Gov. John Albion Andrew

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John Albion Andrew

Birthdate: (49)
Birthplace: Windham, Cumberland County, Maine, United States
Death: October 30, 1867 (49)
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States (apoplexy)
Immediate Family:

Son of Jonathan Andrew; Jonathan Andrew; Nancy Green Andrew and Nancy Green Andrew
Husband of Eliza Jones Andrew
Father of John F. Andrew, US Congress; Elizabeth Andrew; Edith Andrew and Henry Andrew

Occupation: abolitionist civil war Governor of Massachusetts
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gov. John Albion Andrew

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.

Early life and career

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.

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. Andrew Square in South Boston and the associated MBTA Red Line subway station Andrew Station also bear his name.

John Andrew Hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama is named for him.


John A. Andrew was born in Windham, May, 1818, and was fitted for college at Gorham Academy, under Rev. Reuben Nason. He graduated at Bowdoin College, in the class of 1837, pursued legal studies in the office of the late H.W. Fuller, Esq., of Boston, and was admitted to the Suffolk Bar. His college life was "the flow of generous impulses and noble purposes, rather than the display of brilliant talents and extraordinary scholarship. Indeed, as may be said of many others, his public career developed more shining qualities and higher traits of genius than his early friends anticipated." As is well known, his is a conspicuous name in the political annals of Massachusetts. In 1859 he was in the lower house of its Legislature, and in 1860 was elected Governor of the State at a critical emergency in State and Nation, and through his uncommon ability and fitness, by general consent, acquired the title of "the great war governor." On retiring from office, in 1866, he declined various honorable and lucrative positions, resuming the practice of law, which became extensive and remunerative. On the evening of the 30th of October, 1867, he was seized with apoplexy while sitting with his family, and survived but a few hours. His remains were interred in Hingham. A statue of marble has been placed in the State House at Boston. A writer in the Portland Transcript recurs to an early reminiscence of Gov. Andrew. "It was the custom of the graduating members," he writes, "in our day, at Bowdoin, to pass round the college album for autographs, not confining the mission exclusively to those of the same class, but extending it to other circles ad libitum. Among the only relics left by the ravages of two destructive conflagrations in Portland is one of these albums, in which this early friend thus autographs his genial character, no less than his penmanship."

Andrew was elected governor of Massachusetts in 1860 and was re-elected for four successive terms.

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Gov. John Albion Andrew's Timeline

May 31, 1818
Windham, Cumberland County, Maine, United States
November 26, 1850
Age 32
Hingham, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States
Age 33
Age 35
Age 39
October 30, 1867
Age 49
Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States