Point Lookout is the southernmost place on Maryland’s western shore and is now the site of a placid park dotted with monuments, but during the Civil War, it was the site of one of the largest and likely most brutal prison camps operated by Northern forces.
Point Lookout was first surveyed and explored by Captain John Smith, of Jamestown fame, and was noted for its beautiful location between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. Its location made it the target of attacks during the American Revolution and the War of 1812- but that’s not why Point Lookout is famous. Point Lookout is often considered one of the worst prison camps operated by the Northern side during the American Civil War. The prison at Point Lookout held 50,000 Confederate soldiers over the course of the war and conditions there were infamous. Overcrowding, freezing temperatures, and harsh treatment abounded. The exact number of men who died there is unknown, but estimates range from 4,000 to 14,000.
Although the prison camp itself no longer exists, the 1830s lighthouse still remains, as well as a Confederate mass grave that is marked with a towering stone obelisk, estimated to hold the bodies of over 3,000 soldiers.
With such a troubled past, of course, the site is rumored to be haunted by various specters. Ghostly figures and voices, a chill in the air, and a rotting smell have all been reported, especially inside the lighthouse, which has been uninhabited since the 1980s.
In popular culture, this site was the real-life location which inspired the “Point Lookout” DLC in the Bethesda game Fallout 3.
Know Before You Go
Hours of operation for the park are 6am to sunset.