LIEUT. LUCIEN LOESER
BROUGHT THE FIRST PIECES OF GOLD DISCOVERED IN CALIFORNIA IN 1848
TO WASHINGTON. HIS ACTIONS GAVE RISE TO
THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH OF
Photo Courtesy of Mystic Seaport Library.
LT.COL. LUCIEN LOESER
Colonel Richard B. Mason took his time filling out a carefully detailed report of his observations in the gold fields. He completing the report on August 17, 1848, and dispatched a courier, Lieutenant Lucien Loeser, on a roundabout route back to Washington with Mason's official report, along with a tea-caddy crammed with over 230 ounces of gold. On August 30, 1848, Loeser sailed from Monterey by schooner to Payta, Peru, where he caught a British steamer to Panama. After crossing the Isthmus, Loeser booked passage to Jamaica, and from there to New Orleans where news of the official confirmation of the gold discovery created much excitement. Loeser telegraphed his report to the War Department and resumed his journey to the capital.
It is interesting what you can find while doing historical research. Recently while looking at The Memorial To Patriotism for Schuylkill County 1861-1865, while on a quest of looking for all the U.S. Regulars who served from Schuylkill County during the Civil War I came across a soldier listed as a Lt. Col. Lucien Loeser, of the 8th Virginia! Ok, was this a Rebel from the local area? This certainly got my interest. But it wasn’t to be. Actually, his regiment should have read the 8th West Virginia Cavalry. Ok, well that is still pretty interesting, Now, who is Lt. Col. Lucien Loeser of the 8th West Virginia Cavalry?
I found this very interesting bio of Loeser in the West Point Military academy Reunion book of 1896. How great was this, he is from my town of Orwigsburg. Here is his story.
Lt. Col. LUCIEN LOESER.
No. 26. CLASS OF 1842.
Died, March 6th, 1897, at Brooklyn, N. Y., aged 79.
The name of LUCIEN LOESER will suggest pleasurable reminiscences of their cadet or subaltern days to a large proportion of the older of the remaining officers of the "Old Army." Of his cotemporaries at West Point not many are left, and of his class of 56 members, I believe only four, Generals James Longstreet, N. J. T. Dana, and Chas. L. Kilburn, and Colonel Joseph Stewart.
Colonel Loeser was born July 10th, 1818, in Orwigsburg, Pa., and died in Brooklyn, N. Y., March 6th, 1897, in his 79th year. He was of "Pennsylvania Dutch" ancestry, and possessed many of the characteristics of that race, among them that of pride in belonging to it. His father was a prominent lawyer in Schuylkill County, in the days when the coal lands began to be developed. His youthful education was obtained principally at the famous old Moravian school at Lititz. He entered the .Military Academy in 1838, and graduated in 1842, and was assigned as Brevet Second Lieutenant to the Second Artillery.
He served. With this regiment at Forts Adams, Hamilton, and Trumbull in succession until his promotion to Second Lieutenant. Third Artillery, in 1845, which carried him to Fort McHenry. In July, 1846, his company, "F," Captain C. O. Tompkins and First Lieutenants E. O. C. Ord and W. T. Sherman, with Lieutenant W. F. Halleck, Engineers, accompanying, sailed for California via Cape Horn in the U. S. Store ship Lexington. The voyage was long and tedious, and it was more than six months after sailing when they entered-the Bay of Monterey and took station at the old Spanish settlement of that name.. Those were unsettled times in California, and though the country had already been wrested from Mexican control, there was plenty of police duty for the troops of occupation.
In 1848 came the discovery of gold, and as soon as its importance was recognized it became necessary to inform the government at Washington. Lieutenant Loeser, who had been promoted the previous year, was selected to bear the dispatches, and set out with them, and a quart or so of specimens, about the end of August in a chartered sailing vessel. He reached Payta, Peru, in time to take the October steamer for Panama and connected at Aspinwall with the steamer for Jamaica. There he secured passage on a small sailing vessel to New Orleans, and finally arrived in Washington in December with the big news, which was immediately announced to the country by a Presidential message to Congress, and gave rise to the great immigration of'"49."
John Marshall was superintending the construction of a sawmill for Col. John Sutter on the morning of January 25, 1848, on the South Fork of the American River at Coloma, California, when he saw something glittering in the water of the mill's tailrace. According to Sutter's diary, Marshall stooped down to pick it up and "found that it was a thin scale of what appeared to be pure gold." Marshall bit the metal as a test for gold.
In June of 1848, Colonel Sutter presented Marshall's first-find scale of gold to Capt. Joseph L. Folsom, U.S. Army Assistant Quartermaster at Monterey. Folsom had journeyed to Northern California to verify the gold claim for the U.S. Government.
In August of that year, as evidence of the find, this piece and other samples of California gold to Washington, D.C., for delivery to President James K. Polk and for preservation at the National Institute. Within weeks, President Polk formally declared to Congress that gold had been discovered in California.
