strove for a powerful, fearsome reputation which is how he became most famously known as the pirate "Blackbeard." Although he went by the names Edward Thatch and Edward Drummond, "Blackbeard" stuck. It is thought that he was born in 1680 in Bristol, England. Known for his massive size, he was 6 feet 4 inches tall, he began his career by sailing to Jamaica and working on a privateer. Armed with a commission from the employing country, privateer ships were used to seize cargo from vessels owned by other countries. The name "Blackbeard" derives from the fact that he would weave hemp and lighted matches into his large black beard during battles.
His pirate ship, the "Queen Anne's Revenge", was built in 1710. It was originally called the Concord, but Blackbeard added twenty extra cannons to its existing twenty and renamed it upon capture.
Blackbeard and his crew of pirates terrorized sailors on the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from 1716 through 1718. They ambushed ships carrying passengers and cargo in the dim light of dawn and dusk when the pirates' ship was hard to see. The pirates often determined a ship's nationality first, enabling them to raise that country's flag on the pirate ship so that they appeared to be friendly. Once able to draw close to the unsuspecting ship, the pirates hoisted Blackbeard's flag only at the last moment. Blackbeard's flag showed a horned skeleton holding an hourglass and threatening a bleeding heart with a spear. When the attack ended, the pirates took the passengers and crew hostage and ransacked cabins looking for coins, gold, silver, and jewelry. Sometimes the pirates stole the ship as well as the cargo.
Blackbeard's reign came to an end when Lieutenant Robert Maynard, Captain of the HMS Pearl, was sent to hunt and destroy him by the Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood. Accounts of his last moments dramatize in great detail how Edward Teach was shot 5 times and stabbed over 20 times before he died. He was then decapitated by Robert Maynard. As a warning to other pirates, his head was placed on the bowsprit of Maynard's ship.
Blackbeard's legacy as a fearsome pirate lives on. He was mentioned in Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 novel "Treasure Island", is a significant character in the novel "On Stranger Tides" by Tim Powers, written in 1987, and Edward Teach appears in Neal Stephenson's 2004 novel "Quicksilver", commanding a fleet of pirate vessels.
In 2005 researchers found a ship thought to be the remains of the "Queen Anne's Revenge" off the North Carolina coast, where Blackbeard had made his home. It is thought that the ship ran aground near what is now the Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, in 1718. To date, twenty cannons and over sixteen thousand artifacts have been recovered from this site.