A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

African-American Revolutionary War soldier Goff finally gets military burial in Boone County

By Kevin Eigelbach
NKyTribune reporter

On a clear, sunny Saturday afternoon in rural Boone County, Daniel Goff finally got the recognition he deserved for his military service.

It’s too bad he wasn’t around to see it.

Goff, who was African-American, served in the Virginia militia during the Revolutionary War, wintering at Valley Forge with General George Washington and fighting in 100-degree heat at the battle of Monmouth.

“He was kind of a tough guy,” said Hillary Delaney, local history associate for the Boone County Library, who probably knows as much about Goff as anyone alive.

According to her research, in the late 1780s, Goff moved to Campbell County, Ky., with pioneer Major David Leitch. Through this connection, he became a friend of General James Taylor, founder of Newport, Ky.

Taylor supported Goff’s application for a military pension in 1833, saying he “felt much for this poor colored man who had become old and infirm.”

Goff received his last military pension payment when he was 89, in 1843, which was probably the year he died. Delany believes he’s buried somewhere in the family cemetery of Alexander Marshall, on Gunpowder Road south of Mount Zion Road.

How Marshall and Goff knew one another remains a mystery, she said.

On Saturday, just up the road from the cemetery, the library, the Boone County Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the Simon Kenton Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution dedicated a modest marker in Goff’s honor.

Goff marker (click to enlarge)

The marker features the Sons of the American Revolution logo and this inscription:

1754-1843
Revolutionary War soldier
Daniel Goff
Pvt 5th11th& 15thRegts VA
Marker placed by
Boone County Chapter, NSDAR
September 29, 2018.

The occasion was marked with pomp and ceremony that one presumes the old soldier would have appreciated.

It began when members of the Sons of the Revolution, dressed in clothes like the Continental Army would have worn, marched to the marker and placed a variety of flags beside it. They were accompanied by a snare drum and a fifer playing the Revolutionary War tune “Chester.”

The Star Spangled Banner being sung by Members of the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers at the Goff marker dedication Saturday (photos by Kevin Eigelbach).

Then came the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, something Goff would not have recognized, since it was not written until 1892. Then the Northern Kentucky Brotherhood Singers, an acapella group of five, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the lyrics to which were written in 1814, but didn’t become our National Anthem until 1931.

A member of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s staff presented library representatives with a signed copy of a Congressional Record tribute to Goff. A letter about Goff from Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine was read.

State Sen. John Schickel told the 100-plus attendees gathered under a large tent that the county has held two similar events honoring late veterans in recent years, and he saw most of the same people at the other two.

“We need to spread the Gospel, as they say in church,” he said.

Northern Kentucky University history professor Eric Jackson, one of the few people of color present, echoed that theme.

“This is a nice event, but if it stays here, it doesn’t mean a lot,” he said. “You have to make sure to teach younger people history. Every day, using stories like these … You have to understand that thousands of African Americans fought in the American Revolution and died. Thousands of them.”

Representatives of groups that dedicated wreaths at Saturday’s ceremony pay homage to Daniel Goff.

Representatives of the Daughters of the American Revolution then led a reading of dedication for the marker. One of the audience responses seems timely: “History tells us that what is needed today is not just a show of greatness and a parade of power, but a dedication to great ideals and high endeavor.”

Then representatives of organizations that had donated floral wreaths took turns walking to their wreaths, which were lined up behind the marker, and making a gesture toward the wreath they had donated. Some of the women curtsied, some of the men made elaborate bows.

Several costumed men then folded a flag 13 times into a triangle as Thomas Geimeier explained the meaning of each fold. The second fold, for example, represents belief in eternity and eternal life.

In a normal military funeral, a member of the late soldier’s family receives the flag. But because records of African Americans have been sketchy, Delaney said, descendants of Goff couldn’t be identified.

So Goff’s flag went to Tom and Carol Schiffer, who donated the property where the marker rests. Carol said they planned to have it put in a glass case, which they would put on their fireplace mantle.

The program concluded with members of the Daniel Boone Color Guard loading muskets in what appeared to be a time-consuming but historically accurate way and then firing three volleys. Then a miniature cannon made a very loud boom, and a Cincinnati police officer played “Taps” on a bugle.

Contact the Northern Kentucky Tribune at news@nkytrib.com

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