War & its Maritime Seizure Policy
Since the political position of the United States Government was to put down a group of rebellious states and would not recognize their sovereignty as a so called new nation, it had never formally declared the existence of a state of war between the two sections. The Confederate Legislature, now embodied in Richmond, Virginia however, did. Approved on the 6th of May 1861, the honorable Howell Cobb, of Georgia, President of the Confederate Congress approved an act recognizing the state of war which then existed.
With this the President of the Confederate States was granted congressional approval to make use of all land and naval forces to wage war against its former government. Any United States vessel that found itself harbored within the borders of the new Confederacy prior to April 5th 1861 were entitled thirty days from the publication of the act to set sail for a friendlier port without molestation.
To ensure the sea going vessels provided no threat to the existing government and citizens of the southern states, President Davis was given authorization to revoke or annul any such letters of marquee granted to the commander and crew of the ships. A suitable description of the ship along with weight, force, names and addresses of each owner as well as the intended number of crew members, were to be filed with the State Department.
These maritime vessels were required to give bond to the present government of $5,000 dollars, the amount doubling for larger ships that sailed with crews of 150 sailors or more.
The captain and crew capturing any such vessel enemy to the Confederate Government were thus allowed a portion of the worth of any prize which would fall into their hands after engagement. The monetary value was distributed between its commanding officer and sailors making up the ship's company. The crew of the captured vessel would be immediate turned into the port authority and delivered over to the port's district marshal for safe keeping. Each prisoner captured from a vessel hostile to the government had a bounty of $20 dollars which was paid courtesy of the Confederate Treasury Department.
Every private vessel was required to keep a thorough and non fraudulent log on all transactions of captured prizes any failure to not turn their log over for inspection upon arriving in port would cause them to lose their letter of marquee and become susceptible to the laws governing piracy and suffer what the justice system would award.
The president having accepted the act, laid out specific instructions to the ship's masters to maintain respect towards those vessels claiming neutrality in the Great War that was now joined. Vessels claiming neutral status were to remain exempt with the exception of finding contraband of war aboard. All weapons and shipbuilding materials were considered liable to seizure. The line was drawn in the sand and all were hastily preparing to get out of harm's way. The Confederate States had formally declared their state of war and hell was following in its wake.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org