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Escape From Point Lookout POW Camp

During the Civil War, more than 400,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were held at prisoner-of-war camps, with a tragic death toll of 56,000. Among these captives was a Confederate soldier with a remarkable tale of escape from Point Lookout POW camp in Maryland. Thirty-six years later, this soldier embarked on a journey to revisit the site of his imprisonment, hoping to meet and reward those who had shown him kindness and aided in his journey. Accompanied by a newspaper correspondent, his story was recorded and later published.

Simon Erastus Vaden Seward (photo courtesy of Wilkie – Find a Grave)

Simon E. V. Seward was born in Surry County, VA, on May 14, 1844. He hailed from a family with a strong military lineage, his second great-grandfather having served in the Revolutionary War. On August 12, 1862, Seward enlisted in Company E of the 13th Regiment Virginia Cavalry, the Confederate States of America, at Petersburg, VA.

Just before the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee dispatched some troops to threaten Washington and draw away Union forces. Seward was among these men, and while reconnoitering in Montgomery County, Maryland, Union soldiers captured him on June 28, 1863. Initially held at the Old Capitol Prison, the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg necessitated the conversion of Point Lookout, a former military hospital complex, into a POW camp. Seward was transferred there, witnessing the rapid increase in prisoners from 1,700 to 9,000 by the end of 1863.

As conditions worsened with the influx of prisoners, scarcity of food and contaminated water caused illnesses like typhoid and malaria. Before the war ended, some 4,000 prisoners died at Point Lookout. Seward began planning his escape.

Simon Seward Service Record: July & August 1863: “Absent -Missing and supposed to be captured.”

For weeks, he studied the guards’ movements until he found the opportune moment to make his move. He crept past a fence unnoticed but drew attention while trying to steal a horse, triggering alarms. Running through a barrage of gunfire, Seward flung himself into the Chesapeake Bay and swam furiously. He eventually came ashore and made his way south, hiding from pursuing soldiers. Along his arduous journey, he encountered compassionate strangers who provided him with dry clothes, food, money, and lodging.  

Evening Star: July 29, 1899

Finally reaching Richmond, Confederate officials granted Seward a furlough, and he reunited with his family. Post-conflict, he went on to become a wealthy businessman. Despite his achievements, Seward never forgot the kindness extended toward him during his escape. His greatest desire was to repay it. In 1898, at the age of 55, Seward embarked on a poignant return to Point Lookout, accompanied by his brother and a newspaper correspondent eager to document this emotional journey.  

Seward tried to follow his original escape route but rerouted rivers, and roads made it difficult. As they neared Point Lookout, Seward inquired about an old home where he once sought refuge. Locals directed him to John Hewitt, whose father had lived on the land years earlier.

Seward found Hewitt, and when he asked him if he remembered the war, a flicker of recognition passed through Hewitt’s eyes. Suddenly, both men realized that this was not their first meeting. Years earlier, when Hewitt was a teenager, he and his father helped Seward escape. Both men were stunned, then overcome with emotion. The two embraced and wept as they recounted the events from many years earlier.

Hewitt remembered every detail of the night his mother opened the door to find an emaciated 19-year-old soldier. The family took Seward in, fed him, hid him, then helped him escape as Union soldiers closed in.

Seward pressed a substantial sum of money into Hewitt’s hand. Hewitt protested but eventually acquiesced. The journey back to Point Lookout was cathartic for Seward, who expressed gratitude that the war was over, and the Union was preserved.

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  1. Karen Grubber says:

    John Samuel Hewitt (1848-1937) was my 2nd great grandfather! Simon E.V. Seward did very well after the war, founding the Seward Trunk Company in Petersburg, Virginia, which was the largest luggage manufacturer in the world at one point in time. According to family tradition, Seward gave Great Grandfather Hewitt a trunk made by Seward’s company. The Hewitt Family, like most families in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, were Confederate sympathizers. Despite occupation by federal troops, many St. Mary’s Countians helped send contraband supplies and prisoners through blockades on the Potomac to Virginia.

    • Christine Distelhorst says:

      I so enjoyed reading about your 2nd great-grandfather!! I am actually going to share this with my UDC at our first meeting in September!

    • TRW says:

      It’s great to hear this family tradition! Thanks for sharing.

    • Allen Wheeler says:

      HI Karen,
      I am with a Military museum in my home town we have some Civil war items but could I get more information on this so I can have program on it? It would be vary interesting for people to hear about your g-Grandfather and Seward.
      I you could email me back and let me know how I can get.
      Thank you,
      Allen Wheeler
      Fighting Falcon Military Museum
      Greenville Mi.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      That is incredible. Thank you for sharing!

    • Gary W Faison says:

      John William Warriner’s older brother, Andrew John Thomas Warriner, born 1840, also a 1st cousin 3 X removed to me, enlisted May 18, 1861 at Charles City Court House, into CO. C, 3rd VA., Cavalry, later CO. D. Andrew was captured July 5, 1863, near Gettysburg and Harrison, PA., POW rolls, July 7, 1863, indicate imprisoned at Ft. Delaware, Lookout Point, MD., died of typhoid disease July 12, 1863.

      Younger brothers: John William Warriner, Sgt., CO. D, 15th VA. Inf., survived the war after capture at Sailor’s Creek and buried at Willis Church used as a hospital during Battles of Fraser’s Farm and Malvern Hill

      Josiah C. Warriner, Private., CO. G, 15th VA. Inf., died Weldon, NC. Railroad accident, March, 1864.


