In the early days of the Civil war two ambitious men set out to organise special rifle regiments when President Lincoln issued a call for troops after the battle at Bull Run. These men were Hiram Berdan and Thomas L Kane.

Berdan was given permission by the National Government to organise the 1st and 2nd US Sharpshooters. Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania gave Thomas Kane permission to organise a rifle battalion. This battalion were soon to become famous as the Pennsylvania Bucktails.

Thomas Kane started recruiting in northern and central Pennsylvania, and it is reputed to have been in Smethport, in McKean County, that the Bucktails received their famous nickname, when a Private James Landrigan, feeling that the uniform was too drab, saw a deer carcass hanging up in a butchers shop and took the tail which he then fixed to his forage cap. Kane accepted the adornment and encouraged the rest of the regiment to wear a “Bucktail”. The legend was born

In the early days of the Civil war two ambitious men set out to organise special rifle regiments when President Lincoln issued a call for troops after the battle at Bull Run. These men were Hiram Berdan and Thomas L Kane.

Berdan was given permission by the National Government to organise the 1st and 2nd US Sharpshooters. Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania gave Thomas Kane permission to organise a rifle battalion. This battalion were soon to become famous as the Pennsylvania Bucktails.

Thomas Kane started recruiting in northern and central Pennsylvania, and it is reputed to have been in Smethport, in McKean County, that the Bucktails received their famous nickname, when a Private James Landrigan, feeling that the uniform was too drab, saw a deer carcass hanging up in a butchers shop and took the tail which he then fixed to his forage cap. Kane accepted the adornment and encouraged the rest of the regiment to wear a “Bucktail”. The legend was born.

After a brief time in the service of the state of Pennsylvania, the Bucktails entered the National Service as part of General McCall’s Reserves. The Bucktail regiment was commanded by Colonel Charles Biddle, an army regular. Kane had turned down the rank because he felt he was too inexperienced. However, he did take the rank of Lt. Colonel.

The first major action the Bucktails took part in was the battle at Gaines Mill (June 1862), during the Peninsular Campaign. Here, in support of a Union Battery, the Bucktails held off their enemy until their ammunition ran out. When ordered to withdraw, Company E failed to hear the order and were eventually captured.

During the Peninsular Campaign, Colonel Kane had taken companies C,G,H and I into the Shenandoah Valley, where they were attached to Bayards “Flying Brigade” of cavalry.

The Bucktails took part in actions at Harrisonburg, Port Republic and 2nd Bull Run (Aug 1862). During this time, Charles Biddle left the Regiment, and Hugh McNiel was given the command. The regiment was now armed with Sharps rifles, they were originally issued with “Harpers Ferry” muskets, which had not pleased the men at all, having sent “better” weapons home upon enlistment. At 2nd Bull Run General Reynolds complimented the Bucktails on their fierce tenacity and coolness under fire. Their next major action was at the Battle of Antietam (Sept 1862) and during this battle that Colonel McNiel was killed while advancing. The Bucktails were outraged and forced a superior number of Confederates from the woods. McNeil was succeeded by a 23 year old ,Colonel Charles F Taylor.

The next major engagement for the Bucktails was at Gettysburg (July 1863). The Bucktails, now part of the 5th Corps under General McCandless, entered the battle on the second day and fought in the “wheatfield” and Colonel Charles F Taylor was killed.

The next major action was the battle of the Wilderness (May 1864). The Bucktails were now armed with Spencer repeating rifles and took a fierce toll on the enemy.

The Bucktails finally mustered out of service on June 13th 1864 after a three year enlistment. Out of a total of 1165 men, 848 were killed, wounded, captured or missing.

FOR MORE INFORMATION GO TO PA Bucktail.com