In a meeting presided over by James Coffroth on December 23, 1853, the Columbia Fusileers were duly organized at Columbia, Tuolumne County, under the Military Laws of the State of California. The term fusileer (or fusilier) originally applied to soldiers armed with a fusil (1) In the British Army the designation, fusileer, is still retained by ten regiments (2) distinguished from the other regiments of`the line only by.wearing a kind of busby (3) and other peculiarities in costume. This company was fortunate in having as commander, Captain Thomas: Cazneau, one of California's most capable soldiers, and later made Adjutant General.
The records show: that on July 10, 1854, a fire completely destroyed the town of Columbia, and many of the officers and men suffered heavy property losses. Included in the loss was the armory and equipment belonging to the company. In one respect this fire was fortunate for it seemed to weld the members of the, Fusileer Company together, in a civic minded purpose, that of rebuilding the town and promoting interest for the betterment of their community.
A need for this organization's support to
the civil authorities was seen in the late fifties, when the Sheriff
was compelled.to call out the company to act as guard for Escobar
and Sebado, two bandits who had been convicted of murdering Sheldon,
a deaf and dumb mute. This execution was witnessed by more than
four thousand men, women, and children, and by the presence of
the Columbia Fusileers, law and order was maintained.(4) Two years
later, the Fusileers again were forced to act in the grim role
as guards for death, when on Friday, June 26, 1857, William V.
Davis, who had been convicted of the murder of a Chinese immigrant
in the vicinity of Stanislaus, was executed in the presence of
a large crowd. The Columbia Fusileers, at the request of the civil
authorities were on guard the entire day, the purpose being to
protect the inmates imprisoned there, for fear of an attack by
the citizens on the County Jail. (5)