Point Lookout has served as a strategic location in every conflict on Maryland soil. Most famously, it served as a site for a prisoner camp and a hospital during the Civil War. However, its location on the mouth of the Potomac had made it highly valued by both the Americans and the British in the Revolution and War of 1812. Point Lookout was part of the estate owned by Robert Armstrong during the War. As its name suggests, it served as a lookout station and as a reference point in intelligence reports. One newspaper reported on August 6th, 1813, “At 1 o’clock on Friday, P.M. the fleet anchored off the narrows, about 2 miles to the east of Point-Lookout.”
Point Lookout was also the sight of a British raid in April of 1813. Some British ships attempted to make a landing at the point but were repelled by a force of militia. The Baltimore Patriot reported on April 16th, 1813, “We learn by a Militia Officer who has just come up from Charles County, that a skirmish took place at Point Lookout, in St. Mary’s, between a party of British Sailors who attempted to make a landing, and a company of Militia, in which the British were repulsed, with the loss of four killed.” The British returned to the Point in May. The local militia responded and advanced to meet them. Though the formal resolution of this particular engagement is unknown, the British most likely failed to capture the point, since they tried again a few months later.
The British made their final effort to take Point Lookout on August 5th, 1813. Two to three thousand British troops landed on the point and occupied it for a few days. During that time, seven British soldiers deserted to the Americans for unknown reasons. While the British landed, the officers began asking the townspeople of St. Mary’s City how far away Washington was and what was the likelihood of the troops was making a successful march. The British returned to their ships on August 7th, 1813 and left, clearly having intended to use the site for intelligence rather than a base of operations. The British later made the landing for the march on Washington at Benedict on August 18th, 1813.
Boston Daily Adviser. “The Enemy’s Fleet.” (Boston, MA), August 7, 1813.
Daily National Inquirer. (Washington, D.C.), April 15, 1814.
New Hampshire Sentinel. “British Squadron in the Potomac.” (Keene, NH), August 13, 1813.
The Evening Post. (New York, NY) August 4, 1813.