A Visit With Governor Andrew

John AndrewToday I took advantage of a day off from work and beautiful weather to drive down the coast to the Hingham Cemetery to visit the final resting place of Governor John A. Andrew. The headstone is very simple, but a few years after his death a group of admirers commissioned a beautiful statue sculpted in Cararra marble in Florence, Italy. I am still very much in the early stages of my Andrew project. I made it through the first volume of Henry G. Pearson’s 1904 biography along with a number of other secondary sources. With three days off next week I hope to finally sink my teeth into the Andrew Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Any biography project is an enormous undertaking, but one of the things that helps to make it more manageable is the fact that Andrew died relatively early in 1867. The timing helps to frame this as a Civil War biography. No reason to wade into the complexity of Gilded Age America and no worrying about how the politics of the period might have shaped Andrew’s views on emancipation and black civil rights, which defined his time on Beacon Hill. Continue reading “A Visit With Governor Andrew”

Walking in Lincoln’s Footsteps

I had an incredible time in Springfield, Illinois this past weekend. Thanks to Sam Wheeler, who is the Research Historian for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, for inviting me to speak at Friday’s Luncheon. Sam was an incredibly gracious host. My talk on Louis Martin and the Crater went over very well. The audience asked thoughtful questions and I even managed to sell some books. Most of my time, however, was spent walking through the city and touring sites associated with Lincoln. It was such a thrill walking through Lincoln’s home, the Old State House, and his final resting place. I also visited the Abraham Lincoln museum and will write up a short review very soon. Continue reading “Walking in Lincoln’s Footsteps”

John A. Andrew’s Abolitionism Through Whiggish Eyes

I am making my way through and thoroughly enjoying Henry Greenleaf Pearson’s, The Life of John A. Andrew, which was published in 1904. It’s nice not having to compete with multiple biographies of the Massachusetts governor and in this case Pearson’s biography is a different kind of beast altogether. It’s been a while since I read one published at the beginning of the twentieth century. Like many biographies published at this time this one has a strong Whiggish bent to it. Continue reading “John A. Andrew’s Abolitionism Through Whiggish Eyes”

Bring On Governor John A. Andrew

I am scrapping the black Confederate book project. I just don’t have it in me to work on it anymore. There is nothing intellectually challenging about it and it only works to frustrate me when I think about some of the characters that I would have to address in the memory section. I’ve got an essay on the subject coming out in the December issue of The Journal of the Civil War Era and I may write up one long essay that covers a large chunk of research for another publication, but that’s it. I want to get my hands dirty again and actually figure something out. It’s on to Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew. Continue reading “Bring On Governor John A. Andrew”

The Governor Considers It A Most Important Command

Statue by sculptor Thomas R. Gould constructed in 1875, Hingham, MA

One of the stumbling blocks that I continue to come up against in researching the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry is in reference to Governor John Andrew.  The problem is especially acute given my interest in the pay crisis of 1863-64.  Andrew played an important role as an advocate for these men, but I am only able to skirt the surface of his involvement thus far.  Unless I am mistaken, the last biography was written in 1904.  I suspect that his pre-mature death in 1867 as well as the general trend of the nation’s collective memory by the end of the nineteenth century has something to do with his disappearance from the historical landscape.

Of course, he makes a very brief appearance in the movie Glory and you will find him referenced in scores of Civil War studies that focus on the organization and deployment of black Union soldiers, but there seems to be little more.  Can anyone think of a more important Civil War era governor?  Andrew is central not only to the inclusion of African Americans in the United States military, but emancipation itself.

I am now toying with writing a Civil War biography of Andrew.  Such a focus would allow me to continue to research black Union soldiers and the story of black citizenship in Massachusetts, but it would also highlight Andrew’s role in this dramatic story.  I suspect there is also room to talk about how Andrew was remembered in connection to emancipation and black soldiers after his death.

[Post title comes from a letter written by Col. Robert G. Shaw on Feb. 4, 1863, which appears in Blue-Eyed Child of Fortune: The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw.]