    Really a gratitude he made to those helped him to escape.His remember to say gratitude to them is unimaginable.
    The world is revolving as these gentlemen are surviving.

  3. My g-g-grandfather commanded the 12th NH at that point, and their assignment after Gettysburg was guarding Point Lookout.

  4. Don DePriest says:

    Nice Story! My GGuncle Pleasant DePriest was captured at the Battle of Thompson’s Station Tennessee and sent to Camp Douglas Chicago (Great Lakes). Pleasant and three or four Tennessee boys swam under the ice of Lake Michigan and broke through the ice to safety. I think one of the boys drowned. The rest, including Uncle Pleas, made it back to Tennessee. Pleas eventually married a girl from Chicago who aided them in their escape. He died in 1917 in Perry County, Tennessee at the age of 80.

    • Max E says:

      My GG-Grandfather Franklin A, Westbrooks was captured at the Battle for Nashville and spent the rest of the war at Camp Douglas. He was released after the war and made his way back to his family in Georgia.

  5. Two of my ancestors were imprisoned at Point Lookout. Pvt. Daniel A. Troutman, 48th NC infantry, 7 months at Point Lookout, and Sgt. Noah I Deal, 37th NC infantry, 10 months imprisonment there. They both survived.

  6. Frank T Overbey says:

    My g, g, uncle, Warren Overbey was captured at Gettysburg (14th Va Infantry) and was imprisoned there, dying Christmas 1863. It was one of the worst Union camps. He is buried there in a mass grave and his name is on the memorial.

    • Edwin E. Karnes says:

      My ggg Uncle Pvt. Andrew Rinaca, 33rd VA Inf, was captured at Gettysburg and ended up at Point Lookout, MD. He arrived in Late October, 1863 and died the first week of December, 1863. He also is buried in the mass grave. They may have know each other for a short time.

  7. Sonya Rankin Setty says:

    My GrGrGrandfather, 2nd Lt. Allen A. Rankin, CSA. Was a POW at Point Lookout. He was captured in July 1863 during Morgan’s raid in Ohio. He died very young and I believe that it was related to his captivity there.

    • ChasSC says:

      It probably was. Starvation and disease took its toll on many men imprisoned there.

      My ancestor James Reid (Pvt, E Co, 11th SC Inf) was imprisoned in Point Lookout from Jun to Aug 1864 after capture around Petersburg. He then got transferred to Elmira in NY, another Yankee death camp. He survived by died at age 40.

  8. Richard A Purdee says:

    Excellent story. My great grandfather, Malone, was in the Ohio Regiment. I also had relative, name unknown, in the Confederate Army.

  9. Shirley Hazelwood says:

    A 2nd great grandfather of my husband, Asa Hazelwood, enlisted on April 5,1864 at Stokes County, North Carolina. He was captured on May 23,1864 at North Anna River, Virginia. He was confined at Point Lookout on May 30, 1864. He died on July 4, 1864, as a POW at Point Lookout.

  10. Linda Hukle Stopper says:

    Our great grandfather, Thomas Wise, was a Confederate Soldier from a poor family in Charleston, SC. His father had died and his mother was raising 8 children in very poor conditions. My grandfather told my mother, his granddaughter, that he joined the army, not out of any sense of loyalty or conviction, but as a matter of survival. Thomas was captured at the Battle of Petersburg and sent to Point Lookout. At some time, Thomas Wise was given the option to join the Union Army as a “Galvanized Yankee” and head west to assist pioneers with infrastructure, protection from Native Americans, and more. He was fortunate to have a commanding officer who believed in the program and he did well in his troop, something that didn’t happen with other troops under poorer leadership. When the war was over, the story goes, he was in Minnesota and saved the life of James J. Hill, the railroad entrepreneur. Hill gave him a job, and Thomas Wise eventually settled in Wayzata, Minnesota, and built boats on Lake Minnetonka. We have some documentation that substantiates most of Thomas Wise’s story. We had a family reunion two years ago and went to Petersburg and Point Lookout. Petersburg was a lesson in history, itself, but reading the conditions that existed at Point Lookout when it was a prisoner of war camp, were shocking. It is no wonder that a young man who joined the army to save his mother from having to feed another mouth, took the first opportunity to get away.

    • Tom Burk says:

      No doubt, the Confederate States relieved his mother of any other male children down to the age of 14. Same as Germany in 1945.

  11. Shirley Morris says:

    My GG-Grandfather, Henry Perry, was in Company H of the 54th Alabama Infantry of Colonel Alpeus Baker. He was captured at the Battle of Island Number 10 and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago. He was there from April 1862 to September 1862. He was sent from Camp Douglas to Vicksburg, Mississippi in a prisoner exchange. He rejoined the battle.

  12. Jim White says:

    My gg grandfather was capture at Lookout Mountain and was taken the Rock Island, IL, called the Andersonville of the north. It took 5 days by rail in which they were not given food or water. He was held there for 18 months until war ended. On 5 occasions he was told if he would sign oath of allegiance to Union he would be released, he refused. He was given cow hide to eat which they would boil to be able to eat it.

  13. Jackie says:

    My great grandfather B. T. Woodlief, several cousins, others from Co K, 44th Reg from Franklin Co NC were captured during the Seige of Petersburg and sent to Point Lookout until the war ended. His grandsons said he had little to say except they had one thin blanket to keep warm while sleeping on the ground. We have a book with Point Lookout written in it.

