Two Cuts to Blackbeard's Neck

The British expected their American colonies to produce profits -- as in having the colonists grow the raw materials that factories in Great Britain would use to produce the goods, which the colonists, in turn, would buy at inflated prices. To make sure that this happened, Parliament enacted a series of import duties designed to keep cheaper goods made elsewhere out of its colonies. The tax levies, which later fomented revolutionary sentiment, helped bring about the so-called golden age of piracy between 1689 and 1718. What better way to get duty-free goods than through smuggling? And who better to do it than the pirates who stole the loot in the first place?

Edward "Blackbeard" Teach and others began by roaming the Caribbean, legally plundering French and Spanish ships during Queen Anne's War from 1701 to 1713. But they kept at their trade after the war, so, in 1718, the British navy chased them out of the area. Blackbeard relocated to the tangled web of islands and shifting shoals along the North Carolina coast. Teach's cheap smuggled goods were welcomed, and some colonial officials -- including Gov. Charles Eden, for whom Edenton is named -- were suspected of helping him make a little money.

But the folks down in South Carolina felt differently because they were now the pirates' prime targets. When Blackbeard struck Charleston in June 1718, looting merchant ships at anchor and taking hostages for ransom, the South Carolinians had had enough. Over the next 2 months, South Carolinians caught and hanged 20 pirates. Two Royal Navy sloops from Virginia under Lt. Robert Maynard eventually found Blackbeard -- off Ocracoke Island at dawn on November 22, 1718. Blackbeard and half his crew of 18 were killed during fierce hand-to-hand combat. The survivors were taken to Virginia and executed.

The incident was reported in the Boston News-Letter: "One of Maynard's men, being a Highlander, ingaged [sic] Teach with his broadsword, who gave Teach a cut of the Neck, Teach saying well done, Lad, the Highlander reply'd, if it be not well done, I'll do it better, and with that he gave him a second stroke, which cut off his head, laying it flat on his shoulder."

Maynard sailed back to Virginia with Blackbeard's head hanging from his ship's rigging to warn pirates that their golden age was over. Still, tales persist of treasure stashed away along the North Carolina coast, but none has ever been found; Blackbeard likely sold his spoils quickly and squandered the proceeds.

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