Walter Quintin Gresham

Walter Quintin Gresham, of English descent, was born near the hamlet of Lanesville, Indiana, on March 17, 1832. His early life included education in a log-cabin schoolhouse, teaching, clerking in the office of a succession of county officials, attendance at a nearby seminary and at the state university, the study of law, admission to the bar in 1854, and the commencement of a successful practice. He was moderately opposed to slavery, despite the fact that Cory-don, the county seat, was a station on the underground railroad. Gresham campaigned for office a number of times under several party labels, but was successful only once: in 1860 he was elected to the Indiana legislature as a Republican. In this capacity he fell out with Governor Oliver P. Morton, but recruited his own company and on March 10, 1862, was advanced to colonel of the 53rd Indiana. Gresham's regiment was not under fire at Shiloh, but acquitted itself well in the Vicksburg campaign, where it formed a part of Lauman's division of the XVI Corps. On August 11, 1863, Gresham was appointed brigadier general and assigned to command a brigade of the XVII Corps at Natchez. During the Atlanta campaign he led the 4th Division of the corps until on July 20 his knee was smashed by a sharpshooter's bullet a wound which ended his military career. With the brevet of major general, he commenced the practice of law at New Albany, Indiana, as soon as he could maneuver on crutches. Despite his war record, Gresham was defeated in his bids for public office: twice for the House and once for the Senate. In 1883, President Chester A. Arthur appointed him Postmaster General; he served eighteen months, during which he curtailed the Louisiana state lottery by excluding it from the mails. The following year Gresham served briefly as Secretary of the Treasury until he accepted an appointment as United States circuit judge. A presidential hopeful in both the 1884 and 1888 Republican conventions, he flirted with the Populists in 1892 and the following year, in reward for supporting Grover Cleveland, was named Secretary of State. He died in Washington during his term of office on May 28, 1895, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

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Reference:  Generals in Blue.  Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Louisiana State University Press.  Baton Rouge.