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Prison camps have generally received less attention, overlooking the fact that they were products of those horrific battles. Most works relating to this southern Maryland prison camp rarely reach the depth of research and discussion of both prisoners and guards, which is presented to understand better what both prisoners and guards experienced. Previously published works generally depict the guards as cruel and inhuman, displaying little compassion for their charges. Such alleged treatment by the guard force was not always the case at Point Lookout. Post-war works reflect biased opinions based solely on the writings of prison survivors. Contemporary writers on the subject have accepted these memoirs, stories, and reflections as the final word without questioning their validity. The results presented challenge other researchers who have accepted what was written in the post-war years as the final word. Point Lookout Confederate Prisoner of War Camp As the number of prisoners steadily increased after the battle of Gettysburg, it became evident that the number of current Union prisons was not enough to hold them all. As no major prisons had been opened or facilities converted since the Confederate defeats at Fort Henry and Fort Donaldson in 1862,Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, Montgomery Meigs, ordered Brigadier General Daniel H. Rucker, Chief Quartermaster, to establish a prison camp at Point Lookout, Maryland, capable of incarcerating 5,000 prisoners with area enough to add an additional 5,000 prisoners, or more, when needed. Point   Lookout   was   established   on August   1, 1863,   and   became   the   largest   prisoner   of war   camp   during   the   war.   It   was   located   at the   extreme   tip   of   St.   Mary’s   County   on   the long,     low     barren     peninsula     where     the Potomac   River   joins   the   Chesapeake   Bay.   It had   been   a   resort   area   with   hotels,   boarding   houses,   cottages,   and   commercial   establishments   prior to the Civil War. The   site   was   leased   to   the   federal   government   in   June   1862,   and   quickly   became   a   significant government   installation.   Even   though   the   site   was   comparatively   isolated,   it   could   be   easily   protected. At   the   extreme   end   of   the   peninsula,   near   the   lighthouse,   a   1,400-bed   hospital   was   constructed comprising   sixteen   buildings   arranged   in   a   circle.   Hammond   Hospital   was   supported   by   a   large   wharf to   receive   supplies   and   the   wounded   soldiers   that   arrived   from   battlefields.   The   hospital   complex included   a   number   of   storehouses   and   stables;   laundry   and   dining   facilities;   and   additional   quarters for   officers,   doctors,   surgeons,   and   Union   troops. The    hospital    became    one    of    the    largest    and busiest medical facilities in the Union's service. A     fifty-acre     site     located     about     a     half     mile northeast    of    the    hospital    was    selected    for    the new   prison.   Work   soon   began   by   enclosing   the area   with   a   twelve-foot-high   fence,   with   a   catwalk constructed   along   the   top   of   the   fence   for   the guards. The   prison   was   divided   into   two   sections; one   area   of   approximately   thirty-eight   acres   for the     enlisted     men     and     the     adjoining     site designated   for   officers   of   approximately   seven   to eight    acres.    The    inside    of    the    prison    was    a barren,   flat   stretch   comprised   of   a   mixture   of   part sand   and   part   clay.   All   of   the   prisoners   were   to be   sheltered   in   tents   instead   of   barracks.   The camp    was    prone    to    coastal    flooding    as    the peninsula   is   approximately   two   feet   above   sea level. The   prison's   official   name   was   Camp   Hoffman   but   was   seldom   referred   to   by   this   name.   Before   long, the prison became the most populated and largest prison, at one time holding over 20,000 prisoners. The   first   guard   detail   assigned   to   the   camp   was   the   2 nd   and   12th   New   Hampshire   Infantry   Regiments. Other   guard   units   assigned   included   the   4 th   Rhode   Island   Volunteer   Infantry,   the   10th,   11 th   and   20 th U.S.   Veteran   Reserve   Corps   Regiments,   and   the   139 th   Ohio   Infantry.   On   February   25,1864,   the   36th U.S.   Colored   Infantry   Regiment,   followed   by   the   4th   United   States   Colored   Troops   and   the   5th Massachusetts    Colored    Cavalry,    would    act    as    prison    guards.    These    regiments    would    soon    be followed   by   other   U.S.C.T.   units.   United   States   Navy   warships   and   gunboats,   such   as   the   U.S.S. Minnesota and the ironclad U.S.S. Roanoke, would patrol the waters on both sides of the peninsula. The first commandant was Brig. Gen. Gilman Marston. He was replaced in December 1863 by Brig. Gen. Edward W. Hinks, in April 1864 by Col. Alonzo G. Draper, and in July by Brig. Gen. James Barnes. The first prisoners arrived in late July and by the end of the year, the population was more than 9,000 prisoners. By mid-summer 1864, it was over 15,500 prisoners. The   prisoner's   tents   were   set   up   in   ten   parallel   streets   referred   to   as   “divisions”   that   ran   east   to   west within   the   prison.   