  14. Sherry Paul Duty says:

    Do not forget Andersonville, here is the story of one such young man who survived while over 2/3 of his troop of 356 men and 56 officers perished.

    Dr Aaron Goforth Armstrong Veteran (husband of 1st cousin 4x removed)
    Birth 12 Oct 1839
    Indiana, USA
    Death 26 Aug 1913 (aged 73)
    Berrien Springs, Berrien County, Michigan, USA
    Burial Rose Hill Cemetery
    Berrien Springs, Berrien County, Michigan, USA
    Plot 1ST SO. SEC. LOT 337 SPACE 1
    Memorial ID 126890857 · View Source
    Photos 4
    Flowers 0
    AGE 73YR 10 M0 13 DA
    The year of his birth was 1839, not 1835 as written on his death certificate. His brother Stephen was born in 1835 and was also a physician. Census reports also support Aaron’s year of birth to be 1839.

    CO. L. 16TH ILL CAV
    Military info listed him to have an alias of Charles Dunsmore. There must be an interesting story there.

    The following was shared by 47081961 Sherry Paul Duty:

    I also thought it was an interesting question as to why he enlisted under an alias in an Illinois Cavalry Regiment when he lived in LaPorte County Indiana.

    Seems he first enlisted in the 35th Indiana Infantry
    from the Indiana, Civil War Soldier Database Index, 1861-1865
    Name: Aaron G Armstrong
    Birth Year: abt 1838
    Age: 23
    Enrollment Date: 29 Nov 1861
    Discharge Date: 6 Jul 1862
    Place: LaPorte, Indiana
    Company: I
    Regiment: 35
    Notes: Deserted Fayetteville, TN. Reduced in rank from Sergeant to Private.

    This information just added more questions, so I emailed Brian D. Henry, who is a Military Historian with a website about the 35th Indiana Infantry here is his reply:

    “It looks like Aaron Armstrong deserted 8 months into his enlistment with the 35th. He was discharged in 1862. It makes sense because of a big political fight within the 35th Indiana in 1862. The Colonel and his followers vs the appointed Lt. Colonel and his group. A lot of the soldiers got sick of the politics. So many of them deserted. I don’t know why Aaron would pick an alias, since he was not a member of the 35th Indiana when he enlisted with the 16th Illinois Cavalry. It might have something to do with rank, since he was discharged as a Private in 1862. He enlisted in the 16th as a Sergeant (got his rank back). A lot of this kind of stuff happened along the Indiana/Illinois border. Kind of confusing, but I hope this helps answer your question.”

    Well, it didn’t entirely answer the question if anything it added more, so I continued to look, in all the civil war records I seen, I never found anyone demoted. I think he was demoted before he left. It would have explained why he left.

    My thoughts on why the name change? Could in the politics of the dispute in the regiment, he had been demoted to private, to accommodate the new commandant, and was humiliated. Could that be why he left? He was from a prominent and well-known family in Ohio and Indiana, to explain further, and perhaps family honor was his reason for leaving the 35th Indiana. And why he enlisted in Illinois and changed his name(because of the humiliation) was to serve his country, which with his family history he probably felt compelled to do.

    Aaron Armstrong’s grandfather was Colonel John Armstrong: was one of the most important people in the early history of the Ohio valley in the United States.

    Born in New Jersey on April 20, 1755, John Armstrong grew up in Pennsylvania. He joined the Continental Army in 1776, serving under George Washington.

    While in the Revolutionary War, Armstrong survived several historic battles, including Stoney Point, Monmouth, and the Battle of Yorktown. He also made the famous Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware River, which probably changed the course of the war.

    Although the highest rank he achieved in the Continental Army was captain–he later earned colonel in the Ohio militia–Armstrong earned his stripes. The army was very tiny. There wasn’t much room for upper-level officers. Despite his low rank, Armstrong rubbed elbows with the likes of “Mad” Anthony Wayne, the Marquise de Lafayette, and George Rogers Clark.

    Following the disbandment of the Continental Army in 1784, Armstrong joined the First U.S. Regiment, where he secretly explored land west of the Mississippi. His travels took him no further than the St. Louis area, but the mission laid the foundation for future discoveries In many ways, his excursion across the Mississippi was the precursor of the Lewis and Clark expedition

    John Armstrong (1755-1816) was a soldier, merchant, and land speculator. He served as a soldier and an officer with the 3rd and 12th Pennsylvania regiments (1776-1784) and with the United States Army in the West (1784-1793). He participated in Pennsylvania’s conflict with the Connecticut settlers at Wyoming (1783-1784), was commandant at Fort Pitt (1785-1786), and was stationed at Fort Finney (1786-1790). Armstrong helped explore the lower Missouri River and the Wabash River (1790). He also participated in the military campaigns of Col. Josiah Harmar (1790) and General Arthur St. Clair (1791). From 1791-1792 Armstrong served as commandant at Fort Hamilton. Upon his retirement from the army, Armstrong owned a general store near Cincinnati, Ohio from 1793-ca. 1807. He also served as justice of the peace for Hamilton County, Ohio from 1796-1797, was treasurer for the Northwest Territory from 1796-1802, and was an officer in the Hamilton County Militia from 1796-ca. 1811. Armstrong was also a land speculator in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. He lived in Clark County, Indiana from 1814 until his death in February 1816.

