Mitchell v. United States
88 U.S. 350 (1874)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mitchell v. United States, 88 U.S. 21 Wall. 350 350 (1874)

Mitchell v. United States

88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 350

Syllabus

A resident of a loyal state, who, after the 17th of July, 1861, and just after the late civil war had become flagrant, went, under a military pass of a federal officer into the rebel states, and in November and December, 1864, bought a large quantity of cotton there (724 bales), and never returned to the loyal states until just after that and when the war was not far from its close -- when he did return to his old domicile, having, during the time that he was in the rebel states transacted business, collected debts, and purchased the cotton, held, on a question whether he had been trading with the enemy, not to have lost his original domicile, and accordingly to have been so trading.

At the beginning of the late rebellion, Mitchell, the claimant and appellant, lived in Louisville, Kentucky. He was engaged in business there. In July, 1861, and after the 17th of that month, he procured from the proper military authority of the United States in Kentucky a pass permitting him to go through the army lines into the insurrectionary territory. He thereupon went into the insurgent states and remained there until the latter part of the year 1864. He then returned to Louisville. While in the Confederate states, he transacted business, collected debts, and purchased from different parties 724 bales of cotton. He took possession of the cotton and stored it in Savannah. Upon the capture of that place by General Sherman, the cotton was

Page 88 U. S. 351

seized by the military authorities. It was subsequently sold by the agents of the government. The proceeds, amounting to the sum of $128,692.22, were now in the Treasury. Mitchell bought the cotton in November and December, 1864. He remained within the insurrectionary lines from July, 1861, until after the capture of Savannah by the arms of the United States.

The Court of Claims was equally divided in opinion as to whether the claim of Mitchell could be sustained, and accordingly dismissed his petition. Mitchell then removed the case to this Court by appeal, assigning for error that on the facts found, the Court of Claims should not have dismissed the petition, but should have decided that he acquired a valid title to the cotton.

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