African American Revolutionary War Soldiers, Kentucky
Black men served during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). After the war, some settled in Kentucky, the exact number not known at this time. It has been estimated that 5,000 Black men were soldiers, sailors, or employed in some capacity with the Continental Army and 20,000 with the British Army.
Though there were laws that forbade Black men from joining the military, the shortage of enlisted men led to various amendments that allowed free Black men to serve as well as runaway slaves, who were also promised their freedom.
Many books, articles, and other publications cover the lives and experiences of Blacks in the military during the Revolutionary War. However, their presence in Kentucky after the war is still being researched. Below are the few names that are known at this time.
George Burk - In 2017, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate Mitch McConnell paid tribute to three African American Revolutionary War Patriots (though he said there were 11). George Burk was one of those named. Kevin Grout was McConnell's speech writer.
There is no indication of George Burk's race in his pension application. He did not own any land, and his family consisted of him, his wife, and a daughter. His pension application gives a brief account of his service (c. 1779-1881) during the American Revolutionary War, including his time in Louisville, KY.
Burk lived in Indiana when his pension application was submitted in 1829. There is a George Burk enumerated in the 1810 U.S. Federal Census who lived in Boone County, KY and was head of a household of three. The family was free and there is no indication of race. Sources: Tribute to Kentucky's African-American Revolutionary War Patriots, Congressional Record vol. 163, no. 111 (Senate-June 28, 2017) (Pension Application of George Burk (Burke) S32152, transcribed and annotated by C. Leon Harris. Revised 6 Feb 2018 (online .pdf).
Daniel Goff (1754-1843) - Daniel Goff was living in Chesterfield County, VA when he enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777, serving until his discharge in 1780. In 2017, Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate Mitch McConnell paid tribute to three African American Revolutionary War Patriots (though he said there were 11). Daniel Goff was one of the names. Kevin Grout was McConnell's speech writer.
Tribute was paid to Goff in 2018 with a military burial in Boone County. A much fuller accounting of Goff's military service and life was written by Hillary Delaney, "African American Revolutionary War patriot, Daniel Goff," (online) [no original date], Chronicles of Boone County, Boone County Public Library; see also Kevin Eigelbach, "African-American Revolutionary War soldier Goff finally gets military burial in Boone County," Northern Kentucky Tribune, 10/1/2018 (online); Tribute to Kentucky's African-American Revolutionary War Patriots, Congressional Record vol. 163, no. 111 (Senate-June 28, 2017) (online .pdf); Daniel Goff video by KET (Kentucky Educational Television), attached to this entry; and Daniel Goff, African American Revolutionary War Soldier, Pension Declaration S. 15586 (transcribed online), a Kentucky African American Griot webpage.
John Sidebottom (1750-1823) - The last name has also been spelled Sidebotham and Sydebotham. John Sidebottom was born in Prince William County, VA and died in Mason County, KY. The full details of John Sidebottom's military service, his 1819 financial situation, his birthdate, marriage, and the names of his children can all be found at the John Sidebottom webpage by the Winchester Black History and Heritage Committee. The webpage was developed from the Pension Application of John Sidebottom (Sydebotham) W8775, transcribed and annotated by C. Leon Harris (online .pdf).
John Sidebottom had served in the Continental Army from 1775-1778. He is said to have been one of the two men who carried a wounded James Monroe (later U.S. President Monroe) from the field at the Battle of Trenton. After the war, John Sidebottom returned to Prince William County. He had several run-ins that landed him in court. He then left to settled in Clark County, KY.
John Sidebottom was a landowner and the first person to operate a ferry in Kentucky. He was the husband of Jane McCarty and the brother of Joseph Sidebottom. There is no mention of his race in Virginia nor while he was in the military. John Sidebottom is noted as "Colored" and "Mulatto" by officers' statements in his pension request, yet he and his family are enumerated in the 1820 U.S. Federal Census as white.
The suggestion for this entry was made by Roger A. Giblin. For more see Revolutionary War Veterans, John Sidebottom 1750-1823, and Joseph Sidebottom 1755-1839, by Norma Fishter, 1986; and African Americans at Fort Boonesborough, 1775-1784, by H. G. Enoch and A. Crabb.
Joseph Sidebottom (1755-1839) - The last name has also been spelled Sidebotham and Sydebotham. Joseph Sidebottom was born in Prince William County, VA, and died in Henry County, KY. Joseph Sidebottom served in the American Revolutionary War from 1775-1780. After the war, Joseph Sidebottom had returned to Prince William County, then left to settle in Henry County.
The full details of Joseph Sidebottom's military service, his 1818 financial situation, his marriage and number of children, can all be found in the Pension Application of Joseph Sidebottom W8727, transcribed and annotated by C. Leon Harris (online .pdf). Joseph Sidebottom did not have any land when he applied for his pension. He and his family are listed as white in the 1820 and 1830 U.S. Federal Census. There is no mention of his race in Virginia nor while he was in the military, though there is a note in his pension request that he is "Colored." Joseph Sidebottom was a brother of John Sidebottom.
For more see the title Revolutionary War Veterans, John Sidebottom 1750-1823, and Joseph Sidebottom 1755-1839, by Norma Fishter, 1986.
"African American History" in the Revolutionary War Journal (online), 2020. [Includes a nicely annotated list of suggested book titles and cover images.]
Kentucky Revolutionary War Warrants Database (Before June 1, 1792, Kentucky was part of Virginia). [a ky.gov site]
List of Free African Americans in the Revolution, by Paul Heinegg (online).
Nell, William C. Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, 1855. [The first book published about African Americans in the Revolutionary War.] Available full text (.pdf) at Google Books.
Revolutionary War Pension Records and Bounty Land Grants, a FamilySearch webpage. Last edited 8/12/2020.
Revolutionary War soldiers that lived in Kentucky, a rootsweb.com webpage.
Using Revolutionary War Pension Files to Find Family Members, a National Archives webpage by Jean Nudd, Summer 2015, vol. 47, no. 2 | Genealogy Notes (online).
United States Revolutionary War Pension Payment Ledgers, 1818-1872 at FamilySearch.