The so-called 'Golden Age' of Piracy was actually a very short burst of lawlessness that followed the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. This peace left a horde of unemployed privateers scattered around the oceans, and in particular off the American coast and in the Caribbean. Many of these men simply became pirates, continuing their old lifestyle but without their previous legal protection. A series of famous pirate leaders emerged from this period, and Blackbeard was probably the most famous of them all. Despite his fame Blackbeard's piratical career was surprisingly short. He probably emerged as a leader in 1716, and was dead two years later, and gained most of his fame from a single cruise late in 1717. During this raid he blockaded Charleston, a direct threat to the fragile economy of the American colonies. Blackbeard (real name Edward Teach) then appeared to accept a pardon from the British government in return for abandoning piracy, but in reality continued to operate, this time with some protection from the governor of North Carolina.
This book focuses on the raid that ended Blackbeard's career. The driving force behind the raid was Alexander Spotswood, acting governor of Virginia. He didn't believe that Blackbeard had genuinely retired, and mounted a combined land and sea assault on his base in North Carolina in order to capture and kill the pirate. The key encounter of this raid was a short battle between Blackbeard's ship the Alexander and two small unarmed ships, the Ranger and the Jane, both crewed by Royal Naval personnel. This was a very small scale fight, involving three small ships and fewer than one hundred men in total. This small scale allows Konstam to produce a detailed examination of the raid as well as a useful introduction to the piracy of the period all within his eighty pages. The text is supported by a good selection of contemporary illustrations and maps (showing how quickly Blackbeard's image had stabilised), as well as the normal high quality Osprey illustrations and modern photographs showing the area where the fighting took place.
This is an entertaining and well written look at a crucial clash in the British Government's campaign against piracy in the 1710s, as well as an interesting slice of life in the American colonies.
Aftermath and Analysis
Author: Angus Konstam