UNITED STATES V. PUGH, 99 U. S. 265 (1879)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Pugh, 99 U.S. 265 (1879)

United States v. Pugh

99 U.S. 265


1. The Act of March 12, 1863, 12 Stat. 820, relative to abandoned and captured property, as extended by the Act of July 2, 1864, 13 id. 375, authorizes the recovery in the Court of Claims of the proceeds of property captured and, without judicial condemnation, sold by the military authorities after July 17, 1862, and before March 12, 1863, if such proceeds were accounted for and credited by the Secretary of the Treasury to the abandoned and captured property fund.

2. Where, in a suit arising under those acts, no direct proof was given that the proceeds of the sale of the property were paid into the treasury, if the circumstantial facts which are established by the evidence are set forth in the finding of the Court of Claims, which it sends here as that upon which alone its judgment was rendered, and they are, in the absence of anything to the contrary, the legal equivalent of a direct finding that such proceeds were so paid, this Court will not on that account reverse the judgment.

3. The judgment of the Court of Claims as to the legal effect of what may, perhaps not improperly, be termed the ultimate circumstantial facts of the case, is, if the question is properly presented, subject on appeal to be here reviewed, and where the rights of the parties depend upon such circumstantial facts alone, and there is doubt as to the legal effect of them, it is the duty of that court to frame its findings so that the question as to such effect shall be presented by the record.

4. United States v. Crusell, 14 Wall. 1, Same v. Ross, 92 U. S. 281, and Intermingled Cotton Cases, 14 Wall. 651, so far as they bear upon the rule requiring, on an appeal from the Court of Claims, a finding by that court of the facts in the case established by the evidence in the nature of a special verdict, but not the evidence establishing them, cited and explained.

This was an action, brought by Walter Pugh against the United States to recover the proceeds of certain property. The Court of Claims found the following facts:

Page 99 U. S. 266

1. In December, 1862, the claimant was in possession as owner of a plantation in Louisiana. The sugar and molasses described in the petition were a part of the products of such plantation and were stored thereon and in the possession of the claimant's agents.

2. In December, 1862, this said sugar and molasses were seized by the military forces of the United States and turned over to a military commission, known as the sequestration commission, on the 12th of January, 1863. The commission was directed by general order No. 8, Department of the Gulf,

"to sell at public auction all property in its possession that has not been or may not be claimed or released, except such as may be required for the use of the army, and turn over the proceeds thereof to the chief quartermaster."

The said sugar and molasses were then in the possession of the commission. On the 4th of February, 1863, the commission caused the same to be sold, with other property, at public auction in New Orleans. By the accounts kept by the commission, it appears that the net proceeds of the sugar and molasses amounted to $4,362.23. It does not appear specifically that the proceeds were paid over to the chief quartermaster of the Department of the Gulf, but it appears, and the court finds the fact to be, that he received money at various times in the year 1863 from the sales of sugar and molasses in New Orleans, to the amount of $33,796.02. For this amount the chief quartermaster accounted on the final settlement of his accounts, and the same was credited by the Secretary of the Treasury to the abandoned and captured property fund in the treasury.

3. That, as appears from the accounts of the chief quartermaster, the said amount of $33,796.02 was received by him as the net proceeds of sales of sugar and molasses in New Orleans, and the whole of said amount was received in and subsequent to the month of February, 1863. That it does not appear what became of the fund resulting from the said sale of claimant's sugar and molasses, unless the same was paid over to the chief quartermaster of the Department of the Gulf, in pursuance of said order of General Banks, and was included in said sum of $33,796.02.

4. On June 13, 1863, the said commission notified the agent

Page 99 U. S. 267

of Mrs. Walter Pugh, wife of the claimant, who had applied for the release of a portion of the said proceeds, that the application was denied.

Upon these facts, the claimant had judgment for $4,362.23. The United States thereupon appealed to this Court.

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