U.S.S. 'Metacomet' off Mobile: May 16, 1864. pp, folio sheet folded to 12-1/2" x 8", printed on rectos only. Fine. Signed at the end, "Very Respectfully &c | Your obdt Servt | Jas. E. Jouett | Lieut Comdr | U.S.N."
Jouett, known as "Fightin Jim" Jouett, ended his illustrious career as a Rear Admiral. His Letter is an enlightening illumination of the issues involving maritime prizes. A Kentuckian, he was a career U.S. Navy man who served in the Mexican War and on the African Coast with Matthew C. Perry. During the Civil War, after having been captured at Pensacola and released, he commanded the 'Montgomery' and 'Cuyler' on blockading duty; in September 1863 he was transferred to the command of the 'Metacomet', where he wrote this letter. In the Battle of Mobile Bay, under Admiral Farragut, he distinguished himself and was a witness to Farragut's famous command, "Damn the Torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" [See, XVII 'The United Service: A Monthly Review of Military and Naval Affairs', January 1897, pages 17-36].
Jouett's Letter to Upton:
"I commanded the U.S.S. 'R.R. Cuyler' of Mobile Bar, in the Squadron of Admiral D.G. Farragut- who was then (June 25th, 1863) Comdg at Vicksburg.
"Orders were sent from the Navy Dept June 9th to Admiral Farragut to send the 'R.R. Cuyler' north, Orders were sent me off Mobile of June 25th, 1863 and given to me by the Senior Officer comdg off Mobile to proceed to the Navy Yard at Phila. in person, and to the Secy of the Navy by letter. The Admiral expressed his regret at losing myself & vessel, & hoped we might be restored to him &c.
"I sailed from off Mobile July 9th and off the Tortugas I chased & captured the Rebel Str. 'Kate Dale' from Mobile. I was beyond Admiral Farragut's jurisdiction by several hundred miles, & was in Admiral Bailey's. The prize was taken to Phila. and I was told by the Prize Commissioners that I was perfectly entitled to 3/20, and that I was on detached service- the District Attorney also said it was a plain case, and needed no argument. The Court decreed that the 'R.R. Cuyler' was the only vessel entitled to share in the Prize. The Dept by some unknown law, has given Admiral Farragut 1/20, which in the opinion of the Court, the Commissioners, & Dist. Attorney, they had no right to do. Will you please give me a written opinion as to the merits of the case; whether I was on detached service, & whether the Admiral whose squadron I had been in, was entitled to share? I have since my reporting to the Dept, been ordered to different ships, the 'R.R. Cuyler' has now rejoined this squadron.
"This is a case which may involve many cases yet to come. In a similar case of the U.S.S. 'Octorara' Comdr D.D. Porter was ordered to proceed from below Vicksburg (about July 10th, 1862) to Fortress Monroe, on the way north, when off Charleston S.C. she captured the Eng. Str 'Jubal Cain' from Nassau. The 'Jubal Cain' was subsequently condemned, and Commander Porter received as his share of the proceeds three twentieths 3/20 of the portion awarded to the captures.
"Admiral Farragut commanded in person at Vicksburg, when the 'Octorara' was ordered North."
The Letter's recipient, Francis H. Upton, was "An eminent lawyer of New York City," specializing in admiralty law, the author of several legal treatises [Adams, 'Dictionary of American Authors', page 394 (Houghton Mifflin: 1901)], and thus a perfect choice to act as Jouett's attorney. He was evidently a friend of Herman Melville. Item #32767