The Teresita - 72 U.S. 180 (1866)


U.S. Supreme Court

The Teresita, 72 U.S. 5 Wall. 180 180 (1866)

The Teresita

72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 180

APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

Syllabus

1. A neutral vessel at anchor, completely laden with a neutral cargo, on the neutral side of a river dividing neutral from hostile water, washing a blockaded coast, was captured as being subject to just suspicion of an intent to break the blockade.

2. The captain of the vessel (who was however absent at the time of capture)

Page 72 U. S. 181

and the mate, being examined in preparatorio, testified that she was in neutral waters when captured. A stevedore, yet on board, that she had drifted to the place where she was taken under stress of weather, he not knowing whether when captured she was in neutral waters or not. Held that this preliminary testimony warranted restoration.

3. Further proof having been allowed, it appeared that the vessel, when captured, was a quarter or a half mile within the hostile waters, the mate admitting this fact but testifying that the vessel had drifted to the spot, its anchor and chain being too light, and he expressing as one reason for not returning to the former anchorage as soon as the wind became fair that the captain was in port (about 36 miles distant) with the ship's papers and that he did not like to move the vessel without orders, and as another that the ship was fully laden and ready to sail, and had been seen by two blockading men-of-war, which did not disturb her, and that he thought the vessel might safely remain where she was till the captain returned, the mate proposing also, if not captured, to return at once to the anchorage from which he had drifted. On this,

Held that the case for the captors was not improved by the further proof, and that with the restitution costs and expenses to be paid by the captors, was to be decreed.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE stated the case and delivered the opinion of the Court.

The bark Teresita was captured near the mouth of the Rio Grande on the 16th of November, 1863, by the United States steamer Granite City. The cargo consisted of one hundred and fifty-eight bales of cotton.

She was brought into New Orleans for adjudication, and upon hearing the district court directed restitution of the vessel and cargo.

There was no question of the neutrality of the ship or her cargo, but it was claimed for the captors that she was in Texan waters when captured, and therefore subject to just suspicion of intent to break the blockade.

The captain and the mate of the ship, in their preparatory

Page 72 U. S. 182

depositions, testified that she was in Mexican waters, but the captain, being on shore at the time, could not be certainly informed as to this. A stevedore who had been employed on board the vessel and had not been discharged testified that she had drifted to the place where she was taken under stress of weather. He did not know whether she was then in Texan or American waters. Her full cargo had been taken in at her former anchorage.

The preliminary hearing took place on this evidence, which doubtless warranted restitution.

Further proof, however, was allowed. It consisted of depositions by the captain and some other officers of the Granite City to the effect that the Teresita, when captured, was a quarter or half a mile north of the line, according to the bearings by the compass, and that the mate admitted that she was in Texan waters. But the same deposition showed that the mate declared that his vessel had drifted to the spot, his anchor and chain being too light, and assigned as one reason for not returning to the former anchorage as soon as the wind became fair that the captain was at Matamoras with the ship's papers, and he did not like to move the vessel without orders, and as another that the ship was fully laden and ready to sail, and had been seen by two American men-of-war, which did not disturb her, and he thought therefore that she might safely remain where she was till the captain returned. It appeared also that the mate proposed, if not captured, to return at once to the anchorage from which he had drifted.

We are of opinion that under such circumstances temporary anchorage in waters occupied by the blockading vessels does not justify capture in the absence of other grounds. The case for the captors was not improved by the further proof. The decree of restitution must be affirmed, and we shall direct the costs and expenses to be paid by the captors.

Decree and direction accordingly.



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