    Aaron Armstrong’s maternal grandfather was the Hon William Goforth (1731-1807), a merchant in New York, Philadelphia, and Hamilton County, Ohio (1789-1807), Hamilton County judge (1790), member of the Northwest Territory legislature (1799), and president pro term of the Ohio constitutional convention (1802).

    Aaron Armstrong’s great uncle was Major Gen John Stites Gano
    War of 1812 husband of Mary Goforth sister of Tabitha Goforth, Arron’s Grandmother.

    Major Gen John Stites Gano, United States Militia. A native of New York, he emigrated to Ohio and became one of the earliest settlers of Columbus in Franklin County. He was appointed as an ensign with a New York Militia Company before moving west and joined Generals Anthony Wayne and Josiah Harmar to fight in the Indian Wars of 1791. He was promoted to Major of the 1st Regiment Ohio Militia in 1792 and also served as the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Clerk. He became a Lieutenant Colonel in 1797 and served under William Henry Harrison. When another war with England was impending in 1812, he was appointed as a Major General to command the 1st Division Ohio Militia by Governor Edward Tiffin. He commanded his men during several battles in the Western Theatre of the War. He was married to Mary Goforth Gano. His father, John Gano, was a brigade chaplain for the New York Militia during the Revolutionary War and was credited with baptizing George Washington. He was initially buried at the First Baptist Grounds on Court Street in Cincinnati and removed to Spring Grove on June 6, 1866.

    Aaron Armstrong’s uncle was William Goforth Armstrong (1797-1858), Whig member, Indiana House of Representatives (1822-1825, 1834-1837) and Indiana State Senate (1838-1841), and president of the Jeffersonville Railroad Company (1847-1858).

    Battle Unit Details – The Civil War (the U.S. National Park
    Dunmore, Charles P.
    Battle Unit Name: 16th Regiment, Illinois Cavalry
    Side: Union
    Soldier’s Rank In:
    Soldier’s Rank Out:
    Alternate name: Charles R./Dunmore
    Film Number: M539 ROLL 25
    Plaque Number:
    Notes: none

    of Company L 16th Illinois Cavalry

    Apr 16, 1863
    Was prisoner. M.O. to date May 30, 1865

    Arron Goforth Armstrong was captured 3d of January 1864 and spent about 16 months in Andersonville prisoner of war camp. EXCHANGED APRIL 5, 1865

    From the Adjutant General’s Report’s report: “… one Battalion, under Maj. Beers was sent up Powell’s Valley in the direction of Jonesville, Va. On the 3d of January 1864, this Battalion was attacked by three Brigades of Longstreet’s command, and after maintaining its ground for ten hours, against five times its own number, and losing heavily in killed and wounded, its ammunition having become exhausted, it was compelled to surrender. The loss of the Regiment upon this occasion was 356 men and 56 officers.

    Long afterward the Rebels exchanged less than one-third of these prisoners, sent them back in the most wretched condition from the horrors of the prison pen at Andersonville.” (two-thirds of these men died at Andersonville).

    Prisoner Details
    Dunmore, Charles

    The National Park Service
    Prisoner Details
    Side: Union
    Unit Name: 16 Illinois Cavalry
    Regiment: 16
    State: Illinois
    Function: Cavalry
    Company: L
    Rank: Sergeant
    Description: Held at Andersonville and survived

    Now you know the rest of the story, or at least what may be found at this late date. Please add to Arron’s memorial. Thank you, Sherry Paul Duty 47081961

    29 Apr 2018
    Dr Arron Goforth Armstrong
    Kathy, for you information. 4/29/20018

    I had one more question for Brian, and am sending you his answer.

    I do have a question about the so-called “desertions” of the 35th Indiana, were there trials, and was anyone convicted of desertions, was there punishments?
    Brian’s answer
    “The situation surrounding the mass desertions was a very messy one. There were no punishments for those that left. This whole 35th mess was totally a political one. Governor Morton (Republican) appointed John C. Walker as Colonel of the 35th. Walker was a prominent Democrat in Indiana (Morton’s rival). What’s the best way to get rid of your competition? Give them a regiment and send them away. Anyway, Walker began setting up his upper-level officers by political loyalties to him. Then along come Colonel Bernard Mullen (61st Indiana 2d Irish). This regiment could not muster enough men, so Morton ordered them into Walker’s 1st Irish Regiment. Morton placed Mullen as Lt. Colonel, and the rest of Mullen’s officers and men were to fill some of the other positions throughout the regiment. Walker was not happy about this and started a little war of words within the regiment. Instead of talking to Mullen, Walker would just send him orders via courier. Everything went downhill from this point. Letters were sent to Morton in Indianapolis from Walker. Letters were sent from Mullen to Morton. It got so bad that many of the men who wanted to just preserve the Union left and joined other regiments. Walker was soon removed as Colonel for “medical reasons” (notice the quotes), and things got even worse. Walker began to send mail to General Henry Halleck about the situation (to no avail), and soon messages began arriving to Abraham Lincoln. Nothing worked in Walker’s favor, so he started working for the Copperheads against the Union. When the Federal government learned of Walker’s work for the South, Walker fled to England. He stayed in England until a few years after the war ended, and returned to Indianapolis.
    I think you can see why many of the men deserted the 35th. My ancestor joined the 35th in 1864, so he didn’t have to endure this whole mess. I don’t blame Arron Goforth Armstrong or any of the other men who left the regiment in its early days. It kinda of blows your mind. I think the 35th Indiana had one of the highest desertions of any regiment during the Civil War.
    I also enjoyed reading the history you provided. Excellent family history. ”
    from Wikipedia: American Civil War prison camps
    Death rates

