Bucktail Formation and Departure Reenactment to be Held April 23 in Smethport

Smethport Web — by Ross Porter

On Saturday, April 23 in Smethport, PA, the Sesquicentennial 2011 Civil War Bucktail Formation and Departure will be reenacted in front of the McKean County Courthouse at 500 Main Street.

Activities begin with an 8:00 – 9:30 am breakfast at the Bennett House, now the site of Courtyard Restaurant, across from the McKean County Courthouse.

The reenactment officially begins at 9:30 in front of the courthouse with Saint Marys, PA resident Civil War Co. K Reenactor Charles Copello serving as Colonel Kane and Wharton, PA resident Civil War Co. I Reenactor Clarence Walker as Captain William T. Blanchard.  

Print and mail the Bucktail Departure Reenactment flier to friends and family.

Nathan Muller, of Smethport, will represent Byron Hamlin and Wayne Pearson, also of Smethport will serve as the elderly, Honorable N.E. Eldred. Portville’s Bent Brass Band will preform period music on the McKean County Courthouse steps.

It was in Smethport on April, 17, 1861, less than a week after the Confederate bombardment of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, that Philadelphian Thomas Leiper Kane, inspired by Smethport businessman Byron Delano Hamlin, brought together the McKean County Rifles and summoned men from throughout McKean, Elk and Cameron Counties to answer President Lincoln’s call to save the nation’s capital.

The McKean County Rifles Company “I”, 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteers became known simply as the “Bucktails” because of the distinctive bucktail insignia they wore on their hats. This unusual bucktail symbol was born in Smethport when recruit James Landregan, reenacted by Co. I reenactor Tom Nobles of Smethport, cut a deer tail at the butcher shop beneath the P. Ford Building, across from the courthouse, and secured it on his cap. When Colonel Kane saw the deer tail he immediately approved of it and announced that his new regiment would be known as the “Bucktails”.

On April 24, 1861, the McKean County Rifles marched out of Smethport on their way to Shippen, now Emporium, and on to Camp Curtin, Harrisburg. Along the way other Pennsylvania county volunteers joined the original Bucktails, which evolved into an elite regiment of Pennsylvania riflemen known for their courage, focus, dedication and commitment.

The ceremony this year will be held Saturday, April 23 with a breakfast buffet at the Courtyard Restaurant beginning at 8 am with Thomas Leiper Kane. The original McKean Rifles recruits had breakfast prior to their departure at the Bennett House Hotel. The Courtyard Restaurant is built on the exact same site as the Bennett House Hotel which was destroyed by fire in 1880.

The buffet breakfast is open to the public and period costumes are encouraged.

Bucktail history links:

Historical Marker: The Bucktails

History of the Bucktails (Download the entire book!)