Friday, July 20, 2018

A Close Call

A brief account of the last days of Blackbeard's crew:

Blackbeard was defeated near Ocracoke Island, November 22, 1718 (old calendar), by Lt. Maynard and sailors of the Royal Navy. After his death (he was wounded 25 times with sword and pistol), Blackbeard's head was cut off and his body thrown overboard. At least eight pirates were killed in that final battle. Fourteen others were captured and taken to Williamsburg, Virginia, where they were tried for piracy. Samuel Odell, it was learned, had been captured by Blackbeard the day before the battle. Although Odell participated in the battle, it became clear that he was an unwilling participant, and he was acquitted. The other thirteen pirates were hanged.

Two of Captain Teach's officers, Israel Hands and William Howard, are not on the list of pirates killed or executed in Williamsburg. Why is that?

Israel Hands, one of Blackbeard's most loyal sailors, had left Blackbeard after the captain wounded him in the knee with a pistol shot (!). After Teach's death Hands was captured in Bath, North Carolina. He was tried for piracy in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1718. He was convicted, but later pardoned. When last heard of he was begging on the streets of London.

William Howard, Blackbeard's Quartermaster, also was not with his captain in the battle at Ocracoke Inlet. In the summer of 1718 Howard was apprehended in Virginia, and taken to the jail in Williamsburg as a vagrant pirate. In November he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged. In December, the day before his scheduled execution, a pardon arrived in Williamsburg. The pardon was executed by a commission in London, and offered amnesty for any piratical acts committed before July 23, 1718. As expected, William Howard was quick to accept the pardon! He was not heard from for many years. Forty-one years later a William Howard purchased Ocracoke Island. Most historians believe William Howard the pirate and William Howard of Ocracoke were the same person.  

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is a delightful story written by Dr. Warren Silverman, who in 1981 became the island's resident physician after forty years without a doctor. The story is about Dr. Silverman's very first Ocracoke patient, island native Maltby Bragg (1904-1985). You can read the story here:

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