War, Prize of, property captured from an enemy, or an enemy's property captured from a neutral in time of war. If the property is captured in naval operations it is known as prize; if in military operations, it is booty. The entire subject of prize and prize money as considered by the United States government is defined in the statute of 1864. In the articles on Blockade, Contraband, and Neutrality will be found accounts of what articles constitute prizes and how they may be seized. The statute providing for their disposal is in brief as follows: It is the first duty of the commanding officer of a vessel which has made a capture to send the prize, in charge of a prize master and prize crew, into the nearest convenient port for adjudication. The prize master takes with him all documents found on the vessel. On reaching port the prize master reports to the district attorney of the district in which the port is located, and the attorney files in the United States District Court of the district a libel against the prize property, and a marshal is placed in charge of it. The court appoints a prize commission of three members, who treat the property as an individual under charges and proceed to try it, examining all papers and taking the depositions of the prize master, crew, owners, or representatives of the property, and other witnesses. The report or findings of the commission is submitted to the court, which condemns or releases the property according to the testimony. If the property is condemned the court orders its sale at public auction, and decides how the proceeds shall be distributed.
In case the captured vehicle is not in a condition to be sent to a port for adjudication, an appraisement is made, the property is sold, and the proceeds are deposited with the nearest assistant treasurer of the United States pending disposal according to law. In military operations the booty really belongs to the sovereign or head of the nation whose army has taken it, and consists of personal property. It has been common for the nation to award a portion or even all of the booty to the army that captured it. Possession of the property for 24 hours usually confirms its title to the captor. Public monuments, works of art, libraries, and paraphernalia of religious worship are excluded from property now considered as booty. Movable property belonging to private persons not taking part in hostilities, is not accounted booty by the laws of war, and cannot be taken from the owners. The exception to this rule comprises merchant ships and their cargoes, which may become naval prizes of war.
Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.