- Historic Sites
Artifacts pulled from the wreck of Blackbeard's flagship Queen Anne's Revenge offer a glimpse into the bloody decades of the early 18th century, when pirates ruled the Carolina coast
Spring 2011 | Volume 61, Issue 1
Over these 14 years of research by American and European scholars, evidence revealed from the artifacts, combined with painstaking study of the historical records, has left no doubt that the wreck is indeed Queen Anne’s Revenge. Four large deep-sea anchors, all still on site, support this conclusion. The anchors, rigging, and length of the wreck indicate a three-masted vessel of a weight consistent with the ship Blackbeard commanded. The artifact pattern is what would be expected of a ship sailing the North Atlantic. The provenance of the objects—predominantly French, with English a close second, and small amounts from the Dutch, Spanish, and Italian cultures—conforms with the known history of a French frigate captured by English-led pirates of various nationalities. Its African trade is substantiated by Italian glass beads, African ceramic beads, fragments of shackles, copper, and the minuscule quantity of gold dust. Their overall assemblage matches the collection recovered from the Whydah Galley, a pirate vessel that broke up in a storm off Cape Cod in 1717.
The shipping records of Charles Town reveal that, in the proprietary era, ships the size of Queen Anne’s Revenge seldom came to such deepwater ports. The fishing village of Beaufort rarely saw small sloops, much less frigate-sized vessels. Queen Anne’s Revenge, the only craft this large known to have attempted to enter the harbor, ran aground. While the wreck in Beaufort Inlet was as heavily armed as a sixth-rate naval frigate, the eclectic mix of its artifacts and its complement of guns eliminates the possibility of its being a king’s ship. In the more or less peaceful year of 1718, merchant vessels would have carried only minimal armaments, and no English privateers had been commissioned at that time. The only possibility is the pirate vessel identified by contemporaneous reports: Queen Anne’s Revenge.
Once conserved, many of the artifacts will go on display this summer in a major new exhibit at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort. (For more information, visit www.ncmaritimemuseums.com .) Other museums in the state system will mount smaller exhibits.
Arguably the most important ship of the Golden Age of Piracy, Queen Anne’s Revenge opens a portal through which we can travel into the world of Blackbeard and fellow brigands as they blazed into the storied pages of history.