The Civil War Era Governors of the Northern States

(Lincoln’s War Governors)

“In the weeks between his election and his inauguration, Abraham Lincoln, president elect of a dividing nation did not lack for advice.”

Ref.: Governors at War, Pg. 117 Chap 7

By March Lincoln was fully convinced that the governors of the Northern states stood staunchly for coercion. This section reviews those governors.

  1. The Border States

Kentucky – Governor William Dennison of Ohio has been secretly supporting the Unionist of Kentucky. He advocated modification of both the state’s personal liberty law and the federal Fugitive Slave Act. However Beriah Magoffin, the governor of Kentucky repudiated any desire to dissolve the Union. He expressed these sentiments to Dennison. Meanwhile the Confederate government was calling for troops and many Kentuckians were joining up. Magoffin proposed a compromise. Magoffin who served as governor from August 30, 1859 to August 18, 1862. was the Democratic candidate in the election of 1859. During the campaign, he expressed his support for the Dred Scott decision and the Fugitive Slave Law and called for a repeal of the Missouri In the general election, Magoffin defeated his opponent, Joshua Fry Bell. Immediately recognizing the tension between the Northern and Southern states, Magoffin presented a plan for saving the Union to the governors of the slave holding states on December 9, 1860. The plan was rejected, whereupon he became an ardent supporter of the Crittenden Compromise authored by John J. Crittenden of Kentucky.

Magoffin was sympathetic to the Confederate States of America, but believed should decide what to do with regard to secession. With that in mind, he called the Kentucky General Assembly into a special session on January 17, 1861 and asked the to call for a sovereignty convention. Fearing that the majority of the Commonwealth’s citizens might favor secession, the Unionist General Assembly refused to call the convention.

On April 15, 1861, Magoffin refused President Lincoln’s call for troops from Kentucky, responding in a telegram: “President Lincoln, Washington, D.C. I will send Not a man nor a dollar for the wicked purpose of subduing my sister Southern states, B. Magoffin” The next week, Magoffin similarly rejected a call for troops from Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Magoffin again called the General Assembly into session in May. While they still refused to call a sovereignty convention, they did pass a declaration of neutrality, which Magoffin proclaimed on May 20, 1861.


Missouri – As the new governor of the state of Missouri took Office, the retiring governor Robert M. Stewart, a native of New York and a moderate always acted with the pro-slavery wing of the party. He took a strong position for the Union in his farewell address to the legislature where he assailed abolition fanatics and demanded the North give guarantees to southern property.

In incoming governor Claiborne Fox Jackson was far less moderate. He called for a convention to define the state’s place in the Union. The state had slaves valued at a hundred million dollars.

Born in Fleming County, Kentucky, 4 April, 1807; died in Little Rock, Arkansas, 6 December, 1862. He emigrated to Missouri in 1822, raised a volunteer company, and served as its captain in the Black Hawk war. For twelve years he was a member of the legislature, was speaker of the house for one term, was one of the originators of the present banking-house system of Missouri, and for several years was bank-commissioner. In 1860 he was elected governor, and, his sympathies being with the south, he endeavored to draw Missouri into secession. When General Nathaniel Lyon broke up the secessionist rendezvous at Camp Jackson, Governor Jackson called out 5,000 militia and ordered them “to defend the state from invasion.” On the approach of Lyon and his command, Jackson was forced to quit St. Louis, and in July, 1861, was deposed by the legislature. He then entered the Confederate army with the rank of brigadier-general, but was soon compelled by failing health to resign.

Maryland – As it became evident that the Border States would not willingly accept emancipation in any form, Lincoln came to realize that only military force would keep them in line. In Kentucky and Maryland two military authorities ruled the states during the summer of 1862.

Maryland’s governor elected in 1861, by federal bayonets, gave no trouble. Governor Augustus Williamson Bradford was faithful to Lincoln and even pleaded with his fellow governors to stop agitating for abolition in their states. As a delegate to the 1861 peace conference in Washington, he strongly pleaded for the Union and became the Union party candidate for governor of Maryland. Elected by a large majority, partially as a result of intimidation at the polls by Union soldiers, Bradford served from 1862 to 1866, assuring federal control of the state. In 1862 and 1863 he appealed for volunteers in a state-equipped local militia that helped turn back Confederate invasions of state territory. Denying that the federal government had the power to free the slaves in Maryland, he called a state convention in 1864 that framed a new constitution abolishing slavery.

A Whig politician. He was an earnest unionist during the civil war. In 1861 he was a delegate to the peace congress, and in 1862 was elected governor of the state, serving until 1866. In July, 1864, confederate raiders burned his house. In 1864 he was influential in securing the adoption of the new constitution of Maryland, by which slavery was abolished, and under President Johnson was surveyor of the port of Baltimore.

The Abolishment of Slavery in Maryland.

June 25, 1864, Wednesday

Page 8, 75 words

The Constitutional Convention of Maryland, in session at Annapolis, passed, to-day, by a vote of 53 years against 27 days, the following article of the Bill of Rights:

“Hereafter, ‘n this state, there shall be neither slavery not involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; and all persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free.”

Ref.: New York Times – Published June 25, 1864

  1. The Old Northwest

Illinois – Richard Yates as the governor of Illinois was constantly haunted by the fears his state’s frontier would be invaded and that Egypt would help the Confederacy. A Whig politician in Jacksonville, Ill. A state legislator (1842-46, 1848-50) and U.S. Congressman (1851-55), he failed to win reelection because of his adherence to the new Republican Party. As governor of Illinois (1861-65), Yates was active in raising troops (he gave Ulysses S. Grant his first Civil War commission) and managed to hold in check the powerful pro-Southern group in Illinois. He constantly over exceeded all federal requests. As a governor he was a poor administrator. In the U.S. Senate from 1865 to 1871, he supported the radical Republican program.

