Blackbeard Quick Fact #5: Blockade of Charleston, SC

In the days leading up to the release of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure (April 28,2016 – Franklin/Kerr Press), I will give my readers–or anyone with interest in the legendary pirate–some notes I took as part of my research for the novel.

These notes will lay the background for Blackbeard, many of which did not make it into the novel. For the items that made it into the novel, don’t worry, there will be no spoilers. You can read all the facts here. 

In this post, I tell you about one event for which Blackbeard became famous for.

Blackbeard Quick Fact #5

In May of 1718 after spending the winter in the Caribbean, Blackbeard took his flotilla to Charleston, SC, and blocked the harbor for five or six days. His vessels would attack any ship trying to come in or leave. He effectively shut down commerce to one of the biggest ports in Colonial America.

The reason? Apparently, during their reign of terror the previous winter, they brought some gifts with them back to America: syphilis.

Blackbeard demanded medical supplies be brought to his ship to treat the STD. After several days, he received what he needed and left.

During the excavation of Blackbeard’s flagship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, off the coast of North Carolina, archaeologists recovered ‘medical tools’ from the wreckage.  For a man, these tools are very cringe-worthy.

Get your copy of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited here!

Blackbeard Quick Fact #4: The truth about Pirate Speak with book excerpt!

In the days leading up to the release of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure (April 28,2016 – Franklin/Kerr Press), I will give my readers–or anyone with interest in the legendary pirate–some notes I took as part of my research for the novel.

These notes will lay the background for Blackbeard, many of which did not make it into the novel. For the items that did make it into the novel, don’t worry, there will be no spoilers. You can read all the facts here. 

With this post, I give you my first excerpt from the novel. Here, the two protagonists, Darwin and Lucas, are speaking to Hugo Riddick for the first time. He is a pirate impersonator who possesses a wealth of knowledge about Blackbeard. Darwin and Lucas will soon learn there is more to him than meets the eye.

Here, Riddick tells you the truth about “Pirate Speak.”

Quick Fact #4

“So, do you add in phrases such as walk the plank, yaargh, keel haul, shiver me timbers and other pirate lingo?” Darwin asked.

Riddick waived his hand dismissively. “No, pirates didn’t talk like that.”

“They didn’t?” Darwin said.

“No,” Riddick said. “Those are nothing more than a theatrical construct. There was a movie in the early fifties called Blackbeard the Pirate. An actor by the name of Robert Newton portrayed Blackbeard in that movie. He added the pirate speak to make his character more endearing and stand out.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, other writers, actors and impersonators saw how well that came across, and it didn’t take long for “pirate talk” to be adopted everywhere. I try to be as accurate as I can, and therefore abstain from the use of it. I want for the people who see when I make appearances to get a performance as close to the real Blackbeard as I can.”

“So, in your own way, while you’re there to entertain, you’re also trying to educate at the same time?” Lucas asked.

Hugo made another salute with his now near empty bottle of beer. “Exactly. I feel as though I’d be doing a disservice otherwise. Been doing it ever since.”

Get your copy of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited here!

Blackbeard Quick Fact #3 – Fun with hemp

In the days leading up to the release of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure (April 28,2016 – Franklin/Kerr Press), I will give my readers–or anyone with interest in the legendary pirate–some notes I took as part of my research for the novel.

These notes will lay the background for Blackbeard, many of which did not make it into the novel. For the items that did make it into the novel, don’t worry, there will be no spoilers. You can read all of the facts here. 

In Fact #2, I told you how Blackbeard used intimidation and fear in his rise to prominence rather than violence. He used his size, beard, and even his pirate flag to get his way on the open seas.

Blackbeard Fact #3

Another method Blackbeard used was the use of theatrics. He knew that he only had one chance to make a first impression, and when seafarers caught site of him, he wanted them to believe that he was a demonic figure.

During the early 1700s, cannons used hemp fuses. Blackbeard would cut these fuses into smaller strips and tuck them into his hat and light them. This would cause a thick black cloud of smoke and flames to cover his face.

If you add that to his giant figure (for that day), that his body would be loaded with pistols and knives, and laughing like the evil maniac he was, the sight of him would no doubt cause his enemies to tremble in fear.

Get your copy of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited here!

Blackbeard Quick Fact #2 – The Body Count

In the days leading up to the release of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure (April 28,2016 – Franklin/Kerr Press), I will give my readers–or anyone with interest in the legendary pirate–some notes I took as part of my research for the novel.

These notes will lay the background for Blackbeard, many of which did not make it into the novel. For the items that did make it into the novel, don’t worry, there will be no spoilers. You can read all of the facts here. 

