One hundred and fifty years ago today, Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, marking the beginning of the American Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president in November 1860, but wouldn’t take office until March 4. In the interim, seven southern states had seceded.
When Lincoln issued his initial call for 75,000 volunteers to serve for 90 days, Ohio Gov. William Dennison already had a name at the top of the list of volunteers: Kenyon College President Lorin Andrews. But how did Andrews become the official “first recruit” in Ohio?
In February, Andrews, maybe seeing more clearly than most that attempts at a compromise to head off the break-up of the Union would be a failure, Andrews authorized Dennison to use his name if the time came to call for volunteers. Andrews was widely known and respected throughout Ohio; his name could be expected to add weight to the call for volunteers.
Andrews raised a company of volunteers in Knox County and was designated its captain. He submitted his resignation as president of Kenyon College, but the trustees refused to accept it, instead granting him an indefinite leave of absence. On April 22, he took the company to Camp Jackson in Columbus, where it was designated Company A of the 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Andrews was named colonel of the regiment on April 29.
From there, they went to Camp Dennison in Cincinnati, where on May 22 they were paraded and urged to re-enlist for three years of service. Andrews lent his voice to the persuasion and virtually the entire regiment enlisted for three years.
The regiment then served in the campaign in what later became West Virginia, commanded by Gen. George McClellan, but about the end of August, Andrews became sick. The lack of sanitation, typical of so many military camps of the time, had caused him to come down with typhoid fever. He managed to return to his home at Kenyon and died there Sept. 18 at the age of 42. He was buried in the cemetery at Kenyon.
One of the grim statistics of that war is that out of the more than 600,000 soldiers of both sides who died, more than half died of disease, not enemy bullets.
Andrews was born April 1, 1819, at Uniontown, now Ashland, and at the age of 17 was asked to deliver the July Fourth oration at the community celebration in 1836.
He then left to attend the grammar school at Kenyon and two years later enrolled in the college, but in 1840, he withdrew due to his finances and returned to Ashland, where he became principal of an academy which thrived under his direction, although he had to study just to stay ahead of his students.
In 1846 he was given an honorary degree by Kenyon College and after a stint as spokesman for the Ohio Teachers Association (which he helped found in 1847) promoting public education, he became superintendent of Massillon Schools in 1850.
After the state had enacted the teachers’ slate of proposals for education, including a 2-mill state property tax to establish universal public education in Ohio, Andrews lost a close election to become the state school commissioner.
In December 1854, he became president of Kenyon College, which at that time was near bankrupt, poorly administered and had only 40 students. A few months later, he was given an honorary doctor of laws degree by Princeton. In the next seven years he would turn Kenyon’s fortunes around and also declined an offer to become president of Iowa State University.
(Information for this article came from an 1880 history of Ashland County and the address given by Professor Perry Lentz at the reburial of Andrews in 1998 when his grave had to be removed due to a construction project.)