Hands' 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. During the winter of 1717–1718 Blackbeard harassed shipping sailing to and from the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico and traversing the Bay of Honduras. On April 4th or 5th of 1718, at Turneffe Atoll, Blackbeard captured the ten gun logwood cutting sloop Adventure and forced its captain Herriot to join him. Also on board was Edward Robinson, the ship’s gunner, who would later be involved in the Battle of Cape Fear River. Blackbeard then made Israel Hands captain of the Adventure and began sailing for North Carolina. Later, in June 1718, Teach ran his flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, aground at Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina. He requested assistance from Hands and the Adventure in an effort to kedge the Queen Anne's Revenge off the bar. But the Adventure also grounded and was abandoned. Teach, Hands and Stede Bonnet then took approximately half the pirates, marooning the rest, and set sail for Ocracoke.
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 that he would not die in the battle against Lt. Robert Maynard.
On November 22, 1718, Teach was killed by troops dispatched from Virginia and led by Maynard. At the time Hands was in Bath, North Carolina, recuperating from his permanently disabling pistol wound. However, he was unable to escape the roundup of pirates in Bath that followed Blackbeard's death. Following his capture, he and fifteen others were taken to Williamsburg, Virginia, to stand trial. In exchange for a pardon, Hands testified against corrupt North Carolina officials with whom Teach had consorted.
The minutes of the North Carolina Governor’s Council for May 27, 1719 state;
- Hesikia Hands[,] master of Capt Thaches Sloop Adventure[,] seems to sweare possitively in his Depossition that the sd [said] Thache went from Ocacoch Inlet at his returne into this Country from his last voyage with a present to the sd Tobias Knights house [,] when by the same deposition [Hands] acknowledgth that to be out of the reach of his knoledge[,] he being all the time at the sd Inlet which lyes at above thirty leagues distance from [Knight’s] house and further the [said] Tobias Knight doth pray your Honours to observe that the aforsd Hesikias Hands was . . . for some time before the giving of the [said] Evidence kept in prison under the Terrors of Death a most severe prosecution . . . .
One of Long John Silver's pirates is named Israel Hands in the book Treasure Island and films based on it, 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.
Israel Hands is also the name of a gunner in the 1990 book Chasing Morning by Michael Scott Rohan.
Films and TV series based on Treasure Island
- Geoffrey Keen in the 1950 version and Rod Taylor in its 1954 sequel film, Long John Silver. Though believed to have been killed in the first film, a return expedition to Treasure Island finds Israel Hands alive.
- Michael Halsey in the 1990 version.
- In Disney's 2002 animated feature Treasure Planet, Hands is replaced with a spider/crab-like pirate named Scroop, the film's antagonist. He is voiced by Michael Wincott.
- Irish actor David Wilmot portrays Hands in the fourth season of Starz’s Treasure Island prequel series Black Sails.
- 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.
Hands appears very briefly in the 2013 video-game Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag when he showed a crate of medicine needed for the population of Nassau to Blackbeard, leading him to hold hostages at Charleston.
- Philip Gosse (1924). The Pirates' Who's Who: Giving Particulars of the Lives & Deaths of the Pirates & Buccaneers. Burt Franklin. p. 153.
- Captain Charles Johnson (1724). A General History of the Pyrates From their first rise and settlement in the Island of Providence , to the present Time. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03.
- Woodard, Colin. "A Blackbeard mystery solved". Republic of Pirates Blog. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Byrd Downey, Cristopher (22 May 2012). Stede Bonnet: Charleston's Gentleman Pirate. The History Press. p. 44. ISBN 1609495403. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
- Brown, Paul. "The Lost Pirate of Blackbeard’s Golden Age". en.expostmagazine.com. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
- Vallar, Cindy. "Israel Hands". Retrieved 7 March 2016.
- D. Moore. (1997) "A General History of Blackbeard the Pirate, the Queen Anne's Revenge and the Adventure". In Tributaries, Volume VII, 1997. pp. 31–35. (North Carolina Maritime History Council)
- Vallar, Cindy. "Israel Hands". CindyVallar.com. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
- "Minutes of the North Carolina Governor's Council, including a deposition, a remonstrance, and correspondence concerning Tobias Knight's business with Edward Teach". docsouth.unc.edu. North Carolina Governor's Council. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
- "David Wilmot". Deadline. 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- When Blackbeard Scourged the Seas, History.org
- National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service
- Scientists Show Relics From Ship Fit For Pirate, Possibly Blackbeard, Chicago Tribune
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