During the Civil War, thousands of enslaved African-Americans escaped from captivity in the South to liberty in the North. The grounds before once sheltered these freedom-seekers, know at that time as "Contraband".
Conditions in the "Contraband Camp" were appalling. Men, women and children lived half underground in dark, damp, smoky dens.
Nurse Sophronia Bucklin's first-hand accounts of the "Contraband Camp" described men burrowing like "beasts of the field in half-subterranean dens." Nurse Sophronia Bucklin described the scene "A hole from three to four feet deep was dug by them in the black soil, and roofed over with boards, on which turf was closely packed. An opening which admitted them on their hands and feet, and one for the escape of smoke?were the only vents for the impure air, and the only openings for light."
Some residents of the "Contraband Camp" found jobs at Point Lookout as military service staff or laborers, jettisoning the bonds of slavery for the government payroll.