Camp Groce, at times referred to as Camp Liendo, was located on Col. Leonard W. Groce's Liendo Plantation on Clear Creek and the Houston and Texas Central Railway, two miles east of Hempstead in Waller County. Established in 1862 as a place for instruction for Confederate recruits, Camp Groce had two rows of barracks built in what seemed an ideal spot. However, stagnant water in the creek made the location sickly, and the camp was little used until the summer of 1863 when it was designated as a prison for Union soldiers captured in the battles of Galveston (January 1, 1863) and Sabine Pass (January 21, 1863). After the second battle of Sabine Pass (September 8, 1863), the prisoner population swelled to more than 400 officers, soldiers, and sailors. At first most prisoners lived in an open clearing, but in October 1863 a stockade was built to enclose them.
In November 1863 Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith issued an order that all Union enlisted men held prisoner in Texas be sent to Shreveport, Louisiana, for exchange. Accordingly, most of the prisoners at Camp Groce left for Camp Ford at Tyler, and the stockade was virtually empty for five months. The prison’s population increased again in May 1864, when about 150 Union officers, soldiers, and sailors arrived as captives from the battle of Calcasieu Pass in southwest Louisiana. In August 1864 about 500 additional Union prisoners were transferred from Camp Ford to Camp Groce, the largest number to arrive at one time during the camp’s existence.
In September 1864 a serious yellow fever epidemic broke out near the stockade, and the entire prison population was evacuated into the surrounding area. For approximately a month, many of the prisoners were held at Camp Felder, which was located about seven miles north of Chappell Hill, Texas, in Washington County. At Camp Felder the prisoners were kept out in the open in a valley between two hills in unusually wet weather and suffered far greater hardship than had been the rule at Camp Groce. At the end of October the prisoners were returned to Camp Groce where they remained until December 1864 when they were evacuated by rail to Galveston and released to the Union fleet.
Camp Groce held approximately 1,100 Union soldiers and sailors as prisoners of war at some time between June 1863 and December 1864. The prisoners suffered from the unhealthy locale and yellow fever, but a careful scholarly study of Camp Groce concludes that the men held there had a greater chance of survival than did those in most Civil War prisoner-of-war camps.
Camp Groce is commemorated by the Union Army P.O.W. Cemetery Park, three miles west of Hempstead on the Austin Branch Road. In 1987 Waller County and the state of Texas officially recognized the site as one of the burial grounds of Union prisoners of war from Camp Groce.