Indiana Oliver Perry Morton, governor of Indiana was a real political radical. In his inaugural, Morton dwelt a greater length on the state’s condition than on the nations. His first official act was to demand the War Department that the state be given her legal quota of federal share. He also began the reorganization of finances, dismissing corrupt officials, cutting expenses in preparation for the bloody future.

Because he opposed the extension of slavery, Morton became a Republican in 1854 and was the party’s unsuccessful candidate for governor two years later. Elected lieutenant governor in 1860, he became governor when Henry Lane resigned after two days to take a seat in the U. S. Senate. Governor Morton was the first to offer troops when Lincoln issued the call; in less than seven days, more than twelve thousand men (nearly three times the quota) had been tendered. When Governor Beriah Magoffin of Kentucky, a rebel at heart, refused to issue the call for troops in his state, Morton provided the first rallying point for Kentucky Unionists and gave permission for citizens of Indiana to enlist in Kentucky regiments. He repeatedly came to the rescue of Kentucky during the war and became known as the “Governor of Indiana and Kentucky.” Oliver Morton, the “War Governor,” was also known as the “Soldier’s Friend.” He organized the General Military Agency of Indiana, and established the Soldiers’ Home, Ladies’ Home, and Orphans’ Home to take care of the needs of soldiers and their families. Morton established an arsenal at Indianapolis that not only supplied Hoosier troops, but also sold ammunition to the federal government. Because the Indiana Legislature was unsupportive of the war effort, Governor Morton carried on the entire state government for two years with funds raised by his own efforts. He was re-elected governor in 1864 and personally welcomed home every regiment and battery returning from war with a ceremony and dinner. In 1865, he suffered a stroke and Lieutenant Governor Conrad Baker temporarily took charge of his duties. Governor Morton became Senator Morton in 1867 and was elected to a second term in the Senate in 1872. He was greatly influential in the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment. Morton died November 1, 1877, at his home in Indianapolis. Flags on all public buildings in the United States were placed at half-mast by order of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Morton was buried in Indianapolis at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Wisconsin Edward Salomon succeeded to office upon the sudden and tragic death of Governor Louis R. Harvey on the night of April 19, 1862. (Louis Powell Harvey, who became Governor of the State of Wisconsin in January, 1862, and whose life was so mysteriously and mournfully cut off a few months afterward in a tragic accident. On Saturday morning, April 19th, Governor Harvey bade farewell to the soldiers at Pittsburg Landing, and went down to Savannah, ten miles below, on the Tennessee River. He was not expected to take a steamer for Cairo until the next morning, and some of the company had retired for the night, on board the Dunleith, lying at the wharf. But at ten o’clock in the evening the Minnehaha hove in sight, the party was aroused, and Governor Harvey, with others, took position near the edge and fore part of the Dunleith awaiting the opportunity to pass to the approaching boat.

As the bow of the Minnehaha rounded close to the party on the Dunleith, the Governor stepped back on one side, either for convenience or to get beyond harm, and the night being dark and rainy, and the timber of the boat slippery, by some misstep he fell between the two steamers. Dr. Wilson, of Sharon, being near, immediately reached down his cane, which the Governor grasped with so much force as to pull it from his hands. Dr. Clark, of Racine, jumped into the water, made himself fast to the Minnehaha and thrust his body in the direction of the Governor, who, he thinks, once almost reached him, but the current was too strong, the drowning man, it is supposed, was drawn under a flatboat just below, and when his life was despaired of, Dr. Wolcott and General Brodhead Milwaukee, and others of the party, made diligent and long search to recover the body of the lost one, but in vain, some children found it sixty-five miles below – 14 days later).

The death of Governor Harvey brought to the governor’s chair a fighting Prussian Jew who was as irascible as Secretary Stanton. It was through his leadership that the other governors rallied around him to demand efficiency and financial support from the Was Department.

In 1860, Salomon bolted his Democratic party affiliations to support Abraham Lincoln for the presidency, and in 1861 was nominated by the Republicans as ‘Union’ candidate for lieutenant governor in the hope of gaining the German vote. Salomon won by a narrow margin, and in 1862, when Governor Lewis P. Harvey was drowned, became Wisconsin’s first German-born governor. During the remainder of the term (Apr. 19, 1862-Jan. 4, 1864), Salomon moved vigorously, raising 14 new regiments, besides fulfilling the ranks of the old ones. He belligerently protected the state from impositions by the War Department, prosecuted the draft, and sent troops to arrest draft rioters. His actions aroused sufficient antagonism to prevent his renomination in 1863; he refused to run independently, and in 1864 resumed his law practice in Milwaukee. In 1869 he moved to New York City, where he continued his law practice for a number of years was legal representative for various important German interests. Retiring in 1894, he returned to Germany, where he lived in obscurity until his death.”

Ref.: (State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography, 1960, p. 313-314.)

Minnesota – In Minnesota as in Wisconsin, the Republicans safely radical saw no need of proscribing Democrats. They re-nominated Alexander Ramsey and re-elected him to the governorship after a quiet campaign.

Alexander Ramsey, the only man to be both appointed as governor of the territory and then elected as governor of the state, was born September 8, 1815. Success in the Keystone State was crucial to the Whig national ticket, and Ramsey hoped to be appointed Collector of the port of Philadelphia for his reward. Instead President Taylor offered him the governorship of recently-organized Minnesota Territory. After ten years in the thick of Pennsylvania politics and two terms in the House, Ramsey had learned his way around Washington, become acquainted with many of the influential party leaders of his day, and acquired considerable political expertise. His experience in the nation’s capital was especially helpful for a territorial executive required to consult Washington on all the major decisions of administration.

