70 U.S. 514 (1866), The Bermuda

Citation:70 U.S. 514, 18 L.Ed. 200
Case Date:March 12, 1866
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 514

70 U.S. 514 (1866)

18 L.Ed. 200


United States Supreme Court.

March 12, 1866


APPEAL from a decree made by the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, regarding the steamship Bermuda and her cargo, captured during the rebellion by the government war-vessel Mercedita, and sent into Phila delphia, and libelled there and proceeded on in prize.

The allegations of the captors were, that the vessel was enemy's property, and with her cargo--largely composed of munitions of war--had been intending, either directly or by transshipment, to break the blockade, then established by our government, of the southern coast, and that both she and her cargo were, on these and other grounds, subject to be captured and condemned.

The case was interesting, partly from the value, larger than common, of the ship and cargo, but more particularly

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from the fact, that while many and strong indications of a general sort pointed at once to the truth of the allegations of the captors, blockade-running had been brought, by our adventurous English kinsfolk, during the Southern rebellion, to so much of a science; true purposes, by the aid of intermediate neutral ports of their own, had come to be so very well disguised; the final general destination of the cargo in this particular voyage was left so skilfully open, and the capture was so confessedly in neutral neighborhoods, that it was not quite easy to prove, with that certainty which American courts require, the intention, which it seemed plain must have really existed. Thus to prove it, required that truth should be collated from a variety of sources, darkened or disguised; from others opened as the cause advanced, and by accident only; from coincidences undesigned, and facts that were circumstantial. Collocations and comparisons, in short, brought largely their collective force in aid of evidences that were more direct.

The history of things, as they appeared on one side and on the other respectively, was in substance thus:

On the captor's side. The vessel herself had been built at Stockton-upon-Tees, in 1861. In August of that year, a certain Edwin Haigh made the declaration of ownership required by the British Merchants' Shipping Act of 1854. He described himself as a 'natural born British subject,' of Liverpool, 'and entitled to be registered as owner;' swearing, according to the usual form, that no other person 'qualified to be owner of British ships is entitled as owner to any interest whatever.' 1 E. L. Tessier, a South Carolinian,

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was stated to be master of the ship. It was not denied that Haigh was a British subject. On the day after her registry, as appeared by a document from the Liverpool customs, entitled, 'Certified Copy, Transaction subsequent to registry,' Haigh executed a power of attorney, or 'certificate,' as it was called, to Allan Stuart Hencle and George Alfred Trenholm, both of Charleston, South Carolina, merchants, 'jointly or severally to sell the ship, at any place out of the kingdom, for any sum he or they may deem sufficient, within twelve months from the date of the certificate.' There was no evidence that this power had ever been revoked or returned.

Thenholm was a member of the firm of Frazer, Trenholm & Co., of Liverpool, a firm which, with its branch house, John Frazer & Co., of Charleston, was one of the firms most largely engaged in rendering aid to and sustaining the rebellion, by fitting out blockade-runners, and corsairs to injure American commerce. They were also the disbursing agents of the rebel confederation in England, and they had several vessels, the Ella, Helen, Herald, Economist, Albert, and others, forming a sort of 'line' between Liverpool and Charleston, which carried on blockade-running, with the aid of agents at Bermuda and Nassau, N. P., intermediate British neutral isles. The firm was composed of Frazer & Trenholm, as also of a certain Prioleau, one Welsman, and a J. R. Armstrong; the first four being South Carolinians; and the last, alone, a British subject.

In Possession of the registry and power of sale already mentioned, the Bermuda sailed for Charleston, then a port in rebellion and under blockade, in August, 1861. For some reason not stated, and inferable only, she ran into Savannah instead--a port also in rebellion and under blockade--running out again and back to Liverpool in the autumn of that year. Her master was now changed. Captain Tessier was transferred to the Bahama, which afterwards became notorious in the United States as having carried armament to the rebel corsair Alabama, sunk off the coast of Normandy by the United States ship of war Kearsarge. A certain Westendorff was put on the Bermuda. The British

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statutes, however, requiring a recommendation to authorize a license to any one as captain, Frazer, Trenholm & Co., in December, 1861, declared that they had known Westendorff for ten years; that he served under an experienced ship master, sailing out of Charleston, and that he had afterwards commanded one of their ships. Among these was the Helen, a blockade-runner. Westendorff was, accordingly, legally licensed by the British merchant authorities captain of the Bermuda.