    The overall mortality rates in prisons on both sides were similar, and quite high. Many Southern prisons were located in regions with high disease rates, and were routinely short of medicine, doctors, food and ice. Northerners often believed their men were being deliberately weakened and killed in Confederate prisons, and demanded that conditions in Northern prisons be equally harsh, even though shortages were not a problem in the North.[10]

    About 56,000 soldiers died in prisons during the war, accounting for almost 10% of all Civil War fatalities.[11] During a period of 14 months in Camp Sumter, located near Andersonville, Georgia, 13,000 (28%) of the 45,000 Union soldiers confined there died.[12] At Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois, 10% of its Confederate prisoners died during one cold winter month; and Elmira Prison in New York state, with a death rate of 25%, very nearly equaled that of Andersonville.[13]

    • Sharon Dolan says:

      My GrGr Uncle, Frederick Alderman was born in England in 1850. He enlisted in the Union Army 7January 1864 at Tully, Onondaga County, New York and served his adopted Country with Company H, 15th Regiment New York Cavalry, from Syracuse, New York. Frederick was captured at New Creek, West Virginia 12 May 1864, and taken 4 Jun 1864 to Andersonville Confederate Prison. Fredrick had stated his age as 18 at the time he enlisted. The young POW was 14 years of age when he died at Andersonville 27 Aug 1864. His death was caused by Acute Diarrheal Disease.
      We visited and photographed his gravesite at Andersonville National Cemetery in 2012.

  15. Paul Griffiths says:

    One of my relatives has left a bit of a conundrum. He enlisted in New Orleans on 28th April 1861, and deserted after the Battle of Fair Oakes/Seven Pines on 12th June 1862. After a period of imprisonment in Fort Monroe, Va. he was released after taking the Oath of Allegiance on 5th November 1863. However there is a record of his marriage in Lynchburg, Va. on 4th March 1863…supposedly while he was still in Union custody?

  16. John Bowman says:

    Thanks for this story. During the harrowing horrors of the Civil War, some citizens would heed the “better angels” of their nature, in the words of Lincoln. My great-grandfather, Archibald Van Orden, age 18, was riding with NY 14th Cavalry on reconnaissance of VA in 1863. They were surrounded and captured by Mosby’s Raiders. Those 21 Union men were shipped by train to Andersonville Prison in GA. Four months later, only 3 of them survived disease, starvation, and “deadline” shootings. Traded in a prisoner exchange in 1864, Archie briefly served in the honor guard of General Grant at Appomattox, to receive surrender of CSA cavalry. Thereafter, Archie was assigned to duties in Washington D.C. It was his company of USA cavalry that hunted down John Wilkes Booth. He carried his physical and mental war wounds with him for the rest of his life, without rancor. I cherish the small banner he carried throughout the war, declaring :“Union Must and Shall Be Preserved.”

  17. Darrell Lee says:
    I have been there, and seen the amazing views.
    I am not one to trust wikipedia entries without corroboration, but this one matches with what I already found to be true.

  18. Harvey Wier says:

    My GG Grandfather, Clinton Andrus (Co F 8th Louisiana Infantry) was captured on the second day of Gettysburg in the assault up Cemetery Hill. He became a POW at Fortress Delaware in the Delaware River and remained there until he was exchanged late in the war. He returned to St Landry Parish, LA where he lived out the remainder of his life. When you visit the fort today, the exhibit says that the life expectancy of Confederate prisoners in the POW camps was higher than what they could expect in camp with the Confederate Army. Not sure if this was true, although he did receive medical care while he was a prisoner.

  19. Robert Snow says:

    Thank you for the story. After being captured Gettysburg, Confederate prisoners were sent to Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Officers would then be transported to Johnson’s Island in Ohio, and enlisted men would be sent to Fort Delaware, then Point Lookout. I’ve studied over 10,000 men in mostly southern Virginia regiments, including the five that were in Armistead’s Brigade at Pickett’s Charge. There were about 10 escapes from Johnson’s Island (just a couple successful), and 45 escapes from Fort Delaware (35 successful). This was the first story I’ve read about a Point Lookout escape.

    • Harlan T Wright says:


      I was interested in your mention of Johnson’s Island escapes. I have a fragmentary anecdote through my late father that one of his forebears had been a guard at Johnson’s Island (Sandusky).
      He had related a story that during a transfer by boat of prisoners to Johnson’s Island, the boat capsized and all the prisoners drowned because they were shackled together. It had caused him much anguish throughout the rest of his life. Might you have any references I might follow to try to identify who that relative of mine was? Thank you.

    • Paul Berndt says:

      I live in Port Clinton, OH and have been to the Johnson Island Confederate Cemetery a few times. To escape from there would require a swim of about 2500 ft and then they would have to get off the Marblehead peninsula. The Cemetery is fenced in and most of the gravestones are legible. Using ground piercing radar, they have found burials outside the fenced area, these are not marked. This prison had to be unbearable in the winter and miserable in the summer.
      If you ever visit this area, it is worth the couple of dollars they charge for the causeway to the island.

