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Compatriot Medal of Honor Recipients

John Chowning Gresham

John Chowning Gresham

John Chowning Gresham was born on September 25, 1851, in Lancaster County, Virginia. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the class of 1876. He was originally assigned to the 3rd U.S. Cavalry at Fort Lincoln, in Washington, D.C., but was soon transferred to the 7th Cavalry as a replacement following the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. He served in the Nez Perce War and was at the Battle of Canyon Creek.

John Gresham was promoted to first lieutenant in June 1878 and continued in various assignments within the Department of Dakota for six more years. In September 1884, he became a professor of military science and tactics at Virginia Agricultural College (now known as Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia). In February 1884, Gresham returned to the 7th Cavalry. In late December 1890, he took part in the Battle of Wounded Knee and led a party into a ravine to attack Native Americans hidden there. For his gallant action, he was awarded the Medal of Honor in March 1899. The citation reads “Voluntarily led a party into a ravine to dislodge Sioux Indians concealed therein. He was wounded during this action.”

John Gresham was promoted to captain in April 1892 and moved with the regiment to Arizona. In December 1896, he served as a professor of military science and tactics at the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (now known as North Carolina State University) at Raleigh, until rejoining the regiment in Havana, Cuba, in March 1899.

Between 1901 and 1911, Gresham was promoted to major and lieutenant colonel and served three tours in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. In August 1911, he was promoted to colonel and soon took command of the 10th Cavalry at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont. In December 1913, he took command of Fort Huachuca, Arizona. From August 1914 until he retired in September 1915, Gresham was in charge of militia affairs for the Western Department.

John C. Gresham signed his SAR application on February 8, 1894. His National number is 6972 and his District of Columbia Society number is 472. His SAR patriot ancestor was William Chowning of Lancaster, Virginia, who served as a surgeon’s mate on the “Tartar,” 1779-1780. There is a note on Gresham’s application that tells of William Chowning “while on leave of absence in his native country was captured by the British, but escaped from the man-of-war by jumping overboard and swimming ashore.”

Colonel John C. Gresham died on September 2, 1926, in San Diego, California, at the age of seventy-four. He is buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery, a U.S. National Cemetery, located in the Presidio of San Francisco, California.

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