On August 17, 1848, a tea box had arrived at the nation's capital sent there by the territorial governor of California, Colonel Richard B. Mason, an officer who had a number of friends in Fort Smith from his posting here
before the war with Mexico. The box had traveled via sailing ship to Panama and had been heavily
guarded in its journey across the isthmus and on to
the nation's capital since it contained nuggets from
Marcy Time Line
April 9,1812—Randolph Barnes Marcy born in
1828—Admitted to West Point Military Academy.
June 1832—Graduated and commissioned Second
It, United States Army.
1832—Assigned to duty in the Black Hawk War, but
became ill and missed the action.
May 5,1833—Married Mary Mann (age 18) at
Syracuse, New York
1833-1837—Stationed at Fort Howard, Wisconsin,
a post commanded by Col. George M. Brooke,
who gained fame later in the Mexican War. Earlier
(1817-21), Zachary Taylor had commanded
Howard. Served with Capt. Martin Scott (later killed
in the Mexican War at the Battle of Molino del Ray).
See Hollon, p. 20 for Marcy-Scott anecdote.
May 17,1835—Daughter Mary Ellen born. In 1860,
Mary Ellen became the wife of Gen. George B.
January 1-10,1837—Mary and Randolph visited
Chicago on an eight-day furlough.
1838-1840—Recruiting duties caused Marcy to move
the family to Fort Winnebago, then to Milwaukee,
and again to Winnebago.
the gold fields of northern California.
The United States had acquired California from
Mexico with the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
signed February 2, 1848. A week earlier on January
24, 1848, James Marshall, an engineer working for
land baron John Sutter, had discovered gold in the
American River. Sutter, a Swiss emigrant who ran his
vast holdings like a satrap, knew that the discovery of
gold would destroy his privacy and his control. Sutter
therefore tried to keep the news squelched, but a
secret like that is hard to keep. Rumors about a huge
gold strike spread to Fort Smith, where excitement
suddenly gripped many of the 900 residents of the
city, although many, too, remained skeptical. The
box, which contained 220 ounces of gold, however,
provided hard evidence. President James K. Polk,
who had doubled the area of the United States during
his administration and apparently had exhausted
himself in doing so, had declined to seek a second
term. But now the president had some good news and
to Congress on December 5, 1848, Polk confirmed
officially to the nation that gold had been discovered
in California. Thus began the Gold Rush of 1849,
the event that brought Marcy to Fort Smith where
he began what was to be a half-decade of exploring
the west, his expeditions usually originating in Fort