Smethport Web — by Ross Porter
Saturday morning, April 30, Bucktail reenactors launched a giant raft at the Route 555 Driftwood Bridge immediately west of PA Route 120 where Sinnamahoning Creek enters the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, concluding a weeklong commemoration of the Sesquicentennial 2011 Civil War Bucktail Formation and Departure.
The authentic raft was constructed by Bucktail reenactors April 2 and 3 under the guidance of Saint Marys, PA residents, Gary Gilmore and Chuck Copello, both Company K reenactors.
Following their departure and march from Smethport 150 years ago, the newly ordained Bucktails traveled by foot to Driftwood, PA, a distance of nearly 60 miles through twisted and gnarled woods and wagon trails. Along the way they were joined by the Cameron County Rifles, and new recruits from throughout the region, each now wearing the bucktail symbol.
At Driftwood, at the upper reaches of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Kane realized that the journey was taking too long and so he ordered the construction of a series of giant rafts to float the men to Lock Haven, PA. Four rafts were constructed of heavy, rough pine boards, 16 feet long and nearly 12 inches wide. Each raft was composed of six platforms, each about 16 feet square, made of six layers of boards laid crosswise and fastened together with withes, making the dimensions of each raft about 65 feet x 16 feet.
At each end was a giant sweep type rudder so the unwieldy craft could be maneuvered down the Sinnemahoning Creek to Keating, then on down the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to Lumbertown, now known as Williamsport, PA.
The heavily loaded rafts repeatedly ran aground on the rocks. Over 300 men along with Colonel Kane’s horse, Old Glenco, proceeded down the West Branch toward Lock Haven. A mast was installed on one of the rafts so it glided down the River toward Lock Haven and Civil War history.
See the reenactment on YouTube by Ross and Jovanna Porter: Bucktail Civil War Sesquicentennial 1861 Raft Adventure