Not much is known about John. His birthday, childhood, and even death are unknown. We do know he was born in 1821 and served in the US Navy during the Korean Expedition, where his actions would earn him the Medal of Honor. The citation reads:
On board the USS Benicia in action against Korean forts on 9 and 10 June 1871. Stationed at the lead in passing the forts, Andrews stood on the gunwale on the Benicia's launch, lashed to the ridgerope. He remained unflinchingly in this dangerous position and gave his soundings with coolness and accuracy under a heavy fire.