Ramsey’s appointment brought Minnesota to the favorable attention of many of his former associates, resulting in a substantial migration of capital as well as of Pennsylvanians to the territory. Ramsey made shrewd investments in Minnesota real estate. With the exception of a few cases, he abandoned the practice of law entirely and made real estate investment and development his major private business.

Despite his political and administrative competence, Ramsey’s position and that of the Whig party in the territory was not a strong one. But Ramsey was flexible and steered a course of cooperation and conciliation with local Democrats while attempting to neutralize the Washington activities of enemies within his own party.

His duties as territorial governor were less arduous than those he performed concurrently as superintendent of Indian affairs. In 1851 he served as a commissioner to negotiate treaties with the Dakota for the cession of large areas of Minnesota land for white settlement. Sectional politics, and the interests of the Indians, fur traders, lobbyists, and settlers, were hopelessly entangled in the complex treaty negotiations and their aftermath. Ramsey was accused of fraud in the negotiations and, although he was ultimately exonerated, investigations of his conduct did not finally clear him until 1854, the year after he relinquished the governorship and the superintendency to Democrat Willis A. Gorman

In 1855 Ramsey was elected to a term as mayor of St. Paul. By 1857 he had joined the newly-formed Republican Party. Democrat Henry H. Sibley defeated him in the first gubernatorial election. Ramsey, however, won the succeeding contest to become Minnesota’s second state governor. He was re-elected in 1861. In January 1863 he was elected by the state legislature to the U.S. Senate. He resigned the governorship at the end of June 1863, after the legislative session was over.

His administration was marked by sound economic management-particularly of the state’s school lands-and by two crises: the Civil War and the Dakota Uprising. Ramsey was in Washington, D.C., in 1861 at the time the Civil War began, and as governor offered the first volunteer regiment for the Union Army.

Ohio – Ohio’s war Democrat, David Tod took office in 1861. Governor William Dennison had retired. His retirement comments ran 18 columns in the Copperhead Columbus Crisis.

William Dennison made a reputation for himself within the Whig Party and successfully ran for the Ohio Senate in 1848. He had become known for his opposition to slavery and the annexation of Texas in the years preceding his election. He successfully campaigned to repeal Ohio’s “Black Laws” in 1849. As part of a compromise with Democrats, Dennison and other Whigs agreed to allow two prominent Democrats to be appointed to the Ohio Supreme Court if the Democrats allowed the “Black Laws” to be repealed and Salmon P. Chase to be appointed to the U.S. Senate.

Dennison chose not to run for reelection at the end of his term. Instead, he focused on his law practice and other business interests for the next several years. In the 1850s, Dennison served as president of the Exchange Bank in Columbus and then as president of the Columbus and Xenia Railroad. He had a number of investments in railroads during this era.

By 1856, the Whig Party had been destroyed over the issue of slavery. Dennison was an early participant in the newly formed Republican Party and attended the national convention in 1856 as an Ohio delegate. In 1859, Dennison ran for Ohio governor on the Republican ticket, defeating Supreme Court Judge Rufus P. Ranney by approximately thirteen thousand votes. This was a precarious time for the nation, and Dennison’s administration would soon have to tackle the challenges associated with the Civil War. Addressing the crisis that the state faced in 1861, Dennison acted decisively to take control of railroads and telegraph lines. He also devoted attention to strengthening the state’s defenses and sent George McClellan with Ohio troops into western Virginia to fight against the Confederacy. Although Dennison acted with the best of intentions, most Ohioans were concerned with his somewhat dictatorial manner. His popularity declined rapidly as the war developed. The Union Party, made up of Republicans and Democrats who supported the war, chose David Tod as its candidate in the 1861 gubernatorial election. After Tod’s election as governor, Dennison continued to serve the state in an unofficial advisory capacity.

Dennison continued to be prominent within the Republican Party and was chosen as the chairman of the Republican National Convention of 1864. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Dennison as postmaster general in 1864. Dennison held this position until 1866, when he disagreed with some policies of President Andrew Johnson’s administration. Dennison did not hold state or national political office again after 1866, although he remained an important figure within the Republican Party, both at the state and national levels, throughout the remainder of his life. He attempted to gain a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1880, running against James Garfield, albeit unsuccessfully.

A member of the Democratic Party, David Tod went into politics in 1838 and successfully ran for the Ohio Senate. Like most Democrats, he opposed the National Bank. He also helped to gain passage of a law that made it easier for escaped slaves to be returned to their masters in Kentucky. Choosing not to run for a second term, Tod returned to his law practice in Warren. He remained active in Ohio’s Democratic Party. As a result of his work, he earned the nickname “giant of Democracy.” Tod ran unsuccessfully for governor against Mordecai Bartley in 1844 and William Bebb in 1846.

President James Polk appointed Tod as United States minister to Brazil in 1847. He held the position until 1851. Returning to Ohio, Tod concentrated on his business interests in the Youngstown area. Tod had invested in a number of industries, including coal, oil, and railroads. He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1858, but Republican John Hutchins defeated him.