  20. Maja Keech says:

    My great grandfather, Joseph Haden Martin, with the 14th Virginia, was captured at Pickett’s Charge and sent first to Point Lookout, and then to Fort Delaware from which he escaped.

  21. Paul Kovac says:

    What is a good resource/research site for determining if someone was actually a prisoner of war during the Civil War ?
    I have oral history that indicates a confederate ancestor who survived the war was taken prisoner at some point.
    Thank you for your response.

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Hi Paul, different states have different service records available on Fold3. This might include monthly muster rolls. The muster rolls show if a soldier is listed as a POW. What state did your ancestor serve from?

    • Kristin says:

      You can send away to national records (NARA?), and they will send you a copy of your ancestors information. There is a small fee, but it’s worth it

  22. Linda Sneed says:

    My third great grandfather Giles Martin Gardner, age 36, died at Point Lookout Maryland on May 13th, 1865, he was a prisoner of war. He was a private and served in the Confederate Army 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment. He left behind a wife and 9 children.

  23. Steve Barbaree says:

    My great, great grandfather John Henry Clarke was a 1st Lt. in Co. H/ 45th Ga. Inf Regt. was captured at Petersburg/ Ft. Stedman offensive on March, 25th, 1865 and was at Point Lookout until his release in July, 1865.

  24. David Trogdon says:

    My g.g.g.grandfather was wounded at Gettysburg and captured at Falling Waters during Lee’s retreat. He spent about a year as a prisoner at Point Lookout before being exchanged. The stories of the horrific conditions there are seldom talked about.

  25. Karen McAlhany says:

    What a great story of determination, will to survive, perseverance and gratitude. It’s amazing that he was able to muster the physical strength to escape considering how bad the disease and starvation were at Point Lookout. My GGG Grandfather, Aaron Reese, is buried at the mass grave at Point Lookout. He was in Company C, 65th Regiment North Carolina Troops (6th Regiment NC Calvary) and was captured on 17 Mar 1865, about three weeks prior to the end of the war, and sent to Point Lookout. Although he survived the end of the war, he died of malaria at the camp on June 8th before he could be released. Point Lookout did not finish releasing prisoners until late July or August. It’s hard for me to think about how horrible the last three months of his life probably were.

  26. Garth Gustafson says:

    Thanks for a great story. My G-G-Grandfather, Tim Robinson served with the 16th Conn. Volunteers.
    Most of Tim’s regiment was captured at Plymouth, NC in April 1864. Sadly, most of the 16th enlisted men were sent to the notorious Andersonville POW camp where many died, including Tim’s brother but that’s another story.
    Most of the officers of the 16th were sent to a POW camp in Columbia, SC by train and during the transfer, Tim managed to jump out of an open boxcar but he was recaptured several days later and sent on to “Camp Sorghum” in Columbia, where he spent the next 6 months living under horrible conditions; no shelter, his clothes were in rags, they received very little food or medicine. Their primary rations were cornmeal and sorghum syrup, hence the camp name.
    In November, growing weaker and with winter approaching , Tim and 2 fellow officers from the 16th decided to risk it and try to escape rather than die in captivity.
    Their plan was to follow the Congaree and Santee Rivers downstream to the coast, a serpentine distance of about 200 miles through the Carolina lowlands. Their hope was to be picked up by the Union navy who maintained a tight blockade all along the southern coast. The men managed to deceive the guards for a short time and disappeared into the woods while collecting firewood. Traveling through woods and fields being careful to stay out of sight they managed to find the Congaree river and started following it downstream. Luck was with them as the next day they discovered and joined up with 5 other escapees who had escaped earlier and had been supplied some turnips by sympathetic slaves. More importantly, the slaves told them where to find 2 small leaky boats, without which the escape might not have been possible. In fact, this group of 8 men would be helped along the way by other friendly slaves who provided critical information on the whereabouts of Confederates on the rivers. As the rivers were guarded at key points, they only traveled at night, drifting with the current and hiding in the swamps by day. Their greatest fear was being seen by white faces. At one point the group came across a farmhouse with some goats tethered out back. They killed one of the goats which sustained the men on the trip.
    The boats slipped past 2 bridges, 2 ferry crossings and a Confederate gun battery without being noticed. They judged their progress by the saltiness of the river.
    They made it to the coast in 9 days, emerging at the Santee River estuary about halfway between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
    From the mouth of the river they could see the spars of the USS Canadaigua, a Union blockage ship posted a number of miles offshore but it was too far out to attract its attention and they were unable to get their small boats through the surf. They tried again the next day and on the 3rd attempt they were finally able to get one boat through the surf and paddled the 8 or 9 miles out to the ship. The entire group was rescued. The sailors on the Canadaigua were so amazed that they kept that little boat on the deck of the ship as a reminder of what men are able to achieve.

  27. Christina HURST-LOEFFLER says:

    Enjoyed this and sharing with my UDC chapter!

  28. Robert Yowler says:

    My great grandfather was Ephraim John (Jacob?) Yowler. From family stories I learned he in enlisted in the Union Army- probably in or around Dayton or Germantown Ohio – when he was about 15 years old. According to family accounts, he was captured and sent to Libby Prison, in Richmond, Virginia. Supposedly he escaped (or was exchanged), came back to Ohio and was discharged from the army in or about 1863. He then, according to family stories, went out west, fought Indians (maybe for the railroads which would fit with the exchanged idea), and lost the use of one of his hands (left?). He came back to Ohio where he married a Rebecca A.Simms, supposedly a descendant of the Revolutionary War veteran who was given the Simms Land Grant for his service. All of the land in Hamilton County (Cincinnati) is derived from this land grant. He stayed long enough to father my grandfather, Percy Yowler, left the family and went to live in the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Sandusky, Ohio, until he died in 1925 or so. He may be buried in Germantown, Ohio.
    I’m interested in Rebecca Simms whom he married and is, supposedly, my great grandmother, or any records showing such a person was in Libby Prison during the Civil War.

