War Makes Thieves, Peace Hangs Them

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In a twenty-gun sloop, Spotswood sent Lieutenant Robert Maynard, one of his bravest officers, to find Blackbeard and end his career. He found him in Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. All night the two ships maneuvered among the treacherous shoals of the inlet. On his ship, Teach is reported to have sat all night below, drinking. In the morning his men attacked Maynard’s sloop, killing and wounding 29 Virginians. Maynard sent his remaining men below and appeared on his deck alone. Blackbeard, thinking he had only one man to contend with, boarded Maynard’s sloop. At a given signal, the crew came on deck and overwhelmed the pirate. There are various accounts of this fight but all agree that it was a desperate battle and that, in the end, Teach’s bearded head was stuck on a pole and carried triumphantly ashore at Hampton, Virginia, followed by the members of his crew, who were duly tried at Williamsburg and hanged. The more credulous people of Hampton believe that the headless ghost of Blackbeard still walks there at night.

In the same year, 1718, Stede Bonnet of the “disordered mind” was taken at Charleston. Thus piracy along the colonial coast came to an end. In the bad years, it had flourished. In the economic upturn, it could not endure.