A Civil War Biography
Walter Quintin Gresham
Gresham was born 17 March 1832 near Lanesville in Harrison County,
Indiana. Following schooling in a log cabin and at a religious
seminary, Gresham attended the state university at Bloomington,
Indiana. He was admitted to the bar in 1854 and entered politics in
1860 when he was elected to the Indiana state legislature.
When war erupted he petitioned fellow Republican, Governor Oliver P.
Morton, for a regimental command but was turned down. Instead
Gresham recruited a company which became part of the 38th Indiana
infantry commanded by Colonel Benjamin Scribner. Gresham was
commissioned a lieutenant colonel. He was promoted to colonel and
given command of the 53rd Indiana in March 1862 and led his regiment
during the Vicksburg campaign. In August 1863 he was promoted to
brigadier general. He commanded a brigade during William T.
Sherman's Meridian, Mississippi campaign then the 4th Division/
XVIII Corps during the Atlanta campaign. At the battle of Peachtree
Creek, Georgia, Gresham was wounded in the knee by a sharpshooter,
ending his military career, although he was brevetted major general
of volunteers on 13 March 1865.
He returned to Indiana and established a law practice in New Albany.
He ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives from the 2nd
Congressional district in 1866 and 1868 but lost both times to
Michael Crawford Kerr. Kerr would remain in the US Congress until
dying in office in 1876, having become the Speaker of the House in
1875. After Ulysses S. Grant became president in 1868, Gresham was
appointed Judge of the US District Court for Indiana. He remained a
Federal judge until 1883 when Chester Author appointed Gresham
Postmaster General. When Secretary of the Treasury Charles J. Folger
died in September 1884, President Author appointed Gresham to fill
that cabinet position.
Gresham considered a run for the presidency in 1884 but backed
Grover Cleveland once Cleveland was nominated. In October of 1885
President Cleveland appointed Gresham to the US Court of Appeals in
the 7th District. Gresham again considered a run at the presidency
in 1888 as a Republican and in 1892 as a Populist. When Grover
Cleveland returned to the white house in 1893 Gresham was tapped as
Secretary of State. Gresham died while in office on 28 May 1895 of
pneumonia in Washington DC.
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