By the end of the decade, the Democratic Party, as well as the nation as a whole, was being divided along regional lines. In the Election of 1860, the Democratic Party split into the Northern Democratic Party and the Southern Democratic Party. Tod was one of Ohio’s delegates to the Northern Democratic national convention in 1860, and he ultimately served as chairman of the convention. He was instrumental in assuring Stephen Douglas’s nomination as the Northern Democratic presidential candidate in the Election of 1860. Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidency, and the nation soon was at war. Rather than join with the Peace Democrats in opposing the war, Tod chose to become part of the Union Party, a new party consisting of pro-war Democrats and Republicans, and supported Lincoln’s administration. As a result, the Union Party chose Tod as its gubernatorial candidate in 1861. Tod easily defeated Democrat Hugh J. Jewett and became the state’s governor in 1862.

Tod faced many challenges as governor because of the war. He worked to provide medical aid for wounded Ohio soldiers. As the war continued, there were no longer enough volunteers to fill Ohio’s quotas. Tod had to administer a draft to fulfill federal government requirements under the Militia Act of 1862. In 1863, the federal government assumed control of the draft under the Conscription Act, also known as the Enrollment Act, but Tod still had to contend with Ohioans opposed to the draft.

As Confederate troops came close to Ohio’s southern borders in 1862, Tod created the “Squirrel Hunters” to strengthen Ohio’s defenses. He also had to contend with strong Copperhead sentiment in the state, especially from Clement Vallandigham and Samuel S. Cox. During Tod’s administration, Democrats managed to regain control of a number of elected positions in the state. Tod did respond quickly to Confederate John Hunt Morgan’s raid into southern Ohio.

Although Tod would have liked to run for a second term as governor, Union Party leaders chose John Brough instead. There was a perception that Tod was still too close to the Democratic Party, and he did not speak favorably of emancipation of the slaves. Tod only served one term as governor, from 1862 to 1864. While Brough was also a former Democrat, he seemed to be a more outspoken supporter of African-American freedom and of the Union war effort.

  1. The Northern Governors

Pennsylvania Andrew Gregg Curtin was the last of the new governors to speak to the public. Inaugurated a day after Henry Lane (Indiana) and Richard Yates (Illinois), Curtin held a strategic position. He was elected Pennsylvania’s chief executive on January 15, 1861. A former Whig, he joined the new Republican Party in 1860 and was one of Lincoln’s staunchest supporters. Curtin was responsible for establishing the near Harrisburg, PA the first and largest Civil War camp (named in his honor) and was the first governor to send troops to defend the nation’s capital.
Image of Camp Curtin sign
From the beginning, Curtin was a success. Magnetic, honest, and popular, he possessed a congenial manner, ready wit, and extraordinary power of speech.

Curtin entered Pennsylvania politics at the age of 25. As a Whig, he campaigned actively on behalf of the presidential candidacies of William Henry Harrison, Henry Clay, Zachary Taylor, and Winfield Scott. In 1854 he declined the nomination for governor and threw his support to the successful candidacy of James Pollock, who repaid Curtin with the high post of secretary of the commonwealth. Curtin’s most notable achievement in that position was in fostering the cause of public education.

In 1860 Curtin was instrumental in securing the Republican presidential nomination for Abraham Lincoln. He himself agreed to run for governor against strong Democratic opposition. He won the election by a wide margin, and his victory was instrumental in swinging Pennsylvania to Lincoln in the national election a month later.

Conservatives and moderates hoped he would eschew radical doctrines and stand firmly for compromise. Radicals hoped he would become one of them. Before he took office Curtin met with five friends and together they formed a document that was a model of political fence-straddling. The Governor was for liberty and against all who would destroy it. As a whole his inauguration address was a triumph of oratory over consistency and no one knew whether Curtin was a radical or a conservative.

An ardent unionist, Curtin had an untarnished record as Pennsylvania’s Civil War governor. He aroused such early and enthusiastic support for the North that five companies of Pennsylvania troops were the first soldiers to arrive in Washington for the capital’s defense. When the state raised double its initial quota of 14,000 volunteers, Curtin organized the extra force into the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps. Throughout the war Curtin was “ceaseless in his devotion to the wants and needs” of Pennsylvania soldiers. He ensured that his regiments had the most up-to-date arms and equipment; he went to unparalleled lengths to care for the wounded; and he fathered a law providing for the education of war orphans in the state. These and similar endeavors earned him the sobriquet “Soldier’s Friend.”

In September 1862, he arranged a conference in Altoona for northern governors to raise support for President Lincoln and his war effort.

During the Civil War, Curtin organized the Pennsylvania reserves into combat units, and oversaw the construction of the first Union military camp for training militia. It opened as Camp Curtin on April 18, 1861. In the years that followed, Curtin became a close friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln, visiting the White House several times in order to converse about the status of the war effort.

Curtin was very active during the Gettysburg Campaign, working with Major General Darius N. Couch and Major Granville O. Haller to delay Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia and prevent it from crossing the Susquehanna River. Major General George G. Meade, a Pennsylvania officer whom Curtin had recommended for brigadier general and command of one of the Pennsylvania reserve brigades in 1861, defeated Lee in the Battle of Gettysburg.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, Governor Curtin was the principal force behind the establishment of the National Cemetery there. Through his agent, David Wills, Curtin procured the attendance of President Abraham Lincoln at the dedication of the cemetery. Governor Curtin was sitting with Lincoln on the platform on November 19, 1863 when Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address.

