The Death of Blackbeard

A Lesson for 8th grade U.S. History Students


Content:   Sourcing and Corroborating Primary Documents

  • Students will review 3 different accounts of The Battle of Ocracoke Inlet,  which resulted in the death of notorious pirate Edward “Blackbeard” Teach.
  • In groups of 2-3 they will read and discuss each document, creating a Venn Diagram to help process the similarities and differences in the primary sources.
  • Benjamin Franklin, who was 13 years old at the time of the battle, penned a ballad about the death of Blackbeard.  His poem will be presented on the projector and read to the class.
  • Essential question :   Which author’s work could have influenced the young Benjamin Franklin when he wrote his ballad about Edward “Blackbeard” Teach?
  • Students will write a short argumentative piece answering the question above, defending their choice with evidence from the texts.


  • Questions to think about while reading:
    • For whom is each author writing their document?
    • Did the author have any ulterior motive while writing their account?
    • What conflicting accounts can you identify between the documents?
    • How does each document characterize Blackbeard?
    • What other type of source/document would be useful for a comparison?


Account #1:  The Governor’s Letter


Account #2:  Newspaper Article

Published in The Boston News-Letter, dated “From Monday Feb. 16 to Monday Feb. 23, 1719”:

“… Governour Spotswood of Virginia fitted out two Sloops, well manned with Fifty pickt Men of His Majesty’s Men of War lying there, and small Arms, but not great Guns, under the Command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard of His Majesty’s Ship Pearl in pursuit of that Notorious and Arch Pirate Capt. Teach, who made his escape from Virginia, when some of his Men were taken there, which Pirate Lieutenant Maynard came up with at North Carolina, and when they came in hearing of each other, Teach called to Lieutenant Maynard and told him he was for King GEORGE, desiring him to hoist out his boat and come aboard. Maynard replyed that he designed to come aboard with his sloop as soon as he could, and Teach understanding his design, told him that if he would let him alone, he would not meddle with him; Maynard answered that it was him he wanted, and that he would have him dead or alive, else it would cost him his life; whereupon Teach called for a Glass of Wine, and swore Damnation to himself that he either took or gave Quarter.

“Then Lieutenant Maynard told his Men that now they knew what they had to trust to, and could not escape the Pirates hands if they had a mind, but must either fight and kill, or be killed; Teach begun and fired several great Guns at Maynard’s Sloop, which did but little damage, but Maynard rowing nearer Teach’s Sloop of Ten Guns, Teach fired some small Guns, loaded with Swan shot, spick Nails and pieces of old Iron, in upon Maynard, which killed six of his Men and wounded ten, upon which Lieutenant Maynard, ordered all the rest of his Men to go down in the Hould: himself, Abraham Demelt of New York, and a third at the Helm stayed above Deck.

“Teach seeing so few on the Deck, said to his Men, the Rogues were all killed except two or three, and he would go on board and kill them himself, so drawing nearer went on board, took hold of the fore sheet and made fast the Sloops; Maynard and Teach themselves then begun the fight with their Swords, Maynard making a thrust, the point of his Sword went against Teach’s Cartridge Box, and bended it to the Hilt, Teach broke the Guard of it, and wounded Maynard’s Fingers but did not disable him, whereupon he Jumpt back, threw away his Sword and fired his Pistol, which wounded Teach. Demelt struck in between them with his Sword and cut Teach’s Face pretty much; in the Interim both Companies ingaged in Maynard’s Sloop, one of Maynard’s Men being a Highlander, ingaged Teach with his broad Sword, who gave Teach a cut on the Neck, Teach saying well done Lad, the Highlander reply’d, if it be not well done, I’ll do it better, with that he gave him a second stroke, which cut off his Head, laying it flat on his Shoulder, Teach’s Men being about 20, and three or four Blacks were all killed in the Ingagement, excepting two carried to Virginia: Teach’s body was thrown overboard, and his Head put on the top of the Bowsprit.”


Account #3:  Lieutenant Maynard’s Letter

Printed in The Weekly Journal, or British Gazetteer, 25 April, 1719:

