Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, is one of the most notorious pirates in history. Though born in Bristol, England, he earned his infamy by ambushing, looting and pillaging in the waterways of America.
From 1717-1818, during his brief but bloody reign of terror, Blackbeard seized ships, blockaded the entire port of Charleston, South Carolina, and ultimately met his gruesome demise on Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks.
For those looking to follow in Blackbeard’s footsteps in the US, here are 6 places to visit that were pivotal to his life and legacy.
1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
From the 17th to 18th centuries, Philadelphia was something of a pirate hotspot: marauding ships would often terrorise the Delaware River, ambushing and robbing merchant vessels on their way in and out of the city. Blackbeard did exactly that in around 1717-1718, robbing some 5 or 6 ships in the region. Eventually, his actions attracted the attention of the law and a warrant was issued for his arrest, so Blackbeard sailed south for the winter.
Today, visitors to Philadelphia can explore the city’s seafaring history at the Independence Seaport Museum, which features model vessels, historic artwork and a whole host of maritime artifacts. Although pirates have long since disappeared from the Delaware River, visitors can still take a cruise along the waterway from Philly, traversing the same waters Blackbeard once terrorised 3 centuries ago.
2. Bath, North Carolina
In 1718, Blackbeard settled briefly in Bath, North Carolina. It’s thought that he lived in a coastal outcrop known as Plum Point, where the Bath Creek meets the Pamlico River. And despite his fearsome reputation – or perhaps because of it – Blackbeard was respected by the community, dining and partying with locals.
Bath was founded in 1705 and still retains a whole host of historic sites and features. It’s thought that Blackbeard’s old home has since been lost. But visitors to the Van Der Veer House in Bath will find a museum with a dedicated Blackbeard exhibit, which details his life and crimes and features a vase thought to have been owned by him.
3. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston was site of one of Blackbeard’s most notorious crimes. In May 1718, he used his vessel Queen Anne’s Revenge, along with a few smaller boats, to blockage the waters around Charleston Harbour. Holding the port to ransom, he ransacked a number of passing vessels and took hostages. They were eventually exchanged for a chest of medicine for him and his crew.
Today, visitors to Charleston, South Carolina, can embark on a guided pirate tour of the so-called Holy City, where they’ll hear all about its run-ins with Blackbeard and his fellow pirates. Alternatively, visitors can take a stroll up around the harbour and picture the events of 1718 and Blackbeard’s notorious blockade of the port. The city also hosts the Charleston Pirate Festival.
4. Beaufort, North Carolina
Blackbeard’s famed vessel, Queen Anne’s Revenge, ran aground off the coast of North Carolina in 1718. While Blackbeard and his crew survived, the ship was lost to the sea for some 3 centuries. But in 1995, a shipwreck was discovered that many believed to be Blackbeard’s Revenge. In 2011, North Carolina authorities confirmed this to be true.
Visitors to Beaufort should make the trip to the North Carolina Maritime Museum, which boasts a dedicated Blackbeard exhibit with a number of artifacts retrieved from the shipwreck. Among the relics on display are cannon and cannonballs, ceramics and even pieces of gold found at the wreck site.
5. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Blackbeard’s pillaging of the Outer Banks eventually caught up with him. Though he had some Carolina officials and governors in his pocket, the Royal Navy was eventually enlisted to hunt him down. Lieutenant Robert Maynard did just that: he caught up with Blackbeard on Ocracoke Island in 1718 and decapitated him, brutally ending the pirate’s reign of terror.
Today, Ocracoke Island can be reached by ferry and is home to the Teach’s Hole Museum, an institution dedicated to Blackbeard’s life and crimes. It boasts a whole host of Blackbeard artefacts and interactive exhibits. Alternatively, visitors might like to indulge in a spot of treasure hunting: it’s rumoured that Blackbeard’s lost treasure is hidden somewhere on the island.
6. Hampton, Virginia
After Blackbeard was brutally killed and decapitated by Lieutenant Robert Maynard and his men on Ocracoke Island, his head was taken to Hampton, Virginia. There, it was displayed on the end of a stick at the mouth of the Hampton River, as a gruesome warning to other pirates.
Today, visitors to Hampton can make the trip to ‘Blackbeard’s Point’, which is found near the edge of the Hampton River and is where his severed head was displayed. Hampton is also home to the annual Blackbeard Pirate Festival, during which the seafaring city comes alive with reenactments, exhibits and pirate-themed activities.