Blackbeard’s Trio of Mysteries

If you Google the name Blackbeard, everything you read will start with something like “Blackbeard was the most famous pirate…” Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Here are just some of the cool things about Blackbeard:

Mystery #1

Captain Charles Johnson, who wrote about pirates in 1724, referred to Blackbeard as the bloodthirstiest of pirates. He once sat at a table with his “friends” Israel Hands and another fellow. As they chatted, Israel noticed that Blackbeard slowly lowered two pistols under the table, and he heard the click as Blackbeard cocked them. Fearing the worst, Israel leapt to his feet – but too late. A pistol ball smashed his knee. The second shot completely missed the other fellow.

“Why on Earth did ye do that?” Israel bellowed.

“If your crew don’t fear ye, they won’t respect ye,” came the laconic reply.

And yet, and yet, many historians write that Blackbeard was way more fearsome than bloodthirsty. An educated man, he doesn’t seem to have done half the nasty things history says he did.

This requires research!

Mystery #2

Although little pieces of a book were found inside one of the cannons recovered from the wreck of Blackbeard’s prized ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, they appear to have been torn out of a popular book of the day about an ocean voyage to Peru.

And yet, and yet, at the end of Captain Johnson’s book, he says that Blackbeard kept a journal, and that, when asked where on his South Carolina plantation Blackbeard buried all his treasure, the pirate’s response was “that’s between me and the devil.”

So? Is there a journal? Does the journal tell us where the treasure is buried?

This, too, requires research!

Mystery #3

This isn’t so much of a mystery for you, but it certainly is for me. As a modeler of fine and beautiful sailing craft, I would love to put my hands on plans of Queen Anne’s Revenge.

And yet, and yet, such plans don’t seem to exist. What? Marine archaeologists have found her, in the shallows off of Beaufort, North Carolina, and have brought thousands of her pieces ashore. But no plans have been drawn – not even a deck plan!

She began life as a 26-gun British ship, was taken by the French during the War of Spanish Succession, and then was taken by Blackbeard. Blackbeard, typically, up-gunned her to 40. It’s no surprise she ran aground.

Oh, here’s a bonus mystery for you: by the time he ran her aground, Blackbeard had about 300 pirates in his company – that’s a lot of guys!

Stede Bonnet, a co-captain, felt that Blackbeard ran Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on purpose, so as to break up that huge number of pirates. According to Captain Johnson, he actually stranded 17 men on a desert island, with no food, no water, no nothin’. If Stede Bonnet hadn’t rescued them, himself having been ditched by Blackbeard, they’d have been goners for sure.

So? Why no plans of Queen Anne’s Revenge? And, did Blackbeard run her aground on purpose?

 

It’s all mysteries, my friend. All crying out for research. Are you up to the challenge?

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, a…

No, this post has nothing to do with the Panama Canal – I just couldn’t resist using the anagram… it’s supposed to read both directions the same, but doesn’t work. Rats.

So, a Deck Plan of the Kathryn B, from Marigold’s End. Was you a shipwright, back in the day, this might be where you start your design. You might sit thee down with your client, he what wants the ship to be built, and draft, with pencil and ruler, a plan similar to that which you’ll find on the A Map page. Similar, but no color, of course, and a wee bit more sophisticated.

The Kathryn B was built as a merchant ship, so she’s a little beamy, being roughly four times longer than her width. What does beamy mean? Ships were (and still are) measured in two dimensions: length and width, which was (and still is) called her beam. So, if she’s stubby, like the Kathryn B, she has a little more width, or beam, compared to her length, than other ships. For example, warships of her day were approximately five times their width. She’s beamy, which means she’s not the fastest sailer, and she probably tends to roll in rough seas. But, that beaminess means she’s got tons of room below the main deck for cargo, and that’s what she was built to carry.

Caribbean pirates might be wary of the ten guns – six pounders, I believe them to be. That means each gun would fire a six-pound ball. It doesn’t seem like much, but when it hits the side of your ship at four hundred miles an hour, it can do a lot of damage! Each of these guns is about eight feet long, and weighs about as much as Toyota Camry. By the end of the 1700’s, big warships commonly carried guns that fired a 32-pound ball. That, my friend, is a lot of iron!

This map shows you most of the whereabouts of stuff aboard the ship. In thinking about it now, you’ll need to find the ‘tween decks yourself, along with the stairs that lead to the hold, and Phineas’ cot.  Hey, what’s the value of an adventure except to discover new stuff!

Enjoy the plan, and let me know if there be changes you’d like to see!

Phineas@phineascaswell.com