Shave the Knave

Wherein illustrator Sterling Hundley recalls Blackbeard’s famous final fracas.

Nearly 300 years have clouded the line between the legend and the man behind the beard, Edward Teach. But this much is known: No man or beast, no siren or kraken, sparked greater terror in the coastal waters of the mid-Atlantic in the early 1700s than did Blackbeard the pirate.

     As customary in legend, it would take the hand of one sturdy soul to sever the myth from the man. Lt. Robert Maynard was commissioned by Gov. Alexander Spotswood of Virginia to capture and kill the brazen raider. Maynard took two sloops to the coastal waters of North Carolina to engage the pirate. After one was destroyed, Maynard’s outgunned Ranger squared off against Blackbeard’s Adventure. Following a violent volley of cannon and musket, Blackbeard’s crew took Maynard’s for dead and boarded the pursuer’s ship. They’d been tricked: Maynard’s men, hiding belowdecks, clambered up and overwhelmed the pirates.

     Hero and villain met face-to-face. Maynard, his sword broken at the hilt from an errant blow, pulled his pistol and fired at Blackbeard. Wounded, Blackbeard readied to strike back. Maynard’s first mate intervened and slashed the pirate, the telling blow. After five shots and 20 more slashes, Blackbeard’s head fell from his body. The grisly trophy was hung from the bowsprit of the Ranger as a warning: No scoundrel is safe from the blade of the just.

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