Civil War Travels With Ms. Rebelle

Civil War connections in Annapolis, Maryland


 Camp Parole – Annapolis, Maryland

      Even though I am dating myself - before Moms worked or drove cars, before second or third cars were part of families, when your Dad took the car to work, we rode the bus. Growing up in Annapolis, Camp Parole meant the end of the local bus line and the roller rink, where as junior high kids, we would go on skating parties.   Eventually Camp Parole was shortened to just Parole.  Then in the 60s, the site became the Parole Shopping Center, which almost put downtown Annapolis out of business if you can believe that.  Finally in 2003, a roadside historic sign was placed across the street from Camp Parole, and as with most of these signs, there is nowhere to pull over to read it.  If you pull into the parking lot of Kohl’s and Shoppers Food Warehouse on Solomons Island Road, Route 2, just south of West Street, you can read the sign through the chain link fence.  The fence does end so it is possible to walk around the end of the fence to read it.   Now at the site, the old Parole Shopping Center has been demolished and a new, fancy shopping center/office/hotel/apartment complex was built.  It looks like a small city there now.

             The name Parole came from the practice of releasing a prisoner during the Civil War, his promise to return to custody at a specific time, and to cooperate.  Understandably, the Army often had difficulty locating them again when they were exchanged.  Camp Parole was a Union camp where many, many Union prisoners from the Southern prisons would come either for the hospital facilities or to just regroup, bathe, acquire clean clothes, and have a shave before being discharged to go back to their regiments or families.  They came up the Chesapeake Bay on steamers to Annapolis.  The first point of business was a bath in College Creek.  The soldiers would throw their clothes and boots in the creek for washing.  Some 30 years later, the boots were still being picked out of the mud on the bottom of the creek.  The official exchange location designated by both sides on July 22, 1862 was City Point, Virginia (present day Hopewell).  Union soldiers were to be held in Annapolis until paroled.  On the grounds of St. John’s College in Annapolis, the first camp of paroled soldiers was established in 1861.  At that time the camp was called College Green.  By the time there were 3,000 parolees there, College Green became too small to hold all of them so Camp Parole was established two miles outside of town.  The camp was built on a farm southwest of Annapolis most likely on the south side of Forest Drive between Greenbriar Lane and Bywater Road.  In the six week period after the camp was established, there were 20,000 men there.  Clara Barton was also at Camp Parole tending to the wounded and dying soldiers.  Still many died from their injuries or diseases such as smallpox, ague, dysentery, consumption, and tuberculosis.

             In April, 1864 General Ulysses S. Grant suspended all parole and exchange of prisoners.  The Confederates at this point were unable to care for the Union prisoners.  Grant would neither send supplies to the Union prisoners or exchange the Confederates ones for them.  Finally the Confederates returned the Union prisoners with no hope of receiving any of their own men back.  In October, 1864, the Andersonville prisoners were released and thousands upon thousands of men streamed into Annapolis.  The camp was expanded again in February, 1865.  Union men continued to arrive there six weeks after the war ended.  Camp Parole was closed by July, 1865.

             Colonel George Sangster of the 47th New York State Militia was in charge of the camp.  He was highly regarded by the prisoners.  During my research I came across a letter written by Isaac W. Monfort, an Indiana Military Agent at the Camp in the Ancestry.com site.   Monfort states that there were over 500 Indiana soldiers at the Camp.  Most were in good spirits but really wanted to be back in Indiana or exchanged to their own regiments in the field.  Monfort says that the Camp was two miles from the city of Annapolis and was the best field hospital he had ever visited.  There were tents with pine doors and floors, and the place was kept very clean and orderly.   The colored lithograph picture of the camp looks pretty impressive 

            Just down the street on West Street going back towards town is the Annapolis National Cemetery.  Surprisingly, the cemetery only holds the remains of twenty-four of the Camp Parole prisoners who weren’t lucky enough to go back home or back to their regiments.  These men either died at the Camp or nearby hospitals.  President Lincoln established fourteen National Cemeteries in 1862 with Annapolis being one of them.  The cemetery is small with several graves bearing the dates of 1862 and up to 1865.  There were some more recent burials in the cemetery as well.

            Annapolis had no land battles or naval battles.  The illustrious Union General Benjamin “Beast” Butler did spend some time there.  Some of the 7th New York and the 8th Massachusetts camped on the grounds of the abandoned naval school, now known as the U.S. Naval Academy.  The vacant buildings were used as field hospitals.  By the fall of 1863, Annapolis was a major hospital center.  After the war in 1871, Admiral David Porter built a Navy hospital at the Academy with a huge anchor in front, which is still there to this day. 

      Ms. Rebelle is a member of the The Bull Run Civil War Round Table which meets every second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Centreville Regional Library. The public is invited to attend at no cost and visit the website www.bullruncwrt.org for additional activities (tours, etc.)

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