Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Kinder Side of Blackbeard

Edward Teach Commonly Call'd Black Beard (bw).jpg

I have always liked the books and short stories detailing the adventures of Captain Blood, a creation from the fertile mind of Rafael Sabatini (there was one novel, and various short stories that were collected into additional books). Captain Blood was a gentleman trained as a doctor that leaves England for adventure, serving as a mercenary, who then decides to return to a quiet life as a practicing physician. However, the novel begins with the intervention of fate, which eventually lands him in the Caribbean as a slave. He and some compatriots escape, and he takes up the life of piracy--yet still a gentleman and talented doctor.

Many of the exploits described in the novel were obviously taken from the life of Henry Morgan. Blood was even portrayed as a Welshman, just as Morgan was. But perhaps the doctor portion was based on another famous pirate: Edward Teach (aka "Blackbeard").

The Daily Mail reports on the recovery of a substantial number of medical artifacts from Teach's ship, the Queen Ann's Revenge. From the article:
The wreckage of the Queen Anne's Revenge was discovered in 1996 on a sandbar in Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, where Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach, ran it aground in 1718. 
Since then archaeologists working on the Queen Anne's Revenge project have recovered cannons, glass beads, coins, pottery and gold dust from the remains of the vessel that have provided a glimpse of the pirates' lifestyle. 
But among the wreckage they have also found a number of items that would have been used for medical care, including a syringe, a blood porringer, an apothecary's weight set, along with a mortar and pestle. 
Archaeologists who have been studying the artifacts say that they suggest Blackbeard made great efforts to keep his crew healthy. 
It is a image that contrasts greatly with the pirate captain's ruthless and ferocious reputation. 
The English pirate had a fearsome appearance, tying his thick black beard into pigtails, stringing weapons from slings around his shoulders and sticking lighted matches under his hat when he went into battle. 
He also had a reputation for marooning members of his crew and enforcing strict discipline on board his ships.  
Linda Carnes-McNaughton, an archaeologist with the Department of the Army at the Directorate of Public Works in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said: 'Treating the sick and injured of a sea-bound community on shipboard was challenging in the best of times.
'Chronic and periodic illnesses, wounds, amputations, toothaches, burns and other indescribable maladies of the crew, captain, and enslaved cargo had to be treated.'
She added that maintaining his crew's health was so important to Blackbeard that when he turned the captured French slaver ship La Concorde into the Queen Anne's Revenge, he released most of the original crew but forced the three ship's surgeons to stay. 
... there is also evidence from records at the time that Blackbeard would trade hostages for medical supplies. 
in 1718, for example, he blockaded the port of Charleston, South Carolina, capturing the ships that tried to enter. 
While parleying with the governor of South Carolina, Blackbeard demanded a chest of medicine or he would murder all their prisoners. The governor complied an the prisoners were released.

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