Thousands of African Americans fought for America in the Revolutionary War, and one of them was recently honored in Northern Kentucky.
“There were eight known African American Revolutionary War veterans that died in the state of Kentucky,” says Robin Edwards, registrar for the Boone County chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution. “Daniel Goff is the only African American Revolutionary War veteran that we know of to have died in Boone County.”
“When Daniel Goff was born in 1754 in Cumberland County, Virginia, his parents were free people,” says Local History Associate Hillary Delaney. “Daniel Goff began his military career in Virginia, enlisting in Chesterfield County. He ended up changing regiments a couple of times when regiments would come together and then split apart again. He did serve at Valley Forge. He was camped at Valley Forge and in his pension, he talked about having known both General Washington and Lafayette. He was serving at what we now know is a pivotal point during the Revolutionary War under these men.”
Goff and his fellow soldiers would have faced extremely trying conditions during their service.
“The treatment of African Americans who were involved in Valley Forge, they would be treated as if they were just regular soldiers at that time,” says Dr. Eric R. Jackson, Professor of History, Director of Black Studies program, Northern Kentucky University. “The issue was that you don’t have what’s called a professional military. Folks were just leaving the military because they couldn’t take it. It was so cold, it was so brutal. And they just didn’t want to fight.”
“What I find interesting about the Revolutionary War records is that if we didn’t have the accompanying information from Virginia, we wouldn’t have known he was African American,” says Delaney. “There was no separation. It was an integrated force fighting.”
However, after the war ended, the stark division of races resurfaced quickly. Slavery as an institution was part of the fabric of the new nation.
“Some time in the mid-1820s, we believe that Daniel Goff made his way to what is now the Florence area,” says Delaney. “Alexander Marshall was the man that owned this property. It was a large farm. He owned slaves, so it was a little unusual for Daniel Goff to go that way. It seems like it wouldn’t be a beneficial situation for Alexander Marshall who already had enslaved people to do the work that he needed done – for him to invite a man who was aging, who he would have to pay, essentially to work there.
“The inventory of Alexander Marshall estate of course included his enslaved people,” Delaney explains. “There were two women who were in the right age range to have been partners of Daniel Goff. There was also a young adult male whose name was Daniel. That might be a hint as to why he went to the Marshall farm. We suspect that he could have had this family.”
Goff passed away in 1843. This year, he was honored with a ceremony on September 29.
“The sons of the American Revolution who are in period uniform for the Revolutionary War, they displayed flags and we get this beautiful salute with muskets,” says Delaney. “It feels less like a funeral and more like a celebration.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life #2407 which originally appeared on November 18, 2018. Watch the full episode.