Thursday, December 06, 2018

Blackbeard after Capture of La Concorde

A ship resembling Queen Anne's Revenge or QAR
The events following the capture of the famed French slave ship La Concorde, renamed Queen Anne's Revenge in a decidedly Jacobite tone, involving Edward "Blackbeard" Thache are quite well known. This is due to many sources of information, only a few of which were newspaper articles. These recently discovered sources often wholly contradict the traditional 1724 source for pirates - fast becoming a known polemical piece of uncited fact blended with elaborate fiction. FYI: the factual bits are to be found in other, more reliable primary sources. So.... why do we still use this heavy historical anchor weight to reality?

More importantly, there were also other primary sources not utilized by the controversial author of that 1724 historical fiction. These include depositions of eyewitnesses to some of these important events - events which include French captains, officers and officials of French ports, Stede Bonnet, David Herriot and his sloop, Adventure, Capt. Thomas Jacobs of HMS Diamond, and the various vessels that eventually composed the four-ship flotilla used to blockade the Port of Charleston!

Archaeologist David D. Moore, for the first time, presented a few of these valuable sources in his article “Captain Edward Thatch: A Brief Analysis of the Primary Source Documents Concerning the Notorious Blackbeard,” NCHR, vol. 95, no. 2 (April 2018), 156-160. Moore has spent a great deal of time analyzing these records. He also seems to have discovered more on the history of Stede Bonnet, the so-called "gentleman" pirate who, in an alleged letter to Col. Rhett, says that he was essentially coerced into piracy by that mean ol' nasty "notorious" pirate Blackbeard - once again titled by the Johnsonite Moore! Still, long before he ever met other pirates, Bonnet seems to have absconded from Barbados with Godfrey Malbone's old sloop Revenge, as the collector noted "Gone without Clearing" and after which a Royal Navy captain warned of a new pirate on the loose!

Barbados Shipping Record referred to by David D. Moore in “Captain Edward Thatch: A Brief Analysis of the Primary Source Documents Concerning the Notorious Blackbeard,” NCHR, vol. 95, no. 2 (April 2018), 156-160. It shows the moment that a 35-ton sloop Revenge absconded from Carlisle Bay, Barbados in spring 1717, "Gone without Clearing" - perhaps with a wealthy Maj. Stede Bonnet then aboard! Capt. Bartholomew Candler mentioned this is a letter to the Admiralty as well. He said the sloop then had "126 men and 6 guns."

Using all of these sources, it is now possible to reassemble the events following La Concorde's capture and the events that followed as they probably played out. Still, many of the ideologies and intents of Edward Thache can truly only be assumed. Some of the events that occurred may not have happened for the reasons that we believe - especially if influenced by other disreputable sources.

My findings in Jamaica, published in Quest for Blackeard: The True Story of Edward Thache and His World, that show a gentlemanly and wealthy Edward Thache - indeed with very different intentions than expected from a lowly "notorious" pirate - may not necessarily need that much "more work" as Moore asserts. Moore still clings - hopelessly, in my opinion - to "Capt. Charles Johnson's"  A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, that controversial 1724 source that more and more scholars are finding increasingly disreputable. Using this old controversial anti-American (read: anti-pirate counterfactual) rhetorical source can hamper good work. But, so many devotees are reticent to give up the fiction!

For instance, in the paragraph directly following the erroneous telling of Blackbeard's "falling in with the Scarborogh [Scarborough's own log does not confirm this] Man of War," Johnson (whose real name was Nathaniel Mist) mentions that Bonnet then had a sloop of ten guns when he met Thache, which is possible if he had added four guns since leaving Barbados. Still, the passage goes on to explain:
In his Way he met with a Pyrate Sloop of ten Guns, commanded by one Major Bonnet, lately a Gentleman of good Reputation and Estate in the Island of Barbadoes, whom he joyned; but in a few Days after, Teach, finding that Bonnet knew nothing of a maritime Life, with the Consent of his own Men, put in another Captain, one Richards, to Command Bonnet’s Sloop, and took the Major on aboard his own Ship, telling him, that as he had not been used to the Fatigues and Care of such a Post, it would be better for him to decline it, and live easy and at his Pleasure, in such a Ship as his, where he should not be obliged to perform Duty, but follow his own Inclinations.
It should be noted that Stede Bonnet, himself, attempted to regale (and sway) Col. Rhett with a slightly different version (that Bonnet letter to Col. Rhett) of these events with the following passage:
God the knower of all secrets, will lay to my charge; and must intreat you to consider that I was a prisoner on board Captain Edward Thatch, who, with several of Captain [Benjamin] Hornigold's company which he then [Aug 1716-summer 1717?] belonged to, boarded and took my sloop from me at the island of Providence, confining me with him eleven months.
Admittedly, Bonnet was allegedly pleading for his life to Col. William Rhett, the man who had captured him in the Cape Fear River - once he returned there from pirating vessels in Delaware Bay (on his own, without Thache, I might add). Bonnet, himself, in this passage, admits that he was guilty of these events - and of escaping from justice! So... maybe not all he allegedly wrote in that letter can be trusted? Also this assumes that he had, indeed, written such a letter!

