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THE CHESHIRE, 70 U. S. 231 (1865)

U.S. Supreme Court

The Cheshire, 70 U.S. 3 Wall. 231 231 (1865)

The Cheshire

70 U.S. (3 Wall.) 231


1. The property of a commercial house established in the enemy's country is subject to seizure and condemnation as prize though some of the partners may have a neutral domicile.

2. The approach of a vessel to the mouth of a blockaded port for inquiry -- the blockade having been generally known -- is itself a breach of the blockade, and subjects both vessel and cargo to condemnation.

During the Southern rebellion, and our proclamation of a blockade of Savannah and other parts of the Southern coast being then notorious to the world, the ship Cheshire, with a miscellaneous and assorted cargo, was captured by a war steamer of the United States on the 6th of December, 1861, off Savannah bar, eight or nine miles eastward of Tybee Light. She was taken to the port of New York and there libeled in the district court as prize of war.

The evidence showed that the ship had been built in the State of Maine in 1848, her American name having been the Monterey; that she was owned by a house residing and doing business in Savannah, and was employed in the cotton trade to Liverpool; that in May, 1861, after the port of Savannah had been closed by the blockade set on foot under the President's proclamation of April 19, 1861, that house made a sale of her to Joseph Battersby, of Manchester, England; that her name was then changed, and in June, 1861, that she broke the blockade of Savannah, carrying a cargo of cotton to Liverpool.

Joseph Battersby, the purchaser, and who claimed her

Page 70 U. S. 232

here, was then and at the time of the capture a partner in business with William Battersby in Savannah, where one of them resided, the name of the firm being the same as that of their Manchester house, William Battersby & Co.

The cargo was claimed by both the Battersbys.

The ship was loaded at Liverpool and sailed directly for Savannah. The captain, however, had received instructions at Liverpool, dated October 8, 1861, "to call of Savannah merely for the purpose of inquiry, but on no account whatever to attempt to enter a blockaded port."

"In case the blockade is not raised, proceed to Nassau, N.P., and remain until you receive orders from Messrs. William Battersby & Co., of Savannah."

The claim made in the case stated that this contingent destination to Savannah had been made in consequence of confident predictions, well known, by high officers of our government, that the rebellion would speedily be quelled, and of the consequent presumption by the owners of the vessel and cargo that the blockade would probably be raised by the time the vessel reached our Southern coast.

Some of the papers showed that Halifax, N.S., was a possible port of destination. The shipping articles represented the voyage as "from Liverpool to Halifax, N.S., or Nassau, N.P.," &c. The receipt of the shipping master of the port of Liverpool for fees, dated 30th of September, 1861, declared it for Halifax. The master swore:

"On the voyage during which we were captured, the Cheshire was bound from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia, or Nassau. I was to speak the blockading squadron, and if the ports were blockaded, I was to go to Nassau or Halifax."

None of the papers of the ship, neither the clearance, bills of lading, invoices, nor manifest, which declared the ship bound for Nassau, nor the shipping articles, which declared her bound for Halifax or Nassau, contained the slightest intimation of a purpose under any circumstances to enter the port of Savannah.

The district court, after argument and full consideration, condemned both vessel and cargo on the ground that they were enemy's property and were captured in attempting to

Page 70 U. S. 233

break the blockade of the port of Savannah. On appeal to the circuit court, the condemnation was affirmed, and the case was not brought by the claimants before this Court for review.

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