The Georgia
74 U.S. 32

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Georgia, 74 U.S. 7 Wall. 32 32 (1868)

The Georgia

74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 32


1. A case in prize heard on further proofs, though the transcript disclosed no order for such proofs, it having been plain from both parties' having joined in taking them that either there was such an order or that the proofs were taken by consent.

2. A bona fide purchase for a commercial purpose by a neutral, in his own home port, of a ship of war of a belligerent that had fled to such port in order to escape from enemy vessels in pursuit, but which was bona fide dismantled prior to the sale and afterwards fitted up for the merchant service, does not pass a title above the right of capture by the other belligerent.

Appeal from the District Court for Massachusetts, condemning as prize the steamship Georgia, captured during the late rebellion. The case, as derived from the evidence of all kinds taken in the proceedings, was thus:

The vessel had been built, as it appeared, in the years 1862-1863 at Greenock, on the Clyde, as a war vessel for the Confederate government, and called the Japan, or if not thus built, certainly passed into the hands of that government early in the spring of 1863. On the 2d of April of that year, under the guise of a trial trip, she steamed to an obscure French port near Cherbourg, where she was joined by a small steamer with armaments and a crew from Liverpool. This armament and crew were immediately transferred to the Japan, upon which the Confederate Flag was hoisted, under the orders of Captain Maury, who had on board a full complement of officers. Her name was then changed to the Georgia, and she set out from port on a cruise against the commerce of the United States. After being thus employed for more than a year -- having in the meantime captured and burnt many vessels belonging to citizens of the United States -- she returned and entered the port of Liverpool on the 2d of May, 1864, a Confederate vessel of war, with all her armament and complement of officers and crew on board. At the time she thus entered the port of Liverpool, the United States vessels of war Kearsarge, Niagara, and Sacramento were cruising off the British and

Page 74 U. S. 33

French coasts in search of her, the Alabama, and other vessels of the rebel confederation. It was resolved at Liverpool that she should be sold. It appeared that Captain Bulloch, an agent of the Confederacy at the port, at first thought of selling her at private sale, together with her full armament, but failing in that, she was advertised for public sale the latter part of May and the first of June. A certain Edward Bates, a British subject and a merchant of Liverpool dealing not unfrequently in vessels, attracted by the advertisements, entered into treaty about her. The broker concerned in making a sale of her, testified that "Bates was desirous of knowing what would buy the ship, but he wished the armament excluded, as he did not want that." According to the statement of Bates himself, it had occurred to him that with her armament on board, he might have difficulty in procuring a registry at the customs. All the guns, armament, and stores of that description were taken out at Birkenhead, her dock when she first entered the port at Liverpool. The vessel had been originally strongly built, her deck especially, and this was strengthened by supports and stanchions. Though now dismantled, the deck remained as it was, the traces of pivot guns originally there still remaining. The adaptation of the vessel to her new service cost, it seemed, about

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