United States v. Kimbal
80 U.S. 636 (1871)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Kimbal, 80 U.S. 13 Wall. 636 636 (1871)

United States v. Kimbal

80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 636


1. A marginal note put by the Quartermaster's Department on bills of lading of vessels chartered by them,

"that if on the arrival of the vessel at the port of destination, the consignee should order her to another place to discharge, such order in all cases to be in writing on the bill of lading,"

does not make a part of the contract entered into by the vessel, and if her port of destination be plainly expressed in the body of the bill, the consignee cannot, in virtue of the marginal memorandum, order her to go forward to another port.

2. The jurisdiction of the Court of Claims to pass upon claims against the United States growing out of the destruction or appropriation of property by the army or navy engaged in the suppression of the rebellion, which jurisdiction was taken away by Act of July 4, 1864, was not restored even as to steamboats by the joint resolution of 23 December, 1869, relating to the mode of settling for them when impressed into the service of the United States during the rebellion.

An Act of March 3, 1849, [Footnote 1] enacts that any person who shall sustain damage by the abandonment or destruction by order of the commanding general, quartermaster, of any horse, &c., while such property was in the service of the United States, either by impressment or contract . . . shall be allowed and paid the value thereof, at the time he entered the service. "The claims provided for under this act," continues the statute, "shall be adjusted by the Third Auditor, under such rules as shall be prescribed by the Secretary of War," &c.

A subsequent act [Footnote 2] (March 3, 1863), extends these provisions so as to include all "steamboats and other vessels."

Between the dates of these two acts, that is to say, in A.D. 1855, [Footnote 3] Congress constituted the Court of Claims, and by the act constituting it made it its duty to hear and determine

"All claims founded upon any law of Congress, or upon any regulation of an executive department, or upon any contract, express or implied, with the government of the United States."

A subsequent act, however, that of July 4, 1864, [Footnote 4] somewhat

Page 80 U. S. 637

limited this jurisdiction, declaring by its first section that it should

"Not extend to nor include any claim against the United States growing out of the destruction or appropriation of, or damage to, any property, by the army or navy, or any part of the army or navy, engaged in the suppression of the rebellion from the commencement to the close thereof."

The second and third sections of the last-mentioned act provide that the claims of loyal citizens in loyal states for quartermaster's stores, and for subsistence furnished to the army, shall be submitted to the Quartermaster General and the Commissary General of Subsistence, and if found just, shall be reported to the Third Auditor of the Treasury with a recommendation for settlement.

After this came an Act of February 21, 1867, [Footnote 5] which enacted that the provisions of the act of 1864 should

"Not be construed to authorize the settlement of any claim for supplies taken or furnished for the use of the armies of the United States, nor for the occupation of or injury to real estate, nor for the appropriation or destruction of or damage to personal property, by the military authorities or troops of the United States where such claim originated during the war for the suppression of the Southern rebellion, in a state or part of a state declared in insurrection."

Finally came a joint resolution of Congress, passed the 23d of December, 1869, [Footnote 6] resolving that the act of 1867 shall not be so construed as

"To debar the settlement of claims for steamboats or other vessels taken without the consent of the owner or impressed into the military service of the United States during the late war in states or parts of states declared in insurrection, provided the claimants were loyal at the time their claims originated and remained loyal thereafter, and were residents of loyal states, and such steamboats or other vessels were in the insurrectionary districts by proper authority."

As to the matter of loyalty, it was agreed in writing by

Page 80 U. S. 638

the counsel on both sides that the defendant

"had at all times borne true allegiance to the government of the United States, and had not in any way voluntarily aided, abetted, or given encouragement to rebellion against said government, and that proof of such fact was duly made upon trial in the Court of Claims, and might be regarded as of record in the findings now for hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States."

In the state of the statutes above set forth and of the Court of Claims' jurisdiction under them, the military authorities of the United States chartered the bark Annie Kimbal on the 18th of April, 1865, to carry a cargo of 1,061 tons of coal from Philadelphia to Port Royal, S.C. By the terms of the bill of lading, the coal was to be delivered to the quartermaster or his assignee. Freight was payable at the rate of $6.25 per ton, and demurrage $100 per day, allowing 21 days for discharging. In the margin of the bill were these two memoranda:

"If on the arrival of this vessel at the port of destination, the consignee should order her to another place to discharge, such order in all cases to be in writing on the bill of lading."

