Edward Teach or Edward Thatch (c. 1680 – 22 November 1718), better known as Blackbeard, was an English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the eastern coast of Britain's North American colonies. Little is known about his early life, but he may have been a sailor on privateer ships during Queen Anne's War before settling on the Bahamian island of New Providence, a base for Captain Benjamin Hornigold, whose crew Teach joined around 1716. Hornigold placed him in command of a sloop that he had captured, and the two engaged in numerous acts of piracy. Their numbers were boosted by the addition to their fleet of two more ships, one of which was commanded by Stede Bonnet; but Hornigold retired from piracy towards the end of 1717, taking two vessels with him.
Teach captured a French merchant vessel, renamed her Queen Anne's Revenge, and equipped her with 40 guns. He became a renowned pirate, his nickname derived from his thick black beard and fearsome appearance; he was reported to have tied lit fuses (slow matches) under his hat to frighten his enemies. He formed an alliance of pirates and blockaded the port of Charles Town, South Carolina, ransoming the port's inhabitants. He then ran Queen Anne's Revenge aground on a sandbar near Beaufort, North Carolina. He parted company with Bonnet and settled in Bath, North Carolina, also known as Bath Town where he accepted a royal pardon. But he was soon back at sea, where he attracted the attention of Alexander Spotswood, the Governor of Virginia. Spotswood arranged for a party of soldiers and sailors to capture the pirate, which they did on 22 November 1718 following a ferocious battle. Teach and several of his crew were killed by a small force of sailors led by Lieutenant Robert Maynard.
Teach was a shrewd and calculating leader who spurned the use of force, relying instead on his fearsome image to elicit the response that he desired from those whom he robbed. Contrary to the modern-day picture of the traditional tyrannical pirate, he commanded his vessels with the consent of their crews and there is no known account of his ever having harmed or murdered those whom he held captive. He was romanticized after his death and became the inspiration for an archetypal pirate in works of fiction across many genres.
Source: Wikipedia, "Blackbeard", available under the CC-BY-SA License.