“I sail’d from Virginia the 17th past, with two Sloops, and 54 Men under my Command, having no Guns, but only small Arms and Pistols. Mr. Hyde commanded the little Sloop with 22 Men, and I had 32 in my sloop. The 22d I came up with Captain Teach, the notorious Pyrate, who has taken, from time to time, a great many English Vessels on these Coasts, and in the West-Indies; he went by the name of Blackbeard, because he let his beard grow, and tied it up in black Ribbons. I attack’d him at Cherhock in North Carolina, when he had on Board 21 Men, and nine Guns mounted. At our first Salutation, he drank Damnation to me and my Men, whom he stil’d Cowardly Puppies, saying, He would neither give nor take Quarter. Immediately we engag’d, and Mr. Hyde was  unfortunately kill’d, and five of his Men wounded in the little Sloop, which, having no-body to command her, fell a-stern, and did not come up to assist me till the Action was almost over. In the meantime, continuing the Fight, it being a perfect Calm… I boarded his Sloop, and had 20 Men kill’d and wounded. Immediately thereupon, he enter’d me with 10 Men; but 12 stout Men I left there, fought like Heroes, Sword in Hand, and they kill’d every one of them that enter’d, without the loss of one Man on their Side, but they were miserably cut and mangled. In the whole, I had eight Men killed, and 18 wounded. We kill’d 12, besides Blackbeard, who fell with five Shot in him, and 20 dismal Cuts in several Parts of his Body. I took nine Prisoners, mostly Negroes, all wounded. I have cut Blackbeard’s head off, which I have put on my Bowspright, in order to carry it to Virginia. I should never have taken him, if I had not got him in such a Hole, whence he could not get out, for we had no Guns on Board; so that the engagement on our Side was the more Bloody and Desperate.”


Benjamin Franklin’s Ballad:

Benjamin Franklin never published his ballad, only referring to it in his autobiography.  However, in his collection The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Leonard W. Laboree provides one stanza given to him by George Hayward, a Boston physician and contemporary of Ben Franklin:

“So each man to his gun,
For the work must be done,
With cutlass, sword, or pistol.
And when we no longer can strike a blow,
Then fire the magazine, boys, and up we go!
It’s better to swim in the sea below
Than to swing in the air and feed the crow,
Says jolly Ned Teach of Bristol.”

  • 13 year-old Benjamin Franklin


  • As they read, students will fill a Venn diagram with information about the battle.  They should focus on the supporting details and characterizations given in each document.  This diagram will be used to help them choose which text they’d like to write about.
  • In their 1-2 page essays, students will argue for their chosen account, defending their position with details from the text.  3-4 examples should be included, and comparisons should be tied directly to Ben Franklin’s poem.
  • Upon conclusion of writing, designate a corner of the classroom for each primary source, and have students move to the corner of the piece they chose.  Discuss the class distribution as a group, focusing on the reasons why each student chose their text.  Encourage them to share specific examples and make note of common threads among the class.


I am excited to have an opportunity to teach this lesson, as I think it has great promise to generate some interest.  The swashbuckling affair that was the Battle of Okracoke Inlet takes advantage of the inherent coolness of pirates, and is balanced nicely by tying in the impact on Benjamin Franklin.  This helps ground the fanciful world of the golden age of pirates in reality, and demonstrates that these people and events had a real impact on American society in the 18th century.

I would like to have found online documents for the Boston-Letter article and the printing of Lt. Maynard’s Letter, however my internet research skills did not prove proficient.  Regardless, in this case the content of the documents is the interesting part, as it’s never too difficult to get kids to read about dramatic battles, even if they are written in Olde English.

I found the process of creating this lesson very exciting as I became more of an expert on Blackbeard.  The investigatory nature of sifting through the accounts gave me a real “history-detective” feeling, and stimulating similar sensations in students will help make this lesson more impactful.  If students can learn and participate in detailed investigations of primary sources while being entertained by the novelty of pirates, I think my work here is done.


coming soon


“Capture-of-Blackbeard” by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – link

Image: “Blackbeard the Pirate” link

Black Beard’s head on the end of the bowsprit”.  Image: United States Library of Congress.  Prints and Photographs Division.  Digital ID cph.3c16074

“Gone In A Day” – The Vanport Flood 1948


Target Students: 3rd Grade

Historical Thinking Skill: Corroborating

Guiding Questions: How did the people of Vanport react to the flood? How did the Government react to the disaster?

Lesson Context: This lesson is intended to to be an introduction/exposure to primary sources for my class of third graders. Students will be given two videos to watch: one deals with personal interviews about the people living in Vanport, and the other is video of the flood. Students will also be given one primary source textual document to read. Students will use these three sources to discus the reliability of each source and the idea of what constitutes a source.

vanport people

Video Sources: 


Guided Question related to the video:

  1. How can we tell that the interview from the video reflects what happened on that day?
  2. Can we trust the video?
  3. What are your thoughts about the flood?

Purpose: The purpose of the video guided questions is to get students to think about what a primary source is and how it can be used. Since this is students first introduction into primary sources it is important to stop after each video and discuss as a class the above questions letting students guide the conversation as much as possible.

