Cadwallader Washburn

Photo of Hon. Cadwallader Colden Washburn
Cadwallader Colden Washburn

Library of Congress

Quick Facts

Union General, Governor of Wisconsin, founder of General Mills
Place Of Birth:
Livermore, ME
Date Of Birth:
April 22, 1818
Place Of Death:
Eureka Springs, AR
Date Of Death:
May 15, 1882
Place Of Burial:
La Crosse, WI
Cemetery Name:
Oak Grove Cemetery

Businessman, politician and Union army officer, Cadwallader Colden Washburn studied law at Rock Island, Illinois, before moving to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, where he established a legal practice in 1842. During this time, Washburn also speculated in real estate, founded the Mineral Point Bank, and obtained financial interests in lumber, water, railroading, and flour-milling.

In 1854, Washburn was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican, and served three terms (one brother, Israel, was a founding member of the Republican Party, another brother, Elihu, was a nine-term congressman from Illinois). He served as a delegate to the 1861 Washington Peace Conference, a final effort by the states to prevent war. When the Civil War started, Washburn was appointed colonel of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry. He rose to the rank of brigadier general in July 1862, then major general on November 29, 1862. Washburn led a cavalry division during the early stages of Grant's VicksburgCcampaign, and commanded three divisions from XVI Corps during siege operations at Vicksburg. During the fall of 1863, he led a division of XIII Corps in support of Union Gen. Banks' coastal campaign against Texas. In August 1864, Washburn narrowly escaped capture during a nighttime raid on his Memphis headquarters by Confederate forces under General Nathan Bedford Forest. He served out the war in an administrative role, resigning his commission in May 1865.

After the war, Washburn returned to Wisconsin and resumed his business and political careers. He was elected again to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving two terms. In the fall of 1871, Washburn successfully ran for governor of Wisconsin and served from 1872 to 1874. Failing to capture a U.S. Senate seat in 1875, he retired from politics. Washburn founded Washburn, Crosby & Company, which eventually became the General Mills Corporation.

Last updated: June 18, 2015