Prison History

Directions to Pt. Lookout

Point Lookout is located on the east coast of the United States of America in the southern tip of Maryland in St. Mary's County. Click on the colored U.S. map to the right to see a more detailed map locating Point Lookout. Click here to see a state map with Pt. Lookout Highlighted. 

Click Here for MapQuest directions to Confederate Memorial Park.

Point Lookout POW Camp (Camp Hoffman) was established after the Battle of Gettysburg to incarcerate Confederate prisoners. It was in operation from August 1863 through June 1865. Being only 5' above sea level, it was located on approx. 30 acres of leveled land. It was the largest Union prison camp for Confederates. Point Lookout was one of the most secure POW camps, being surrounded on three sides by water from the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, with Union cannons pointed toward the prisoners from Ft. Lincoln and guns of Union ships anchored in nearby waters. Only an estimated 50 escapes were successful.

Before the war, Point Lookout was a fashionable resort hotel and a summer bathing place with over a hundred cottages where the elite spent their leisure time.

Point Lookout Hotel
Point Lookout, Maryland
circa 1983
circa 1983
circa 1983
circa 1950
Photos Courtesy of Cora Lunsford

In 1862, with erection of additional buildings, it became a military hospital for the care of Union soldiers, an imprisonment for Maryland citizens who were Southern sympathizers, as well as a supply depot for the Army of the Potomac. In August 1863, the large building with outbuildings arranged in spoke fashion (Hammond Hospital), became the care center for wounded/sick Confederate prisoners as well as for Union men.

During the two year span of operation, Point Lookout saw approx. 52,000 POWs pass through her gates. These were military and civilian, men, women, and children. It's also interesting to note that the youngest POW at Point Lookout was Baby Perkins. He was born there. His mother, Jane Perkins, was captured at the Battle of Spotsylvania with her artillery unit.

Prison conditions were deplorable. Rations were below minimal, causing scurvy and malnutrition. Prisoners ate rats and raw fish. It's recorded that one hungry Rebel devoured a raw seagull that had been washed ashore. Soap skim and trash peelings were often eaten when found. Lice, disease, and chronic diarrhea often resulted in an infectious death. Prisoners were deprived of adequate clothing, and often had no shoes in winter or, only one blanket among sixteen or more housed in old, worn, torn, discarded Union sibley tents. In the winter of 1863, 9,000 prisoners were crowded into 980 tents. Even the Point's weather played havoc with the prisoners. Because of it's location, it's extremely cold with icy wind in the winter and a smoldering sun reflecting off the blinding, barren sand in summer. High water often flooded the tents in the camp area, resulting in knee deep mud. The undrained marshes bred mosquitoes. Malaria, typhoid fever and smallpox was common. The brackish water supply was contaminated by unsanitary camp conditions. There was a deadline about 10' from the approx. 14' wooden parapet wall. Anyone caught crossing this line, even to peek through the fence, was shot. Prisoners were also randomly shot by the guards during the night as they slept, or if they called out from pain.

Major Brady was the Provost Marshall and Major General Benjamin (Beast) Butler would review the prison camp. Many times Major General Butler on his horse would gallop through the crowd of men, hitting them as he sped by. The sixty gun Minnesota was within a short distance from the shore to guard the prisoners.

Photo Courtesy of Alvin Slaughter

Among the sites at this prison were: 1830 Lighthouse, Hammond Hospital, the Nuns housing, 3 forts, guard quarters, officers' quarters, stables, contraband quarters, Union quarters/tenting area, burying grounds, smallpox hospital, stockade, etc.

Photo Courtesy of Alvin Slaughter

Although it is estimated that over 14,000 prisoners died at Pt. Lookout, at present only a near 3,384 are accounted for as buried in the Point Lookout cemetery. Their graves have been moved twice since the original burial. They now rest in a mass grave under an 85' towering obelisk monument erected by the federal government. This was the first monument to Confederate soldiers! Huge bronze tablets circling this monument depict names of those so far recorded. Also in this cemetery is a smaller 25' monument erected by the state of Maryland to the memory of the prisoners.

Today, this prison site is a beautiful, well maintained campground that offers among other things, boating, fishing, and picnicking. This is run by the Maryland state park service.

When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, 0 Lord, as the streams in the South. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. ..........Psalm 126

Above is a picture of my precious seed, following in the foot steps of his Point Lookout forefathers as we turned again the captivity of Zion last summer. Behind him, a mighty Stream of the South; beneath bare feet, Holy Ground. Perhaps the seeds he sows shall some day reap a "Mighty Harvest of Truth!" ..........Wayne McFarland

Wayne and his son Timmy and are members of our descendants organization and re-enactors with our Lee's Miserables.

Last updated on October 27, 2008
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