Friday, November 17, 2017

Blackbeard the Pirate Part 1 - Charleston Held Hostage

by Elva Cobb Martin

November 22, 1718, is the anniversary of Blackbeard's death at the hands of Lt. Robert Maynard. So I decided we'd take another look at this most famous pirate of all.

Pirates had their greatest days in our Atlantic waters in the 1600-1700’s. The success of piracy and its particular form of terrorism in the colonial period were due in part to the laissez-faire attitude of heads of state and some colonial governors. Unpardoned acts of piracy were often condoned by officials as long as the acts were perpetuated against one’s enemies or the loot was shared. England and other nations issued “letters of marque” which gave their own “privateers” as they called these type captains, permission to attack and plunder ships of their enemies.

But piracy became so prevalent at times that honest sea trade almost ground to a halt. Then governments withdrew letters of marque, tracked down the pirates, and hanged them in public.

The history of Charleston, South Carolina, records such a story involving Blackbeard, one the most notorious pirates of all who roamed the Eastern seaboard and the Caribbean.
Blackbeard was more than an adroit leader of men, swashbuckling and fearsome; he was also a skillful navigator and a competent naval tactician. According to Rod Gragg, a University of South Carolina professor of history, Blackbeard once fought and won a naval battle with a 30-gun British man-of-war, becoming perhaps the only pirate in the western hemisphere to defeat the British Royal Navy.

His method of attack was similar to that of terrorists today. He struck quickly, raided, then ran. His favorite place to run was Ocracoke Island on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. His attacks, of course, were always at sea.

In May of 1718, Edward Teach, alias Blackbeard, sailed into Charleston with his fleet of pirate ships. He blockaded the harbor, captured and plundered nine ships and took several hostages including Samuel Wragg, a member of the South Carolina legislature. After interrogating the hostages about the remaining ships in the harbor—their cargoes and destinations—the victims were then thrown half-naked into the dark hold.

In exchange for the prisoners, Blackbeard demanded of Governor Johnson something the pirate did not find on the plundered ships, mainly a large supply of meds used to relieve a pirate’s recurring nightmare—syphilis. Blackbeard warned that if his demands were not met, he would execute all the hostages and raid and sack Charleston. And Charlestonians knew he could do just that.

The Charles Town legislature complied. It seemed that shame, indignation, and revenge were outranked by fear. Actually, it was wisdom that outranked the lot, with revenge simply being reserved.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't miss the Revenge of Charles Town next week! Please leave a comment and share on your social media by clicking on the small icons below.


Elva Cobb Martin is president of the South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers (2014-2017). She is a former school teacher and a graduate of Anderson University and Erskine College. She has two inspirational novels contracted with Lighthouse Publishers of the Carolinas. Summer of Deception, a contemporary romantic suspense, and an historical romance, In a Pirate’s Debt. Both have spent time on Amazon’s 100 Best Sellers List for Women’s Religious Fiction. Decision, Charisma, and Home Life have carried Elva's articles. Jim Hart of Hartline Literary represents her. She and her husband Dwayne are semi-retired ministers. A mother and grandmother, Elva lives in Anderson, South Carolina. Connect with her on her web site, her blog, on Twitter; Facebook;  and Pinterest
Link to her romance novels, Summer of Deception and In a Pirate's Debt, and a Bible study, Power Over Satan on Amazon