Thursday, July 30, 2015

Henry Timberlake's Deposition: Edward Thache and Benjamin Hornigold, Brief Partners in Crime!

Edward Thache, "Blackbeard"
Within the following is enclosed a deposition from a merchant mariner named Henry Timberlake, commander of the Brigantine Lamb. The incident involved in this deposition occurred while traveling on this fateful day in late fall 1716 from Boston to Jamaica. He was probably a resident in Virginia, the likely son of Thomas and Elizabeth Timberlake, born in 1688 in Saint Giles Cripplegate, London, the same place and only a few years later than that infamous North Carolina land pirate, Edward Moseley. He may also have been an ancestor to the famous Cherokee emissary to London in 1762, Lt. Henry Timberlake whose father died young in Virginia. You can read his memoirs: The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake: The Story of a Soldier, Adventurer, and Emissary to the Cherokees, 1756-1765. 

This deposition is quite a bit earlier. It tells of the first encounter that history has yet had with the pirates Benjamin Hornigold of Eleuthera, the Bahamas and Edward Thache of Jamaica, a.k.a. "Blackbeard the Pirate." 

This deposition may also be one of the sources used to effect an alteration between the May 1724 edition of a famous pirate book and its December 1724 second edition - yes, just seven months later, with numerous changes in the storyline for Thache, Hornigold, and Stede Bonnet. Capt. Charles Johnson's (a.k.a. Jacobite polemicist newspaper owner Nathaniel Mist) A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates and that book's second-edition reference to Blackbeard serving as an underling on Hornigold's ship - until they captured La Concorde, renamed her the Queen Anne's Revenge, and Hornigold surrendered while Thache went off on his own - is a major change from the first edition when Blackbeard was shown serving as Stede Bonnet's underling as a foremastman on his ship. Odd, isn't it? Thache could never cut a break with this writer, you know? The literary effect of rising from lowly depths to greatness as a "notorious" pirate probably sold more copies - Mist certainly needed the money after his legal fees had accrued of late. He had to leave England in 1728 because of all the trouble he was in.

As pirate historian Arne Bialuschewski relates, "A first-hand account reveals that, early in 1716, Thatch was in Kingston, where he joined an expedition led by Benjamin Hornigold to loot silver-laden Spanish wrecks that had sunk off the east coast of Florida." The deposition here described follows that account in late 1716, as the pair returned from the wrecks.

Truth be told, Thache and Hornigold only sailed in consort briefly and, truly, no primary sources yet point to Thache living in Kingston, although his half-brother Cox probably did, possibly apprenticed to an artillery man at Fort Nugent. The deposition of John Vickers described Hornigold pirating since November of 1715 and his battles with another pirate, Henry Jennings who stole a prize ship from him. Vickers never mentions Thache who may still have been on the Florida coast in his ship. Hornigold wasn't even present for La Concorde's capture (accomplished by Thache all by himself with Stede Bonnet reading books below deck). 

Thache served "under" neither Hornigold nor Bonnet and was actually the most experienced maritime adventurer of the three men, having served on the HMS Windsor during Queen Anne's War. But, Johnson - I mean, Mist - got that all wrong. Still, this deposition most likely gave him the material for altering his story. He even suppressed a few records to make the Hornigold-Thache dynamic duo an historical icon of demonic piratica that would send his books flying from the shelves - at least until I screwed all that up for him with actual records. Oops! 

Ok... Johnson took literary license which was not unusual by any means. Still... ;)

I go into Johnson-Mist's fabrications in more detail in my article " ‘Born in Jamaica of Very Creditable Parents’ or ‘A Bristol Man Born’? Excavating the Real Edward Thache, ‘Blackbeard the Pirate’ " in the July issue of North Carolina Historical Review coming out in late August.  That article also includes the newly-discovered true family of Edward Thache living in Spanish Town, Jamaica. No, he wasn't a Drummond. No, he wasn't named Beard. He was actually a Thache, from the only Thache family living in the old Spanish capital of 18th-century Jamaica and he probably was actually born in Bristol, son of Capt. Edward and Elizabeth Thache, with a grandfather Rev. Thomas Thache who studied at Oxford. At least Johnson-Mist probably got "Bristol" correct... some redemption for that loosely-creative literary craftsman. 

