September 21, 2014
The legend that Blackbeard, the notorious pirate of the 18th Century, once walked the streets of Marcus Hook, a town nestled on the Delaware River just below Philadelphia, provided the justification for a lively festival and an opportunity for the Marcus Hook Preservation Society to raise booty for the restoration of the Plank House, where rumor has it, that Blackbeard and his crew spliced the mainbrace!
Marucs Hook isn’t the only town to celebrate their pirate heritage. At the Beaufort Annual Pirate Invasion: It Takes a Village to Pillage, the town recreates actual pirate invasion in 1747. Blackbeard also made several appearances in Beaufort until the governor of Virginia tracked him down. The seaport festival in Philadelphia is the backdrop for a pirate battle on the Delaware River, as tall ships blast their cannons in mock high seas battles.
The pirates at Markus Hook opened their encampment to visitors, their period tents offering vignettes of camp life, with open fires providing the aroma of burning wood. Firearm displays, cooking demonstrations and craft tables gave the landlubber much to gaze at and appreciate. Pirate garb is particularly fanciful, with feathered hats, long waistcoats, billowy blouses and gold jewelry. Most events didn’t cost a single dabloom, if you can just resist spending your last farthing on pirate wares at the vendor booths.
The entertainment on stage included enthusiastic performances of pirate music and sea shanties, from groups such as the Brigands. Pirates brandished their swords during the lively swashbuckling contests.
Canon firing complements of Archangel, TheVigilant Crew and the Crew of the Mermayde.
Beaufort: Legacy of Pirates along the North Carolina Coast
Yo Ho Ho & a Bottle of Rum
As we arrived in Beaufort, we found the town overrun with people streaming down toward the wharf. After scouring the neighborhood streets for a parking place, we headed the way of the crowds toward the waterfront. Some were dressed in colonial costumes–this began to look like fun!
Turns out, we arrived just in time for a pirate invasion! Folks lined the piers and watched as the events unfolded on the river. A classic topsail schooner led the invasion by sea, her pirate crew taking aim at the shoreline blasting her cannons. Muskets fired back in defense. Pirates in longboats ploughed the water, and buccaneers on land brandished swords. Townsfolk cheered as the pirates clashed with the military guard.
We just happened on Beaufort’s Annual Pirate Invasion: It Takes a Village to Pillage event, the town’s recreating of an actual pirate invasion in 1747. The story goes that Spanish privateers sailed into the harbor and stole several ships, easy pickings when only a few men guarded the coast. Not satisfied, the pirates returned several months later to take the town! About fifty militiamen were not enough to protect the village, so citizens high tailed it out of the area. After collecting more recruits, however, the militia counterattacked, driving the pirates out for good this time.
Blackbeard supposedly had been a frequent visitor to Beaufort in the years around 1718. The governor of Virginia, tired of piracy along the coast, sent two sloops on a mission to capture Blackbeard; the governor’s ships eventually tracked down the pirate and an intense sea battle followed in which Blackbeard was killed. Three hundred years later divers discovered the wreckage of his ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, in Beaufort Inlet.
Capture of Blackbeard
The weekend featured all sorts of pirate activities from sword dancing, pirate cruises and costume contests. The trial and supposed hanging of the pirates highlighted the afternoon. With so many events, I would come back and enjoy the entire weekend!
More about our stay in Beaufort as well as our road trip through the towns of coastal North Carolina at the link.