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America First—100 Stories from Our History by  Lawton B. Evans


 

 

BLACKBEARD THE PIRATE

[118] IN the days before the Revolution, the high seas surrounding America were infested with robbers, called pirates. Their ships, manned by desperate men, and carrying cannon and arms for fighting, scoured the ocean highways, and attacked peaceable and slow sailing vessels, which they robbed of merchandise; often they killed the sailors and sank the ships.

These pirates had hiding-places along the coast, especially the inlets, where they landed for supplies, sold their prizes, or buried their treasures in secret. A pirate's life was full of adventure. So terrible was the menace from these robbers that every sailing vessel dreaded to meet them on their way across the ocean, or up and down the coast.

Among these pirates was a Captain whose real name was Thatch, but who was known as "Black-beard." He wore a long black beard, of which he was very careful and proud, but which gave him a frightful look. Around his shoulders was a strap from which huge pistols hung, ready for use in case of battle. About his waist was a belt, holding his cutlass, which was so large and strong that, with one blow, he could cut off a man's head.

[119] He was very cruel and wicked. He never hesitated to kill all the sailors on board a captured vessel, sometimes hanging them to the rigging, and often tying them securely and leaving them on their ship as it went to the bottom. Once he shot several of his own crew when they disobeyed him about a small matter.

The scene of his operations was around the shores of Virginia and North Carolina, and even as far south as the coast of Georgia. He had accomplices on shore, who bought his ill-gotten cargoes, supplied his ships with provisions, and his men with arms. He became so bold and terrible that the people of Virginia fitted out two ships to go after him and to destroy him, if they could.

Only vessels that could sail in shallow water near the coast were sent out, and these, under the command of Lieutenant Maynard. For many days the ships sailed around, looking for Blackbeard and his crew. After a while the pirate ship came into view, and hoisted her flag with the skull and cross bones, calling on Maynard to surrender. But instead, Maynard hung out his flag and dared the pirate to come on. Blackbeard drew near, and called out, "Give up your ship at once, I take no prisoners."

Maynard replied, "I shall not surrender, and I [120] shall not show you any mercy." With that the battle began.

Maynard, after sending most of his men into the hold of his ship for safety, ran alongside the pirate. Blackbeard fired a broadside into Maynard's vessel, and, seeing no men aboard, thought that every one was killed. He therefore ordered his own crew to take possession. When the pirates came aboard, swords in hand, Maynard's men sprang from the hold of their vessel, and desperate fighting began on the deck.

Blackbeard was shot five times, besides being wounded with sword cuts. He fought bravely, calling so loudly to his men, that his voice was heard above the roar of the battle. His pistol was soon emptied, and, seizing another, he leveled it at one of Maynard's men. Just then, however, he received a wound through the head and was instantly killed. His men were taken prisoners and the battle was ended.

Maynard hung the pirate's head before the bow of his ship, and sailed back to Virginia, where the people made a great celebration in honor of his victory.


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