POINT LOOKOUT PARK
CAMP HOFFMAN AND FORT LINCOLN HISTORICAL AREAS
Located at the southern tip of St. Mary's County is Point Lookout State Park, a popular recreation and historic area where thousands come every summer to enjoy the weather and the outdoors. It is hard to imagine that this place was once a camp where thousands of Confederate soldiers were imprisoned and where more than 4,000 of them died.
But those facts are true.... and just as true are the stories which say that many of those soldiers are still lingering here.
The area known as Point Lookout had its beginning in the mid-1800's as a pleasure resort. When the Civil War broke out, the owner sold the property to the government as a site that could be used as a military hospital. The Hammond General Hospital was soon built, but it was quickly decided that the area would best be served as a prison camp.
Officially, the place was known as Camp Hoffman. There were never any barracks built and the prisoners had to sleep in tents. Later, when the place became overcrowded, they were not even afforded that luxury. The low, marshy land of the area bred disease among the prisoners and men soon started to die from smallpox, dysentery and scurvy. The place was a hellhole and instead of the 10,000 prisoners it was supposed to hold, more than 20,000 were crowded in at one time, making it the largest prison camp of the Civil War.
The Confederates tried several times to take the camp and free the prisoners. Finally, an airtight plan was formulated but the Union troops got wind of it and Fort Lincoln was built nearby to stop any future plans of freeing the prisoners.
In 1862, a hospital was built in the camp so that doctors could minister to the soldiers. It consisted of many buildings, arranged in a circle like spokes on a wheel. There were fifteen buildings used as wards.
After the war, Camp Hoffman was dismantled, although many of the buildings still stand today as reminders of the past..... and some say that many of the soldiers imprisoned here stay also. It is not only the buildings here that are haunted, but the very land the camp stood on also.
There have been many people over the years who have had strange experiences in the park, from staff members to visitors. They claim to have seen apparitions of soldiers appear in front of their vehicles and have seen and heard things which they cannot explain.
Most frightening are the strange voices that have been heard and captured on audio tape in the park.... voices that seem to belong to prisoners from the past. Ghost investigations and even seances have turned up all sorts of odd phenomena and hundreds of reports are documented every year.
In the 1970's, a park manager saw the ghostly figure of a young man outside the window of his residence and then vanish, while another employee saw a ghostly woman standing at the top of a stairway. The sounds of phantom footsteps, slamming doors and windows and even ghostly snoring have been reported and recorded in a duplex dwelling in the park. It had served as a functioning lighthouse until 1965.
There have also been reports of ghostly sightings by fishermen and tourists on the roads and pathways in the park. Unlike many of our national parks, the rangers here keep track of strange sightings and reports and even conduct a ghost tour each October.
It remains perhaps one of the most haunted places in the state of Maryland.
Point Lookout Park is located at the extreme southern tip of Maryland, at the end of a peninsula where the Potomac River meets Chesapeake Bay.
Copyright 1998 by Troy Taylor
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