It is hard to imagine this tranquil site as a place of sickness, suffering and death. Yet during the Civil War, five graveyards marked Point Lookout.
Why so many graves? In 1863, Union forces chose this isolated spot for a prisoner of war camp. Over 50,000 Confederate soldiers were confined here in tents and crude buildings. Crowded conditions, insufficient food, contaminated water and exposure to harsh weather inevitably led to disease.
Dysentery, tuberculosis and smallpox spread quickly in the over-crowded camp. Most of the men were from rural areas and had no previous exposure to these diseases. Ill-equipped hospital stewards tried to stem the contagion but could not cope. In just three years, over 4500 people were buried at Point Lookout.
Over 4500 men who answered the call to serve in the Civil War died at Point Lookout. Although all made a similar sacrifice, death did not bring them together. They were laid to rest in five different cemeteries: one for smallpox victims, one for Union Soldiers, one for African-American soldiers and two for Confederate prisoners of war. None of these graveyards exist today.
Horse-drawn wagons like this collected bodies of Confederate prisoners of war and carried them to open trenches where they were laid side by side, then covered with dirt. Later, the remains were removed elsewhere for proper burial.