Don't get me wrong... I do believe that this letter has a high chance of validity. I'm just exercising the customary caution.

Johnson goes on to explain how Benjamin Hornigold took the French slaver La Concorde (renamed Queen Anne' Revenge or QAR) and then gave it to Thache. This probably did not happen, of course, which Moore tells. French records (transcribed by Jacques Duqoin for the QAR team at East Carolina University) definitely state that Thache took the vessel himself in a 12-gun sloop (presumed to be Revenge), with the help of another sloop of eight guns (probably Thache's former vessel). So... Benjamin Hornigold did not bestow the magnificent mantel of "pirate grand pubbah" upon his not-so-pupilish "pupil" Thache with this ship... another blasting historical error of the inventive Johnson... er... Mist!

Secretary of State for the Navy - Correspondence to the arrival from Martinique 1717-1727: Feuquieres (François de Pas de Mazencourt, Marquis de), Governor General of the Windward Islands - Correspondence ◦ Mesnier (Charles) the Navy to Martinique ◦ December 10, 1717, EN ANOM COL C8A 22 F ° 438

Moore concentrated upon particular French records, from those gathered by the ECU QAR team member Jacques Duqoin, author of Barbe-Noire [Blackbeard] et le négrier La Concorde. Moore assures that Duqoin had believed these records belonged to Blackbeard, but they simply could not pertain to this particular pirate. Agreed. Moore leads into the traditional tale of Blackbeard at the Bay of Honduras at this point.

Still, other French records (which Moore did not go into, but were also transcribed by Jacques Duqoin) do refer to Blackbeard's deeds prior to his meeting others at the Bay of Honduras. These records describe the taking of other French ships: Roy Guillaume de Rochefort, Saint-Antoine de Marseilles, and his semi-military actions against the French of Petit Goave that Thache et al undertook after taking of La Concorde off Martinique, Christopher Taylor's Great Alleyne at Bequia, and the other French ships.

Thache's taking part in a 17 or 18-vessel attack on the French at Petit Goave in Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) shows much more revolutionary initiative (and singular disdain for the French) than a average pirate of the Golden Age. These attitudes may easily have evolved from Thache's higher and wealthier "gentleman" status and the long-running ubiquitous French abuse against his home of Jamaica!

One French record dated 21 Jan 1718 tells of the pirate's capture of "Concorde of Nantes charged with 500 blacks, Roy Guillaume from Rochefort and the Saint-Antoine de Marseille from Martinique to Santo Domingo. They gathered at the islands of Providence [probably Long Island in the Bahamas] to the number of 18 boats... it was said [in warning of French pirate Jean Martel (who Johnson said was an Englishman)] that they were waiting for 17 pirate ships to go and burn the Petit-Goave... in fact they were gathered in the number 18 boats at Longueland [Long Island is an island in the Bahamas that is much further south and closer to St. Domingue], one of the small islands of Providence [rather, Bahamas]... [the French assembled] 500 good men at Petit Goave, cavalry and infantry, not to mention the 3 armed ships and well-stocked batteries."  From Long Island, pirates planned to launch their anti-French attack by Christmas 1717. Then...  they did:

Jean Morange, captain of La Volante de Saint-Pierre, deposed afterward that:
Two Spanish Corsairs who had arrived in Puerto Rico prior to the expedition to the Crab Island, reported that the pirates, numbering 25 vessels [the pirate fleet had grown!], were at Cape Tibron [Tiburon - western tip of St. Domingue or Haiti], and that they had been burning the French district of Lautibonette* [l’Artibonite—at mouth of Artibonite River north of Petit Goave] at St Domingue... it was the same pirates who had taken the Concorde before [Thache, of course], and had since added forty guns they had taken from an Englishman [Christopher Taylor at Bequia?].

Map of Haiti showing locations of l’Artibonite and Petit Goave

Then, the events that Moore describes in the Bay of Honduras occurred in April-May 1718. As stated, the depositions which Moore reveals spoke more detail to these events of an allegedly "notorious" pirate - if that's how you want to interpret them. But, indeed... was that really what he was? Was he "Notorious" or "wicked" or a "villain" as Johnson-Mist describes in his heavily elaborated pages? I do not think so. Did I mention that Johnson... er.. Nathaniel Mist was a controversial Jacobite newspaper publisher who was arrested often, held in stocks once that we know of, and even nearly died in Newgate Prison? I'd suggest we take this into consideration when we evaluate his motives for writing a popular pirate "counterfactual" hit-piece a few years later!

