1860s Confederate Blockade Archive

Value (2005) | $2,000 Insurance$3,000 Insurance

GUEST:
This is the story of my great-grandfather who was an officer in the Confederate army. And he was escorting sugarcane from Louisiana down to Matamoras.

APPRAISER:
He was running the blockades-- smuggling.

GUEST:
He would take it over to Europe, they would sell it there, and then come back with armaments and supplies for the Confederate army.

APPRAISER:
And this is the ship that he was using-- the Peterhoff.

GUEST:
That's correct. He was on the British ship Peterhoff. They had just left the British West Indies, Saint Thomas, when they were captured by the United States ship Vanderbilt.

APPRAISER:
And that was the year...?

GUEST:
In 1863.

APPRAISER:
1863. And you were telling me that the British got very upset. They're a sovereign nation. Somebody seized their ship.

GUEST:
That s right.

APPRAISER:
And it resulted in a court case.

GUEST:
The British were very upset. Their sovereignty was tested. The case started in 1863. And the United States government seized the vessel, seized the contents. Theodore Heink then turned around and sued the insurance carrier who he carried the insurance for the cargo. And this is a letter...

APPRAISER:
And this is from '68?

GUEST:
From 1868, where the lawyer gave his opinion as to the value of the case, which was not very good at the time.

APPRAISER:
Exactly. And that s one of the things that was really interesting to me is that they were saying that this is a wartime case, the United States government seized this vessel because it was smuggling material in wartime, so you would think no reparations would be made.

GUEST:
It would be very, very difficult.

APPRAISER:
But your great-grandfather pursued this case.

GUEST:
That's correct.

APPRAISER:
And he actually got a British lawyer to take the case...

GUEST:
That's correct.

APPRAISER:
And he was charged... This is the receipt that accompanied the check.

GUEST:
He got a settlement in 1875, and he was charged in pounds.

APPRAISER:
£801, three shillings, 11 pence.

GUEST:
That's correct-- that's what he received, which he received it in a check, for American dollars, on a New York bank. And he never cashed the check, and we do not know the reason for that.

APPRAISER:
But it's a lot of money.

GUEST:
In that day, $2,200 was a lot of money.

APPRAISER:
Today, $2,000 is a lot of money. I can't believe that A) he pursued it, B) he actually got a settlement, and he never cashed the check.

GUEST:
I really don't have an explanation for that.

APPRAISER:
Well, you know, that was his trophy. I mean, money is money, but as long as he had that check, he won. But you, being a descendant of your great-grandfather, decided to pursue it a little further.

GUEST:
In 1970, I sought to collect on the check, and I sent it to McCulloch and Co., who is the issuer of the check.

APPRAISER:
That's right.

GUEST:
I sent them a letter, and they informed me that they are not the same McCulloch and Co. and that the account is closed. So there was no recovery on the check.

APPRAISER:
Well, it's a great family archive, and the story is really wonderful. This is something that happened quite a lot with the British vessels being seized by the United States government. So it's very emblematic of what was happening during the Civil War. And if I were to insure it, I would certainly insure it for between $2,000 and $3,000.

GUEST:
Hmm... goodness.

APPRAISER:
But of course, the family history is priceless, so I'd hang on to it. And it's too bad about the check, but...

GUEST:
We may still collect it.

APPRAISER:
Exactly.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Sotheby's
New York, New York
Appraised value (2005)
$2,000 Insurance$3,000 Insurance
Event
Houston, TX (July 16, 2005)
Period
19th Century
Material
Paper

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