Following a second term as governor, Curtin in 1869 accepted the ambassadorship to Russia. He returned to America in 1872 and supported the presidential candidacy of Horace Greeley, an action which alienated leading Republicans. Curtin then joined the Democratic Party. Defeated in an 1878 bid for Congress, he ran again in 1880 and won the first of three consecutive terms in the national legislature. Thereafter he retired to his mountain home, where he died Oct. 7, 1894

Ref.:; William B. Hesseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors (1948);

New YorkHoratio Seymour was elected governor of New York after attempts to elect a radical of the type of John Albion Andrew (Massachusetts) and Austin Blair (Michigan) met with disaster. Previous governor, Edwin. D. Morgan’s (1858) moderate administration had incensed the Radicals and they determine to get rid of him. Knowing this he decided not to be a candidate. At the Republican Convention the Radicals dominated and nominated Governor James S. Wadsworth (The military governor of the District of Columbia) to oppose the radical choice the Democrats chose Horatio Seymour, a lawyer, dairy-farmer and speculator. He had been governor a dozen years before and had been defeated for re-election. The climax of the campaign brought the contestants together at Cooper Institute a few days before the election. Also on the slate was Joel Parker. Seymour and Parker were the only Democrats to be elected in the fall elections.

In 1841 Seymour entered the lower house of the New York Legislature. Although the conflict between two party factions endured for nearly 2 decades, Seymour was one of the few leaders capable of reconciling them even temporarily. Since he never sought to create a personal following through the use of patronage and generally followed a moderate course, he was able to command wide respect. He served as Speaker from 1845 to 1847 and in 1850 was elected governor, serving for two terms.

In national politics Seymour used his influence to preserve Democratic Party harmony by supporting candidates, such as James Buchanan, who took the position that the Federal government lacked the power to regulate slavery. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he supported the Union cause but only in the expectation that a peaceful settlement would be arranged.

In 1862 Seymour was again elected governor, defeating a Radical Republican. Although he criticized Abraham Lincoln’s excessive use of executive power and condemned the Emancipation Proclamation (which he ascribed to abolitionist influence), he worked diligently to fill New York’s troop quotas for fighting the Civil War. Erroneous reports (propagated by Radical Republicans) that he had failed to take strong measures to repress the draft riots of 1863 in New York City because he wished to aid the Southern cause led to his defeat when he sought reelection in 1864.

In 1868 Seymour was nominated as the Democratic candidate to run against Ulysses S. Grant in the presidential election. A compromise candidate, he repudiated the party’s written platform during his campaign. In spite of this action, he lost the election by a margin of only 300,000 votes. Refusing further offices, he continued to be a major influence in party politics. He aided Samuel J. Tilden in breaking the Tweed ring and backed efforts to reform Tammany Hall. He died in Albany on Feb. 12, 1886.

Ref.:; William B. Hasseltine, Lincoln and the War Governors (1948)

Delaware – The little state of Delaware was won by the Federal Government by a narrow margin when William Cannon was elected governor. Cannon entered politics in 1844 as a member to the Delaware House of Representatives, an office he was reelected to in 1846. He served as Delaware’s state treasurer in 1851 and was a delegate to the 1861 Peace Congress. He also served as director of the Delaware Railroad, and was influential in establishing the First National Bank of Seaford. Cannon won election to Delaware’s governorship on November 4, 1862, and was sworn into office on January 20, 1863. During his tenure, he supported anti-abolition and endorsed pro-Union views. On October 26, 1863, the War Department declared all slaves who served in the Union Army free, thus resulting in Governor Cannon’s directive to set up recruiting stations for blacks wishing to enlist.  Before finishing his term, Governor Cannon passed away on March 1, 1865. He is buried at the Bridgeville Methodist Cemetery in Bridgeville, Delaware

Ref.: National Governors Association

Massachusetts/Connecticut/ Vermont/New Hampshire John Albion Andrew, the newly elected governor of Massachusetts immediately began kindle the fires of radicalism. In no uncertain terms he stated, “We must conquer the South…” Andrew’s impassioned and sanguinary pronouncements chilled conservative hearts throughout the states. The new Governor called on the legislature to arm the state for war. As governor of Massachusetts during the Civil War, Andrew was one of the most energetic of the Northern “war governors.”

Andrew entered political life as a Whig opposed to the Mexican War (1846–48). In 1848 he joined the Free-Soil movement against the spread of slavery. After the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act (1854), which permitted those territories to choose between slavery and freedom, he helped organize the Republican Party in Massachusetts. In 1859 he defended the abolitionist John Brown so vigorously that he was summoned to Washington to appear before an investigating committee of the Senate. In 1860 he led the Massachusetts delegation at the Republican convention at Chicago, which nominated Lincoln for the presidency; from 1861 to January 1866 he was governor of Massachusetts.

The other Northeast governors were not as agitated as Andrew. In Connecticut, William A. Buckingham was not perturbed.

Buckingham was active in Norwich politics as a Whig, and he served several terms as mayor.  In 1857, he was considered as a candidate for governor on the Union ticket, but a storm kept some of his supporters from attending the nominating convention in New Haven, and he lost in a close vote to Alexander Holley, who went on to win the election. In 1858, the American and Republican parties, which made up the Union slate of candidates, could not agree on whom to run for governor.  Buckingham was chosen as a compromise candidate.  He defeated the Democratic candidate, James T. Pratt, gaining 36,298 votes compared to Pratt’s 33,544 votes.

Buckingham would be reelected annually for seven more years, though the 1860 election proved to be very close. In that year, the Democrats nominated Thomas H. Seymour as their candidate. Seymour had already served four terms as governor (1850-1853) and was a popular choice. 1860 was also the year of the Presidential election, and national matters over slavery and state’s rights were the focus in the Connecticut election. Seymour sympathized with the southern states’ concerns and was opposed to the Union cause. In contrast, Buckingham was against the extension of slavery and was strongly pro-Union. The intense race was decided by just 541 votes, with Buckingham earning 44,458 votes to Seymour’s 43,917. In every subsequent election for governor, Buckingham managed to receive over 50 percent of the popular vote.

