John A. Andrew
John Albion Andrew was born in Windham, Maine on May 31, 1818. He studied at Bowdoin College and in 1840 set up his first law practice in Boston. In 1848, John A. Andrew married Eliza Hersey of Hingham, Massachusetts, and four of their five children were eventually born here. The Andrew family had houses in Hingham on both Main and Summer Streets. Andrew loved living in Hingham, feeling that it was his true home and was where he belonged.
It was during the 1840s that Andrew became involved in public life. He was a leader of the Massachusetts Free Soil Party in the late 1840s and early 1850s, then became an important early supporter of the Republican Party. During the 1850s he was elected to the office of Massachusetts State Representative where he used that position and his skills as a lawyer to leverage the cause of abolitionism. He opposed the Fugitive Slave Law and became involved in several fugitive slave cases. He was also active in the Boston Vigilance Committee. The members of the Committee were known for raising money to pay for the legal fees of fugitive slaves, as well as to provide them with shelter.
Andrew was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1861 after having been nominated by the largest majority in the history of the Commonwealth and served until 1865. Governor Andrew was highly supportive of preserving the Union and stopping the spread of slavery. One of his first acts as Governor was to place troops in a state of readiness in order to provide aid to the Union, should it become necessary. On April 15th President Lincoln made an appeal for 75,000 troops to defend the capital. Due to Andrew’s forethought, it was the soldiers from Massachusetts who were the first to arrive and the first to fight in the Civil War.
Continuing his fight for abolitionism, Andrew was an early advocate for the emancipation of slaves during the war. In 1863, after President Lincoln freed the slaves in the rebellious Confederate States of America, Governor Andrew immediately implored the government to allow for the creation of a regiment composed of black soldiers. This had been denied to these men thus far. He was successful, and the famous 54th Massachusetts Regiment was formed (see the image to the right for more information). As the Civil War drew to a close, Andrew began to voice his opinion that there should be reconciliation with the South rather than severe punishment. Because of these actions, Andrew became one of the most famous of the so-called “war governors.”
After the war, Andrew decided to return to his private law practice so that he would have time to enjoy his family life. Throughout his years living and working in Massachusetts, Andrew was known as a kind man with a strong conscience and a sense of nobility. He died of apoplexy on October 31, 1867 at the age of 49.