Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Eureka! Blackbeard on HMS Windsor!

I have been waiting for pay records of HMS Windsor, the ship on which served Edward "Blackbeard" Thache. Finally, I received them and was rewarded yet again with the most delightful news! The record that originally told me of his service on Windsor was a deed of his father's inheritance to his step-mother Lucretia, dated December 10, 1706. His father was buried in Spanish Town, Jamaica on November 16, 1706. Fortunately, Windsor was back at Jamaica by then.

Edward Thache was listed in HMS Windsor’s pay book as joining that vessel April 12, 1706 on the southern coast of England near Spithead and Portsmouth. Windsor had crossed Spithead, a part of the Solent (body of water that separates Isle of Wight from the mainland ports of Portsmouth and Gosport) to Fort St. Helen’s on the east end of the the Isle of Wight. After some collaboration with my colleagues, it now appears that Thache had served on a vessel named Barbados Merchantman at the time of his enlistment. Quite possibly, Thache and others desired passage back to the West Indies and found that opportunity aboard HMS Windsor. Edward “Thatch,” Aaron Huggins, Samuel Gaine, Henry Nellson, and William Horn joined the crew April 12th as Windsor loaded food and water at St. Helen’s. James Mahum was listed as an “entry” on March 27th while the ship, according to the log, was at Spithead-Portsmouth and “appearing” aboard on April 13th at St. Helen's. Jonathan Osborne joined ten days earlier. These seven were paid as a group and may have previously served together. All of these "able seaman," except Thache, were discharged only months later – all in the West Indies - three at Jamaica. Thache, however, for whatever reason, stayed on until at least August 25, 1707, when he received “Prefermt.,” or “preferment” - aka promotion. It’s not indicated that he transferred to another ship, as that should have been indicated. It's possible that he remained aboard Windsor in his new position past June 30, 1708, the date the pay book ends.The lack of a pay record for this period, however, may yet indicate further service on another vessel.

Thache also seems to have been of greater status or wealth than others. He had a larger sea chest and payed more for stowing it. One consequence of new-found genealogical records on Edward Thache and his family is that he appears of a higher class than formerly believed or alluded to in the usual pirate histories. These pay records help to confirm this. 

Portion of Windsor's pay record showing a superscripted "n" probably indicating, according to common practice of the day, that the last letter of the vessel's name was "n" and the ship's name was most likely "Barbados Merchantman" rather than "Barbados Merchant," another common vessel name found in records - one of the same date was commanded by William Oliver, but he lost his vessel later in 1706 to a French privateer and could not be the Barbados Merchantman first commanded by Jonathan Deeble when Thache would have been aboard.

Thache joined Windsor of his own free will as a skilled merchant and was not pressed or forced to join as often happened with common sailors, many of whom never had experience at sea. This is not surprising since N.A.M. Rodgers inferred that the Royal Navy did not often engage in this practice until the second half of the 18th century. He was specially noted as “Barbad. Merch. (n),” indicating that he had served on this vessel, probably Barbados Merchantman. It's likely, as an "able seaman," that he was probably trained in mathematics; he could navigate. As I have been finding, most mariners of this period were skilled men; many had education. Indeed, almost 90% of 138 former crew of Bartholomew Roberts could sign their names, as indicated on a "Round Robbin" petition for pardon to the governor of Jamaica, not a common skill for most colonials.

Voyages database, a record of slave expeditions through the age of the middle passage, shows a Royal African Company-owned "Barbados Merchant," probably abbreviated from Treasure department records actually indicating "Barbados Merchantman," master John Russell, later leaving London - after a refit from 250 tons to 300 tons - for a Royal African Company slaving voyage to Africa 21 Nov 1706, soon after Thache and the others joined Windsor in April. They intended to pick up 500 slaves, but were eventually captured by the French. This capture occurred after Thache left, but he may have felt annoyed yet again (happened often to Thache) by the French in favor of his former captain and shipmates. 

This is the closest appearance of a Barbados Merchantman vessel to the time of Thache's enlistment, but is still only a possibility. Barbados Merchantman or its variant, Barbados Merchant, were not uncommon names for a ship. Still, I will keep looking for more evidence!

article updated 10/30/18

Hopefully, at the end of 2017, I will be finished with my newest book: Dictionary of Pyrate Biography, 1713-1720 which will attempt for the first time ever to re-discover pirate history without using A General History. I guarantee a lot of surprises!

Please keep up with updates on my website at

Meanwhile, visit my Amazon page for already published material, including Quest for Blackbeard! 

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