Primary Text: 

vanport pdf

Scaffolding Questions: 

  1. When was the video made? When was the document written?
  2. Which source is more reliable?
  3. What don’t we know from the reading and the video? Where else could we look?

vanport map

The scaffolding questions are the meat of the lesson. The overall goal is getting students to compare the information that is in both videos versus the information that the text document gives them. The lesson is primary based on conversation rather than product. For a product have students write down their own answers to the scaffolding questions before conducting the conversation.


The combination of videos and the text document is to show students that primary sources can come in all forms and that just because something is not a written text it can still be used as a primary source. As technology advances our sources will too. I did not want to overload my third graders with a bunch of long text, and spend half of the day going over every piece of information in the text. Instead I wanted them to see what information they could pull out that was related to the question.  This lesson would follow the water cycle unit in science so that students will have a base knowledge of how a flood works and where on all the water came from.

I found the design process for this mini lesson a bit challenging. I wanted to do something related to my current student teaching; however, third graders do not have the skills or base knowledge to do anything advanced with primary sources. If I could get them to just be exposed to a primary sources and show them how to compare them that it would be about the right starting point for third graders to get exposed to historical thinking. I anticipate that I would have to spend a lot of time front loading different aspects of a primary source.



Abbott, C. Vanport (1st ed.). The Oregon encyclopedia. retrieved September 25, 2015  Link

[guruburgess]. (2014, 12 6). Oregon’s Memorable Century 1948 Vanport Flood [Video File]. Retrieved from  Link

Map [online image]. (2015). Retrieved September 25, 2015 Link

Peski, Brain Van. (2008). Vanport: Oregon’s Lost City [Video File] Retrieved From Link

Portland Flood, with switching trains [online image]. (1948). Retrieved September 25, 2015 Link

Vanport, Vanport Flood of 1948 [online image]. (1948). Retrieved September 25, 2015 Link

Literacy DBL Design Project

An A B C, for baby patriotsWorking as individuals or in 2 person teams, students will design a document-based lesson (DBL) question suitable for inclusion in our iBook (available at iTunes).

See Class  6 for recommendations for DBLs and Teaching with Documents. Your DBL will include:

  1. Introduction of the DBL with brief historic context as needed.
  2. Generative / essential question
  3. About 5 – 8 related documents (image, text, video, audio) that will assist the students in answering the generative question
  4. Clear statement of what students will be asked to do
  5. Close reading scaffolding question for each document to assist the student in examining the document

A good example of a DBL is Progress and Poverty in Industrial America  This is a pdf version of one of my iBooks. (note: you will not have full function of all the gallery and video widgets). It uses 11 documents, which is a bit more than I expect for your DBL.

The DBL Design Assignment will be accomplished in steps:

Step 1: Develop a proposal which will be submitted for peer review. You should be prepared to deliver a 2 min pitch to class. (not a written assignment to be turned in)
Due date:  10/12.

We’ll do a bit of “speed dating” of our ideas for the DBL Assignment. Students will form two lines and have 2 minutes to pitch their DBL design idea to each other and share some feedback. Then one line will shift and we repeated the pitch exchange. In all students will pitch their idea three times.

The goal of this phase is to gather feedback from peers regarding the following:

  1. You have an interesting generative / essential question worth answering.
  2. Your initial appraisal indicates there are suitable documents available.
  3. You have an idea for how students will be asked interpret your documents.

Step 2: Submit a preliminary idea for your DBL design project for Peter’s feedback by 10/19. It should be posted to a shared Google folder.

Here’s a short video on using shared Google folder

It can be in the form of a Google doc that addresses:

  1. Where will you use it?  Grade, course, etc
  2. An interesting generative / essential question worth answering.
  3. 3 -5 suitable documents (include links).
  4. A brief explanation of “what are the kids going to do?”

Note: This is not intended to be a fully developed lesson. Just an idea of where you intend to go.

Step 3: Prepare content for iBooks Author lab session on 11/23

Workflow? See this guide Getting Ready for iBooks Author 57KB pdf

Step 4: iBooks Author design session 11/23

Step 5: Peer review of draft iBook 11/30

Step 6: Write a reflection on your DBL design process and post to our blog (your final post). It will also be added to your iBook chapter – due 12/6.

Step 7: Final design session in Digital lab 12/7

Title: “An A B C, for baby patriots”
Creator: Ames, Mary Frances
Publisher: Dean & Son
Place of Publication: London (160a Fleet Street E.C.)
Publication Date: [1899]
Archive: University of Florida UF00086056:00001

The Golden Girls: Women’s History of The California Gold Rush


“The Golden Girls”

Target: Middle/High School Social Studies
Skills: Sourcing, Contextualization, Corroboration
Topic: A Women’s History of The California Gold Rush
By: Monica Portugal

EQ: How were women treated in the California Gold Rush?

women1Description: This lesson would best follow a lecture of the California Gold Rush in order to help students create a better connection to the following documents. The purpose of this lesson is to provide a women’s history of this commonly viewed, male centered adventure.

