Tuesday, March 14, 2017


In his 1974 book, Blackbeard the Pirate, A Reappraisal of His Life and Times, Dean and Professor of Law Emeritus at Wake Forest University, Robert E. Lee, writes that "[e]ach pirate was expected to furnish his own cutlass and pistols, the latter thrust in a sling of leather or ribbon across the chest...[and] the cutlass swung from a belt at the hip."

Lee continues by quoting George Woodbury, author of The Great Days of Piracy in the West Indies, explaining that the cutlass had its origin in "the medieval curtal axe [the word is derived by folk etymology from earlier coutelace, curtelace, cutlass, from Old French coutelas], a short, wide-bladed weapon more like a cleaver than either axe or sword. It had gradually evolved from this into a yard-long, wide-bladed sword, slightly curved like a saber, but a good deal heavier. A rounded brass guard...protected the hand and wrist."

Cutlass, ca. 1812: Photo by Rama

Lee points out that Blackbeard was a "strong advocate of the use of the cutlass on the high seas" and "had taught his pirates how to manipulate this weapon, lethal when used with skill and brutal strength. Wild;y swinging pirate cutlasses were a fearful thing to behold; few sailors on merchant ships failed to surrender within minutes of exposure to the sight."

 More about the origin of the word "cutlass": Wikipedia explains that "[t]he word cutlass developed from a 17th-century English variation of coutelas, a 16th-century French word for a machete-like blade (the modern French for 'knife', in general, is 'couteau'; the word was often spelled cuttoe' in 17th and 18th century English). The French word is itself a corruption of the Italian coltellaccio, or 'large knife', a short, broad-bladed sabre popular in Italy during the 16th century. The word comes from coltello, knife', derived ultimately from Latin cultellus meaning 'small knife.'"

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of the Electrification of Ocracoke Island. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news022117.htm.  

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous7:55 AM

    Blackbeard certainly was not a customer of the store Knives swords and Beyond. He probably stole his weapons from someone or perhaps had one made by who? During his day what country/ city was the supplier of such lethal blades - Damascus?