Three indentured servants indebted to Virginia planter Hugh Gwyn—two of them European descent (white), one African (black)—ran away to Maryland in 1640. All were subsequently captured and sentenced to 30 lashes each. But the equality of punishment ended there. The servitude of the two white men was extended to four years by the court, while the sentence of the other read: “And that the third being negro named John Punch shall serve his said master or his assigns for the time of his natural life here or elsewhere.” Thus, by order of the court of July 9, 1640, John Punch became the first documented slave in the original American Colonies.
Within twenty yards of of my gun stands a solitary locust tree, the sole representative of a once noble grove which graced the graceful lawn. Charred from the burning of the mansion and torn by relentless cannon balls, truly “grand, gloomy, and peculiar,” its glory has not all departed. Amidst a tuft of foliage which graces the topmost bough, there daily sits a mockingbird which, with the rising of the sun, carols forth its superb madrigal until the first gun fires. What a subject for contemplation, this “gleam of heaven,” in the midst of the “pomp, pride, and circumstance” of glorious war! How painfully am I reminded by the winged messenger of peace of my once happy home in the South!
— Eugene Henry Levy (July 9th, 1864)
Eugene Henry Levy of New Orleans was born in Grand Gulf, Mississippi, in 1840. His ancestors were English Sephardim, and one was a Captain Lazarus, who fought in the American Revolution. Eugene served in Company C, 1st Louisiana Battalion for the Confederacy Army during the Civil War. He was a Jew who fought for the South.
Not everything is as it appears, ever.