Here now is the second fact about Blackbeard, and this one really surprised me.

Blackbeard Fact #2

On movie and television screens, when you see pirates take to battle, it conjures images of bloody brawls, cannon fire, swords slashing, and flintlock pistols blasting. Going into this, I always believed that since Blackbeard is the most notorious of them all, that he would have had his share of fighting and had killed many sailors in hand to hand combat and made others “walk the plank”.

Did you know that until the battle near Ocracoke Island in 1718 that cost him his life, there is no evidence that he killed anyone?

So how did he rise to his level of prominence in the pirate world?

Fear and intimidation is the answer.

He was already considered a giant in his day. He stood more than a foot above the average sized men of his day. Then, he grew his signature, glorious beard that would make the lumberjacks of today jealous.

The imagery on his personal pirate flag–which you will see in the novel–struck fear into the hearts of seafarers upon seeing it.

He also did something else. Perhaps the most surprising to instill fear.

That will be my next Blackbeard Fact.

Get your copy of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited here!

Blackbeard Quick Fact #1: What is Blackbeard’s real name?

In the days leading up to the release of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure (April 28,2016 – Franklin/Kerr Press), I will give my readers–or anyone with interest in the legendary pirate–some notes I took as part of my research for the novel.

These notes will lay the background for Blackbeard, many of which did not make it into the novel. For the items that did make it into the novel, don’t worry, there will be no spoilers.

Much of the history of Blackbeard is shrouded in time and has had to be pieced together largely from second- and third-hand accounts. So for many items (year of birth, place of birth, his real name, etc.) are believed to be true by scholars. These are what I will present to you in this series.

Here is the first.

Blackbeard Quick Fact #1

Blackbeard’s actual name is believed to be Edward Teach (or Thatch). Many feel he was born in the busy port of Bristol, England around 1680. Bristol was the second-largest city in England at the time, thriving as a depot in the slave trade.

Get your copy of Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited here!

Deleted Scene from Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure

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In April 2016, Blackbeard’s Lost Treasure, published by Black Rose Writing, was released.  (Order your copy in paperback or on Kindle here)

After nearly two and a half years of writing, planning and researching, the final product (at least until their editors sink their collective teeth into it) is complete. Before I sent the book out to a few readers and agents (guinea pigs?) for their critiques, the rough draft stood at nearly 93,000 words.

After receiving feedback, several chapters and sections were either removed, abbreviated or made to fit within other parts of the novel. The final draft I sent in was just north of 87,000 words. Six thousand or so were removed, but none bigger than the following deleted scene.

What follows was my original opening chapter of  the novel. It was lifted from the second draft, so it does lack some polish. In it, I tell readers what event kicked off the Golden Age of Piracy. This is where the vast amount of treasure (gold, silver, jewels) that drove piracy during the early 1700’s. In my book, the events described in this scene is what leads to Blackbeard receiving his Lost Treasure.

The novel is an action/adventure set in modern times. Two friends discover a treasure map buried away in a museum that leads them on a journey that could change their lives . . . or lead to their deaths. Read the book’s full description here. 

Here now is the deleted scene. Enjoy!


 

July 24, 1715 – Havana Harbor, Cuba 

 

Captain-General Don Antonio De Escheverz y Zubziza took a step forward on the deck of the flagship of the Squadron of Tierra Firma and New Spain Flotas, the Capitana, and squinted into the midday sun on a perfect summer day. He brushed a lock of hair aside on his forehead blown astray by the gentle tropical breeze that smelled both salty and sweet.

Scattered, puffy, white cumulus clouds drifted by overhead, letting the sun’s rays dance gracefully across the sea’s surface. The temperature and humidity that normally stifled the crew this time of summer felt cooler to the skin. The breeze would be just enough to propel their sails forward at an acceptable pace without making the waters choppy.

They could not have asked for a better day to set sail.

For two-hundred and fifty years, the Spanish Treasure Fleet took rich cargoes of silver, gold, jewels and other valuable relics to the monarchs presiding over the people of Spain.

Although Columbus failed to complete his initial quest, the commission from Ferdinand and Isabella to aid Columbus on his mission to discover a shorter route to the Indies paid tremendous dividends and then some for two and a half centuries for Spain. That is, until war broke out with England, bringing the treasure fleet movements to a halt.