  29. Harold McClendon Jr says:

    This story helps to show why we research our ancestors. Most of our ancestors are just hard working, normal individuals. But occasionally we encounter a story such as this and it makes the journey very rewarding.

  30. Leslie Vander Meulen Richards says:

    Edwin E. Karnes says:
    August 15, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    “My ggg Uncle Pvt. Andrew Rinaca, 33rd VA Inf, was captured at Gettysburg and ended up at Point Lookout, MD. He arrived in Late October, 1863 and died the first week of December, 1863. He also is buried in the mass grave. They may have know each other for a short time.” Mr. Karnes I too am a relative of Andrew Rinaca and am in touch with my Rinaca cousins in VA but do not think I had heard this story. I will share with the main family historian. On my father’s side of the family, northerners, I had a direct ancestor who was at the battle of Gettysburg, a litter-bearer/chaplain. Isn’t it remarkable how our modern environment has allowed so many people to connect to the people, places & events of their own personal history! Thanks for posting! We are cousins of some degree, very nice to hear from you!

  31. Thomas Booty says:

    My GG grandfather served in the 120th Regiment of Ulster, NY : He along with my uncles, and cousins were captured in a skirmish in Virginia. They were shipped via rail to Andersonville , Georgia . Luckily it happened in the early years of the war and they were swapped out in 1863 . Paul Snyder returned home to Saugerties and became the father of nine children . I belong to the SUVCW, Logan camp 9, No. Florida ; Our unit tried to place a wreath at the former prison camp , but were rejected !

  32. Spencer Harrison says:

    A great story, thank you for posting it.
    My gg grand father, Wilson S. Harrison, was in company K, 1st SC artillery. He was captured near Bentonville, NC and sent to Point Lookout.
    Unfortunately, he caught pneumonia and died in the prison April 14, 1865, 5 days after the war ended.

  33. Donna Sue Chapman says:

    took my girl scout troup to Point Lookout. Staff gave a great presentation how people will feel something hit the bottom of their feet at night while camping. They say this is what the Northern guards would do to the prisoners to see if they were alive.

  34. Laura Farris says:

    My G-G-G Grandfather, Henry Oldham Robertson, (TEXAS) was captured 3 days after Gettysburg, and taken as a POW to Point Lookout. He kept a journal of his experience. And when he was finally released and made it back home to Texas, his own mother didn’t even recognize him. He had lost so much weight and had to eat crab apples on the way home, which didn’t sit well with him and made him violently ill. He later became a Postmaster shortly after returning. A few years ago, I actually got the chance to visit Point Lookout. It is an incredibly desolate area. It was cold there with the wind blowing, even in May.

  35. Joseph Email Buckhalt says:

    My ggg James J. Buckhalt (Buckhalter or Burkhalter in some records) was captured at Averasboro NC on 19 March 1865. He was sent to Point Lookout arriving 30 March and died 17 April 1865. He may have been wounded and died from wounds, since it seems he was not there long enough to die from disease, but I can’t be sure. He was in the army only a year, having enlisted in April 1864 at the age of 48. He was in Georgia 1st Regiment Georgia Reserve (Fannin’s) Company F when he enlisted, but the Point Lookout record shows him in White’s Virginia Battalion. It was his fate to be wounded and die at the very end of the war as Richmond fell April 2 and Lee surrendered April 9. His son, my gg James Johnson Buckhalt Jr. also enlisted in April 1864 when he was 16 years old in 10th Georgia Regiment Company B. Toward the end of the war they were enlisting both younger and older men. The son survived the war, came home, and married my gg Sallie Hubbard in January 1865 in Dawson Georgia.

  36. William Jerden says:

    My Gr Gr Gr, was a civilian from Illinois. He and his buddies road the train to Chicago to protest the Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln . Reaching the convention , my Grandfather was arrested by the Pinkerston’s; ( the original FBI’s) He was taken to Camp Douglas on the lake front where he died of pneumonia in Jan 1865.

  37. Hugh McGuire says:

    I am going to tell you a bit about my 2nd Great grand Uncle, Philip Francis Brown whose story is similar. If you belong to do a search for him.Or you can look at “Hugh’s ORIGINAL McGuire Family Tree #290124. A.M.D.G.”.
    I’ve always referred to him as Uncle Phil. He joined the Confederate Army in Petersburg just because men his age were doing the same. He was in the 12th Infantry Regiment. … He found himself in what today would probably be called a fire fight near the Va./Md. line. He was hiding behind a fence (Probably a three split rail fence which offered little protection). He was wounded in one arm. Someone found him him and took him to a “safe house”. … Later he found himself in a prison camp in or near Baltimore. He always refused to let any doctor touch his arm. … Somehow he escaped and made his way to the eastern end of Virginia’s lower peninsular. … Then he made it to Richmond and from there home. Once there he let his brother, a doctor, treat his arm. It healed and so he saved it from other doctors who probably would have cut it off. … Later Phil was working in a hotel in Richmond when someone ran in saying a drunk was going to kill Uncle ___.(I don’t remember his name. But the whole story is in the book Phil wrote and published. If I remember correctly, I posted that book to Phil’s gallery on Ancestry.) Phil ran down to the other hotel and stopped the drunk from harming Uncle ___, a beloved black man.
    For those of you who may find that incredible, remember not all Southerners had slaves or hated the blacks. Some of us were still trying to help them in the days when I was just a boy. I’m now in my 84th year.
    A.M.D.G. Hugh IV

  38. Madelyn Scharf says:

    What an awesome story.