By the practice of the British ports, it is usual to indorse the address of the captain licensed on the back of his certificate of license. This indorsement on Captain Westendorff's ran thus:

'Address of bearer: Messrs. Frazer, Trenholm & Co., Liverpool.'

Being brought round from West Hartlepool, on the east coast of England, the Bermuda now prepared for another voyage. Ostensibly it was to Bermuda. The cargo consisted of various things, some of which would have been useful enough at Bermuda, but which--cut off as the place had been by the blockade from commerce--were supremely desired at Charleston; such as tea, coffee, drugs, surgical instruments, shoes, boots, leather, saddlery, &c. Among the dry-goods were five cases of lawns, each having a card upon it, representing a youth gallantly mounting a parapet, and bearing onward the 'FLAG OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES,' which in all its colors was spread to the breeze.

There were found, also, several cases of military decorations, &c.; epaulettes for all grades; stars for the shoulder-straps of officers of rank; bugles, crossed swords and cannons for different sorts of cap fronts; swords for staff and line officers; chapeaux de bras; embroidered wreaths, 'without U.S. on;' 2 various sizes of military buttons for coats and vests; some with the palmetto tree; belts with the same designations; other buttons and belts with the letters S. C.; L; 3 T.; 4 &c., and with eagles surrounded byeleven

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stars; palmetto trees embroidered on blue cloth, &c.; sash buckles, with the arms of Georgia, of South Carolina, &c.

Among the cargo were several cases of cutlery, which was stamped as

'Manufactured expressly for John Treanor & Nephew, Savannah, Ga.'

It embraced a variety of articles, stamped with portraits and legends, thus:



The right man in the right place.'

Others presented a military figure, emblazoned


He lives to conquer.'

Others represented a bull running after a man, with soldiers chasing; and over the bull this motto:


The blades of these were stamped,

'Courtney & Tenant, Charleston, S. C.'

Several cases of double-barrelled guns were found, stamped as

'Manufactured for J. E. Adger, of Charleston.'

There was also a large amount of munitions of war; five finished Blakely cannon in cases, with carriages; six cannon--some cast, some wrought--not in cases; some thousand shells, varying from seven to a hundred and twelve pounds each, and fuses for them. Three hundred barrels, seventy-eight half-barrels, and two hundred and eighty-three quarter-barrels of gunpowder, seven hundred bags of saltpetre; seventy-two thousand cartridges, two and a half million percussion caps, two cases of Enfield rifles, twenty-one cases of swords, marked N. D. (navy department?), seven cases of pistols, and a variety of like or accessory things; in all about eighty tons weight. In addition to these was a large amount of army blankets, army cloths, kerseys, vulcanized cloth, with fifteen hundred yards of adhesive plaster; these last large enough to be invoiced at $62,500.

Numerous letters of friendship and business were found

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in the vessel from people abroad to different persons in the rebel States, Mrs. Trapman, Mrs. Trenholm, Mrs. Rose, Mr. T. M. Hencle, Mr. C. F. Hencle, Mr. John Hencle, &c.; also five numbers of the Times, sent by some person in England to his friend in the South; also a book by one Spence, published by Richard Bentley, New Burlington Street, London, showing the had effects which the American Union had had on the national character and policy, and that 'secession' was 'a constitutional right;' several passages being marked in margine, apparently as if to invite attention specially to them.

A few memoranda, also, were found aboard;--requests apparently from persons in Charleston to Captain Westendorff to buy things for them in England, and bring them through the blockade. A part of one may serve for illustration;--it having been evidently by some lady.



2 pair ladies' kid gloves, silver-gray color.

2 pair ladies' kid gloves, tea color.

2 pair ladies' kid gloves, ashes of rose, light and dark.á

Best quality.

Size 6 3/4.

2 pair ladies' gaiters, best kid, stout soles, soft upper, 3 1/2 full.

1 ladies' parasol, best silk, color drab or ashes of...

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