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History of Bucktail State Park Natural Area

The Bucktail Regiment

By Rich Adams, Captain, 1st PA Rifles, Company B Bucktails Reenactment Unit

Responding to President Lincoln’s call for volunteer troops to rise to the defense of the Union, following the Confederate bombing of Fort Sumpter, during April 1861, Thomas Leiper Kane began recruiting young men from the northern tier counties of Pennsylvania. Mr. Kane, an influential businessman in McKean County, and his lieutenants, were successful in recruiting enough young men to fill 7 companies (approximately 700 men).

Many of these men were lumberjacks, raftsmen, and farmers accustomed to living in the rugged mountainous areas of the “Wildcat” district (Elk, McKean, Tioga, and Cameron counties).

Prior to leaving for Harrisburg, the men adopted the tail of a buck as their “regimental badge of honor.” The deer tails were placed on each recruits cap and they became known as the Bucktails. In route to Camp Curtin, a bucktail also adorned the top of the mast on one of the rafts the men built to travel to Lock Haven where they could pick up the railroad.

Once at Camp Curtin, another company from northern Pennsylvania, a company from Chester County and a company from Perry County joined Kane’s group to complete the required 10 company regiment, and became the 13th regiment-the Rifle (sharpshooter) regiment-of the newly formed Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. As part of the federal army, they became the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Bucktail Regiment.

The regiment trained at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania until June 1861, when it was detached, along with the 5th Regiment, to the assistance of General Lew Wallace in the Cumberland, Maryland area. Upon their return from Maryland, they joined the balance of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps which had been mustered into service by the federal government and was now attached to the Army of the Potomac in and near Washington D.C.

The Bucktails served with distinction in most of the major engagements of the Army of the Potomac until May 1864, when those who did not reenlist in the 190th Pennsylvania, were mustered out of service. The Bucktails were engaged at:

  • Dranesville
  • the Seven Days Battles of Mechanicsville, Gaines Mill, New Market Crossroads, and Malvern Hill
  • Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Spottsylvania (1864)
  • Bethesda Church

The unit completed its service on May 31, 1864.

During May 1862, four companies of Bucktails—companies C, G, H, and I were detached from the regiment, under the command of Lt. Col. Thomas L. Kane, and sent to participate in the Valley Campaign against the renowned Stonewall Jackson. This detachment was engaged in the battles of:

  • Harrisonburg
  • Cross Keys
  • Catlett’s Station
  • 2nd Bull Run
  • Chantilly

At Harrisonburg, the Bucktails were credited with killing confederate general Turner Ashby. The detached companies joined the regiment after the Battle of 2nd Bull Run.

History of Bucktail State Park Natural Area

Public support and the Pennsylvania legislature created Bucktail State Park.

Act No. 301 of June 2, 1933, P.L. 1415, created “Bucktail State Park.” The Act says: “That the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby dedicates to the public, for use as a park and pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people, all that area of land extending in length from the western city line of Lock Haven, in Clinton County, to the eastern borough line of Emporium, in the County of Cameron, and along the course of the western branch of the Susquehanna River, and its tributary, Sinnemahoning Creek, in Clinton and Cameron counties, an estimated distance of 75 miles, and in width from mountain rim to mountain rim across the valley.

“The said park shall be called and known as the ‘Bucktail State Park,’ in commemoration of the Bucktail Regiment which embarked from Driftwood, in Cameron County, in April, 1861, upon rafts of their own construction to hasten their arrival at the imperiled State Capitol.”

Most of the land within the “legislative” park boundary is privately owned. DCNR's Bureau of State Parks and Bureau of Forestry own some of the land in the valley.