By   late   1864,   the   divisional   streets   would   increase   to   thirteen   to   accommodate   the surplus population in the prison. LIFE & CONDITIONS: All prisoners lived in the overcrowded tents and shacks, with no barracks to protect them from heat and coastal storms. There were several different kinds of tents that the prisoners used. Each row of tents were labeled as a division and would hold 1,000 or more prisoners. The majority of the different types were: A-tents (5 men), Sibley tents (13-14 men), Hospital tents (15-18 men), Wall tents (3-8 men), Hospital fly’s (10-13 men), Wall-tent fly’s (3-8 men), and Shelter tents (3 men). The   eastern   wall   of   the   prison   whose   border   ran   along   shoreline   of the    bay,    was    provided    with    gates    that    were    opened    to    permit prisoners   to   bathe,   wash   clothes,   fish   and   gather   oysters.   The   many water   sources   available   for   drinking   were   usually   contaminated.   The wells   that   supplied   the   water   for   the   camp   were   usually   dug   too shallow   and   contaminated   easily.   It   would   not   be   until   the   last   months of   the   war   that   the   federal   government   arranged   delivery   of   fresh water by boat to both Hammond Hospital and the prison. There   was   never   enough   food   or   firewood;   both   were   strictly   rationed. Rats   were   a   major   source   of   protein   for   some   inmates,   and   catching them   became   a   favorite   sport   in   the   camp.   Rations   were   supposed   to consist   of   pork   two   out   of   three   days,   with   beef   on   the   third   day.   The rations   were   served   twice   a   day,   between   the   hours   of   8:00   and   9:00 a.m.   for   breakfast   and   1:00   to   2:00   p.m.   for   dinner.   The   bread   wagons would deliver fresh bread generally after the midday ration. There   were   weekly   inspections   of   the   prisoners   and   prison   camp,   in   which   the   prisoners   would   have their   shelters   inspected   for   contraband   (illegal   possessions).   Flooding   of   the   prison   compound   was frequent, often flooding their shelters and making living conditions practically unbearable. Because of the topography, drainage was poor, and the area was subject to extreme heat in the summer and cold in the winter. This exacerbated the problems created by inadequate food, sanitation, clothing, fuel, housing, and medical care. As a result, over 4,000 prisoners died during the twenty- three months the prison operated. Besides chronic diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid fever had become epidemic at the camp while smallpox, scurvy, and the itch had become quite common. The latrines at the camp were built out over the bay on the east side of the camp for use in the daytime. Large boxes and or tubs were used at nighttime. Daily activities in the camp consisted of reveille between dawn and sunrise and followed by roll call. After breakfast, the prisoners passed time by busying themselves with a wide variety of occupations and pastimes. There   were   still   22,000   prisoners   being   held   by   the   end   of   the   war   in April   1865.They   were   eventually released   in   a   combination   of   alphabetical   order.   By   June   30th,   all   prisoners   held   at   Point   Lookout   had been released with the exception of those that were still bed ridden in the hospitals. It is estimated that a total of 52,264 prisoners, both military and civilian, were held prisoner there. Although it was designed for 10,000 prisoners, during most of its existence it held 12,600 to 20,000 inmates. Only 50 escapes were successful at the camp.
Point Lookout Prison Camp   “If It Were Not For Hope,  How Could We Live In A Place Like This?”  The Civil War Prison Camp at Point Lookout, Maryland July 1863 – August 1865  New Book by Robert E. Crickenberger, Jr.
More Details About Point Lookout and “If It Were Not For Hope, How Could We Live In A Place Like This?”
Gen James Barnes and Staff at Point Lookout, MD
Prisoner and artist John Omenhausser of Co. A, 59th Virginia Infantry documented his experiences while at Point Lookout Prison. He drew 65 watercolors and put them in a sketch book. Several libraries have this sketchbook including the New York Historical Society: You can view the sketchbook here: https://digitalcollections.nyhistory.org/islandora/object/islandora%3A31569#page/17/mode/2up
Prisoner and artist John Omenhausser draws a scene on the beach where prisoners gather crabs and one prisoner shows another who has never seen a crab to smell his bug.
Dr Anthony Hager Medical Director Point Lookout
Dr. Anthony Heger served as Medical Director of the hospital at Point Lookout, Maryland. - Crickenberger Collection
A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dais administering the oath of allegiance to the Union .
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