JENKINS TAVERN, MD, “COMPLAINT” LETTER TO GEN. STEWART VAN VLIET, ACTING CHIEF QUARTERMASTER, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC

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Dated “30 March 1862.” 4 pp. in ink on unlined paper, 7.75” x 9.75. Exhibits fold-marks, light soiling along right margin. Else VG, and entirely legible.

This unsigned letter is docketed with the following inscription: “Com. [communication] to Brig Gen. Van Vliet…Relative to the appropriation of Jenkins Tavern at “Good Hope” for Hospital purposes and Jenkins’ alleged claim for board to the telegrapher.” Excerpts as follow:

“…I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of J.T. Jenkins statement of grievance dated March 13th 1862 referred by yourself with a request to be furnished with the facts in the case enabling you to comply with the orders of the Q Master General on the subject.

In November last, I made a report to Col. Hardie A.D.C. on a similar communication from Jenkin referred to me from Head quarter, Arm of the Potomac, copy of which h report please find enclosed herewith…No. 2 is a copy of Gerard Bankers report upon the occupation of Jenkins place as a hospital.

Several new complaints are now started by Jenkins, as I think vindictively, because they are without foundation and are now for the first time brought forward when he supposed this command was too far away to expose his calumnies to reputation. Jenkins is one of a numerous class of the citizens of Maryland with strong secession proclivities, with whom the troops have been brought into contact. Their time seems to be about equally divided between the accumulation of groundless demands against the Government for imaginary injuries—the fabrication of slanders upon the Union force in the neighborhood—and the contribution to the enemy of any information within their reach., of these Jenkins is an example, which can be made available…The accommodations provided by for the telegrapher were very meager; the price charged was so exorbitant that I directed a tent to be pitched near my own for the operator and his battery. Rations were ___ to the operator. I know nothing of his alleged board account. He has not been with this command since it left Good Hope.

Jenkins does not give the name of the officers who boarded with him. My recollection is that Lt. Col. Bustis, 5th Regiment—Lt. rice, 2Q. Master, 5th Regt., Surgeon Brown, 1st Regt. and Lt. Hart, Adjutant 1st Regt. and Lt. hart adjutant 1st Regt. were here –the former two sick. All these officer paid Jenkins…

A room in Jenkins House was occupied by a general court martial. I did not convene the Court—was not a member of it—of course had no authority over it—gave no orders concerning it—and Jenkins’ statement that he “was ordered by the general to give the members of and charge the amount as rent” is an insidious fabrication.

With reference to any account against myself, if Jenkins has any, it has never been received.

If his accounts of whatever nature are referred to ____ Head quarters, I will have them properly investigated and disposed of. I am, ____ , very respectfully/ Your most obt. svt.

Brig Gen / S. Van Fleet / chief Quarter Master/ Army of the Potomac”

This interesting letter illustrates the property and accounting complaints that could bedevil the Union army—especially when filed by border state rebel sympathizers. Invites further research.    [jp]

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