Who was Blackbeard ?

Ian McShane of \"Deadwood\" fame plays the infamous pirate Blackbeard in "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

By Trent Toone - Deseret News

Audiences clamor to see "Pirates of the Caribbean 4" in theaters today, they will meet a well-known, notorious high-seas villain with a cold and fearsome demeanor, clad in heavy black leather and with a braided black beard.

His name is Blackbeard, and his infamous, legendary reputation precedes him, right ?

"He had a really good press agent," says Lawrence Babits, a distinguished academic who teaches in the Department of History and Maritime Studies at East Carolina University, the home of the Pirates.

"There is no evidence that he killed anybody until his final flight, when people were trying to kill him," he said. "You can create an image of terror and mayhem and everything, then people are liable to bend and let you have your way."

Apparently, Blackbeard is not who we thought he was.

Babits and his colleague, Charles Ewen, a professor of anthropology at ECU in Greenville, N.C., are among many who are excavating the shipwreck of the Queen Anne's Revenge, believed to be Blackbeard's flagship that ran aground in shallow water offshore North Carolina in the early 1700s.

Who was Blackbeard ?

"Nobody knows much about him," Babits said. "We don't even know what his real name is."

Here is what is known about the famed pirate, according to the experts.

His is commonly known as "Edward Teach" or "Thatch." He is reported to have served as a privateer during Queen Anne's War (1701-1714), then turned pirate.

Sometime in the fall of 1717, Blackbeard and other pirates captured a French slave ship called La Concorde. The slaves and crew were released on shore, and many believe this ship was remodeled with extra guns and renamed Queen Anne's Revenge. It may also be possible, Babits speculates, that this ship was traded for another one because of a foul-smelling stench.

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