The Last Battle of Blackbeard

by Edward Eggleston

Our country now reaches from one ocean to the other. But in the days before the Revolution there were only English colonies stretching up and down the Atlantic coast. Merchandise was carried from one colony to another, and from one country to another, in slow-going sailing vessels, for there were neither railroads nor steamships.

In those old times there were robbers on the sea. We call sea robbers pirates. These men carried cannon on their ships, and they robbed any vessels not stronger than they were. In our days of large steamships a pirate would not stand any chance of getting away. He would soon be caught. Some of the pirates of old times sailed up and down the American coast. They captured ships sailing from America to Europe and from Europe to America. The worst of all these pirates was Blackbeard.

His real name was Thatch. He was called Blackbeard because he wore a long black beard that covered his face. This made him look frightful in that day, when other men shaved their faces smooth. He divided his beard into locks, and twisted each lock, tying it at the end with ribbons. To make himself look still worse, he fastened some of these twists over his ears.

(image)

Blackbeard.

When he was fighting against another ship, he wore a strap over his shoulders to which were fastened large pistols. In those days, cannon were touched off by means of a slow match, a kind of cord that burns slowly like punk. When Blackbeard went into battle, he twisted some of these slow matches or cords round his head, and stuck some of them under his hat. The ends of these matches were burning, and they looked like fiery, hissing snakes. With his beard turned back over his ears, and fire all about his head, he seemed to be a tall fiend.

Blackbeard was more like a fiend than a man. He was cruel and wicked in every way. Some bad men are sometimes kind-hearted, but Blackbeard was always cruel. He would shoot even his own men in order to make his crew afraid of him.

He did much of his bad work on the coast of North Carolina. Here he found bays and sounds where the water was shallow. Large ships could not easily follow him into these places. The Governor of North Carolina was a bad man. He took part of Blackbeard's plunder, and let Blackbeard go safely about the country. The people were afraid of the pirate. They sent to the Governor of Virginia, and asked him to fit out a ship to capture Blackbeard.

Two sloops that could sail in shallow water were sent. Lieutenant Maynard was the commander. The ships left Virginia secretly. No one knew where they were going.

When Maynard came in sight of Blackbeard's sloop, he hung out his flag. Blackbeard took a glass of rum and drank it, calling to Maynard, "I'll give you no quarter, nor take any."

Maynard replied, "I do not expect any quarter from you, nor will I give any."

This meant that neither of them would take any prisoners, but that every man must fight for his life.

Maynard tried to run alongside Blackbeard's ship. He wanted to take his men on board the pirate ship, and fight it out on her deck. But Blackbeard had put a large negro near to the gunpowder on his ship. He said to the negro, "If the men from the other ship get on board of ours, you must set fire to the gunpowder, and blow us all up."

Maynard was running toward the pirate ship to get on board; but Blackbeard fired all the cannon on that side of his ship, and killed some of Maynard's men. This was really lucky for Maynard; for, if he had got on board, the negro would have set fire to the gunpowder, and the pirates and Maynard's men would all have been blown to pieces at once.

Maynard now sent his men down into the hold of the ship. They were out of sight of the pirates, but they had their pistols and swords ready. The sloops were soon close together, and Blackbeard's men threw boxes full of powder and shot, and pieces of lead and iron, on the deck of Maynard's sloop. These were so fixed as to go off like bombshells. But, as nearly all of Maynard's men were down below the deck, these boxes did little harm.

Blackbeard, thinking that most of Maynard's men had been killed, jumped on board the sloop with fourteen men. Maynard now called his men from below, and there was a desperate fight. Blackbeard was shot five times, and was wounded with swords; but the old monster fought until he fell down dead while cocking his pistol. The rest of the pirates on the deck of Maynard's ship were taken prisoners.

Maynard's other sloop was fighting with the men left on board Blackbeard's vessels. These surrendered, but they had trouble to keep the big negro from setting fire to the gunpowder and blowing them all up.

Maynard took away from the Governor of North Carolina many hogsheads of sugar that Blackbeard had stolen. Then he hung the great ugly head of the pirate at the bow of his ship, and sailed back to Virginia in triumph.