The Point Lookout Site (18ST61) is the location of the Point Lookout Lighthouse and the Civil War-era United States General Hospital in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, at the mouth of the Potomac River. The lighthouse was constructed in 1830 and remained in use until decommissioning in 1965. The building, now empty, still stands on the south end of the site. Located just to the north, the U.S. General Hospital, a state-of-the-art pavilion-style medical facility, served the Army of the Potomac between 1862 and 1865, before being dismantled in 1867. Nothing from the hospital survives above ground.
Point Lookout contains a complex of Civil War-era structures, including the lighthouse, the hospital, and a nearby prisoner-of-war-camp that housed 20,000 Confederate prisoners. Intact cultural deposits at Point Lookout reveal valuable information about life there during the Civil War. Furthermore, the advanced architectural design of the hospital, and the specialization of military medicine during this period, are significant for understanding the history of medical facilities and technology.
A Phase I and II investigation was conducted at the southern tip of the point between February and May 1995 by Julia A. King and Edward E. Chaney from the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum. Three hundred and eighty-five shovel tests were dug at 25-foot intervals along transects placed 25 feet apart. STPs were excavated to sterile subsoil, except where soil anomalies, rip-rap, or a high water table were encountered. Archaeologists prepared distribution maps for ceramics, nails, brick, mortar, concrete and cement, coal and coal slag, oyster shell, composition roofing material, and slate to determine artifact concentrations. Sixteen five-by-five-foot test units were then excavated stratigraphically to collect additional information about artifact concentrations and subsurface features. All soil was screened through ¼-inch hardware mesh. The majority of artifacts were retained, although in certain cases concrete, coal, and coal slag were counted, weighed, and then discarded in the field.
A total of 161,755 artifacts were recovered from the Point Lookout Site. Artifacts date primarily from the second quarter of the 19th century through the present. Approximately one-third of the artifacts were architectural materials, such as brick, mortar, composition roofing, cement and concrete, and nails. Only a few artifacts, such as 15 bullets (one carved into a chess piece) and 8,672 composition roofing material fragments, could be definitely associated with the Civil War hospital, although many of the other recovered artifacts no doubt relate to that occupation.
Artifacts recovered from around the lighthouse represent the domestic trash of various lighthouse keepers, numerous renovations to the structure, and associated features such as a garden area and outbuildings. Along the east wall of the original building, intact stratigraphy and features from the 1830s to the present were found. The bulk of the artifacts consist of architectural debris, but a significant amount of domestic refuse was found. However, given that the building was occupied for approximately 130 years, domestic materials are relatively scarce. This is probably because refuse was tossed into the nearby Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, and because lighthouse keepers were instructed by the Lighthouse Service to keep their yards clean.
The U.S. General Hospital was primarily identified through the presence of composition roofing material and square nails, even though about half of its original footprint has eroded into the Chesapeake Bay. Most of these artifacts were the result of the 1867 destruction of the hospital, not the daily activities that occurred there. The sparse nature of non-architectural artifacts relating to the hospital, including medical objects, might indicate that hospital refuse was dumped into the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, or that this hospital, like others during the Civil War, recycled virtually all refuse.
This collection consists of mostly original records, with some photocopies of background research and correspondence. The records are in good condition, with minimal stains from field exposure. The records are organized in four letter-sized archival clamshell storage boxes, three oversized archival enclosures, and three oversized document rolls.
Records relate to two excavation projects. Documents dating from 1972 through 1978 describe Jonathan Kent’s work for the Maryland Geological Survey and the Maryland Park Service. Records from 1995 and later refer to work undertaken by the Southern Maryland Regional Center (SMRC) at Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum. Excavation records exist only for the latter project.
Records for the Kent collection include background notes, correspondence, and a newspaper article. The records also include Kent’s primary and final reports, as well as one bound report.
Excavation records for the SMRC project are organized by excavation unit number, with records present for 16 units. They consist of provenience cards, stratum registers, plan drawings, profile drawings, soil description forms, and artifact drawings. There is a field journal for the project, covering the period February through May, 1995.
Other documents from the SMRC excavation include survey logs, photograph logs, distribution maps, miscellaneous site maps, miscellaneous plan and profile drawings, shovel test pit records, a Point Lookout State Park master plan, archaeological project scope of work and Memorandum of Understanding, an underwater archaeological reconnaissance evaluation, background research from published sources, documents from the Kent excavation used for research, Maryland Historic Sites Survey documents, research on 17th century murders at Point Lookout, miscellaneous photocopied images, surveys of sites associated with Point Lookout, crew timesheets, PBXL categories, and artifact control sheets. These documents are scanned as .PDF files and are not searchable. The Kent project includes Kent’s primary reports, as well as one bound report, Point Lookout Salvage and Survey Project (Kent 1974); the SMRC project includes an executive summary.
Photographs taken on-site or in post-processing are available through the online database, and are searchable using the above criteria. Researchers should note that images are not linked directly to specific documents, and photograph records do not necessarily exist for all features or units. Original images consist of slides and contact sheets and are housed at the MAC Lab.
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