"Freight and demurrage payable only on certificate of quartermaster that the cargo has been received in good order."

The marginal note, above italicized, on the bill of lading, was a printed direction placed by the Quartermaster's Department, intended for the convenience of the department and as a direction to the officers thereof. There was no express evidence as to the intention of the parties concerning it, but such marginal note was placed on bills of lading by the United States officers in the Quartermaster's Department, and did not form a part of the body of the instrument as did certain other formal clauses and conditions.

The bark arrived at Port Royal with her freight on the 4th May, 1865, and immediately tendered it to the consignee, the quartermaster of the United States. The quartermaster, on the 6th of May, refused to receive the same, and ordered the master of the bark to proceed with it to

Page 80 U. S. 639

Key West, and report to the quartermaster at that port, which additional service the master of the bark refused to perform, and notified to the quartermaster that the owners would hold the United States liable for all damages if such service was enforced. On the 8th May, the master was compelled to undertake the additional voyage, and received notice from the quartermaster that in case of refusal, he would be taken from the vessel and another master be substituted and sent in command of the vessel. The master then protested at being compelled to sail at the time specified by the quartermaster for the reason that it was not safe, as the tide had ebbed about two hours, and there would not be water enough on the bar to take the vessel safely over. The delay requested was refused, and the vessel was taken in tow by a government tug. She struck violently on the bar off Port Royal by reason of the low water, it being near the ebb, and sprang a leak. Being severely injured, she was towed back and beached to prevent her from foundering.

After the injury to the vessel, she was detained by the defendants' delay in discharging her freight at Port Royal until the 24th of June, 1865, the detention being owing to no fault of the master or crew. The vessel was then further detained at Port Royal by her injuries received as aforesaid, from and including the 25th June until the 11th July. She was then towed by the agents of the United States to Boston, which port she reached on the 18th July, 1865, when her crew were discharged. The damages suffered by the claimants for the loss of their vessel's service and her expenses was the sum of $100 per day, making the sum of $,5300; that is to say:

30 days (from 24 May, when the 21 lay days expired, to

24 June, when she was formally discharged), 30 days at

$100 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $3,000

23 days (from June 25 to when the discharge was completed

till July 18, when the vessel reached Boston), 23 days

at $100. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,300



The claimants paid $7,604.41 for the repairs of the bark at

Page 80 U. S. 640

Boston, and this amount was expended strictly in making good the vessel's injuries.

The United States paid to the claimants the amount due for the freight, but they refused to pay the demurrage up to the 24th June, caused by their delay in discharging the cargo, and the further demurrage caused by their impressment of the vessel up to the 18th July, 1865, when she arrived at Boston, and they also refused to pay the $7,604.41 paid by the claimants in the necessary repairs of the vessel.

The certificate of the quartermaster showed that the cargo had been received in good order.

Upon these facts, the court decided as conclusions of law:

1st. That the bill of lading on which the action was brought constituted a valid contract of affreightment for the transportation of goods and merchandise from Philadelphia to Port Royal, and that the marginal note thereon, expressing no consideration for further services, imposed no obligation upon the owners to transport the goods to any other port except with their consent and upon a rate to be agreed upon.

2d. That for the demurrage caused by the defendants in not discharging their freight within twenty-one days after the vessel's arriving at Port Royal -- that is to say by the 25th May -- the claimants should recover demurrage until the freight was discharged on the 24th June, at the rate agreed upon in the bill of lading, to-wit, $100 per day, or $3,000.

3d. That the enforced service of the vessel, while remaining in the possession of her master and crew, was not an "appropriation" of the claimants' property by the army of the United States within the meaning of the Act July 4, 1864, but that it was an impressment of their vessel and crew's service within the meaning of the Acts 3 March, 1849, and 3 March, 1863, and of the joint resolution 23 December, 1869, and that the claimants were entitled to recover the value of their vessel's services and expenses from the 25th June to the 18th July, 1865 ($2,300), and their costs and expenditures ($7,604.41) in repairing and making whole her injuries.

Page 80 U. S. 641

The Court of Claims thus decreed:

Demurrage of both kinds . . . . . . . . . $5,300.00

Repairs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7,604.41


Whole amount of decree. . . . . . . . . . $12,904.41

From this decree the United States appealed.

Page 80 U. S. 642

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.