December 8, 2008

Pirates of the Carolinas

In the early 1700, the seaways islands and wharves of the Carolina coasts were the haunts of pirates.

Blackbeard (Edward Teach) terrorized the Carolina coast, and in 1718, part of his fleet, including his Queen Anne's Revenge flagship, was lost near Beaufort Inlet. In the 1990s, divers found wreckage of a ship many believe to be the Queen Anne's Revenge. Recovered weapons and tools are displayed at the N.C. Maritime Museum in Beaufort, N.C. (free; guided tour: $5; $2 kids; Beaufort will stage a Pirate Invasion & Encampment event Aug. 8-9 (800-575-7483).

Blackbeard had a base at Ocracoke, on Pamlico Sound (historical marker at Cedar Island ferry), and lived briefly in the N.C. colonial capital of Bath (historical marker). Ocracoke Village has a shop called Teach's Hole ( that sells pirate books, toys, flags and jewelry.

One legend says Blackbeard owned the Old Brick House, a private residence still standing near Elizabeth City. Another tale: He buried loot up the Pamlico River, on Goose Creek.

In late 1718, a fleet hunting for him ran aground in Ocracoke Inlet -- about a mile south of Ocracoke Village in what's now called Teach Hole Channel. Blackbeard came to do battle, but his side lost: Blackbeard was killed, and his severed head was hung from a mast (marker at Ocracoke ferry landing).

Captain Kidd is said to have buried treasure near Charleston. "The Gold Bug," the mystery tale by Edgar Allen Poe, concerns the hunt for Kidd's loot on Sullivans Island.

Stede Bonnet, the "Gentleman Pirate," was captured in 1719 near Southport, at what today is called Bonnet Creek. He was hanged in what is now Charleston's Battery area. (A marker about the execution site is near the corner of South Battery and East Battery).

Many pirates went to Charleston for supplies and to relax at places like Poinsett Tavern, which some say was on Elliott Street, near the north end of Rainbow Row.

One story says that old dice and a pirate's pipe (etched with a skull and crossbones) were dug out of a garden there in the 1940s or '50s.

Beaufort, S.C., was also a haven for cutthroats. The John Cross Tavern, now a restaurant, was originally (1710) an inn. On display: clay pipes and other colonial artifacts unearthed nearby. The old inn's upstairs is said to be haunted (812 Bay St.).

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