Infamous Pirates of the North Carolina Coast

Infamous Pirates of the North Carolina Coast

Ocracoke Lighthouse

Pirates plundered the North Carolina shore from the Cape Fear to Currituck, but these five were the worst of the worst.

Edward Teach

Notoriety: Daring, crafty and frightful looking, his long black beard, which he twisted and tied into tails, gave him the name “Blackbeard.”

Key places: Beaufort, Bath, Ocracoke

His story: After serving as a privateer in Queen Anne’s War, he joined a pirate crew, capturing a French ship and renaming it Queen Anne’s Revenge. He blockaded Charleston, S.C.; marooned crewmen, ran the QAR aground in Beaufort Inlet and made off with the booty; held and infamous pirate party on Ocracoke; and had a home in Bath, where he hobnobbed with polite society.

His ending: In 1718, Teach opened fire on pirate hunter Capt. Robert Maynard and believed he’d won the battle. Once onboard Maynard’s ship, the pirates were overpowered by crewman hidden in the hold. Teach was killed after reportedly being shot five times and cut more than 20. Maynard displayed Teach’s head on the bowsprit of his boat.

Stede Bonnet

Notoriety: “The Gentleman Pirate” was born into wealth and owned a plantation on Barbados, but threw it away to become a pirate.

Key places: Cape Fear Inlet, Bath, Beaufort, Ocracoke

His story: Abandoning his life and family in 1717, Bonnet bought a sloop he named Revenge and joined Blackbeard’s pirate fleet, only to lose his command, crew and loot to the craftier corsair. After Blackbeard ran the QAR aground in Beaufort Inlet, Bonnet fled to Bath for a gubernatorial pardon, then he resupplied his ship, got a new crew and set out to exact revenge, sailing under the name Captain Thomas.

His ending: Anchored at Bonnet’s Creek on the Cape Fear Inlet, he was captured in September 1718 by Col. William Rhett to answer for his crimes in Charleston, S.C. There, he escaped, was recaptured and hanged.

Charles Vane

Notoriety: This skilled, cunning, cruel captain was known to cheat his men of their share of booty.

Key places: Ocracoke

His story: Known to torture the crews of captured ships, he seized the port of Nassau after rejecting a royal pardon, then shot at the new governor and escaped after an explosive sneak attack on the British Royal Navy. He joined Blackbeard at the Ocracoke Pirate Party and tried unsuccessfully to convince the pirate to help him retake Nassau. A few months later, he attacked a French warship, fled and was kicked off the ship in a mutiny.

His ending: After a hurricane ruined his fleet, he spent weeks marooned on an uninhabited island. A passing ship picked him up, recognized him as a pirate and turned him over to the authorities. He was hanged in 1721.

Jack Rackham

Notoriety: “Calico Jack,” so called for his colorful clothing, flew the famous Jolly Roger flag – a skull with two crossed swords – and counted Anne Bonny and Mary Read among his crew.

Key places: Ocracoke Inlet

His story: Rackham became captain of Charles Vane’s Ranger after the mutiny in New York. He was captured, but returned to piracy with Bonny, his lover, and Read as crewmembers.

His ending: In 1720, he and his crew were captured in Jamaica, with only Bonny and Read standing their ground. He was hanged Nov. 20 in Port Royal. Bonny said she was sorry to see him go, “But if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang’d like a Dog.” The executions of Bonny and Read were stayed because the women were pregnant. Read died in prison and Bonny’s fate is unknown.

William Kidd

Notoriety: One of the few pirates to actually bury treasure, he reportedly buried some on Money Island.

Key places: Money Island, near Wrightsville Beach

His story: After a successful career as a privateer, he married and settled down, but in 1699, he captured a ship and became a wanted pirate. After pirating across the globe, his crew deserted him in Madagascar. He sailed to the Caribbean and the North Carolina coast, reportedly burying treasure along the way.

His ending: One of his backers, Massachusetts governor Richard Coote, had him arrested and sent to England. He was convicted of piracy and murder and hanged in 1701.

Jason Frye

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