The Truth About Blackbeard's Pirate Mentor

You wouldn't think pirates would need actual lessons in piracy. And you certainly wouldn't assume that other pirates would be willing to take someone under their wing to show them the ropes of piracy — after all, why encourage more competition? However, the most notorious pirate in history — Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard — actually had his own pirate mentor. That mentor came in the form of one Benjamin Hornigold. It was through Hornigold that Blackbeard got the major boost he needed to survive and thrive as a pirate. 

According to The Way of Pirates, Benjamin Hornigold got his start as a privateer during the War of the Spanish Succession. Being a privateer meant that Hornigold was technically a pirate, but a legal one with the government's full blessing. We don't know very much about Hornigold's privateer days, but he was recognized as a respected leader and captain with a competent crew. Surprisingly enough, Hornigold was also known to be reasonably gracious, being much kinder to prisoners than other pirates or privateers. Yet, once the war was over, that government favor was rescinded. However, Hornigold wasn't ready to give up the pirate life quite yet. Whether it was pirating or privateering, the lifestyle was still highly profitable, so he just continued the exact same activities he was doing during the war — only this time it was in an illegal capacity and without the government's approval.

Benjamin Hornigold and Blackbeard were partners

Blackbeard became a member of Hornigold's crew roughly around 1716 or 1717. According to The Way of Pirates, Hornigold was so impressed by Blackbeard's skill and ability that he eventually made him a partner. He even gave Blackbeard his first vessel with a small crew and a most coveted "captain" title. For some time, Hornigold and Blackbeard sailed along the Caribbean Sea and the American continent, where they looted many ships. Together, they were a formidable force for sailors to reckon with. Hornigold was part of Blackbeard's efforts that resulted in the capture of the French ship La Concorde. Per The Queen Anne's Revenge Project, La Concorde was a massive ship that could hold over 300 men and likely had 40 cannons. This ship would be rechristened as The Queen Anne's Revenge — Blackbeard's infamous vessel. The Queen Anne's Revenge was the biggest bounty that Hornigold would ever secure as a pirate — and it was ultimately his last one.

Things were starting to change in the Caribbean once Woodes Rogers became governor of the Bahamas and began a massive crackdown on pirates. Governor Rogers, a former seaman himself, even offered amnesty to anyone who would renounce piracy. Hornigold was really not the captain in charge anymore, and Rogers' new laws did not look promising for someone like him. He decided that it was time to quit the pirate business and take the governor up on the offer. Hornigold left Blackbeard's crew, petitioned Governor Rogers for amnesty, and was given a king's pardon.

Benjamin Hornigold became a pirate hunter

After receiving his pardon, Benjamin Hornigold did not go into a quiet retirement. Instead, he made quite the turnabout and became a pirate hunter. Despite his pirate past, Hornigold still had a generally positive reputation among the British for his previous kindness toward prisoners. 

According to The Queen Anne's Revenge Project, Rogers was said to be "glad of this new proof Capt. Hornigold has given the world to wipe off the infamous name he has hitherto been known by, tho in the very acts of piracy he committed most people spoke well of his generosity."

According to The Way of Pirates, Hornigold became Governor Rogers' chief pirate hunter, bringing in the well-known pirate, John Auger, and scaring Calico Jack Rakham into a temporary surrender. His pirate hunting efforts were indeed quite fruitful as they led to many pirates getting hanged for their crimes. But Hornigold's primary target was the infamous pirate captain, Charles Vane. Although Hornigold pursued Vane avidly, he never did end up capturing him. Hornigold's pirate hunting days came to an end in Mexico after his ship was wrecked on a reef. Once Blackbeard's mentor, Benjamin Hornigold and his entire crew went down with the ship and drowned.