The major reason for Buckingham’s long tenure as Connecticut’s governor was the outbreak of the Civil War.  He was a strong supporter of Abraham Lincoln. The two met when Lincoln campaigned in Connecticut as Buckingham’s guest, and a personal friendship formed between them.  When the President called on the Northern governors to assist him in prosecuting the war, Buckingham became Connecticut’s leading catalyst for this purpose. He worked seven days a week, twelve hours a day.  He was the state’s major correspondent with the Federal government, and he read and answered letters from troops in the field and visited troops at war as well as at home. He oversaw much of Connecticut’s procurement of men and materials for the war, and he spoke at meetings and rallies around the state. Buckingham was very concerned for the welfare of Connecticut troops. He is quoted as saying to an official in Washington: “Don’t let any Connecticut man suffer for want of anything that can be done for him. If it costs money, draw on me for it.” 2 In all, it is estimated that Connecticut sent 54,882 soldiers to fight in the Civil War. 3 In 1862, the United States Congress passed an act allowing for the enlistment of colored soldiers, and in November of 1863, Buckingham persuaded the Connecticut General Assembly to authorize a state regiment of black soldiers, the first of which was to be the Twenty-Ninth.

(The 29th Connecticut Colored Regiment was gotten up by Colonel Pardee, and encamped at Crape Vine Point, New Haven, Connecticut. The recruiting was commenced in August, 1863. The inducements held out to men to join this Regiment were these: they were to receive a bounty of $310 from the State, $75 from the County from which they enlisted, and $300 from the United States. The $310 from the State were received, the other bounties were did not received. There were several men who took an active part in recruiting for the Regiment, among them Lieutenant Brown of New York, to whom great credit is due. There were others, both colored and white, who

did very much towards filling up the Regiment. Sergeant Archie Howard, Orderly of Company C, recruited more men than any other excepting Lieut. Brown, but I am sorry to say, that after all he did the parties failed to pay him according to promise, and he was ordered to his Regiment without receiving a just compensation for his labors.)

Buckingham received more power and freedom of movement from the General Assembly than it allowed nearly all of the other nineteenth century governors.  In this sense, his position was similar to that of Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. during the period of the American Revolution. Like Trumbull, Buckingham is known as a “War Governor” for his work.

When the war ended in 1866, Buckingham chose not to run for reelection and instead returned to his business interests in Norwich.


Aging governor of Vermont, Erastus Fairbanks was not concerned but he did consult with the state’s congressman if they thought a special session was necessary. The name ‘Fairbanks’ was made famous for the invention of the platform scale. Fairbanks went on to found the Passumpsic Railroad, serving as its president. He was also active in the construction of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal. His political career began with his representation of St. Johnsbury in the state legislature. Because he failed to win the majority of the popular vote in his 1852 campaign for governor as the Whig candidate, he was elected by the legislature. His first term of office saw passage of legislation forbidding the sale or traffic in intoxicating beverages-a law that was not repealed until 1902. Although he received a plurality of the vote in the 1853 gubernatorial election, his failure to win the majority called once more for intervention by the state legislature, which selected his Democratic opponent. Seven years later, he ran for governor again, this time as the nominee for the Republican Party· to which he had switched when the party was founded. Fairbanks’ primary responsibility during his second term was to raise and supply soldiers for the Civil War. He declined to run again in 1861 and died three years later of heart disease.

Fairbanks was succeeded by Frederick Holbrook (1861-1863) and John Gregory Smith 1863-1865).

Holbrook as a member of the agriculture committee urged the U.S. Congress to establish a National Agricultural Bureau. During his service as governor, he initiated legislation to repay one-half of the state’s Civil War expenses by direct taxation and the other half in state bonds to be paid by future generations. Under his administration, Vermont became the first state to provide hospitals for its soldiers, which served as a model for other northern states. In addition, President Lincoln followed his suggestion to issue a call for Civil War volunteers. Holbrook died at age ninety-six and was buried in Brattleboro, Vermont.

John Gregory Smith, a railroad tycoon, politician, and war-time governor of Vermont Smith was born in St. Albans, Vermont, son of John and Maria (Curtis) Smith. The elder Smith was a pioneer railroad builder in Vermont, and a leading lawyer and public man of his generation. John Gregory graduated from the University of Vermont in 1841, and subsequently Yale Law School.   
Smith became associated with his father in his law practice and railroad management. After his father’s death in 1858, he succeeded to the position of trustee under the lease of the Vermont and Canada Railroad. Simultaneously he entered politics, and for many years the career in each line was involved with the other. He was also one of the originators of the Northern Pacific Railway enterprise and was the president of the corporation from 1866 to 1872. Under his lead five hundred and fifty-five miles of the road were built.  
He entered the Legislature as St. Albans’ representative in 1860, and in 1861 and 1862 was speaker of the House, winning such popularity that he was unanimously nominated for Governor in 1863, succeeding Frederick Holbrook, and re-elected in 1864. He was particularly solicitous in caring for the Vermont soldiers at the front during the American Civil War, and his many deeds of kindness won him many enthusiastic and life-long admirers. He was chairman of the state delegation to the Republican National Conventions in 1872, 1880, and 1884. After his retirement as governor he held no public office, though for about twenty years he was the master of Vermont politics, frequently talked of for a seat in the United States Senate, particularly in 1886, and again in 1891, but in both cases he withdrew his name.


