149th PA Bucktail Memorial at Gettysburg
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Civil War Re-enactment Group

149th PA Bucktails

"We Have Come to Stay"

Why the Tail?

                                       of the most distinctive regiments on the field, the Bucktails could be easily recognized by their Confederate counterparts because of the tail in their hat.  It was worn with pride and their foes knew that the men they were facing were good with the rifle and steadfast in their mission.


But, where did the tail come from?


There are many stories concerning the origins of the tradition. The most popular being that it was worn as a symbol of the marksmanship they possessed.  As simple as this is, it doesn’t tell the whole story...


Although the marksmanship part of the story is true, it is not the reason the tradition started.  In 1861, Thomas L. Kane, the founder of the Bucktails, issued a request asking for “any man who will bring with him to my Headquarters a rifle which he knows how to use”.  The men who volunteered, already good with the rifle, were different from other soldiers who were mustering into Union units, because unlike them, and a lot of new recruits, they already knew how to shoot a rifle.  They were immediately considered very good marksmen.


The wearing of the tail has a unique beginning.  The first soldier to wear the tail was James Landregan, a new recruit in the “McKean County Rifles”.  In the town of Smethport, while he was reporting for duty, Landregan passed a butcher shop.  The shop was opposite the Courthouse where Kane had his headquarters.  A deer hide was hanging from its porch.  Either as a suggestion from Capt. W.T. Blanchard of Company I, or on his own accord, Landregan took out his penknife and cut the tail off and put it in his hat.  Having noticed the unique look, Colonel Kane liked it and instantly adopted it as the unit’s nickname.  Other soldiers took note and rushed to the butcher shop.  The hide was then cut up into smaller pieces resembling tails and put on the soldiers’ hats as well and a legend was born.


The Bucktails:  A tail from a deer the soldier had shot, it stood for the excellent marksmanship he possessed and became a badge of honor and a sense of pride to all who wore it and those who see it.


This particular regiment was the first Bucktail regiment to muster in and went on to become the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.  They are also known as the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, 1st Pennsylvania Rifles, and the Kane Rifles.  The 149th and 150th PVI Bucktails mustered in later in the war.  All three units wore the tail with pride and reenactment groups continue to do so today to honor these brave boys in blue.


Huzzah, Bucktails!


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