Monday, November 23, 2015

The Downfall of Piracy

On November 22, 1718, Oracoke's most notorious part-time resident was killed just off of Springer's Point.

On hearing the news, 12 year old Benjamin Franklin composed a "broadside ballad" commemorating the event. The title of his poem is "The Taking of Teach the Pirate" or "The Downfall of Piracy; being a full and true Account of a desperate and bloody Sea-fight between Lieutenant Maynard, and that noted Pirate Captain Teach, commonly call'd by the Name of Blackbeard; Maynard had fifty Men, thirty five of which were kill'd and wounded in the Action: Teach had twenty one, most of which were kill'd, and the rest carried to Virginia, in order to take their Tryal."

Following is Franklin's ballad, designed to be sung to the tune of "What is greater Joy and Pleasure."

Will you hear of a bloody Battle,
Lately fought upon the Seas,
It will make your Ears to rattle,
And your Admiration cease;
Have you heard of Teach the Rover,
And his Knavery on the Main;
How of Gold he was a Lover,
How he lov'd all ill got Gain.

When the Act of Grace appeared,
Captain Teach with all his Men,
Unto Carolina steered,
Where they kindly us'd him then;
There he marry'd to a Lady,
And gave her five hundred Pound,
But to her he prov'd unsteady,
For he soon march'd of[f] the Ground.

And returned, as I tell you,
To his Robbery as before,
Burning, sinking Ships of value,
Filling them with Purple Gore;
When he was at Carolina,
There the Governor did send,
To the Governor of Virginia,
That he might assistance lend.

Then the Man of War's Commander,
Two small Sloops he fitted out,
Fifty Men he put on board, Sir,
Who resolv'd to stand it out:
The Lieutenant he commanded
Both the Sloops, and you shall hear,
How before he landed,
He suppress'd them without Fear.

Valiant Maynard as he sailed,
Soon the Pirate did espy,
With his Trumpet he then hailed,
And to him they did reply:
Captain Teach is our Commander,
Maynard said, he is the Man,
Whom I am resolv'd to hang Sir,
Let him do the best he can.

Teach reply'd unto Maynard,
You no Quarters here shall see,
But be hang'd on the Main-yard,
You and all your Company;
Maynard said, I none desire,
Of such Knaves as thee and thine,
None I'll give, Teach then replyed,
My Boys, give me a Glass of Wine.

He took the Glass, and drank Damnation,
Unto Maynard and his Crew;
To himself and Generation,
Then the Glass away he threw;
Brave Maynard was resolv'd to have him,
Tho' he'd Cannons nine or ten:
Teach a broadside quickly gave him,
Killing sixteen valiant Men.

Maynard boarded him, and to it
They fell with Sword and Pistol too;
They had Courage, and did show it,
Killing the Pirate's Crew.
Teach and Maynard on the Quarter,
Fought it out most manfully,
Maynard's Sword did cut him shorter,
Losing his Head, he there did die.

Every Sailor fought while he Sir,
Power had to weild [sic] the Sword,
Not a Coward could you see Sir,
Fear was driven from aboard:
Wounded Men on both Sides fell Sir,
'Twas a doleful Sight to see,
Nothing could their Courage quell Sir,
O, they fought courageously.

When the bloody Fight was over,
We're inform'd by a Letter writ,
Teach's Head was made a Cover,
To the Jack Staff of the Ship:
Thus they sailed to Virginia,
And when they the Story told,
How they kill'd the Pirates many,
They'd Applause from young and old.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Capt. Horatio Williams and his schooner Paragon. You can read the story here:


  1. Anonymous8:57 AM

    My Goodness. I do not know of the tune but sometimes the words and meter lend themselves to improvising a new melody perhaps. TWELVE years old!! this pre teen was talented. This is an example of what a child prodigy he was. Well John Adams Jr was fluent in French and at the age of 14 he went to Russia and helped with a diplomatic mission to call on Catherine the Great of Russia. Yes, they were children of wealthy connected prosperous aristocrats educated by private tutors and were made aware at an early age of their personal responsibility to their family, and country . We had a strong foundation back then but now the winds of change have shifted. When will the young people wake up to the fact that they need to frame the discussion on important topics-- the next president ill no doubt choose a few Supreme Court Justices or two. It is not all about the bass.

  2. Anonymous6:14 PM

    Anon 8:57 you said it. Find me one 12 year old, one 25 year old that could turn out something like young Franklin did. America was in good hands back then which is why it turned out so special. Thank you Philip.