John Gaff, also known as Goff, was born July 16, 1843 in Noble County, Indiana, the son of Pennsylvania natives Robert (b. 1793) and Mary (b. 1802).
Robert and Mary resided in Ohio for some years and were quite possibly living in Columbia, Meigs County, Ohio in 1840. Between 1838 and 1843 moved to Indiana. By 1850 John was attending school with his siblings and living with on the family farm in Washington, Noble County, Indiana. In 1860 he was with his family in Green, Noble County, Indiana.
John enlisted as a private on November 22, 1861, in Company G, 44th Indiana infantry, and was mustered in the same day. He was wounded in the neck on April 6, 1862, at Shiloh and sent to Cairo, Illinois and then to the general hospital in Mound City, Illinois. He allegedly deserted on October 7, 1862.
John returned to Indiana and was living in Green, Noble County, Indiana in June of 1863 when he registered for the draft (listing his former service in the 44th Indiana).
He was in Michigan when he enlisted in the 3rd Michigan infantry. He stood 5’10” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, and was a 20-year-old farm laborer possibly living in Maple Grove, Barry County when he enlisted in Company B on February 26, 1863, at Maple Grove for 3 years, and was mustered the same day at Detroit (he was possibly related to William Goff of Company A); he may in fact have been a substitute for one Porter M. Harvard or possibly Harwood, who had been drafted March 10, 1863, for 9 months from Maple Grove. John enlisted with another Noble County resident, John Winebrenner – although Winebrenner was put into Company D – and they both credited Maple Grove, Barry County.
John joined the Regiment on March 10 at Camp Pitcher, Virginia, was a provost guard in Division headquarters from September 21 through October of 1863, and was wounded slightly in the hand in early May of 1864. His friend John Winebrenner wrote home to his own mother on June 19 that John had in fact been wounded in the hand on May 1 at the Wilderness.
John was subsequently hospitalized and remained absent in the hospital when he was transferred to Company E, 5th Michigan Infantry upon consolidation of the 3rd and 5th Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and was apparently admitted from the general hospital in Baltimore, Maryland to Camp Parole hospital at Annapolis, Maryland on June 21, 1864. (There is however no record of his being taken prisoner and subsequently paroled, so how and why he came to be at Camp Parole in Maryland remains a mystery.) He was quite possibly promoted to Sergeant. (In later years he claimed to have served in the 44th Independent Infantry.) In any case, John remained absent sick until he was mustered out on July 5, 1865, at Jeffersonville, Indiana.
It is not known if he returned to Michigan. He did return to his family home in Indiana.
John married to Sarah Aurena Wirick (1849-1909) on February 7, 1866, in Indiana, and they had at least nine children: Freling W. (1867-1945), Caroline (Mrs. Gappinger), Melissa (1867-1948), Winnie (b. 1870), Callie (b. 1871), Howard (1873-1945) and Arlo (b. 1877), Mentor (1882-1976, Mrs. Herron) and Victor (1888-1977).
By 1880 John “Gaff was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Green, Noble County, Indiana and he was in Green, Indiana in 1889. In 1902 John was living in Churubrusco, Indiana, when he testified in the pension application of Barnet Hopkins.
In 1880 John applied for and received a pension (no. 357881).
John died on November 6, 1917, in Churubusco, Whitney County, Indiana, and was buried in Christian Chapel Cemetery, Merriam, Noble County, Indiana.