Directions: Students will first write a half page reflection as to what they thought women in the Gold Rush looked like, acted, or did. Students will then read each document in groups of 2-4, and answer the accompanying questions that go with it. As a class we will then share our answers and have an open discussion on the documents we just read.

At the end of this lesson, students will individually reflect on their answers, write a summary about the lesson, and answer the EQ. Students will then compare and contrast the reflection they wrote before the lesson, and the reflection they written after.

Source #1: Newspaper Article 

  • Using prior knowledge about the California Gold Rush, what surprises you in source 1, and how has it changed your image of the Gold Rush?
  • What does this document tell us about the women who ventured to California during the rush? (Occupation, income, attitudes)
Eliza-Farnham-1 Mrs. Farnham In California
(February 27, 1850)

“Women are more in requisition than gold, or anything else Those who came out with me had immediately offers of employment at $75 and $100 per month. If there had been five hundred instead of five, they could all have engaged immediately on similar terms. They must be got here in considerable numbers before society can take any shape or assume any character. I hope that while our good brethren at home are bestirring themselves kindly lo send out clergymen, they will not forget that the best of all missionaries to such a population are resolute, virtuous, intelligent women. One of the chief difficulties that were felt by the women who consulted me, was the fear that they should not be protected against rudeness, or perhaps something worse. I reasoned with them that it would not be so, but it was difficult to convince by argument . Therefore let the fact be known to all who care to know it, that the utmost possible deference and care are shown to females; and that any woman, to experience rudeness or insult here, must expose herself much more imprudently than she would to incur the same risk in your cities. No woman need fear to come here who has the sense and energy to take care of herself elsewhere; and she will have, in her capacity for any occupation suited to her sex. a better capital than the gold mines. If there had 1,000 females sailed last May, they would, all who chose to, be profitable employed this day . Everything is scarcer here than gold.”

-Eliza Farnham

Source #2: Advertisement

  • After reading this document, who do you think the audience is, and what do you think was the purpose of this document?
A Husband Wanted
 “By a lady who can wash, cook, scour, sew, milk, spin, weave, hoe (can’t plow), cut wood, make fires, feed the pigs, raise chickens, rock the cradle, (gold-rocker, I thank you, Sir!), saw a plank, drive nails, etc. There are a few of the solid branches; now for the ornamental. “Long time ago” she went as far as syntax, reap Murray’s Geography and through two rules in Pike’s Grammar. Could find 6 states on the Atlas. Could read, and you can see she can write. Can - no, could - paint roses, butterflies, ships, etc. Could once dance; can ride a horse, donkey or oxen, beside a great many things too numerous to be named here. Oh I hear you ask, could she scold? No, she cant you --- you---- good-for-nothing----! Now for her terms. Her age is none of your business. She is neither handsome nor a fright, yet an old man need not apply, nor any who not a little more education then she has, and great deal more gold, for there must be $20,000 settled on her before she will bind herself all the above. Address to Dorothy Scraggs, with real name. P.O Marysville.”

VI_img1 Ending Questions:

  • After reading the given documents, what do these sources tell us about women in the Gold Rush?
  • Do you think these sources agree with another, or disagree?
  • What inferences can we make about women who were present in the California during the Gold Rush?

Brief Summary/Reflection:

The combination of these documents and the scaffolding questions that accompany them, are intended for students to reflect on this history, and look at these primary sources in a new light in the context of its history. Students will be required to consider the purpose of these documents, and why the authors would have written them. Students will also be forced to consider how these documents are in dialogue with another, and determine whether these sources provide the evidence needed to support their final claims.

For this mini lesson I wanted to provide primary sources that were fun and interesting to read, while at the same time provide a different perspective on the history of the Gold Rush. I stumbled upon these documents while working on a research paper and loved how it showed a completely different image of the 19th century women. I am currently conducting my student teaching at a high school, and have shared some of the documents I am using for my senior thesis with my students. As I was telling them the story of some of my sources, I was pleased to see their interest light up, and their curiosity  begin to creep in. It is because of reactions such as those that I hope to provide my students with sources that make them question the context of it, and discover a new story to be told.

Image Sources:
http://Photo From: California State Library:

Source #1:
Ilinois Digital Newspaper Collection:

Source #2:
JoAnn Levy, They The Elephant. (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014), 176.