CUYLER, Richard M.

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Richard Matthaei Cuyler
(April 26, 1825-May 18, 1879)
Laurel Grove Cemetery North
Savannah, GA

CUYLER, Richard Matthaei (1825-1879), Georgia-born son of Richard Randolph Cuyler and Mississippi M. Gordon. Cuyler became a Lieutenant Commander for the U.S. Coast Survey on the Pacific Coast in the 1850s, along with Lieutenant James Alden. Cuyler began as a midshipman on April 28, 1839. He passed midshipman, becoming Master and Lieutenant. His employment with the United Stated Coast Survey began on June 20, 1845, and Cuyler became master of the schooners U.S.S. Active and U.S.S. Ewing.

Cuyler’s Harbor on San Miguel Island was named for him in 1852 by A. D. Bache, Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey. On March 13, 1853, Lieutenant Commander James Alden, aboard the U.S.S. Active in San Francisco, wrote to A. D. Bache: “I have to respectfully to report that as soon as the news of the disaster which occurred, near the mouth of this harbor, to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company’s steamer Tennessee, reached me, I dispatched two boats, well manned, under the charge of Acting Lieutenant R. M. Cuyler, to their assistance, and I am happy to say they were fortunate in being able to render them good and efficient service. Mr. Cuyler, with his boats, succeeded in transporting more than two-thirds of some six or seven hundred passengers, with their baggage, from the beach, through a heavy surf, to the steamer sent to receive them, in the short space of three hours, without the slightest injury to anyone - a result entirely attributable to his coolness and good management. I would also state that Mr. Cuyler remained with the boats by the wreck nearly two days, and succeeded in saving much valuable property.” Bache in turn wrote to the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Hon. James Guthrie, to be communicated to the Secretary of the Navy, commending the heroic actions of R. M. Cuyler.

Cuyler resigned from the Navy on December 20, 1859.


Richard Cuyler = [April 25, 1861] Emily Charlotte Potter

  • 1. Mississippi Cuyler (1862-1904)
  • 2. John Potter Cuyler (1864-1864)
  • 3. John Potter Cuyler (1867-1939)
  • 4. Agnes Cuyler (1869-1936)
  • 5. Emily Potter Cuyler (1870-1906)


Cuyler was a slave-owner in Georgia in the 1860s, and he served in the Civil War as a Private in the lst Regiment of the Georgia (Olmstead’s) Infantry.

Cuyler died in Savannah, Georgia on April 25, 1879 at age 54.



In the News~

April 16, 1852 [DAC]: “The U. S. Surveying Steamer Active — This fine steamer, which has been purchased for the U. S. Government, to be used in prosecuting the Coast Survey, has been refitted and placed in excellent running order. She will sail today for for the purpose of continuing the survey of the coast between this port and San Diego. The following is a list of her officers: Lieutenant Commanding, Richard M. Cuyler… Mr. George Davidson goes down the coast for the purpose of making observations at the most important points between this and San Diego.”


October 28, 1854 [DAC]: “Arrived. Steamship Carolina, Lieut. Cuyler commander, 38 hours from the wreck of the Yankee Blade, and last from Monterey; to L. P. Haven.”


July 3, 1856 [SBG]: “The U.S. surveying schooner Ewing, R. M. Cuyler, Lieutenant Commander, arrived in our harbor on the 2nd instant, from a cruise in the Santa Barbara Channel. Currents were observed at five stations, namely: off Santa Barbara; in the channel between Santa Barbara and Point Conception; at Point Conception; between Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands; and off San Miguel Island.”


July 24, 1856 [SBG]: “The U.S. surveying schooner Ewing, Lieutenant Commander R. M. Cuyler, arrived on Friday last, from a cruise for the purpose of determining the currents of Santa Barbara channel and outside of the Santa Barbara islands. Five stations were occupied for the above purpose, viz: off San Buenaventura; near Anacapa Island; between Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz; off south side Santa Rosa; and off south side San Miguel.”


December 3, 1858 [DAC]: “The following officers to report for duty on board the chartered steamer America… Lieutenant R. M. Cuyler…”


February 9, 1867 [SDU]: “Partial list of pardoned rebels. The President sent a communication lately to the House of Representatives, inclosing, from the Attorney General’s office, a partial list of pardoned rebels, and stating that there would not be time during the present session to make it complete. The following memoranda are copied from the list: …Georgia. Richard M. Cuyler, ex-United States Naval Officer; by Judge Wayne, of the Supreme Court, and the Attorney General…”


July 26, 1903 [SFCall]: “… commencing with Captain Alden, who was in command of the survey steamer Active. He and his successor, Captain Richard M. Cuyler, were both men who were fond of society and gay frolics and never lost a chance of having one on board the vessel. Captain Alden had his wife with him and she, making her home on the Active, had many luncheons on board. Cuyler was a bachelor, but that did not prevent his following in his predecessor’s footsteps. He gave frequent parties on the bay and when the Active went anywhere on short trips he always took a jolly crowd with him.”