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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A photograph of a man in his early twenties. He is clean-shaven and wears a military uniform with a sword at his left side; he stands at attention cradling a spiked helmet in his left arm. He has a serious air about him, such as one has when a formal photograph is being taken, but gives the impression he is about to burst out laughing. He is John A. Gurney, an American Army officer whose brief career is detailed on this webpage.]

Lieutenant John A. Gurney

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Thirtieth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 7th, 1899.

 p34  John A. Gurney
No. 3619. Class of 1895.
Killed July 1, 1898, at Santiago, Cuba, aged 27.

John Asa Gurney was the son of Theron S. Gurney, of Hart, Mich., who is a member of the Michigan bar. His grandfather was Zenas Gurney, a farmer of Chester, Ohio. His mother was Miss Helen A. Bradley, her father being James Bradley,  p35 a merchant of Chester, Ohio, who served in the war of 1812. John was one of a family of two, his sister Cena Gurney is living.

He was born in Hart, Mich., November 8th, 1871. He attended the Hart High School, where he graduated with high honors in June, 1888. During the winter of 1888 and 1889, he served as Page in the Legislature of his State; from there, in September, 1889, he went to the Ohio Military Academy at Portsmouth. He was a cadet captain at this school, receiving his appointment almost immediately. In January, 1890, he entered Olivet College, Mich., where he remained until he entered the U. S. Military Academy, June 17th, 1891.

During his cadet life he was always prominent. He was president of his class during the four years of his cadet life. He was gifted as a student, as an orator and as an athlete. These gifts brought him early into prominence with the cadets and he ever afterwards remained so. He graduated June 17, 1895, standing 3d in a class of 52. Reported October 1st at Fort McPherson, Ga., for duty as Second Lieutenant Fifth Infantry. Transferred to Twenty-fourth Infantry October 1st, 1896, and was present with his regiment at Fort Douglas, Utah, from that time until April 20th, 1898. Was a member of the Santiago expedition, and was killed in action, while charging Fort San Juan, Cuba, July 1st, 1898.

This young soldier was every inch a man. Among his early friends he was known for his manly qualities. As a cadet he was one of clear judgment, and matured beyond what is usual for one of his years; thus it was that whenever he had anything to say, we all were attentive listeners.

He was a great lover of nature. To roam through the woods, or to tramp to Cro' Nest, was always one of his chief delights. And I believe with him, as one day, sitting in a boat, his feet dangling over the sides into the water, a pipe in his mouth and a big straw hat on his head, he said to his sister: "Now, sis, you are seeing Johnny at his best."

 p36  He had a grand, good, large nature, a heart that took in all humanity. We, his classmates, feel deeply his loss, because we know his possibilities. A brilliant mind held absolutely in the power of that greatest of all characteristics, etc., "Genius of common sense."

As a friend, one could have none better. When in trouble he would stand by, for he was courageous as he was kind.

I can pay no more fitting tribute to his memory than to say that all his friends and associates treasure it as of one who was in the highest, truest, noblest sense a "man."

Three of the class of '95 fell before Santiago on that eventful July 1 — the subject of this sketch, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Lewis and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Augustin.

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.H. H. S.

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Page updated: 16 Oct 13