The Confederate privateers were privately owned ships that were authorized by the government of the Confederate States of America to attack the shipping of the United States. Although the appeal was to profit by capturing merchant vessels and seizing their cargoes, the government was most interested in diverting the efforts of the Union Navy away from the blockade of Southern ports, and perhaps to encourage European intervention in the conflict.At the beginning of the American Civil War, the Confederate government sought to counter the United States Navy in part by appealing to private enterprise world-wide to engage in privateering against United States Shipping. [] Privateering was the practice of fitting ordinary private merchant vessels with modest armament, then sending them to sea to capture other merchant vessels in return for monetary reward. The captured vessels and cargo fell under customary prize rules at sea. Prizes would be taken to the jurisdiction of a competent court, which could be in the sponsoring country or theoretically in any neutral port. If the court found that the capture was legal, the ship and cargo would be forfeited and sold at a prize auction. The proceeds would be distributed among owners and crew according to a contractual arrangement. Privateers were also authorized to attack an enemy's navy warships and then apply to the sponsoring government for direct monetary reward, usually gold or gold specie (coins).In the early days of the war, enthusiasm for the Southern cause was high, and many ship owners responded to the appeal by applying for letters of marque. Not all of those who gained authorization actually went to sea, but the numbers of privateers were high enough to be a major concern for US Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles. Many ships of the Union Navy were diverted from blockade duty in efforts to capture privateers. Most of the privateers managed to remain free, but enough were caught that the owners and crew had to consider the risk seriously. The capture of the privateers Savannah and Jefferson Davis resulted in important court cases that did much to define the nature of the Civil War itself.Initial enthusiasm could not be sustained. Privateers found it difficult to deliver their captures to Confederate courts, and as a result the expected profits were never realized. By the end of the first year of the war, the risks far exceeded the benefits in the minds of most owners and crews. The practice continued only sporadically through the rest of the war as the Confederate government turned its efforts against Northern commerce over to commissioned Confederate Navy commerce raiders such as the CSS Alabama and CSS Florida.The Civil War was the last time a belligerent power seriously resorted to privateering. The practice had already been outlawed among European countries by the Declaration of Paris (1856). Following the Civil War, the United States agreed to abide by the Declaration of Paris. More important than any international agreements, however, is the fact that the increased cost and sophistication of naval weaponry effectively removed any reasonable prospects for profit for private enterprise naval warfare.