Blackbeard (1680? - November 22, 1718) was the nickname of Edward Teach alias Edward Thatch, a notorious English pirate who had a short reign of terror in the Caribbean Sea between 1716 and 1718.
Blackbeard often fought or simply showed himself wearing multiple swords, knives, and pistols, and especially became known for weaving hemp in to and lighting matches tied to his long beard during battle. This image, which he cultivated, has made him the premier image of the seafaring pirate.
Little is known about his early life, though it is believed he was born in Bristol, England in 1680. His career began as a seaman on privateers sailing out of Jamaica during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713), and later served aboard a Jamaican ship commanded by the pirate, Benjamin Hornigold, whom he met at New Providence in 1716. He was eventually made a captain while serving under Hornigold when, near the island of Martinique, they captured the French slave ship the "Concorde" out of Nantes, on November 28, 1717. According to the french governor of the island, "Edoard Titche" commanded two boats of English pirates, one of 12 and the other of 8 guns, with 250 men. The "Concord" was a prize: a 300-ton frigate armed with 26 cannon, which had ranged the west coast of Africa, taking English, Dutch and Portuguese ships. Teach renamed it "Queen Anne's Revenge."
Hornigold now retired, taking advantage of an amnesty extended to privateers. Edward Teach was an enormous man, nicknamed Blackbeard because of his massive beard, and in the following two years he acquired a fearsome reputation for cruelty after repeatedly preying on shipping and coastal settlements of the West Indies and the Atlantic coast of North America. A running duel with the British 30-gunned man-of-war "HMS Scarborough" added to his notoriety.
He would raid on merchant ships, coming up on them in major channels and forcing them to let him and his crew board their ship. Teach and his men would take all of the valuables, food, liquor, and weapons from the ship and let the merchant ship go if there was no resistance. But if they did try to resist even in the slightest way they would all die or be left behind on a deserted island to rot.
Blackbeard kept headquarters in both the Bahamas and the Carolinas. He lived on the island of Nassau where he was named the Magistrate of the "Privateers Republic". The governor of North Carolina, Charles Eden, received booty from Blackbeard in return for unofficial protection and gave him an official pardon. He was kicked out of Nassau by Royal Governor Woodes Rogers when the island was raided and all pirate occupants were killed and Blackbeard slipped away.
Despite this Blackbeard went back to piracy after a few weeks. As his violent raids increased, the governor of North Carolina lost patience and sent troops to hunt him down. Blackbeard was later cornered by the English war ship "HMS Pearl" off the coast of Ocrakoke, Virginia. He was shot and stabbed more than 25 times before he died and was decapitated by Robert Maynard, the captain of the "Pearl". His head was then placed as a trophy on the bowsprit of their ship.
Legend has romanticized Blackbeard. Many popular contemporary engravings show him, with the smoking lit ends of his pigtails and the pistols stuck in his bandoliers, and he has been the subject of book, movies, and documentaries. His ship was discovered near Beaufort, North Carolina in 1996, and is now part of a major tourist attraction.