Israel Hands

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One More Step, Mr. Hands by N.C. Wyeth, 1911, for Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Israel Hands was an 18th-century pirate, also known as Basilica Hands.[1] Hands is best known for being second in command to Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. Hands's first historical mention was in 1718, when Blackbeard gave him command of David Herriot's ship Adventure after Herriot was captured by Teach in March 1718.[2]

Captain Charles Johnson wrote that Hands was shot in the knee by Teach after Teach fired at another of his crew, missing him but striking Hands. Hands supposedly asked Teach for his reasons, whereupon Teach remarked "that if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was." Another theory is that Teach shot him so he would not die in the battle against Robert Maynard.[2] When Teach was killed by Maynard, Hands was captured and taken to Virginia for trial. In exchange for a pardon, Hands testified against corrupt North Carolina officials with whom Teach had consorted. What happened to Hands after this is not known for certain; however, in Captain Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates, Hands is said to have died a beggar in London.[2]

Popular culture[edit]

In the book Treasure Island, and films based on it; one of Long John Silver's pirates is named Israel Hands, though the pirate is described as the late Captain Flint's gunner and no mention is made of Blackbeard. Hands is featured in a prolonged battle with Jim Hawkins before being shot by the boy.


Film portrayals[edit]

  • Mark Noble in the 2006 documentary Blackbeard: Terror at Sea, which starred James Purefoy as Blackbeard. Hands serves as the narrator.
  • Anthony Green in the 2006 television movie Blackbeard which starred Angus Macfadyen in the title role. In this version, Hands dies during the battle against Lt. Robert Maynard, portrayed by Mark Umbers.

References[edit]