Wish You Were Here reflects the value of postcards as tools for learning about the past, with images drawn from Manuscript Group 213, Postcard Collection, Pennsylvania State Archives.

This sounds as if the Bucktails were coming don’t it?” asked an unknown writer to Miss Bessie McPhee of Pittsburgh in a postcard mailed on April 6, 1908, at Driftwood, the second — and last — incorporated borough in Cameron County. Today a community of one hundred residents, Driftwood was incorporated as a borough in 1872; the county seat, Emporium, was incorporated in 1864.

The postcard bears a photograph of the Bucktail Monument, erected in Driftwood to honor a local regiment, and an announcement of its dedication scheduled for April 27, 1908, the forty-seventh anniversary of the unit’s departure in 1861 for service in the American Civil War. Three days after the Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor on April 12, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops to defend the Union. Pennsylvania’s northern counties swiftly responded. Thomas Leiper Kane (1822–1883), a prosperous McKean County attorney and entrepreneur, began recruiting men in Elk, McKean, and Cameron Counties. Kane marched his recruits to Driftwood, on the banks of the Sinnemahoning River. Many of them were lumberjacks, raftsmen, and farmers accustomed to living in the remote and rugged mountainous region.

At Driftwood, they built several log rafts, each measuring sixty-five feet long by sixteen feet wide, which they floated on the Sinnemahoning to the west Branch of the Susquehanna River and then on the Susquehanna to Lock haven, Clinton County. They boarded a train at Lock haven bound for Camp Curtin, just north of Harrisburg, where they were eventually mustered in.

The regiment acquired its unusual name because the soldiers pinned the tail of a white-tailed deer on their caps as a badge of honor. Officially known as the 13th Pennsylvania Reserves, or the 42nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the First Bucktails took part in many battles, including Cross keys, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Spotsylvania.

PHMC installed state historical markers at Driftwood and Smethport, McKean County, commemorating the Bucktails, and erected a marker in Kane, McKean County, honoring Brigadier General Kane.