Longtime readers of this column know that I usually wait until the end of the story to reveal the subject's full name. These stories also are usually about American subjects.
We don't have to wait until the end of the story this time because you know this subject by his nickname. His real name was Edward Teach, and he is also a character in a major movie that is currently playing in theaters. He lived from 1680 until he was defeated by the British navy in 1718. His birthplace is unknown, but it is believed that he was born in England, Jamaica or Philadelphia. That certainly narrows it down.
While he may not have been an American subject, most of his, uh, "customers" were. Teach was a pirate, and like a lot of pirates, he had a short career -- less than three years.
Early in his career, Teach served on a British privateer in the Caribbean. A privateer was a privately owned ship hired by the government -- in this case, the British government -- to attack enemy ships during wartime. Queen Anne allowed Teach to attack and steal from French and Spanish ships and keep the goods for himself. When he eventually ran his own pirate ship (which he stole himself), he named it Queen Anne's Revenge.
Pirates would sometimes determine a ship's nationality before attacking it. They would raise that country's flag so as to appear friendly and then replace it with their own pirate flag before attacking the unsuspecting victims.
Teach had one of the most vicious reputations of any pirate in history. He used this reputation, instead of force, to steal his bounty. He was so feared that people would often allow him to steal their valuables in return for their own safety as soon as they saw him coming. As part of his method of intimidation, he carried two swords in his waist, in addition to carrying numerous guns and knives on his body.
He would also light wicks laced with gunpowder and stick them in his black hair. He had a dark beard that covered most of his face. Despite his dark and evil demeanor, there is no record of him ever having killed anyone who wasn't trying to kill him first.
He is known by his nickname. As you probably remember in Piracy 101 in high school, many of the most notorious pirates had nicknames. Black Bart was the nickname of Bartholomew Roberts, while Captain Kidd was the nickname of, well, Captain William Kidd.
Despite Teach's reputation for ruthlessness, he captured "only" 45 ships in his seafaring career. By comparison, Black Bart captured more than 470 ships in his heyday.
Despite his short career, the pirate with the dark beard and black hair is one of the most well-known pirates of all time. You remember him as Blackbeard.
There is one other thing – besides a clever nickname – that Blackbeard had in common with Black Bart. His character is portrayed in the current Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
Black Bart, by the way, was the inspiration for Johnny Depp's leading character of Jack Sparrow in the series.