The gold samples then traveled with U.S. Army Lt. Lucien Loeser by ship to Panama, across the isthmus by horseback, by ship to New Orleans, and overland to Washington. A letter of transmittal from Folsom that accompanied the packet lists Specimen #1 as "the first piece of gold ever discovered in this Northern part of Upper California found by J. W. Marshall at the Saw Mill of John A. Sutter."
In 1861, the National Institute and its geological specimens, including this gold and the letter, entered the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. The Marshall Nugget remains in the collections as evidence of the discovery of gold in California.
Lieutenant Loeser then served in garrison at Fort Sullivan, Me., and from 1850 to 1852 at Jefferson Barracks with Light Battery "C," Ringold's famous battery, when it resumed its guns after its tour of service as cavalry after the Mexican war. Then back to Fort Sullivan and thence to Fort Constitution, N. H., and Fort Wood, N. Y., till the main body of the regiment sailed for California in December, 1853.
It was on this voyage that the memorable and tragic shipwreck of the San Francisco occurred. Headquarters, band and six companies, about 500 men in all, had embarked on this steamer for San Francisco, via Cape Horn, but off the Delaware Capes they met a severe storm which soon reduced the vessel to an unmanageable wreck and washed overboard the deck houses with four officers and 150 men. They drifted thus for four days, keeping the vessel afloat only by the greatest exertions, during which a number of the men died from exposure and fatigue. Finally the bark Kilby hove in sight, and running a hawser to the wreck, took off about 100 of the survivors, including Lieutenant Loeser and his family, which were subsequently transferred to the packet Lucy Thompson and landed in New York. The remainder were taken off later by other vessels and carried to Liverpool.
Lieutenant Loeser served as Adjutant of the regiment while it was being gotten into shape again, and in April a second start was made. Part of them went in the steamer Illinois, and the remainder in a chartered steamer, the Falcon. There was much suspicion and controversy respecting the seaworthiness of this
vessel, and as a result Lieutenant Loeser found himself the senior
Officer present when they went aboard, and sailed in command of
the band and four companies. Before they had been long out the suspicions were fully realized. The machinery gave out, but, fortunately, they were able to make Hampton Roads without being caught in a storm, and there they awaited the Illinois which took them off in May and they finally reached Benicia in safety.
He then served at Fort Miller, Cal., for three years, being promoted to Captain in 1856, and then at San Diego, San Barnardino, and Fort Yuma, where he resigned from the service in 1858 and returned to the East.
He served in Virginia early in the war as Lieutenant-Colonel Seventh West Virginia Cavalry, but being unable to remain in the field, he returned to New York, and from 1862 served as Chief Clerk in the Quartermaster's office in that city through the remained of the war and until 1873. He was then appointed a clerk in the Custom House at New York and served there 24 years, the greater part of the time as Chief of the Record Division, which position he held at the time of his death.
Photo Courtesy of Mystic Seaport Library.
Mrs. Sara Loeser
He married, in 1849, Miss Sarah Eaton, daughter of Dr. Joseph Eaton, U. S. A. They had no children and Mrs. Loeser died in 1882. During his long service in public position in New York he formed a wide circle of acquaintance, by whom he was respected for his honorable demeanor and strict performance of duty and liked for the courtesy and genial good heartedness which he brought into all his relations. During these 35 years he, particularly after the death of his wife, whom he keenly mourned, lived a very retired life and his intimacy was shared by few outside of his family. He found the simple pleasures he desired in a home life of the most exemplary and devoted character. He was a good raconteur and had a large fund of anecdotes and reminiscences of the "Old Army."
Colonel Lucien Loeser had an able mind, a generous and engaging disposition, an honorable character and a true heart. In his death our Alma Mater loses from the ranks of her sons a
"good man and true."
Loeser’s famous class mates at West Point Military Academy. He graduated Number 26 in the class.
Class of 1842 - 56 graduated
EUSTIS, Henry Lawrence 1
NEWTON, John 2
ROSECRANS, William Starke 5
SMITH, Gustavus Woodson 8
LOVELL, Mansfield 9
STEWART, Alexander Peter 12
SMITH, Martin Luther 16
POPE, John 17
WILLIAMS, Seth 23
DOUBLEDAY, Abner 24
HILL, Daniel Harvey 28
DANA, Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh 29
SYKES, George 39
ANDERSON, Richard Heron 40
MCLAWS, Lafayette 48
VAN DORN, Earl 52
LONGSTREET, James 54
The obituary of Col. Lucien Loeser, From the New York Times March 8th, 1897.
Lucien Loeser, who was for many years in the Government service died at his home, 401 Pacific Street, Brooklyn, Saturday morning, in the seventy ninth year of age. His death was caused by acute nephritis. He had been confined to hi home for two weeks.
Mr. Loeser was born in Orwigsburg, Penn. And was graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1842. Many distinguished men were his class mates, including Gen. Simon B. Buckner, General Longstreet, General Hill, and And General Dana. Mr. L:oeser’s service was with the artillery.
He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, New York.