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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