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Walter Quintin Gresham (March 17, 1832 – May 28, 1895) was an Americanmarker statesman and jurist. He served as United States Postmaster General, as a judge on the United States Courts of Appeals, was a two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and was Secretary of State, and Secretary of the Treasury. He was also an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


He was born near Lanesville, Indianamarker, to William Gresham (1802 - 1834) and his wife Sarah Davis. William had been elected a Colonel in the militia of Indianamarker. He was a member of the Whig Party and was elected Sheriff of Harrison County, Indianamarker. On January 26, 1834, William was fatally stabbed while assisting in the arrest of Levi Sipes, a so-called "desperado".

His paternal grandparents were George Gresham (born 1776) and Mary Pennington. George was born in Virginiamarker but latter settled in Kentuckymarker. He moved to Indiana in 1809. Mary was the only sister of Dennis Pennington, speaker of the first Indiana Senate.

George was a son of Lawrence Gresham. Lawrence was born in Englandmarker but moved to the Colony of Virginia in 1759. He initially served as an indentured servant of an uncle. He was released from service upon reaching adulthood. He later served in the Continental Army. He married Sarah O'Neal. Lawrence followed his son to Kentucky and Indiana well into his old age.

Early years

He spent two years in an academy at Corydon, Indianamarker, one year at the Indiana University Bloomingtonmarker, then studied law under Judge William A. Porter in Corydon. Was admitted to the bar in 1854 and started a practice in Corydon. He was active as a campaign speaker for the Republican ticket in 1856, married Matilda McGrain in 1858, and in 1860 was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives as a Republican from a strong Democratic district. In the House, as chairman of the committee on military affairs, he did much to prepare the Indiana troops for service in the federal army.

Civil War

In 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Gresham was appointed colonel of the 53rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry, and subsequently took part in Grant's Tennessee campaign of 1862, including the Siege of Corinthmarker and Battle of Vicksburgmarker, where he commanded a brigade. In August 1863 he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers, and was placed in command of the Federal forces at Natchez, Mississippimarker. In 1864 he commanded a division of the XVII Corps in Sherman's Atlanta Campaignmarker, and before the Battle of Atlanta, on July 20, he received a wound that forced him to retire from active service, and left him lame for life. In 1865 he was appointed a brevet major general of volunteers.

Political career

Walter Quintin Gresham
After the war he practiced law at New Albany, Indianamarker, and in 1869 was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant United States District Judge for Indiana. In April 1883 he succeeded Timothy O. Howe (1816-1883) as Postmaster General in President Chester A. Arthur's cabinet, taking an active part in the suppression of the Louisiana Lottery, supervising the successful September, 1883 introduction of Postal Notes, and in September 1884 succeeded Charles J. Folger as United States Secretary of the Treasury. In the following month he resigned to accept an appointment to the United States circuit court for the Seventh Circuit (which preceded the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit). While serving as Postmaster General, Gresham, Oregonmarker, was named after him.

Gresham was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1884 and 1888, in the latter year leading for some time in the balloting. His 1888 candidacy was supported by several notable agarian unions, including The Agricultural Wheel, Grange and Farmer's Alliance. Gradually, however, he grew out of sympathy with the Republican leaders and policy, and in 1892 advocated the election of the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, for the presidency. From March 7, 1893, until his death at Washington, D.C.marker, on May 28, 1895, he was Secretary of State in President Grover Cleveland's Cabinet. His grave is in Arlington National Cemeterymarker.

See also


  1. Matilda Gresham, "The Life of Walter Quintin Gresham" (1919)

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