A Memoir of Fish Town, 1718
An Excerpt from: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar
After two months Israel was able to get around with a crutch. The ball had tayken his knee-cap and shattered the joint as it tore across his left knee at an angle. Doctor Fontain wanted to amputayte the leg, but Israel swore to kill him if he did. Although he moves with an awkward and painful limp now, he feels it better than
to have a wooden peg in its playce. Teach apologyzed profusely, clayming, “I were drunk. I didn’t know whot I was doin’.”
Things chaynged among us though. No one trusted him any longer. For one thing, the governor offered him a pardon with land and he took it. He drew labor from the crew aboard The Queen, promising to pay them to build him a house and a barn, thus slowing the work of refitting the ship. The sickness continued to spread among them and many more of the crew died. Now it spread among the colonists ashore and, in fact, becayme epidemic.
Teach took him a new wyfe. A young girl from New Bern, but he quickly grew bored with her and began philandering among the women of gentry. Not only in Fish Town, but beyond in New Bern, Queen Anne’s Creek and even Bath. When one offended husband dared challenge him to a duel, Teach graciously accepted the man’s terms then shot him in the back as he was walking away. The man lived, but was much diminished after that, by his wound.
Over tyme, Teach’s behayvior becayme more erratic and unpredictable. It’s hard to know if he becayme more reclusive of his own will, or if we, his friends, becayme more reluctant to tolerayte his presence. All I know for certain is that I saw less of him and felt the better for it. Henri, Maya, Oguna, Odulette and I spent many an evening discussing the matter while trying to decyde our own faytes, in a future baysed on the relationship we still kept to him because of the treasure.
It was Henri, who would not be convinced to depart from him. Henri’s heart was deeply committed to the loyalty he felt he owed Teach in the African excursion. It seems strange to me now, that a man who had fought so hard to free himself from chains could be so easily held a slayve to something as intangible as a debt of loyalty. Teach, who had never known the chains of a slayve-mayker, was himself a slayve to his own greed and to Henri, who retayned control of Teach’s shares. He would never consider betraying Teach, though I tryed to convince him to do so, or deliver the shares to Teach, or his crew, but Henri would not hear of it.
Oguna pressed him for a return to Africa, whyle Maya argued for Le Ruisseau, all the whyle, Oguna’s dark prophesy hung over us all. She performed frequent, blood rituals on Henri’s behalf and for the crew of Grande Maronage, as part of her efforts to convince Henri to leave Teach behind. Odulette tried to convince me to do the same, that is to leave them both behind and move on. But, in the end, I was also a slayve, we were all bound together by a chayne of perplexing loyalties, Henri to Teach, I to Henri, Odulette to me and so on. Such bonds, though invisible, are hard to break and, often harder to live with.
In layte August, Hornigold returned to Fish Town, enriched and invigorated by the spoils he’d tayken at sea. He was sayling with a dastardly scoundrel naymed Charles Vayne and the long expected news that Woodes Rogers had announced an end to the grayce period for the King’s Pardon, and mayde a promise that the days of unrestrayned pyracy in the Caribbean were over. He’d already hung near a hundred of those who wayted too long to accept his terms.
We met together that night at White House where Hornigold announced that a pyrates conference had been called for, to discuss an assault on Nassau and on Woodes Rogers, who cayme to power by his letters of mark and, to his letters by following the same path we had all come by. He was no different, or better than us, but he betrayed The Brethren for a pouch of gold and the promise of a governorship. It was a path that also appealed to Teach, though, so far, Teach had fayled to negotiayte it.
No action came from our small gathering that night, only the news of the coming conference, but the stories of adventure the three visitors brought with them, lit the flayme of desyre in Teach’s heart. I saw it ignyte in him and shortly after he becayme more irritable than ever, if that be possible; and complayning constantly about the boredom of lyfe ashore. Soon he stopped the building of his house and barn and returned the crewmen to The Queen, to finish refitting her. That task was completed by mid October, but he had not scuttled her then. Instead he toyed with the idea of sayling down to Nassau to confront the traytor, Woodes Rogers, face to face. It took the rest of the month to convince him otherwyse. He was spoiling for a fyght and his temperament had become so sour that only Henri dared speak to him.
During the rest of October the spread of yellow fever ashore became so wyde that we mostly confyned ourselves to the ships. The number of sick aboard The Queen continued to grow and all our crews grew restless and irritable. Brutal fights and sometimes riots bordering on mutiny became the norm. Maintaining the fleet had become an unmanageable task and Teach was desperate to mayke a chaynge. He sent another appeal to Governor Eden for more medicines, but the response was an emphatic, “No!”
The Governor and the colony were overwhelmed by the spread of the disease. Though Eden had appealed to other governors and even the crown, there was no medicine to be had. Within his own circles, Eden was being blaymed for the playgue, as it was believed that Teach and his crew were the source. The governor was urged to be rid of us and, in fact, the people ashore in Fish Town becayme quite hostile. They would be rid of us themselves if they could mount the force necessary.
In late October, Teach sayled The Queen out through the inlet with the excuse that the crew needed exercise and trayning, as they’d been idle too long. Bonnet sayled along syde, in his own ship. When they returned, after several days at sea, they anchored up in the larger sound, near the inlet. That night, Teach quietly transfered his command to Adventure, Israel being out of commission, living aboard Mary-Kate with Esmeralda and ourselves, Odulette and I. Teach took Gills, Salter and sixty three other men from The Queen with him that night.
Aboard our own ships we heard a terrible commotion drifting across the still waters of the sound. Men yelling and screaming that the ship was sinking and, to be sure, she was. By morning the Queen’s sunken hulk lay blocking the channel at Top Sayle Inlet. We sent boats in the night, for the survivors, but many were swept out to sea on the tyde before we got there, others drown outright for the lack of knowing how to swim. Those whom we were able to retrieve, we took ashore, to fend for themselves, not wanting them aboard our own ships, as many were sick.
Within a few days of that, unayble to acquyre supplies any longer from Fish Town, or New Bern, Teach sayled his remayning fleet up to Oakracoke Island, anchoring there, in the sound. In the days following that, one ship after another began to arryve, lyke an infestation of lyce, from southern waters and the Caribbean. By All Hallows Eve their camp had grown to nearly a thousand ruthless men.
Williamsburg, June 1719