Nathaniel S. Berry was nominated and elected governor of New Hampshire. Berry first entered politics as a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, a position he held in 1828, 1833 to 1834, 1837 and 1854. He also served in the New Hampshire State Senate from 1835 to 1836; was a delegate to the 1840 Democratic National Convention; and served on the Grafton County common pleas court bench from 1841 to 1850. From 1840 on, Berry acted as an organizer for a fledgling political group which ultimately became the Free Soil Party. Disgusted by the Democrats’ politics and the 1840 political campaign, Berry cut his Democratic Party roots and became the Free Soil Party’s 1846 candidate for governor of New Hampshire. He was nominated each year 1846/50 by the new party and lost each time, but the Free Soil Party grew stronger in every race.

The party organized as a national party in 1848, committed to stopping the spread of slavery into new territories won from Mexico in the Mexican War (1846/8). Former President Martin Van Buren of New York was the Free Soil candidate for president. The party platform stressed, in addition to no expansion of slavery, a commitment to a homestead act, and to a tariff with which to pay for internal improvements.

The Free Soil Party was a combination of anti-slavery Whigs and New York State Democrats, both of which were pro- Van Buren, and members of the former Liberty Party. In the national election the Whigs carried New York State and the result was that Mexican War hero Zachary Taylor became president. Taylor owed his victory to Van Buren and the Whigs, and they prevailed upon Taylor to make conservative New York Whig politician Millard Fillmore his vice president. When Taylor died of cholera a year later, Fillmore became President of the United States (1850/3). Martin Van Buren, acting as kingmaker, had made the Free Soil Party a power.

Berry lost every race as the New Hampshire Free Soil Party’s candidate for governor 1846/50. H stayed active politically as associate justice on the Grafton County Court of Pleas (1841/50), and as Grafton County Judge of Probate (1856/61). He was also justice of the peace for twenty-three years.

Meanwhile the Free Soil Party lost momentum and direction after 1850, when the 1850 Compromise was promulgated and signed. The Party made New Hampshire’s John P. Hale their Presidential candidate in 1852 and he attracted 150,000 votes. By 1854 the Free Soilers had been incorporated into what would become the Republican Party.

As a new Republican, Berry was nominated for governor by the New Hampshire Republican Party in 1861. The first national Republican Party candidate, Abraham Lincoln, had been elected in 1860, and the Civil War was underway.

From 1856 to 1861 he was a probate judge for Grafton County; and for twenty-three years served as justice of the peace. After running unsuccessfully as a Free-Soil nominee for governor, Berry switched political parties. He then secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in 1861. He was reelected to a second term in 1862. During his tenure, war issues were dealt with. Also, Berry presided over the 1861 Altoona Conference, in which he presented the address in support of the war.

Berry was reelected in 1862, and his efforts were all associated with war needs. His government enlisted and equipped fifteen infantry regiments, three companies of sharpshooters, four companies of cavalry and one company of heavy artillery. He led twenty-two governors in support of the war, delivering their joint address to President Lincoln at the Altoona (PA) Conference (1861). Berry did not run for reelection in 1863. After completing his term, Berry retired from political office. Governor Nathaniel S. Berry passed away in Bristol, New Hampshire on April 27, 1894.

Joseph A. Gilmore was elected the next governor and served during the rest of the Civil War. He was politically a Whig” in 1858 was elected as a Republican to the state senate, was re-elected in 1859, and made president of the senate that year. In March, 1863, he was the Republican candidate for governor” there was no choice by the people, but he was elected in June by the legislature, and re-elected by the people, in March, 1864. The two political contests were the severest ever known in New Hampshire, and he assumed the governorship at the darkest period of tire civil war’. By his predecessors, Governors Goodwin and Berry, 16 regiments of infantry, 4 companies of cavalry, 1 light battery, and 3 companies of sharp-shooters, making over 17,000 volunteers, had been put Into the field” but in 1863 patriotic fervor had somewhat abated, voluntary enlistments were few, and President Lincoln had ordered a draft. Governor Gilmore, however, raised and equipped the 18th infantry, the 1st cavalry, and the 1st heavy artillery, which, together with the recruits forwarded to existing organizations, made the number of men furnished during his term of office about 14,000, and the entire number from New Hampshire more than 31,000, from a population of fewer than 330,000. Governor Gilmore retired from office in June, 1865, in feeble health; His characteristics were restless activity, unbounded energy, impatience of restraint, liberality, and public spirit.–His son. Joseph Henry, born in Boston Massachusetts, 29 April, 1834, was graduated at Brown in 1858 and studied theology at Newton. He was settled as pastor of the Baptist Church in Fisherville (now Penacook), New Hampshire, in 1861, and was also instructor in Hebrew at Newton, but resigned and acted as private secretary to his father during the closing years of the civil war also editing the Concord “Daily Monitor” in 1864-‘5. In 1865 he became pastor of the 2d Baptist Church in Rochester, New York, and in 1867 professor of rhetoric in the University of Rochester.


With all the Governors elected, at the beginning of the New Year there was no consensus among the victors upon the meaning of their success. Abolitionists and Secessionist alike agreed that Republican ascendency marked the triumph of the principles that had moved William Lloyd Garrison and John Brown. Moderates did not concur, but their program of compromise recalled only memories of former well-meaning adjustments that failed.

To Abraham Lincoln, watching in Springfield, the counsel was still confused. In the weeks to come, he watched the reactions of other governors in other states.

Ref.: William B. Hesseltine – Lincoln and the War Governors.

The Corwin Amendment –

On December 4, 1860, the U.S. House of Representatives created a special Committee of Thirty-Three, with one member from each state, in order to craft a compromise to prevent the secession of Southern slave states from the Union.  Congressman Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts introduced to the committee a version of a constitutional amendment first (unsuccessfully) proposed by Senator William Henry Seward of New York in the Senate’s Committee of Thirteen.  It would have prohibited future constitutional amendments from interfering with slavery where it already existed (i.e., in the South). 

