Beard v. Burts
95 U.S. 434 (1877)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Beard v. Burts, 95 U.S. 434 (1877)

Beard v. Burts

95 U.S. 434

Syllabus

1. The Acts of Congress respectively approved March 3, 1863, 12 Stat. 756, and May 11, 1866, 14 id. 461, extend protection to all persons for acts they committed in subordination to the military authorities engaged in conducting the war and confer upon them the same exemption from liability to suit which belonged to the President, the Secretary of War, and the department commanders.

2. Where a bill was filed in 1865 for an injunction against cutting wood on the complainant's land in Tennessee and for an account of what had been already cut, and the defendant, answering, set up that he had cut the wood "as an authorized agent of the government of the United States, and for military purposes, under the direction and authority of the military authorities," and, in further answering, pleaded that he had a right to do so, as appeared by an order or authority from one D. V. Brown, wood agent of the United States military railroads authorizing him to cut wood on said land, as follows:

"KNOXVILLE, TENN., May 9, 1865"

"James S. Beard is hereby authorized to cut wood for the U.S.M.R. on the lands of Joseph Burts, John Lyle, Dillard Love, by order of the superintendent."

"D. V. Brown, Wood Agent"

-- and the court, after finding that the defendant's answer was sustained by the proofs, entered a decree dismissing the bill,

Held:

1. That the facts so found were conclusive upon a bill of review alleging errors apparent on the face of the decree.

2. That it cannot be properly assumed that the paper signed D. V. Brown was all the evidence from which the court concluded that the defendant acted under the warrant of the military authorities of the government.

3. That as the wood was received by them and used for the military railroads before operations for the suppression of the rebellion had ceased, the paper, although in form permissive only, was a sufficient justification and defense.

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