Israel Hands, also known as Basilica Hands was a pirate of the Post Spanish Succession Period who served as the sailing-master aboard Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach's massive flagship the Queen Anne's Revenge. He would later famously be shot in the knee by Blackbeard for no reason other than to exercise his authority and it would later lead Israel to testify and give much evidence against him at trial.
The first mention of Hands in the historical record was in 1718 when he was given command of David Herriot's ship the Adventure after the prize was captured in March of 1718. Following this he was next spotted during the winter of 1717 and 1718 when Blackbeard and the Flying Gang preyed on Spanish shipping going to and from the port of Veracruz as well as the Bay of Honduras. On 4 or 5 April at Turneffe Atoll the pirates would capture a ten cannon logwood cutting sloop named the Adventure which was captained by David Herriot.
Also on board at this time was Edward Robinson who was the ships gunner that would be involved in the Battle of Cape Fear River when the infamous pirate Stede Bonnet was captured by William Rhett. Later in June of 1718 Blackbeard would ground his flagship the Queen Anne's Revenge off the coast of Beaufort Inlet in Province of North Carolina.
Blackbeard would need assistance from Hands to kedge the ship off of the sandbar however, unfortunately Hands' and the Adventure were also grounded and abandoned. From there Hands, Bonnet and Blackbeard would take about half of the pirates and desert the rest before heading for the pirate haven of Ocracoke Island. From here one of the most famous stories in all of pirate folklore occurred and changed the course of history for the Flying Gang.
According to Charles Johnson Israel Hands was shot in the knee by Blackbeard after he missed another sailor. When asked why he shot anyone in the first place Blackbeard reportedly said "if he did not now and then kill one of them, they would forget who he was." According to another theory Teach knew of his upcoming fate with pirate hunters and shot Israel to avoid him dying in the ordeal. Regardless, Israel hands was not present at Blackbeard's death in November of 1718 following the Battle of Ocracoke Inlet and his duel with Robert Maynard.
During this time Israel would be in the settlement of Bath recovering from the wound that would leave him crippled for life. However, it was worse than the death that surely awaited him if he fought with Blackbeard. After the battle Hands along with fifteen of Blackbeard's crew would be taken to Williamsburg in the Colony and Dominion of Virgnia to stand trial.
Here Israel Hands would testify against Blackbeard and as well as the government officials of Province of North Carolina such as Charles Eden and Tobias Knight. According to the minutes of the Governor’s Council of the Province of North Carolina for the date of 27 May 1719;
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 . . . .
It is not known what happened to Israel Hands after his trial for piracy. However, according to Charles Johnson he was known to have died a beggar in the city of London in England.
Israel Hands has been featured many times in popular culture regarding the circumstances of his interactions with Edward 'Blackbeard' Teach.