Walter Q. Gresham

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For other people named Walter Gresham, see Walter Gresham (disambiguation).
Walter Gresham
Walter Q. Gresham - Brady-Handy.jpg
33rd United States Secretary of State
In office
March 7, 1893 – May 28, 1895
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by John Foster
Succeeded by Richard Olney
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
In office
June 16, 1891 – March 3, 1893
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by James Jenkins
Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Seventh Circuit
In office
October 28, 1884 – June 16, 1891
Appointed by Chester Arthur
Preceded by Thomas Drummond
Succeeded by Seat abolished
35th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
September 5, 1884 – October 28, 1884
President Chester Arthur
Preceded by Charles Folger
Succeeded by Hugh McCulloch
31st United States Postmaster General
In office
April 9, 1883 – September 4, 1884
President Chester Arthur
Preceded by Timothy Howe
Succeeded by Frank Hatton
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Indiana
In office
September 1, 1869 – April 9, 1883
Appointed by Ulysses Grant
Preceded by David McDonald
Succeeded by William Woods
Personal details
Born Walter Quintin Gresham
(1832-03-17)March 17, 1832
Lanesville, Indiana, U.S.
Died May 28, 1895(1895-05-28) (aged 63)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Whig (Before 1854)
Republican (1854–1892)
Democratic (1892–1895)
Spouse(s) Matilda McGrain
Education Indiana University, Bloomington
Military service
Allegiance  United States
 • Union
Service/branch  United States Army
 • Union Army
Years of service 1861–1864
Rank Union Army brigadier general rank insignia.svg Brigadier General
Battles/wars American Civil War

Walter Quintin Gresham (March 17, 1832 – May 28, 1895) was an American 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, 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, Indiana, to William Gresham (1802–1834) and his wife Sarah Davis. William had been elected a Colonel in the militia of Indiana. He was a member of the Whig Party and was elected Sheriff of Harrison County, Indiana. On January 26, 1834, William was fatally stabbed while assisting in the arrest of Levi Sipes, a so-called "desperado".[1]

His paternal grandparents were George Gresham (born 1776) and Mary Pennington. George was born in Virginia but later settled in Kentucky. He moved to Indiana in 1809. Mary was the only sister of Dennis Pennington, speaker of the first Indiana Senate.[1]

George was a son of Lawrence Gresham. Lawrence was born in England 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.[1]

Early years[edit]

Walter Gresham spent two years in an academy at Corydon, Indiana, one year at the Indiana University Bloomington, then studied law under Judge William A. Porter in Corydon before he 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[edit]

Gresham was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 38th Indiana Volunteer Infantry on September 18, 1861. In December of that year, he was promoted to colonel and placed in command of the 53rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry.[2] The 53rd Indiana Infantry subsequently took part in Grant's Tennessee campaign of 1862, including the Siege of Corinth and Battle of Vicksburg. During the Siege of Vicksburg, Colonel Gresham commanded a brigade. In August 1863 he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers, and was placed in command of the Federal forces at Natchez, Mississippi. In 1864 he commanded a division of the XVII Corps in Sherman's Atlanta Campaign, and before the Battle of Atlanta, on July 20, he received a gunshot wound to his knee 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[edit]

Walter Quintin Gresham

After the war he practiced law at New Albany, Indiana, and on September 1, 1869 received a recess appointment from President Ulysses S. Grant to a seat on the United States District Judge for Indiana vacated by David McDonald. Formally nominated on December 6, 1869, Gresham was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 21, 1869, and received his commission the same day. On April 9, 1883 he resigned from the bench to succeed 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. During his service as Postmaster General, Gresham, Oregon, was named after him.

In September 1884, Gresham succeeded Charles J. Folger as United States Secretary of the Treasury, but the following month he resigned to accept a recess appointment, made on October 28, 1884, to a seat on the United States circuit court for the Seventh Circuit, vacated by Thomas Drummond. Gresham was formally nominated on December 3, 1884, and confirmed by the United States Senate on December 9, 1884, receiving his commission the same day. On June 16, 1891, Gresham was reassigned by operation of law to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

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 agrarian unions, including The Agricultural Wheel, Grange and Farmer's Alliance.[3] 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. On March 3, 1893, he resigned from the bench, and from March 7, 1893, until his death at Washington, D.C., on May 28, 1895, he was Secretary of State in President Grover Cleveland's Cabinet. His grave is in Arlington National Cemetery.

He is the namesake of Gresham, Oregon and Gresham, Nebraska.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Matilda Gresham, "The Life of Walter Quintin Gresham" (1919)
  2. ^ Perry, Henry F. (1906). History of the 38th Regiment Indiana Volunteer Infantry. Palo Alto CA: F.A. Stuart. pp. 14–15. 
  3. ^ "The Farmers for Gresham.; Walter Q. Gresham. The Strong And Cunning Hand.". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois. 1888-06-20. p. 12. Retrieved 2008-10-12. 
  4. ^ Sedgwick, Theron E. (1921). York County, Nebraska and Its People: Together with a Condensed History of the State. S.J. Clarke. p. 463. 
Legal offices
Preceded by
David McDonald
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Indiana
Succeeded by
William Woods
Preceded by
Thomas Drummond
Judge of the United States Circuit Court for the Seventh Circuit
Seat abolished
New seat Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
Succeeded by
James Jenkins
Political offices
Preceded by
Timothy Howe
United States Postmaster General
Succeeded by
Frank Hatton
Preceded by
Charles Folger
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Succeeded by
Hugh McCulloch
Preceded by
John Foster
United States Secretary of State
Succeeded by
Richard Olney