John Albion Andrew (May 31, 1818 – October 30, 1867) was a U.S. political figure. He served as the 25th Governor of Massachusetts between 1861 and 1866 during the American Civil War. He was a guiding force behind the creation of some of the first U.S. Army units of black men—including the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry.
John A. Andrew was born in Windham, Maine. His father, Jonathan Andrew was a descendant of an early settler of Boxford, Massachusetts and a small but prosperous trader in Windham. His mother, Nancy Green Pierce, was a teacher at Fryeburg Academy. John Albion was the eldest son. His mother died in 1832.
Read more about John Albion Andrew, free from Project Gutenberg.
Andrew entered Bowdoin College in 1833. Although he was studious and popular with other students, he did not shine academically and was ranked near the lowest in his class. After his graduation in 1837, he moved to Boston to study law under Henry H. Fuller, with whom he became close friends.
Andrew married Eliza Jane Hersey of Hingham on Christmas evening, 1848. They had four children: John Forrester, born November 26, 1850; Elizabeth Loring, born July 29, 1852; Edith, born April 5, 1854; Henry Hersey, born April 28, 1858.
After his admission to the bar, Andrew joined the Whig party and began to support the anti-slavery movement. In 1848, he helped organize the Free Soil Party, which opposed the expansion of slavery. Following the failure of the Free Soil Party, Andrew joined the Republican party in the mid-1850s.
He was elected to as a Representative in the General Court in 1857. Following John Brown's 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia, Andrew participated in organizing legal aid for Brown, generating favorable responses amongst the people of Massachusetts. In 1860, he was elected governor of Massachusetts by a huge margin.
Governor of Massachusetts
When Andrew took office on January 2, 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, the Albany Argus called him "a lawyer of a low type and a brutal fanatic" who "proposes to maintain the condemned [ personal liberty ] statutes of [Massachusetts], and to force upon the South by arms, an allegiance to the Constitution thus violated." Andrew immediately began to ready the Massachusetts militia for duty. He also asked the governors of Maine and New Hampshire to prepare for war. Among his early actions were to accept recruits from other states to serve in Massachusetts regiments, including 500 men from California who he encouraged to join the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry in 1862 and early 1863.
Andrew's strong feelings about emancipation are clearly expressed in the following quote from an 1862 speech:
“ I know not what record of sin awaits me in the other world, but this I know, that I was never mean enough to despise any man because he was black. ”
Andrew was receptive to the concept of using black men as uniformed soldiers in the Union army. In April 1862 he begin working closely with the Federal government and with Frederick Douglass. He wrote letters to different states and to Lincoln trying to get support. He authorized the formation of two regiments of black infantry, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts, composed of blacks from the state, as well as Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states. Shortly after the Battle of Antietam, Andrew became one of the leading state executives at the Loyal War Governors' Conference in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which ultimately backed Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the war effort.
In 1864, Andrew wrote a letter to his close friend and distant cousin President Abraham Lincoln describing a woman named Lydia Bixby who lost five sons in battle and asking Lincoln to express his condolences. Lincoln then sent the famous Letter to Mrs. Bixby to Bixby, who turned out to not only dislike Lincoln, but was also a Confederate sympathizer.
He left the office of governor in 1866 and again took up the practice of law, although he intended to remain active in politics. Having associated with the Radical Republicans during the war, Andrew took a more conciliatory tone towards Reconstruction, and did not favor some of the Radical Republicans' more extreme measures.
He died in 1867 of apoplexy after having tea at his home in Boston. He is buried in the Hingham (Old Ship) Cemetery in Hingham, Massachusetts.
Honors and memorials
In 2007, governor Deval Patrick hung Andrew's portrait over the fireplace in his office, calling him an inspiration.
John A. Andrew St., in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, is named in his honor, and his name is one of four on the Soldier's Memorial in the same community.
John Andrew Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama is named for him.
Andrew Square in South Boston and the associated MBTA Red Line subway station Andrew Station.