  39. shirley Horn says:

    The name Seward caught my eye as my gg uncle changed his name from Seward to Suart sometime after 1803. Did Simon’s family originally come from the UK?

  40. J L Hodnett says:

    My 3x great grandfather, Thomas J Hodnett served in Co.K 13th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. His brother, Dr. Benjamin F Hodnett, served in Co. B 53rd Georgia Volunteer Infantry. He was among the attacking force in the Devil’s Den at Gettysburg. During this charge he was hit in the knee by artillery solid shot, and had two fingers blown off by an artillery canister round. While he lay bleeding to death, Union soldiers came up and started shooting into the dead and wounded soldiers laying around him with musketry, one such discharge blowing his toes off of one foot. He woke up several days later in a field hospital. He had told his relatives that at the battle of Gaines Mill, he watched 9 of his near relatives killed in one explosion.

  41. Mary Stephens says:

    I had 2 gg grandfathers on my mother’s side who were pow’s at Point Lookout. As far as I know they didn’t know each other. But they both arrived 3 days apart from each other. Both survived, and went on to live their lives, get married, have babies, then grand babies, then me. 🙂 I have a picture of one of them. 🙂

  42. John Andersen says:

    Colonel Thomas Ellwood Rose was an abolitionist and broke out over 50 to freedom from Libby Confederate prison. After the Civil war he was persecuted by the KKK in the same city (Richmond VA) during Reconstruction when he ran their elections. So he visited his old prison as king but was still accused by them of misconduct. The trial freed him. Someone (his own Private) tried to execute him in with rifle after the war because of his leadership in old confederate areas. True American hero.. even stopped a famous uprising in Little Rock. Amazing career

  43. Michael E. Pollock says:

    All too typical of just about anything in which Ancestry is involved.

    Would have been nice to have had the newspaper(?) identified where this story was originally published, though at least the names of the persons involved were included.

    As it stands now there is the possibility that someone has written a fiction about actual people.

    Too often family traditions cannot be verified because Grandma told a story about “grandpa” without making it clear if she was referring to her husband, her own grandfather, her husband’s grandfather, or even an elderly man in the community. When I was in high school, everyone in the community referred to a friend of my mother’s, who was a local justice of the peace, as “Granny”–this was when Beverly Hillbillies was on television and the woman did resemble the character played by Irene Ryan.

    Particularly in the South, in the presence of children, adults would rarely refer to other adults in the presence of children by a given name, or if they did, the given name would be prefaced with “aunt”, “uncle”, even “cousin”, so that children would not adopt the “impolite” practice of addressing adults by only a first name. As a result, even grandma told a story about “grandpa”, it wasn’t always clear if she was referring to her husband, her husband’s grandfather, her own grandfather or someone in the community, and in this manner, traditions often get attributed to the WRONG FAMILY!

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Michael, the newspaper article is linked in the blog. We always approach these stories with a bit of skepticism, but in this case, we found the records (also linked) back up the story and give it validity.

  44. Dustin says:

    While staunchly opposed to even the idea of slavery, I do wish that war had gone the other way. The insanity that grips this country today is unbelievable. While all areas of the country are affected, there is still some God fearing people here in the south clinging on to Christian morals, ethics and values. It sickens me to watch Godless liberalism turn this country into the laughing stock of the world. The Civil War may have saved the union temporarily, but only to be torn apart by itself in today’s times. We are all witnessing the fall of the United States of America, and sadly, most do not even recognize it is happening

  45. Michael Pollock says:

    Jenny Ashcroft,
    I do NOT see any hyperlink within the article that establishes the original source of the information, but then I rarely use Fold3, so may not be sufficiently familiar with all its protocols and nuances.
    Since I am as old as I am, perhaps I am too quick to expect documentation to be “upfront”

    • Jenny Ashcraft says:

      Hi Michael, just click on the words “recorded and later published,” in the first paragraph, and it will take you to the original newspaper story.

  46. Shawn Murphy says:

    As horrific the conditions were at Andersonville mostly by a lack of food as conditions in the South deteriorated the unexcused horrors took place in the Northern P.O.W. Camps. Food, water, etc. was rarely scarce in the North so aberrant treatment at Camp Douglas, Elmira, Pt. Lookout was purely demonic! Somewhere in my travels in the South I came across photos of a few Confederate guards at Florence & Andersonville and they were emaciated something not seen in Northern Camp guards.

  47. My great great maternal grandfather was Sgt. George Washington Wingo, 13th S.C. Infantry, CSA. He was wounded in the arm as a corporal at the Battle of the Bloody Angle, Spotsylvania, captured as a sergeant at the Battle of Gettysburgh, and held as a POW at Point Lookout. He was released near the war because he had contracted “consumption” (Typhoid), and returned to Landrum, S.C. Where he died a year later.