The war and super-inflation in Europe brought forth by the wealth flowing in, not only from the Americas, but Southeast Asia as well, lessened the grip Spain held as the wealthiest nation in the world at the time. The wealth accumulated by Spain over the last two-hundred years dwindled away without the regular shipments from the treasure fleets. With a series of treaties known as the Peace of Utrecht signed, Ubilla did not have to fear attack by British ships. He and his crews still needed to be watchful for pirates, who had become more prevalent across the globe in recent years.

The fleets crossed the oceans twice a year since 1566, less than one-hundred years after Columbus first set foot in the Caribbean. The amount of treasure loaded aboard each of the twelve ships today were among the most ever in any trip, including over seven million silver coins alone. King Philip V would be most pleased, and relieved.

The eleven ships that made up the two arms of the Spanish Treasure Fleet sat in Havana Harbor for almost two years while Spain and England skirmished in the War of Succession. During peaceful times, one of the fleets would be in transit from South America to Spain to deliver treasure captured or mined in the New World throughout the year. During war, Spain found it too risky to dispatch either fleet.

It was vital that Zubziza lead this fleet back to the homeland safely. The eleven ships were accompanied by one fifth-rate French ship, making a total of twelve who were about to embark on this voyage.

The costs of war wore heavily on Spain, and the twelve pregnant treasure ships were loaded primarily with twenty pound silver ingots minted in Peru and, to a lesser extent, Mexico. While silver was the main cargo, an abundance of gold and jewels made up the rest of the bounty.

Zubziza normally headed the Squadron of Tierra Firma, while Captain-General Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla commanded the New Spain Fleet. For the purposes of this voyage, Zubziza would be the man responsible, using the Capitana as the flagship. At other times, this ship was the flagship of the New Spain Fleet under Ubilla.

Zubziza looked over at Ubilla standing loyally to his left. When the king had sent word that Zubziza was to have the ultimate command of the two flotillas for this journey, Ubilla did not question the orders, and did not utter a contentious word about someone else commanding his own vessel. Zubziza respected the man for that. He did not know if he could have held the same demeanor if the roles were reversed.

He took a deep breath before giving an order he had not given in almost two years. “You may cast off Capitan Ubilla.”

Zubziza smiled as Ubilla acknowledged and then departed his side to carry out his orders.

The fleet began moving, cutting through the calm waters, past Morro Castle, which stood like a silent sentinel to their right, overlooking the port of Havana. Once past, the fleet raised their sails, and glided to the northeast, into the Florida Straits.

And into history.

 *

   The first five days of the voyage were uneventful. The fleet sailed along the Florida Straits, staying far enough offshore to take advantage of the Gulf Stream flowing north and eventually back to Europe. They strayed far enough away from the coast to avoid the treacherous shoals and reefs fringing the Florida coast and were close to the point where the Gulf Stream would take them away from the shores of Florida and into open waters.

The weather cooperated until the 29th. The crews awoke to perfect clear skies and calm seas. By afternoon, the swells became larger, coming in from the southeast. Ominous purple fingers of clouds slashed across the otherwise azure skies over the cays of the Bahamas. The humidity thickened, making the atmosphere stickier than normal. The breeze increased, and with the combination of the ever increasing swells, the ships began to dip and roll.

Zubziza became concerned. He hoped to have calm seas all the way back to Spain, but was experienced enough to know there would always be a portion of every journey where you feared for the safety of your ship and crew. He knew and had met many ship captains and seamen dimly lit bars and pubs across Europe and this New World who passed harrowing tales of near death encounters at sea. Some were witness to mutiny’s, murders and disease. All had been through a stretch of foul weather and sudden storms that had either put them in danger or capsized their ships.

It came with the job, and Zubziza hoped that this would be a brief squall that would blow over and wreak havoc for a short time before blowing through. His instinct told him a different story. He had been through his fair share of foul weather. Even at this distance, he could see rapid movement in how the clouds moved across the horizon and inching ever closer, that this was no little storm.

His men saw this as well. After belaying Zubziza’s orders to batten down the hatches to the rest of the crew and to spread the message to the rest of the fleet, Ubilla returned to Zubziza’s side on the bridge and they both regarded the coming storm in the distance.

“What do you think?” Zubziza asked his longtime friend. “That doesn’t look like small storm to me.”

Ubilla shook his head and told a story Captain Zubziza had heard many times. “I was aboard a galleon named Hercules on the way to Jamaica to deliver a load of slaves in 1705. We were south of Savannah on a Wednesday afternoon much as this when a hurricane,” he pointed to the storm clouds on the horizon, “that looked much like this hit.”

