The Forty Second Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, also known as the the 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment, 1st Pennsylvania Rifles, Kane's Rifles, or simply the "Bucktails," was a volunteer infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It was a part of the famed Pennsylvania Reserve division in the Army of the Potomac for much of the early and middle parts of the war, and served in the Eastern Theater in a number of important battles, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.
The regiment first formed in April 1861, when Thomas L. Kane sought permission to raise a company of riflemen from among the hardy woodsmen of McKean County. Each man who came to the regiment's rendezvous point wore civilian clothes and a buck's tail in his hat-a symbol of his marksmanship.
Indeed, the marksman test for joining the unit was unique at this early stage of the war. Most volunteers who joined the Union army did not have much proficiency with a weapon, let alone the newfangled rifled-muskets first introduced in the 1850s. The "Rifles" designation was a holdover from the days when soldiers who carried rifled weapons were a special outfit, and the Bucktails carried breech-loading Model 1859 Sharps Rifles, normally only issued to sharpshooters.
The 42nd Pennsylvania was mustered at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on June 21, 1861. Thomas L. Kane was elected colonel, Charles John Biddle as lieutenant colonel, and Roy Stone as major. Kane, as a civilian, wanted to have Biddle, a Mexican War Veteran, be Colonel instead, and a second election was held, granting Kane his wish. The unit served as part of the Pennsylvania Reserves for the majority of its service with the Union Army.
The 42nd were first assigned to garrison duty in Maryland. On July 12 a scouting party under Kane of sixty men were surrounded by cavalry at New Creek Village, but fought them off, killing eight Confederates and wounding sixteen. After receiving reinforcements, Kane moved to Ridgeville which he captured after a skirmish.
In the fall, it was assigned to the V Corps of the Army of the Potomac, then serving in the Shenandoah Valley. On October 20, it marched to Dranesville, where Colonel Kane was wounded in the mouth while repulsing the Confederates. During a reorganisation of the regiment in January 1862, Hugh W. McNeil was elected Colonel and Kane Lieutenant Colonel, with Stone remaining Major. Biddle had resigned to take his place in Congress.
During the Peninsula Campaign, the Pennsylvania Reserves division was assigned as part of the I Corps; only part of the regiment went to the Peninsula, Companies C, G, H, and I, under the command of Kane, remaining in the Valley. This provisional battalion fought in several battles of the 1862 Valley campaign. During the June 6th Battle of Harrisonburg, in an attempt to rescue a Captain Haines and his wounded men of the 1st New Jersey Cavalry, the regiment held off Steuart's Brigade, including the 44th Virginia Infantry, the 58th Virginia Infantry, the 1st Maryland Infantry, CSA, and a Louisiana regiment, for an hour, killing General Turner Ashby. Colonel Kane was captured in the retreat. They had lost 52 men, and Confederates had lost over 500.
The other six companies went under Major Stone. During the retreat from Richmond, they lost company in a swamp, then fought at Gaines Mill. Two other companies were lost during the retreat. At the retreat to Harrison's Landing, Stone and his men constructed a bridge over a stream, possibly saving the Union army. Stone took command of a different regiment after this. In early September, the two battalions were re-united under the command of McNeil, who had been sick; the Pennsylvania Reserve Division, now designated as the Third Division of the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac. At Bull Run, Kane was promoted to Brigadier General for covering Pope's retreat. His position was filled by Edward Irvin. The new Major was Alanson Niles. The regiment suffered extreme losses at Antietam, including Colonel McNeill.
The new commander was Charles Taylor, who had been captured twice by Confederates. They participated in the disastrous assault on Fredericksburg. Irwin resigned from injury, and Niles became Lieutenant Colonel. At Gettysburg, Niles was wounded, and Taylor was killed at Little Round Top, leaving Major Hartshorn in command. They then marched to Spotslyvania for their final battle. The regiment was mustered out of service on June 11, 1864. Those who had reenlisted as Veteran Volunteers were transferred to the 190th Pennsylvania.
Killed and mortally wounded: 11 officers, 151 enlisted men
Died of disease: 2 officers, 88 enlisted men
Total: 13 officers, 239 enlisted men
First Sergeant of the 42nd PA