Saturday, December 15, 2018

Edward "Blackbeard" Thache Leaves the Slave Trade for the Royal Navy!

HMS Windsor pay record abbrev. for "Barbados Merchant"
Before Edward "Blackbeard" Thache signed as "able seaman" aboard HMS Windsor on April 12, 1706 during Queen Anne's War, he worked in the Atlantic slave trade. A note on his pay record indicated that he signed aboard from a slave trader - Joseph Bingham's 250-ton, 16-gun vessel Barbados Merchant. Merchant was then captained by John Deeble, of the Plymouth Deeble family. 

Thache was discharged by Deeble on the southern coast of England. Windsor was then anchored in St. Helens Bay on the Isle of Wight and how Thache and his fellow crew found their way home to Jamaica is an interesting tale!

The vessel's owner Joseph Bingham had tried 24 February 1706 to offer the Royal African Company (RAC) the use of his vessel . But, they refused and he then offered it to the Royal Navy as a war ship or privateer in the West Indies, who also refused. 

From T 70/2 about an earlier voyage for the RAC

As the record above revealed, B. Merchant had sailed for the RAC before, going to the Guinea Coast in 1704, but further voyages for the company in 1706 would require a refit, as the RAC was refining their trade by then. A number of RAC requirements necessitated B. Merchant's modification, notably a larger cargo space and a larger furnace to enable providing food for the African slaves. 

In the midst of these official refusals, in the early spring of 1706, Bingham had recalled Barbados Merchant from its final tour of duty in the hands of John Deeble, who had delivered slaves to Barbados from the African Coast, there picking up "381 brrl: 44 terce: 8 barr: Musco" or unrefined Muscavado Sugar (used to make rum) and "881 bags ginger." B. Merchant departed Barbados in September 1705, leaving no time for another voyage, which often required the most of year to complete. Therefore, we know that this voyage was the last for Deeble, Thache, and the crew. Deeble apparently discharged and dropped off some of his crew, including Edward Thache, at the port of St. Helens in late March/early April and offloaded his cargo at Plymouth by 21 April.

Barbados Shipping record for Barbados Merchantman in fall 1705
Barbados Merchant offloaded her cargo at her homeport of Plymouth through April and waited through May until... as luck would have it, by 20 June 1706, Bingham began negotiating with the RAC and England's Tresaury Department for a number of months to refit B. Merchant for service in the RAC.  

T 70/44 John Pery, RAC secretary letters to Joseph Bingham - 1706


Nigel Tattersfield, author of The Forgotten Trade: Comprising the Log of the Daniel and Henry of 1700 and Accounts of the Slave Trade From the Minor Ports of England 1698-1725, on pages 218-221, examined Treasury records concerning the negotiations between Bingham and the RAC for this vessel. Tattersfield first found according to his book that Bingham had offered "Barbados Merchantman," or just "Barbados Merchant" according to a majority of records, for another voyage following Deeble's last Barbados run (cApril-May 1706), when the RAC and Royal Navy had turned him down. However, trouble with the RAC's other vessels changed that verdict. 

Resolution, which had been chartered by the RAC, was chased and caught by the Royal Navy for an unstated transgression and was then diverted to Portsmouth and taken out of action. Her £2,775 worth of cargo was warehoused there. 

Furthermore, another ship chartered by the RAC at this time, Maurice and George, was to sail from London for Cape Coast Castle, to Whydah to pick up 600 slaves, but ran into a storm just off Spithead, England and foundered. Fortunately, her £3,672 worth of cargo was recovered, but the RAC had run out of options and began negotiations with Joseph Bingham of Plymouth for Barbados Merchant. At any rate, changes would still be required, including "a Negro furnace, shackles and a mill for grinding corn" and later, "deal platforms, shackles, bolts, firewood and a separate cabin big enough to stow about a ton of horse beans," which would require months in a dockyard.. Bingham had sent his vessel to be refit at HM Naval Base Portsmouth for that purpose.

What happened to the ship's captain and crew?  Deeble intended to return to his home at Plymouth and Thache and others needed a ride back to the West Indies, so Deeble dropped them off at St. Helens at the Isle of Wight once their convoy returned from the West Indies to Spithead. There, they found HMS Windsor riding at anchor, loading fresh water, iron hoops, and beer. They also took on new crew from other vessels... like Barbados Merchant!

In January 1706, HMS Windsor had left the Downs at the eastern end of Southern England and docked at nearby Plymouth, anchoring in the Hamoaze. Then she sailed to Portsmouth in February, then crossed the "Solent" or a small channel of water separating the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth off the English shores, to the port of St. Helens at the Isle of Wight by mid-February. Windsor, whose orders were to make immediately for Thache's home of Jamaica in May, loaded provisions at that port throughout the months of February to April. Thache and his fellow crew from Barbados Merchant probably signed on with Windsor's crew to obtain passage home. Windsor's log mentioned many merchant vessels that arrived with the warships of the navy.

From March 27 to April 14, 1706, five men signed aboard Windsor, all of whom are probably former crewmen of Barbados Merchant: Edward "Thatch," Arron Huggins, Samuel Gaine, Henry Nellson, and William Horn. All of these men were paid together, with "Thatch" owing four times more rent than the others for his "chest allowance" - in other words, he possessed more goods than the others (Angus Konstam suggested at ECU a couple of weeks ago that many "gentlemen" enlisted in this fashion). This ended Thache's career as a slave trader... but he found a new profession in the Royal Navy!

At least three of these crewmen were discharged in or near Jamaica and Thache, himself, received "preferment" or promotion, remaining to serve his nation in the war with Spain and France. Pair this duty-bound behavior with another suggested by a deed to his family, late in 1706, where he gave his inheritance to his family to help them live while he coursed the seas in the Royal Navy!

ADM 33/267 HMS Windsor Pay Records showing Edward "Thatch"

By 1713, Queen Anne's War ended and Thache's naval service with it...

It's likely that the "Kinder, Gentler Blackbeard" war-veteran Edward Thache remained a merchant after Queen Anne's War, from 1713-on. He apparently had been seen in Philadelphia as a "mate" on a Jamaican ship about 1715. And, then, by 1716, he had become a pirate, taking (with Benjamin Hornigold) Henry Timberlake's vessel Lamb in August of that year.

Edward Thache's "higher social status" has drawn much recent attention during the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard the Pirate's death in Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. Several interviews have taken place - one from Bristol, England - and The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke author Andrew Lawler has recently penned an article for Smithsonian magazine detailing this "Kinder, Gentler Blackbeard."

Some authors hold out on this theory, as Lawler tells, but professional historians, archaeologists, and "other scholars find Brooks’ case compelling."


Note: the earlier version of this article referred to the vessel as Barbados Merchantman, but after careful review of the primary sources, it appears that she was actually called Barbados Merchant. This article has been changed to reflect that. Nigel Tattersfield was simply mistaken. 12-15-2018


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, 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...

You can hear it at

Author Spotlight

#Blackbeard #pirate #twitterstorians


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

By Andrew Lawler
November 13, 2018 about the final end of Edward Thache:
Murder at Ocracoke! Power and Profit in the Killing of Edward "Blackbeard" Thache

In commemoration of "Blackbeard 300 Tri-Centennial":

As always, drop by and check out the primary source transcriptions av

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