At the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called upon the Union states to provide 75,000 volunteers to serve in the Union Army.
The men of the northern Pennsylvania counties of Cameron, Elk and McKean answered the call and began organising themselves for the journey to the state capitol in Harrisburg. One of the men, reportedly a recruit from Smethport, decorated his hat with the fur of a white-tailed deer. Recognizing this as an easy way to identify themselves, the rest of the men started putting deer fur on their hats and calling themselves 'Bucktails'.
On the march south towards Harrisburg, they journeyed down an old Native American trail which roughly parallels present-day state Route 120 until they reached the town of Driftwood. Realising that it would take weeks for them to march the entire distance, they began constructing rafts and floated down the Sinnemaoning Creek to the Susquehanna River. Their commanding officer's raft even had a stable for his horse.
Upon reaching the town of Lock Haven, the 700 men and their officers disembarked and took a train the rest of the way to Harrisburg. Upon their arrival, they were informed that Pennsylvania had already met its quota of troops. However, Governor Andrew Curtain used the Bucktails and companies from Perry County and Chester County to form the 13th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteer Corps which was formed to guard the state's southern border.
In the early part of the war between the states, the Confederacy won several decisive battles and the Bucktails were quickly called into active duty, becoming the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. They served in most of the campaigns in the eastern theatre of war, including Second Bull Run, the Seven Days Battle (Peninsula Campaign), Antietam, Fredicksburg, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbour.
Of the 1200 men who formed the original Bucktail Regiment, fewer than 400 survived to see the end of the war.
Bucktail State Park
In 1933, the Pennsylvania legislature created Bucktail State Park to honour the Bucktails' service to their nation. Today, the Bucktail State Park Natural Area still exists within the area of Elk and Sproul state forests.
The 16,433 acres of the natural area is known locally as Bucktail Canyon, however the area was used by Native Americans years before the first white man set foot in the area. Called the 'Sinnemahoning Trail' by the Native Americans, the area was used as a route to the Eastern Continental Divide which separates the Atlantic Ocean and Mississippi River drainage basins.
The natural area as it exists today is a 75-mile scenic drive which is almost entirely forested except for the three towns of Renovo, Emporium and Lock Haven and a few other small villages. The drive is one of the most beautiful in the state, especially in the autumn when the leaves change colours and in early to mid-June when the mountain laurels and rhododendrons are in bloom.
The only park facilities present is the 'Wayside Memorial Picnic Area' which is three miles south of the town of Emporium.