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As soldiers of foreign wars are honored for their service and the ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day, those of domestic wars are remembered, too. In fact, the holiday was first observed on May 30, 1868, roughly three years after the end of the American Civil War, with flowers being placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Local historian Ray Beimel illustrated the region's connection to the war and contribution to the Union war effort through the creation of the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, commonly known as the "Bucktails."
Beimel described the Bucktails as "the most famous unit to come out of this part of Pennsylvania."
In a video presentation provided by Beimel, he and Elk County County Judge Richard Masson discuss the history of the Bucktail regiment, the origins of which are attributed to Thomas Leiper Kane, the founder of the borough of Kane in McKean County.
Masson said that Kane, incensed upon hearing of the Confederacy's attack at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, which marked the beginning of the American Civil War, "felt it his responsibility to answer Lincolnâ€™s call to raise 75,000 men to serve the union."
Headquartered in Smethport, Kane began the process of soliciting volunteers by circulating handbills exclaiming, "Marksmen Wanted." One such bill dated April 17, 1861 reads "a company will be formed this week of citizens of McKean and Elk counties who are prepared to take up arms immediately to support the constitution of the United States and defend the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania...Come forward, Americans, who are not degenerate, from the spirit of '76. Come forward in time to save the city of Washington from capture."
Kane, who was born in Philadelphia in 1822 and educated in Europe, was a staunch abolitionist with ties to the Church of Latter Day Saints. A journal entry of Kane's as read by Masson conveys his motives for choosing to gather volunteers in the woodlands of McKean and Elk counties rather than in the urban setting of Philadelphia.