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Henry Berry Lowery, The Swamp Outlaw by Alfred Townshed, 1872


Henry Berry Lowery, The Swamp Outlaw by Alfred Townshed, 1872


In this chapter of “The Swamp Outlaw”, the outlaw is given a very detailed and more importantly his featured are presented in a way that makes him appear to be “almost white”. This is important in relation to other writings about him during this period, because it appeared that associating him as being near white meant that he might have been considered a full member of American society during the 19th century. As if he is being presented as a man who could be accepted by the very society that shunned him. What makes this passage interesting is that even the enemies of this outlaw do not deny him the courtesy of admiring his features.


George Alfred Townshed


Townshed, George Alfred, The Swamp Outlaw, (New York, Robert M. DeWitt; 1872) pg. 12-13






Robeson County, NC

Original Format



Henry Berry Lowery, the leader of the most formidable band of outlaws, considering the smallness of its numbers, that has been known in this country, is of mixed Tuscarera, mulatto and white blood, twenty-six years of age, five feet nine inches high and weighing about 150 pounds.

He has straight black hair, like an Indian: a dark goatee, and a beard graceful in shape, but too thin to look very black. His face slopes from the cheek bones to the tip of his goatee, so as to give him the Southern American contour of physiognomy; but it is lighted with eyes of a different color—eyes of a grayish hazel—at times appearing light blue, with a drop of brown in them, but in agitation dilating, darkening, and, although never quite losing the appearance of a smile, yet in inaction it is a smile of devilish nature. His forehead is good and his face and expression refined—remarkably so, considering his mixed race, want of education and long career of lawlessness. A scar of crescent shape and black color lies in the skin below his left eye, said to have been made by an iron pot falling upon him when a child.

His voice is sweet and pleasant, and in his manner there is nothing self-important or swaggering. He is not talkative, listens quietly, and searches out whoever is speaking to him like a man illiterate in all books save the two great books of nature, and human nature above all.

The color of the skin is of a whitish yellow sort, with an admixture of copper—such a skin as, for the nature of its components, is in color indescribable, there being no negro blood in it except that of a far remote generation of mulatto, and the Indian still apparent.

It is enough to say of this skin that it seems to suffer little change by heat or cold, exposure or sickness, good housing or wild weather.

The very relatives of white men killed by Henry Berry Lowry admitted to me that " He is one of the handsomest mulattoes you ever saw."


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George Alfred Townshed, Henry Berry Lowery, The Swamp Outlaw by Alfred Townshed, 1872, Civil War Era NC, accessed July 12, 2024,