Member Biography

William "Buck" McCandless 

Sessions Office Position District Party
1867       1 Democrat
1868       1 Democrat
1869       1 Democrat

COUNTIES: Philadelphia  


09/19/1835 - 06/17/1884

Colonel William “Buck” McCandless (D1) Philadelphia County, 1866-1869

Early Life: 

Colonel William “Buck” McCandless, born September 19, 1835, Ireland; son of Irish immigrants who died while he was a boy; immigrated, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, six years old; reared, uncle, Philadelphia police officer, John McCandless; public schools education; apprenticed, machinist, Norris Locomotive Works; attorney, Philadelphia bar, 1858; Colonel, Civil War, 1861-1864; elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1866-1869; toured, studied, European warfare, 1870-1875; married, Annie McCandless, 1871; elected, first Secretary of Internal Affairs, 1875-1879; died, June 17, 1884, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania; interment, Moriah Cemetery, 6201 Kingsessing Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19142. (i)


Early Career:

May 27, 1861, enlisted, private, 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves, 31st Regiment, October 1861; promoted, Major, October 22, 1861; action during three-year enlistment,  2nd Manassas, Mechanicsville, Peninsula Campaign, South Mountain , Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse; promoted, Colonel, August 1, 1862, preceding 2nd Manassas; wounded, bullet through the groin during battle, August 30, 1862, recuperated six months, joined General Burnside, Antietam. (i)


Gettysburg, Colonel, commanded, General Samuel W. Crawford’s 1st Brigade, leading the right flank of the famous Plum Run counter-attack that secured “Valley of Death”; recommended, promotion, Major General, he declined. (i)


Wilderness (Spotsylvania) Division commander, led another heroic charge, this time suffering capture. Escaped, Spotsylvania Court House, wounded shrapnel, broke his left arm and rendered the limb partially disabled; declined another promotion, Brigadier General, May 13, 1864, returning to private life, referred to as “General” for the rest of his life. (i)


Pennsylvania Politics:

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State Senate 1st district, Philadelphia County, 1866-1869; member, Compare Bills, Federal Relations, Military Affairs and Public Printing Committees. 


Names of any service after Senate –year(s):

Unsuccessful, State Auditor General, 1871. (i)

Elected, first Secretary of Internal Affairs, May 4, 1875-May 5, 1879; Secretary of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania, constitutional officer, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1875-1968. Created, Pennsylvania Constitution, 1874, elected statewide every four years until 1966; position, repealed, May 16, 1967. Secretary's duties as follows:


The Secretary of Internal Affairs shall exercise all of the powers and perform all the duties of the Surveyor General, subject to such changes as shall be made by law. His department shall embrace a bureau of industrial statistics, and he shall discharge such duties relating to corporations, to the charitable institutions, the agricultural, manufacturing, mining, mineral, timber and other material or business interests of the State as may be prescribed by law. He shall annually, and at such other times as may be required by law, make report to the General Assembly.


Democratic state convention nominee, Governor of Pennsylvania.


Unsuccessful campaign, Congress 1878.



Obituary composed at time of his death by the New York Herald read, “As an officer he had won great distinction, and was a favorite with his companions in arms, who now deeply feel his departure”. (i)



Smull’s Legislative Hand Book, (1869) Smull, J.A., Miller, Members of the Senate of Pennsylvania, page 274 and 280-282.