This deposition shows Hornigold and Thache sailing almost identical sloops of eight guns each, each with crews consisting of ninety men. It also involves a capture of the Lamb at a location that was well known to Thache from his days on the HMS Windsor - Cape Doña Maria on the west end of Hispaniola or Haiti today. The Windsor frequently patrolled that area of the Gulf of Gonȃve along Longane Bay and Petit Goȃve, a French base for their ships that served as convoys for Spanish treasure galleons sailing from Cartagena and Porto Bello to Spain. 

In short, this deposition fits perfectly with the information that we now have for the "new" narrative introducing Blackbeard to the world as a real human being - with flaws, to be sure - but, also a man that may have made the Board of Trade nervous because of his prior service as a likely officer aboard the Windsor, not the usual pirate, to be sure!

Henry Timberlake deposition, 17 December 1716, 1B/5/3/8, 212–3 [426-7], Jamaican Archives.

henry Timberlakes       Jamaica Ss.
deposition                          henry Timberlake master of the Brigantine
                                            called the Lamb burthen about Fforty Tons being
                                            duley Sworn deposeth & saith as follows

That about the Sixteenth day of november last he Set Sail
on board the said Brigantine from the Port of Boston
in New England bound for this Island [Jamaica] That about the thirteenth
of December instant about Eight Leagues off of Cape Donna
Maria on the west end of Hispaniola about Eight a Clock
at night a Sloop mounted with Eight Guns and manned
with about ninety men as they told him called the Delight
Benjamine Hornigole Comander came up with this Depont.
fired Several Shot at him, obliged him to bring too and then
Comanded him with his Boat on board and this Deponent
and two of his men coming on board him, hornigole
told this Deponent he had taken a Spaniard with Fforty
Guns the Thursday before and a Bristol man that
Sailed from this Island the week before, but gave this
Deponent no further account of either of those Vessels
and acquainted this Deponent the week before fifteen
of his men had run away with their own Canoa and
carried forty Thousand peices of eight with them. That
hornigole Said to this Deponent, give my Service to the
Captn of the man of warr and tell him I design to have
his Ship from him if I meet him. That hornigole hoisted
out of his Boat with about a dozen hands and Boarded
this Deponents Said Brigantine, this Deponent remaining

[next page] Council minutes

on board the Sloop till about two or three of the Clock in
the morning. That hornigole's Boat returning twice or thrice
loaden with provisions from the Brigantine this Deponent
asked them why they used him so they answered they wanted
provisions and this Deponent further Saith That in about
an hour after hornigole Boarded him Edward Thach
Comander of another Sloop, the name whereof this
Deponent knows not mounted with Eight Guns & manned
with about ninety men came alongside the said Brigantine
and Sent their Canoa with Several hands on Board her and
plundered her That the said hornigole and the said other
Sloop took from this Deponent Three Barrils of Porke,
one of Beef, two of peese, three of Markrill [fish?] five
Barrils of onions Several Dozen Caggs of oysters most
of his Cloaths and all his Ships Stores Except about
Fforty Biskets and a very Small quantity of meat just
to bring them in and threw Some of their Staves over
That this Deponent was cheifly loaden with Staves
and Shingles and that he was beleived the loss and his orendrs
histained by the Said Pirates might be about Sixty pounds
Jamaica mony That hornigole about three in the morning
Sent this Deponent in his own Boat on board That this Depont.
Soon after arrived in Port Royal harbour and further this
Deponent Saith that the said hornigole told him that he
understood by the Bristol Ship afore mentioned that Captn
[Robert?] Quarry was in Goal for being concerned in a Pyracy
with him but Said he was wrongfully accused therein
for that Quarry did not act or concerned himself and
was by him forced to be in their Company & declared
that it was him and his Crew alone that had robbed
that Spaniard. Hornigole further declared that if he
thought that him this Deponent would no So Soon
as he got into Jamaica declare and make known
that Quarry was not concerned in that Pyracy he
would not Suffer him to go from them and further
Saith not.

        Henry Timberlake

Sworn this 17th of December 1716
before his Excellency Peter Heywood         Jamaica


Many thanks to Dianne T. Golding Frankson for retrieving this document for me!
Author site:

Blackbeard's Genealogy Poster:

Blackbeard Reconsidered:

Blackbeard in French records:

Other publications of Baylus C. Brooks:

Dianne's Genealogical Research Site:

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