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Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, Commander, North Atlantic Fleet, Squadron General Order No. 10




Off Santiago de Cuba, Cuba,

Squadron General Order No. 10.                  June 11, 1898,


(To replace the Instructions of May 2nd.)1

1.—The vessels of this Squadron, while engaged in blockading and cruising service, will be governed by the rules of International law and the decisions of Prize-courts, laid down in the text-books and manuals furnished by the Navy Department to Ship’s Libraries, and by the provisions of the treaties between the United States and other powers.

The following brief instructions based upon the above rules and decisions, are established for convenient reference.


     2.-A blockade to be effective and binding must be maintained by a force sufficient to render ingress to or egress from the port dangerous. If the blockading vessels be driven away by stress of weather, returning without delay to their stations, the continuity of the blockade is not thereby broken; but if they leave their stations voluntarily, except for purposes of the blockade, such as chasing a blockade-runner, or are driven away by an enemy’s force, the blockade is abandoned, or broken, and new notice as the port or ports affected become necessary. As a suspension of a blockade is a serious matter, requiring new notification, and thereby interfering with the efficiency of the blockade, Commanding Officers will exercise especial care not to give grounds for such allegation.


     3.-Neutral vessels are entitled to notification of a blockade before they can be made prize for its attempted violation. The character of this notification is not material. It may be actual, as by a vessel of the blockading force, or constructive, as by a proclamation of the Government maintaining the blockade, or by common notoriety. If a neutral vessel can be shown to have had notice of the blockade in any way, she is good prize and should be sent in for adjudication; but should formal notice not have been given, the rule of constructive knowledge arising from notoriety should be construed in a manner liberal to the neutral.

     4.-Vessels appearing before a blockaded port, having sailed without notification, are entitled to actual notice by a blockading vessel. They should be boarded by an officer, who should enter in the ship’s log the fact of such notice, such entry to include the name of the blockading vessel giving notice, the extent of the blockade, the date and place, verified by his official signature. The vessel is then to be set free; and should she again attempt to enter the same or any other blockaded port, she is a good prize.

     5.-Should it appear from a vessel’s clearance that she sailed after the notice of blockade had been communicated to the country of her port of departure, or after the fact of the blockade had, by fair assumption, become commonly known at that port, she should be sent in as a prize. There are, however, treaty exceptions to this rule, and these exceptions should be strictly observed.

     6.-A neutral vessel may sail in good faith for a blockaded port with an alternative destination to be decided upon by information as to the continuance of the blockade obtained at an intermediate port. But, in such case she is not allowed to continue her voyage to the blockaded port in alleged quest of information as to the status of the blockade, but must obtain it and decided upon her course before she arrives in suspicious vicinity; and if the blockade has been formally established with due notification, any doubt as to the good faith of such a proceeding should go against the neutral and subject her to seizure.

     7.-In accordance with the rule adopted by the United States in the existing war with Spain, neutral vessels found in port at the time of the establishment of a blockade, will, unless otherwise ordered by the United States, be allowed thirty days from the establishment of the blockade to load their cargoes and depart from such port.

     8.-A vessel under any circumstances, resisting the visit of a blockading vessel, destroying her papers, presenting fraudulent papers, or attempting to escape, should be sent in for adjudication. The liability of a blockade-runner to capture and condemnation, begins and terminates with her voyage. If there is good evidence that she sailed with intent to evade the blockade, she is good prize from the moment she appears upon the high seas. Similarly, if she has succeeded in escaping from a blockaded port, she is liable to capture at any time before she reaches her home port. But with the termination of the voyage the offense ends.

     9.-The crews of blockade-runners are not enemies, and should be treated not as prisoners of war, but with every consideration. Any of the officers or crew, however, whose testimony before the prize-court may be desired, should be detained as witnesses.

     10.-The men-of-war of neutral powers should be, as a matter of courtesy, allowed free passage to and from a blockaded port.

     11.-Blockade-running is a distinct offense, and subjects the vessel attempting, or sailing with the intent, to commit it, to seizure without regard to the nature of her cargo. The presence of contraband of war in the cargo becomes a distinct cause of seizure of the vessel, where she is bound to a port of the enemy not blockaded, and to which, contraband of war excepted, she is free to trade.


     12.-The belligerent right of search may be exercised without previous notice, upon all neutral vessels after the beginning of war, to determine their nationality, the character of their cargo, and the ports between which they are trading.