Note that Johnson's book was first published in 1724. Only 15 years later, in 1739, Barbadian Charles Leslie, in his A New History of Jamaica, described a family quite like that which I described from the Jamaican Anglican Church records. Leslie wrote "that Blackbeard was born in Jamaica of very creditable Parents; his Mother [Lucretia Thache, died in 1743] is alive in Spanish Town to this Day, and his Brother [Cox Thache, died in 1737] is at present the Captain of the Train of Artillery." The family of Thaches that I found (Edward Thache Sr. with 2nd wife Lucretia and eldest son Edward Thache Jr.) in Jamaican Anglican Church records were living in St. Jago de la Vega, aka "Spanish Town" from about 1686-1743... and were there c1735 when Leslie visited the Jamaican capital city to research his book.

Patrick Pringle, c 1953
Later pirate author, Patrick Pringle also recognized Leslie's book in 1953 as carrying a very different impression of Blackbeard than we have attributed to Edward Thache for the last 300 years, due to Johnson's unreliable book. He asserted that "Pirates had been Maligned" in a Louisiana newspaper article about his new book, Jolly Roger: The Story of the Great Age of Piracy. Pringle, too, looked for the records that I found (through and, but was unable because he relied on the new local archivist (started 1950) who had to clean up quite a mess before he could do any kind of research for anyone. Of course, these records were well-kept in St. Catherine's Parish Church, just a couple of miles away from his office at the time. He just didn't look there.

Dr. Manushag N. Powell
Nathaniel Mist was not telling a history, but writing an entertaining and experimental type of "piratical counterfiction" as described by Associate Professor of English at Purdue University Dr. Manushag N. Powell - you might also had heard me mention this before. She regarded "Blackbeard, meanwhile, was popular in large part due to his sensational treatment as a theatrical, lascivious devil in A General History of the Pyrates (1724-1728)." Her treatise "The Piratical Counterfactual from Misson to Melodrama" properly explores Johnson or Mist's book as a work of fanciful historical fiction, experimenting with "a number of modes—including history and romance and, through their combination, counterfactual writing. This is more than just an interesting quirk of composition. It is radical experimentation, an extremely early and atypical example of the counterfactual mode... This is what counterfactual writing does: it plays upon readers’ willingness and even desire to invest in an alternative world in which we pretend a thing we know did not happen, did."

Really, my hat's off to Moore and other researchers like him who ply through the records for each and every clue. But, we all must exercise some measure of caution when using A General History as actual "history," as Dr. Powell suggests. We must analyze all records and the biases and intents of each and every one found before making judgements. We must analyze our own inner biases as well - tradition does not a history make! The new era of mass digitization which helped me find Blackbeard's family will reveal many more past biases and secrets heretofore unknown to historians. There are now billions of records out there of which historians have yet to analyze - genealogical and historical. These records will also help expose the art of modern genealogy as absolutely essential and worthy of an exalted place in the professional historian's toolkit!

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Recent publicity by BBC Radio Bristol and the Smithsonian:

from BBC Radio Bristol
300 years ago on Thursday - 22 November 1718 - Bristol born Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard, the most famous pirate in the history of the world), was killed in a violent battle off the coast of North America. And after 300 years we can finally separate the truth from the myth. You can hear the whole story this Thursday at 9am in a one off BBC Radio Bristol special: BLACKBEARD: 300 YEARS OF FAKE NEWS. With new research by Baylus C. Brooks (found in Quest for Blackbeard: The True Story of Edward Thache and His World), narrated by Bristol born Kevin McNally - Joshamee Gibbs in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, and produced by Tom Ryan and Sheila Hannon this is a very different Blackbeard from the one in the story books...

Author Spotlight

#Blackbeard #pirate #twitterstorians


Three Centuries After His Beheading, a Kinder, Gentler Blackbeard Emerges - Smithsonian Online

“The real story of Blackbeard has gone untold for centuries,” says Baylus Brooks, a Florida-based maritime historian and genealogist.

 By Andrew Lawler
November 13, 2018

Please keep up with updates on my website at and at my Facebook pages: Baylus C. Brooks and Quest for Blackbeard.

Meanwhile, visit my Lulu page for already published material, including Quest for Blackbeard! You can also purchase the book at

Quest for Blackbeard is 15% OFF ALL PRINT FORMATS now at:


Jillian said...

The internet has made this such an exciting time for research. Thank you for all the work you've done and for all your generous transparency, making records available on your site, writing about them on your blog, etc. I'm currently reading Quest for Blackbeard and every few pages I think, "Finally!!!" Nothing makes me groan like reading a nonfiction book and then chasing up the footnotes to find information cited from the General History! When you slam Charles Johnson I want to snap my fingers like I'm listening to beat poetry. LOL. I really appreciate what you've done! Thank you!

Baylus C. Brooks said...

Wow! What can I say but thank you very much! Such high praise! My new book, "Sailing East," is even more anti-Johnson than Quest. Wait for the updated Kindle version if you get it, though. Truly, the work of Dr. Powell makes it purely obvious and essentially ridiculous to rely on "A General History" as actual history. And, these so-called "pirate historians" keep the records to themselves which keeps the mystery alive. That is why I'm transcribing all that I can. Dr. Powell's full summary is on the "pirate reference" section of my website. It's worth reading to get the full effect. It's also accessible from the link in this blog article. Thanks again, Jillian!