California State Militia and National Guard Unit Histories
Columbia Fusileers
Official or other titles: Columbia Fusileers, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, California Militia
Location: Columbia, Tuolumne County
Mustered in: December 23, 1853
Mustered out: 1857
Unit papers on file at the California State Archives
a. Organization Papers 3 documents (1853)
b. Bonds none
c. Correspondence (Unclassified letters) 25 documents (1853-1861)
d. Election Returns 3 documents (1854)
e. Exempt Certificates, Applications for none
f. Muster Rolls, Monthly returns 1 document (1853)
g. Oaths Qualifications none
h. Orders none
i. Receipts, invoices 5 documents (1854-1857)
j. Requisitions 4 documents (1854-1857)
k. Resignations 1 document (1854)
l. Target Practice Reports none
m. Other none

Commanding Officers

Thomas N. Cazneau, Captain, Commissioned: January 1854
W. H. Van Arsdale, First Lieutenant, Commissioned: January 1854
Official History

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 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)

(1) Fusil--a fire steel for a tinder box. A light musket or.firelock.
(2) As of this writing in 1940.
(3) Busby--a busby wig or hat
(4) Sacramento Union, August 6, 1855, Page 3, Column 3.
(5) San Francisco Daily Herald, June 28, 1857, Page 3, Column 2.
This history was written in 1940 by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in conjunction with the office of the Adjutant General and the California State Library
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Updated 23 June 2017