John Albion Andrew
Painting: by Darius Cobb

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1861-1866

John Andrew swept into the Massachusetts governorship with the greatest popular majority to date to lead the Commonwealth during through the years of America's Civil War. Andrew's support of the Union was a catalyst for Massachusetts' early and wholehearted participation in the Union effort. Following the Union's victory, Andrews advocated reconciliation and friendship with the South.

A graduate of Bowdoin College, the young Andrew was described by his friends as generous in spirit and remarkably able to form friendships and secure trust. He was not regarded as an intellectual leader, but was recognized as having a strong noble impulse.

It wasn't until his admission to the bar that Andrew became active in public life. He was a leader in Massachusetts' Free Land Party and was an early supporter of the Massachusetts Republican Party. He was elected as a Representative in the General Court in 1858, where he took a leadership position as an abolitionist. In 1860, the Massachusetts people elected him by the widest gross margin to that date.

Governor Andrew took office on January 2, 1861 and immediately placed the Commonwealth's troops at a state of readiness to aid the Union. On April 15, 1861, President Lincoln made an urgent request for states to send 75,000 volunteers to defend the Capitol. Under Governor Andrew's leadership, Massachusetts' troops were the first to arrive in Washington and the first troops to fight in the Civil War.

In 1863, Andrew again took a leadership role by petitioning President Lincoln to compel the Army to accept the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, which would be formed entirely of black troops under the leadership of volunteer white officers.

Though he was not an academic luminary and made had no pyrotechnic rise through state or federal offices, John Andrew became the Bay State's most celebrated Governor of his generation.