The proposal was voted favorably by the Committee of Thirty-Three and was reported to the full House on January 21, 1861, by committee chairman Thomas Corwin, an Ohio Republican.  Subsequently, the measure became known as the Corwin Amendment.  It passed the House on February 28 by a vote of 133-65, and the Senate approved it on March 2 by a vote of 24-12.   

In the March 16, 1861 issue of Harper’s Weekly (published March 6), a feature article entitled “Two Nights in the Senate” gave Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois credit for securing passing of the Corwin Amendment in that chamber.  The narrative included character sketches of several senators.  Douglas had been the presidential nominee of the Northern wing of the Democratic Party in 1860.  During the secession crisis, he worked for a compromise, and he wholeheartedly supported the Union when the Civil War began in April 1861.  However, he died less than two months later on June 3. 

In “Two Nights in the Senate” (column two) “Lindley Murray” refers to an author of books on English grammar and spelling, which were used widely in American schools during the nineteenth century.  In column three, “de gustibus, etc.” is probably short for the Latin phrase, de gustibus non est disputandum, which can be translated as, “There is no accounting for taste.” 

In an unusual move, Democratic President James Buchanan signed the Corwin Amendment on March 3, 1861, his last day in office (the Constitution does not require presidential approval for proposed amendments).  It was ratified by only two states—Ohio on May 13, 1861, and by Maryland on January 10, 1862—and therefore fell far short of the necessary three-quarters majority of states in order to become part of the U.S. Constitution.  Had it achieved ratification, the Corwin Amendment, which protected slavery, would have become the Thirteenth Amendment.

Ref.: Harper’s Weekly References
1)  March 9, 1861, p. 151, c. 1-2
“Domestic Intelligence” column, “Mr. Corwin’s Amendment”2)  March 16, 1861, p. 162, c. 1-4
article, “Two Nights in the Senate”

Abraham Lincoln and the Corwin Amendment – The discovery of a letter from newly inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln to the governor of Florida has generated renewed interest in Lincoln’s views toward slavery. The letter, found at the Lehigh County Historical Society in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a form letter from Lincoln to Governor Madison S. Perry transmitting “an authenticated copy of a Joint Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States.” On March 16, 1861, Lincoln sent the same letter to all of the governors of the states, including states that had already seceded from the Union and formed their own confederate government. What was this amendment, and what was Lincoln’s role in its attempted ratification?

Image of letter from Abraham Lincoln
In December 1860, President James Buchanan requested Congress to propose an “explanatory amendment” with regard to slavery. In the house, Ohio Representative Thomas Corwin was selected as the chairman of the committee; and in the senate, William H. Seward took the lead in sponsoring the amendment. In his correspondence during the month of December, president-elect Lincoln was adamant that there be no compromises with regard to the extension of slavery. In a meeting with Thurlow Weed, Seward’s Republican ally in New York, Lincoln offered three compromise proposals, and Weed passed this information to Seward. Upon his return to the Senate, Seward introduced three resolutions to the Senate committee. One resolution not included in Lincoln’s proposals offered that “no amendment shall be made to the Constitution, which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish, or interfere within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.” In other words, the amendment would forever guarantee the right of the Southern people to own slaves. With much debate, the amendment passed both houses of Congress on March 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln took office.

The amendment was prematurely called the thirteenth amendment. Corwin’s amendment, as it was then called, was one of three attempts to resolve the secession crisis between Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861. The Crittenden plan and the Washington Peace Convention were unacceptable to Republicans because they yielded too much to the slave interests and rejected the central plank of the Republican platform, which opposed the extension of slavery.

In his inaugural address, Lincoln noted Congressional approval of the Corwin amendment and stated that he “had no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.” This was not a departure from Lincoln’s views on slavery at that time. Lincoln followed the Republican platform from the Chicago convention. He believed that the major problem between the North and South was the inability to reach agreement with respect to the expansion of slavery. Lincoln did not believe that he had the power to eliminate slavery where it already existed. However, Southerners feared that a Republican administration would take direct aim at the institution of slavery. By tacitly supporting Corwin’s amendment, Lincoln hoped to convince the South that he would not move to abolish slavery and, at the minimum, keep the border states of Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina from seceding.

Lincoln’s March 16, 1861 letters to the governors did not endorse or oppose the proposed thirteenth amendment. They merely transmitted a copy of the joint resolution to amend the constitution. This was the first step to ratification by the states. After the firing on Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s call for troops, important Border States Virginia and Tennessee, among others, seceded. The Civil War began and the purpose of the Corwin amendment was greatly reduced. However, Ohio and Maryland ratified it, and the 1862 Illinois Constitutional Convention endorsed it.

The discovery of Lincoln’s letter to the governor of Florida does not alter the historical perspective that Lincoln was willing to compromise to restore the Union before hostilities began. It also underscores Lincoln’s evolution toward emancipation. This snapshot of March 1861 shows Lincoln’s last attempt to restore the Union while maintaining his party’s platform. While personally opposed to slavery, Lincoln believed the Constitution supported it. His support of the Corwin amendment attempted to codify that belief, but the Civil War changed his opinion on presidential power. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, and in 1865, vigorously worked to pass the actual thirteenth amendment, which declared slavery illegal.

Ref.: John A. Lupton-

    Editor’s Note: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln

In 1953, the Abraham Lincoln Association published The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, a multi-volume set of Lincoln’s correspondence.

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