Pirates in the Charleston Harbor

Pirates in the Charleston Harbor

Charleston was a very important seaside city in the early 1700s, with many merchant ships coming in and out of our harbor. But these ships, which carried valuable trading commodities along with gold and silver, attracted pirates. Many pirates sailed the coast of South Carolina, including Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, and Blackbeard, searching for merchant ships to plunder. Below, are some of our favorite pirate stories that happened right here in the Charleston harbor.

Blackbeard’s Blockade

In May 1718, Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, blockaded Charleston Harbor with his fleet of four ships including The Queen Anne’s Revenge. With his small fleet right outside the harbor, Blackbeard held Charleston Harbour for six days. He captured nine ships that tried to go in or out of the harbor. Eventually, the pirate’s captured a ship full of prominent Charleston citizens. He told the prisoners that he would send one of the prisoners, Mr. Marks, with two of Blackbeard’s pirates to the governor of South Carolina for a ransom to be delivered in two days. The ransom? A trunk of medicine. If they didn’t come back with the medicine, he would kill all of the hostages, send their heads to the governor, and burn all ships that he had captured.

The End of the Blockade

Three days passed and a messenger came to tell the pirates that Mr. Marks’ boat had capsized which had delayed the retrieval of drugs. Blackbeard granted two more days to get the drugs. When the medicine didn’t appear, Blackbeard and his fleet moved into the harbor, causing panic. Apparently, after much searching around town, they found Blackbeard’s pirates drinking with friends with the trunk of medicine. After the trunk of medicine was delivered to the ship, Blackbeard released the prisoners and the ship, minus their valuables, and went sailing up the coast.

Stede Bonnet, The Gentleman Pirate

A former member of the landed gentry, Bonnet left his comfortable life to become a pirate in order to escape married life. Buying a ship, Bonnet, who had no experience at sea, commanded his crew and attacked several vessels. Later, he joined Blackbeard’s crew and was apart of the blockade of Charleston Harbor. Later, he was captured at Cape Fear river following a huge fight where his crew fought bravely. Afterward, he was separated from his crew and held in Charleston, awaiting execution. Bonnet tried to escape but was captured quickly. Charlestonians pitied the pirate because of his disintegrating mind and his execution was delayed several times. Eventually, he was hanged at White Point Garden on December 10, 1718.

Today, there are no more pirates in Charleston’s water but their stories live on. On our guided tour onboard the Carolina Belle or Queen, we will talk about many of these pirates along with other stories about Charleston Harbor. Or, if you want to experience what it would be like to be on a ship from the 1700s, climb aboard our tall ship the Schooner Pride for a guided tour of Charleston Harbor. So call us today and learn more about Charleston’s infamous pirates!

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