     13.-This right should be exercised with tact and consideration, and in strict conformity with treaty provisions, wherever they exist. The following directions are given, subject to any special treaty stipulations: following directions are given subject to any special treaty stipulations: After firing a blank charge, and causing the vessel to lie to, the cruiser should send a small boat, no larger than a whaleboat, with an officer to conduct the search. There may be arms in the boat, but the men should not wear them on their persons. The officer, wearing only his side arms, and accompanied on board by not more than two men of his boat’s crew, unarmed, should first examine the vessel’s papers to ascertain her nationality and her ports of departure and destination. If she is neutral, and trading between neutral port, the examination goes no further. If she is neutral, and bound to an enemy’s port not blockaded, the papers which indicate the character of her cargo should be examined. If these show contraband of war the vessel should be seized; if not, she should be set free. No sealed hatches should be broken nor any examination of the cargo made.

     14.-Irrespective of the character of the cargo, or her purported destination, a neutral vessel should be seized if she:

     I. Attempts to avoid search by escape; but this must be

clearly evident.

     II. Resists search with violence.

     III. Presents fraudulent papers.

     IV. Is not supplied with the necessary papers to establish

the objects of search.

     V. Destroys, defaces, or conceals papers.

     15.-A neutral vessel carrying hostile despatches, when a dispatch vessel practically in the service of the enemy, is liable to seizure; but not when she is a mail packet and carries them in the regular and customary manner, either as a part of the mail in her mail bags, or separately as a matter of accommodation and without special arrangement or remuneration.

     16.-A neutral vessel in the service of the enemy, in the transportation of troops or military persons, is liable to seizure.


     17.-Are good prize, and may be seized anywhere, except in neutral waters. To this rule, however, the President’s proclamation of April 26, 1898, made the following exceptions:

     4. Spanish merchant vessels in any ports or places within the United States, shall be allowed till Mary 21st, 1898, inclusive, for loading their cargoes, and departing such ports or places, and such Spanish merchant vessels, if met at sea, by any United States ship, shall be permitted to continue their voyage, if, on examination of their papers, it shall appear that their cargoes were taken on board before the expiration of the above term;-Provided that nothing herein contained shall apply to Spanish vessels having on board any officer in the military or naval service of the enemy, or any coal (except such as may be necessary for their voyage), or any other article prohibited or contraband of war, or any dispatch of, or to, the Spanish Government.”

     5. Any Spanish merchant vessel which, prior to April 21st, 1898, shall have sailed from any foreign port bound for any port or place in the United States, shall be permitted to enter such a port or place, and to discharge her cargo, and afterward forthwith to depart without molestation; and any such vessel, if met at sea by any United States ship, shall be permitted to continue her voyage to any port not blockaded.”


     18.-The President, by his proclamation of April 26th, 1898, declared:

     1. The neutral flag covers enemy’s goods, with the exception of contraband of war.”


     19.-Prizes should be sent in for adjudication, unless otherwise directed, to the nearest home port in which a prize-court may be sitting.

     20. The prize should be delivered to the court in as nearly as possible her condition at the time of seizure; and kept in custody of the prize-master. Attention is called in this connection to Articles 16 and 17 for the Government of the U.S. Navy.

     21.-All witnesses, whose testimony is necessary to the adjudication of the prize, should be detained and sent in with her, and if circumstances permit, if is preferable that the officer making the search should act as prize-master.

     22.-As to the delivery of the prize to the judicial authority, consult sections 4615, 4616 and 4617, Revised Statutes of 1878.2 The papers, including the log-book of the prize, are delivered to the prize-commissioners, the witnesses to the custody of the U.S. Marshal and the prize itself remains in the custody of the prize-master until the court issues process directing one of its officers to take charge.

     23.-The title to property seized as prize, either vessels or cargo, changes only by decision rendered by the prize-court, and therefore so far as practicable, all captures should be sent in for adjudication, intact, in the condition in which they were seized. But if the vessels themselves, or their cargoes, are necessary for immediate public use, they may be converted to such use, a careful inventory and appraisal being made by impartial persons, and certified to the prize-court.

     24.-If there are controlling reasons why vessels may not be sent in for adjudication, as unseaworthiness, the existence of infectious diseases, the lack of a prize-crew, they may be appraised and sold; and if this cannot be done they may be destroyed. The imminent danger of recapture would justify destruction, if there was no doubt that the vessel was good prize. In all such cases, all the papers and other testimony should be sent to the prize-court, in order that a decree may be duly entered, and the proceeds of sale, if sold, or an amount equal to the appraised valuation, if taken for Government use, must be deposited subject to the order of the court.

William T. Sampson,    

Rear Admiral,     

Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy Force,

North Atlantic Station.     

Source Note: TD, DLC, William Emory Papers.

Footnote 2: Sections 4615, 4616 and 4617 of the Revised Statutes of 1878 are described in paragraphs 26 and 27 of Ibid.

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