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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Was Pt. Lookout, Maryland Comparable to Andersonville, Georgia

In Days of Terror and a March to Death we learned of the capture of my 2nd great grandfather and his death at Point Lookout Confederate POW camp.  

Point Lookout [1][2]is located on the southern tip of Maryland in Saint Mary's County.  It's eastern, western and southern borders are bounded on the west by the Potomac River and on the east by the waters of Chesapeake Bay.   The POW Camp (Camp Hoffman) was established after the Battle of Gettysburg to incarcerate captured confederate soldiers.   

It operated from August 1863 until June 1865. It was the largest and one of the worst POW Camp established in the North[3].  Remember in the above article that it was still in use on 12 June 1865 when my great great grandfather died while still incarcerated two months after the War has ended. 
My great great grandfather was a civilian when he was captured. The Point Lookout POW Organization[4] on their website states that "In March 1865, it was reported that 301 civilians were in Point Lookout Prison!  There are also records that show the imprisonment of four (4) ladies and two (2) babies. One baby was a son of Jane A. Perkins who was captured and imprisoned at the camp. Records keeping for this prison were deplorable.  

Over 52,000 prisoners passed through the gates of Point Lookout. Unfortunately, for over 8000 of them it was a one way trip.  The confederate prisoners in this camp suffered immensely. They suffered from scurvy, chronic diarrhea and dysentery, from typhoid and typhus; conditions were filthy and infested with rats, blankets and clothing was scare. In the winter it was freezing cold and prisoners froze to death. The winter of 1864 was quite severe. During the summer months the burning hot sand blistered their shoeless feet. They were housed in rotten tents filled with holes. If that is not enough misery add to their fears and bewilderment the senseless shooting of prisoners' by guards.

Of the 8000 plus soldier and civilians that did not survive their ordeal while incarcerated at Point Lookout only 3389 names are contained  on 12 Bronze Plaques affixed to a Marble Obelisk erected to honor the men who gave their all. Less than half of the men who died here have been identified and memorialized on these plaques. All the deceased prisoners were initially buried in individual graves marked with a wooden cross. The locality of the camp, below sea level, combined with severe winter freezing and hurricanes have resulted in the movement of all graves twice and with the final entombment of all prisoners in a single mass grave.

Statistic shows that Northern prison such as Point Lookout, Maryland and Elmira, New York were more brutal and deadly to the prisoner within than Andersonville. The death rate at Point Lookout was 25% while Andersonville[5], in the south, had a 24% death rate. At Elmira, New York the death rate was as astounding 44%.
After the war, the House of Representative appointed a committee to look into treatment of Union prisoners in the South but repeated request to extend these inquiries into the treatment of Confederate prisoners in the North went unanswered.
The North was swift in their trial and conviction of Major Henry Wirz[6], Commander of Andersonville for the alleged murder of prisoner in the South. While the cries from the south about death, malnutrition and shooting of prisoner were pushed aside. Major Henry Wirz was tried and hung in Washington, DC on November 10, 1865.
No union commander was ever punished or berated for their treatment of Confederate prisoners.
"To the Victor goes the Spoils"

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