Federal Hospital Prison
An Overview of Point Lookout, Maryland


     As the Civil War progressed into its up scaled battles, feeding more men into the teeth of hell, both governments sought more real estate to establish their prisoners of war. In the beginning, regardless of the condition captured in, Confederate prisoners of war had their ticket punched for places such as Fort Lafayette, El Mira or Camp Chase. In the wake of the battle at Gettysburg, however, the federal government sought to establish a camp which would specifically cater to those who were combat wounded or contrived illness during their tenure elsewhere.

     In mid July of 1863, plans were in motion to establish a hospital prison at the tip of St. Mary's County and with the assistance of the Army's Surgeon General, Brigadier General William Alexander Hammond, provisions were made to render medical attention to those incarcerated there.

     War Department General Order 226 assigned Brigadier General Gillman Marston to the newly established Saint Mary's County District to be headquartered at Point Lookout. With an established stockade and grounds to provide, the southern tip of St. Mary's began receiving its first shipment of prisoners from Fort McHenry as well as those in and around Washington City.

     The Chesapeake Bay detained the inmates on their side of the stockade, while the mouth of the Potomac River kept any working parties from ideas of escaping into Virginia. This setup made life during the winter brutal on the soldiers held there. Housed in shelter halves with firewood scarce and blankets in low quantity, it proved to be a cold miserable place to sit out the war.

     The hospital establishment itself was arranged as that of the spokes from a wagon wheel having fifteen separate wards, housing nearly fourteen hundred beds overall, with seventy to each ward. In addition to looking after the combat wounded, cases of typhoid fever, diarrhea and pneumonia were monitored and treated with a fully trained medical staff.

     During the summer of 1864, the liberation of Confederate Soldiers residing there became an addendum to the Maryland Invasion of Major General Jubal Early. A blunder in command and control assigned Brigadier General Bradley T. Johnson to that task. While Early was floundering about Frederick, Maryland seeking routes and a ford across the Monocacy River, his only native to the area rode off on his impossible mission, finding the hospital prison impractical to carry.

     During the summer following the surrender of all Confederate Forces, the last of the prisoners of Point Lookout were released, and on July 13, 1865 the Department of Washington issued Special Orders 168 discontinuing Point Lookout as a garrisoned post. The last of the federal troops moved on and the two year legacy of the Federal Hospital Prison at Point Lookout would quietly pass into the memory of what we call history.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2002

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at dmoran@us-civilwar.net