The Past Comes Alive at Point Lookout State Park

Kimberly Bean
Kimberly Bean
Published on July 6, 2017

Stand on the beach at Point Lookout State Park, and you might hear whispers from the past.

Some even say there are ghosts there.

We don’t know if that is true, but we do know you’ll find more at this Southern Maryland state park than camping, fishing, and boating.

Located at the far southern tip of the western shore of Maryland in St. Mary’s County, Point Lookout is so named because of its vantage point for American soldiers during the War of 1812. The Chesapeake Bay is on one side of the point, and the Potomac River is on the other. It was raided by the British during the Revolutionary War, but perhaps its most famous history happened during the Civil War.

At that time, Point Lookout was a bustling Union port and temporary city with civilian and military residents. There was an Army hospital there, an Army garrison at Fort Lincoln, and a prisoner of war camp for Confederate soldiers. The camp, which was built to hold 10,000 prisoners, soon became overcrowded with more than twice that in the camp. During the war, more than 52,000 Confederate soldiers passed through the camp; conditions were poor, and more than 3,500 died.

Today, the walls of Fort Lincoln remain, and buildings to represent the structures in the fort have been reconstructed. Reenactments and events tell the story of Point Lookout’s role in the Civil War and the men who lived and were imprisoned there. You’ll also find markers and signs were the prison camp was built, and a monument and park outside the state park mark a mass grave where Confederate soldiers were buried.

Point Lookout is also home to a historic lighthouse. It was built at the point in 1830 and remained in operation until the light was extinguished in the 1960s. Monthly open houses allow visitors to see inside the lighthouse and the keeper’s quarters. Local lore says the lighthouse – and much of the park – is haunted.

In the early 1900s, Point Lookout was a swanky resort community with a hotel. Due to poor conditions, the shuttered hotel was town down in the 1990s. Today, the state owns the land and operates a state park at Point Lookout.

And you can do more than camp and fish at the park. As mentioned, Fort Lincoln remains, and the site of the Civil War prison is marked. Signs and markers throughout the park tell visitors about the history that happened here. You’ll also find a Civil War museum and nature center on site with exhibits about Point Lookout’s history and natural environment.


And if you’re really quiet, some say, you just might see and hear those ghosts.

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