Annotate this Case
86 U.S. 264 (1873)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Caldwell's Case, 86 U.S. 19 Wall. 264 264 (1873)
86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 264
1. In a contract made for the transportation of military supplies and stores in the Western country, and in the presence of actual war, between the military department of the government and a private party, the terms "posts, depots, and stations" are to be taken in their military sense, and not in the sense of railway posts, depots, and stations.
2. When such a contract speaks of military posts or depots on the west bank of a river, posts, one of which is 92 miles west of the river, and another 132 miles, and a third 191 miles, cannot be considered as within the designation.
Caldwell sued the United States to recover damages for the breach of a transportation contract dated March 12, 1866, the government then being at war with Western Indians. The articles on which the points in dispute arose were thus:
"ARTICLE I. The said Caldwell shall receive at any time, in any of the months from April to September, inclusive, during the year 1866, from the officers or agents of the quartermaster's department at Forts Leavenworth and Riley, in Kansas; at Fort Kearney, Nebraska Territory; Fort Sedgwick, Colorado Territory; Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory; and at any points or places at which posts or depots shall be established during the continuance of this contract, ON the west bank of the Missouri River, north of Fort Leavenworth and south of latitude 42 degrees north, all such military stores and supplies as may be offered to him for transportation . . . by the officer of the quartermaster's department, at any or all of the above points or places, and transport the same with dispatch, and deliver them . . . to the officer of the quartermaster's department on duty at any of the posts or depots which are now or may be hereafter established in the Territory of Colorado north of 40 degrees north, and at Denver City, and in the Territories of Nebraska, Dakota, Idaho, and Utah, south of latitude 44 degrees north, including Fort Reno, and east of longitude 114 degrees west of Greenwich."
"ARTICLE II. The said Caldwell agrees . . . to transport under
this agreement, from the posts, depots, or stations named in Article I, or from and to any other posts, depots, or stations that may be established within the district named in said article, any number of pounds of military stores and supplies, from and between 100,000 lbs. and 10,000,000 lbs. in the aggregate."
"ARTICLE XI. The said Caldwell shall transport all the military stores and supplies for which the quartermaster's department may require wagon transportation by contract, on the route specified by this agreement, during the year 1866, provided the weight of such military stores and supplies shall not exceed, in the aggregate, 10,000,000 lbs.; yet nothing herein shall be so construed as to forbid or prevent the United States from using its own means of transportation for such service, whenever it may be deemed advisable to do so."
The case, as found by the Court of Claims, was thus:
At the date of the contract the only military posts ON the west bank of the Missouri River, within the said district, were Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas, and Omaha, in Nebraska territory.
On or before the 30th day of March, 1866, the president of the Union Pacific Railroad advised the Quartermaster General that the company had sixty miles of their line completed west of Omaha, and that the company expected to complete the first hundred miles by the 10th of June.
In the summer and autumn of 1866 the railroad company had extended their line westward to Columbus, Lone Tree, and Kearney's Station, and it offered to the United States a more expeditious and cheaper mode of transportation than wagon transportation.
In the summer of 1866, the United States had collected at Omaha military stores and supplies, intended for the supply of posts west of the Missouri River, and within the district covered by the contract with Caldwell, and in the year 1866, they sent by the said railroad quantities of the said stores and supplies from Omaha to Columbus, Lone Tree, and Kearney's Station, the successive termini of the railroad as it was extended westward.
In the month of June, 1866, the United States contracted
with one Kountze for the transportation of the said stores and supplies from Columbus, Lone Tree, and Kearney's Station to Fort McPherson, Fort Laramie, and Fort Kearney, and Kountze, under the said contract, and in the year 1866, performed the transportation; that is to say, from April to September, 1866, he transported 2,945,484 lbs., and in October transported 693,964 lbs.
Previous to the delivery of the said military stores and supplies to the railroad company, and before the making of the said contracts with Kountze, Caldwell was prepared, and gave notice to the United States of his readiness to transport them, under and according to his contract.
Previous to the delivery of the stores and supplies to Koutze, but after the making of the said contracts with him, Caldwell was prepared and claimed of the United States the right, under his contract, to transport them from the termini of said railroad to such places, within his contract, as the United States might designate.
No notice was given by the United States to Caldwell, under his contract, to transport the military stores and supplies transported by said Kountze. But on the 11th of June, 1866, he received notice from the United States that transportation, under his contract, would not be needed.
The cost of the transportation of the said stores and supplies delivered to Kountze in any of the months from April to September, inclusive, would have been to Caldwell $1.45 per 100 lbs. per hundred miles.
The Court of Claims, holding that the expression "posts and depots ON the west bank of the Missouri River," &c., was not confined to posts and depots "on the waterline of the river," but was used "merely to denote the most easterly line of the district covered by the contract," and that the terms "posts, depots, or stations" did not, of necessity, mean military posts, depots, or stations, awarded to Caldwell $35,689.01, as damages for the failure to deliver 2,945,484 lbs. of supplies, which were transported from Omaha to Columbus, to Lone Tree, and to Kearney Station by rail, and thence to Fort McPherson, Fort Laramie, and Fort
Reno by wagon, between the months of April and September, 1866. But holding that the clause in Article XI, by which it was agreed that Caldwell should transport all the military stores and supplies for which the quartermaster's department might require wagon transportation &c., "during the year 1866," was only a provision for additional transportation that might be required in other months than those from April to September, previously specified, and under another contract than this to be made, the court limited the recovery to transportation during the months from April to September, 1866, inclusive, and refused to allow damages for the failure to deliver for transportation the supplies which were carried in October, 1866. The United States appealed from the first branch of the judgment, and Caldwell from the latter part.