“The largest swell I had ever seen—it had to have been thirty feet tall—in my twenty years at sea struck us, capsizing our ship.” Ubilla swept his gaze from the ocean to the aged wooden deck as the memory struck him. “Only myself and a couple negroes survived. We latched on to a chunk of the mast floating in nearby and floated for a day at sea before catching sight of the Kingston along the coast. It was a miracle we made it.”

Zubziza placed a consoling hand on his comrade’s shoulder. Ubilla looked his captain in the eye. “This looks worse.”

The normally stoic Zubziza felt a lump form in his throat as he regarded the now choppy surf and ominous skies off to their starboard bow.

The crews of the fleet spent the afternoon preparing for the storm. The sails were taken down from the masts and rolled as tight as the Cuban cigars they left behind. Everything below decks was made as secure as possible with particular attention made to the crates and boxes of treasure.

Ingots of some of the purest silver ever produced, mostly from Peru, emeralds from Columbia, gold from Venezuela and pearls from Ecuador were stored in small, wooden boxes measuring eight inches high by ten inches wide and fifteen inches long and stacked on pallets five high, five wide and five deep or one-hundred and twenty-five boxes per pallet. Each box was weighed, numbered and catalogued so when the fleet reached shore, it would be a simple matter to distribute the treasure to the rightful owners.

While a fifth of the treasure filling every one of the twelve vessels would go to the Spanish crown as a tax, most of the treasure represented private wealth accumulated by people who made their wealth in the New World and now planned to return to Spain.

By noon, the fleet was struck with a howling squall from the east. Before the storm hit, the ships were in a neat, organized formation, making it easy to optimize cruising speeds. It didn’t take long before the fleet was pushed closer to shore . . . and the dangerous shallow reefs.

The crews braced for the conditions to worsen. All of their preparations could not prepare them for the coming tempest. The winds grew to gale force and beyond. By midnight, the hurricane grew to a crescendo, dashing the ships against the rocky shores.

When morning broke over the now calm waters of the Florida coast, the full scale of the disaster was known. Of the twelve ships that left port in Cuba a week earlier, one remained: the French ship named Grifon, which limped back to Cuba to spread word of the catastrophe.

Neither Captain-General Don Antonio De Escheverz y Zubziza nor Captain-General Don Juan Esteban de Ubilla were seen again.

In short order, the Spanish sent out crews to recover what they could of the treasure at the bottom of the sea. When they reached the area of the wrecks, they found, to their absolute surprise, that nearly fifteen hundred sailors survived and had made it to shore. Some made it as far as St. Augustine, one-hundred twenty miles to the north.

Cuban governor Corioles dispatched a massive salvage expedition, complete with native divers, Spanish divers with diving bells and soldiers to guard the recovered riches. By the end of the year, most of the silver had been recovered. But the word was out: silver, gold and jewels were out there, and many privateers turned to piracy to fill their holds.

Like sharks sniffing blood, gold and silver were in the water, and it was fair game.

Thus began the Golden Age of Piracy. Treasure fever swept the Caribbean. For almost two years, as salvage operations were carried out, the Atlantic—from Virginia to the Bahamas—was a dangerous place for anyone who sailed those waters.

In November of 1715 as England began a flurry of operations to recover the sunken treasure, one privateer turned cutthroat pirate, Benjamin Hornigold arrived on New Providence in the Bahamas with about seventy-five men and three vessels at his disposal. As men descended upon the island to cast their lot into the treasure salvage fray, Hornigold’s pirate army swelled with enough bodies to start a full-scale war over any opposers.

The Bahamas became a pirate haven, some twenty pirate captains rose to prominence during the time. Two of the most feared and powerful among the original twenty were Henry Jennings and Hornigold. Others who served under these original captains would make names for themselves after their leader captured other ships and promoted someone to captain that new vessel.

A veritable spider web of famous pirates was woven in this way. Many of these big names worked together for a time before going separate ways. Bartholomew Roberts—known as “Black Bart”—Stede Bonnet, Calico Jack Rackam and Charles Vane all stabbed fear into the hearts of innocent seamen trying to transport silver, gold, sugar, flour and that magical elixir, rum over troubled waters.

In the summer of 1716, an ambitious, experienced and—a rarity at the time—educated man joined Hornigold’s stable of recruits from Bristol, England. The man cast an intimidating figure, even for pirates, He possessed a certain charm that permitted him to rise quickly through the ranks during that fall and winter. His charisma and Machiavellian intelligence allowed him to capture the loyalty of his men. He was broad shouldered and stood a head taller than most men of the period.

His most striking feature, however, was one that would cast him as one of the most intimidating figures in history: a long, flowing black beard.

And Captain Hornigold has just given him command of his first ship…