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Term: Washburn, Gov. Cadwallader Colden (1818-1882)


b. Livermore, Maine, April 22, 1818
d. Eureka Springs, Arkansas, May 15, 1882

Cadwallader Colden (C.C.) Washburn was a U.S. Congressman, Civil War officer, industrial empire builder and founder of General Mills, and 11th governor of Wisconsin. Few people of his generation had as much influence on Wisconsin history.

Early Life

Washburn grew up in Maine. He taught school there before moving to the Midwest to seek his fortune. He worked in Iowa and studied law in Rock Island, Illinois, before settling in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, in 1842. He opened a law practice, founded a bank, and acquired a vast amount of northern Wisconsin forest.

Washburn, a Republican, served in the U.S. Congress from 1855-1861, and again after the Civil War, 1867-1870 (five terms in all). At the same time, he broadened his business operations in banking and real estate. Early in 1861 he moved to La Crosse and was sent as a delegate to an unsuccessful peace convention held in Washington, D.C., that had hoped to prevent the impending Civil War.

Civil War Service

After the outbreak of hostilities, Washburn accepted an appointment as colonel of the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry, on October 10, 1861. The following spring he led it south into Arkansas to join Union forces in the West.

Washburn was promoted to brigadier general in June 1862.  He took command of not only of his regiment, but also the entire 2nd Cavalry Brigade. On July 7, 1862, it defeated Confederate forces at Cotton Plant, Arkansas, and then marched east to take possession of Helena, Arkansas. From there it supported the Union campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi. In March 1863 Washburn was commissioned a major general with command over all Union cavalry in West Tennessee, headquartered at Memphis.

After the Siege of Vicksburg in the summer of 1863, Washburn’s command was moved to New Orleans. In August he led 16,000 men in support of the Red River Expedition, occupying and pacifying large areas along the Texas Coast. He spent most of 1864 and the spring of 1865 in command at Memphis and Vicksburg.

Postwar Career

After leaving the military in May 1865, Washburn returned to La Crosse and served again in Congress, from 1867 to 1870.

He was elected governor of Wisconsin in the fall of 1871 and served from 1872-1874. At that time, there was movement by farmers for government regulation of railroads to alleviate the monopolies of railroad barons.  Washburn made some decisions that alienated the farmers, railroad barons and other constituents. This, combined with his veto of a popular construction project, led to his defeat in the 1873 gubernatorial election. After an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1875, Washburn retired from politics.

Afterward, Washburn devoted himself to business enterprises. In 1866, he opened his first flour mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which became known as General Mills. It was spectacularly successful and flourished for over a century. He also worked in the lumber industry and helped secure the construction of the Minneapolis and St. Louis railroad.

Washburn served as a regent of the University of Wisconsin and president of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. He died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on May 15, 1882, while recuperating from an illness.

Links to Learn More

Biography of Gov. Washburn by Albert Kelsey in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 88, no. 4, (2005)

Sketch of Gen. Washburn’s Civil War service by E.B. Quiner in his book, "Military History of Wisconsin" (Chicago, 1866), pages 980-981.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography (Madison, 1965); Love, William D. Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Madison, 1866): 743-746, 895-896; Quiner, E.B. Military History of Wisconsin (Chicago, 1866: 408-409.]

172 records found

1888 Bohemian Schoolhouse (Historic Marker)
Abert, George 1817 - 1890
Ameche, Don 1908 - 1993
Bacon, Edward Payson 1834 - 1916
ballast (railroads)
bank (railroads)
Barron, Henry Danforth 1833 - 1882
Bashford, Coles 1816 - 1878
Bay View Rolling Mill (Historic Marker Erected 198
Belgian Settlement in Wisconsin (Historic Marker E
Bluffton, Marquette Co.
bobber (railroads)
boiler (railroads)
boxcar (railroads)
brakeman (railroads)
branch line (railroads)
Brandemuehl, David A. 1931
Breske, Roger M. 1938
broad gauge (railroads)
Brookfield [brief history]
Browne, Edward L. 1830 - 1925
Buffalo City [brief history]
Burnham, George 1816 - 1889
Burnham, Jonathan Levi 1818 - 1891
caboose (railroads)
cant (railroads)
Carhart, John W. 1834 - 1914
Carpenter, Matthew Hale [B. "Carpenter","Decatur M
Civil War: 29th Infantry
Civil War: 43rd Infantry
Civil War: home front
Colby, Gardner 1810 - 1879
Commons, John Rogers 1862 - 1945
conductor (railroads)
Cooper, Henry Allen 1850 - 1931
coupler (railroads)
Crocker, Hans 1815 - 1889
Cross, James B. 1819 - 1876
crummy (railroads)
Davidson, James Henry 1858 - 1918
De Pere [brief history]
dead man's handle (railroads)
Dheinsville Settlement (Historic Marker Erected 19
Doty, James Duane 1799 - 1865
Edgerton, Benjamin Hyde 1811 - 1886
Eldred, Anson 1820 - 1895
Esch, John Jacob 1861 - 1941
express train (railroads)
facing (railroads)
fettle, fettling (railroads)
firebox (railroads)
fireman (railroads)
First Rural Zoning Ordinance (Historic Marker Erec
flatcar (railroads)
floods in Wisconsin
flying junction (railroads)
Fond du Lac [brief history]
Foster, Nathaniel Caldwell 1834 - 1923
four-foot (railroads)
gandy dancer (railroads)
Garland, Hamlin 1860 - 1940
gauge (railroads)
gondola (railroads)
Good Roads Movement
grab bar (railroads)
Granger Movement
Green Bay [brief history]
Guppey, Gen. Joshua J. (1820-1893)
hack (railroads)
Hasenohrl, Donald W. 1935
Hatton, William H. 1856 - 1937
Hayward [brief history]
Highway Marking (Historic Marker Erected 1956)
Hirst, Arthur Roscoe 1881 - 1932
Hoard, William Dempster 1836 - 1918
hogger (railroads)
Holmes, Frederick Lionel 1883 - 1946
Holton, Edward Dwight 1815 - 1892
hotels in Wisconsin
island platform (railroads)
Janesville, Rock Co.
Jefferson, Jefferson Co.
Johnstown Center, Rock Co.
Jones, Burr W. 1846 - 1935
junction (railroads)
Juneau, Solomon 1793 - 1856
Keep, Albert 1826 - 1907
Kenosha [brief history]
Keyes, Elisha Williams 1828 - 1910
Kilbourn, Byron 1801 - 1870
Kincaid, Lloyd H. 1925
Kneeland, Moses 1809 - 1864
La Crosse [brief history]
La Follette, Robert Marion Sr. 1855 - 1925
Lasee, Alan J. 1937
Lawe, George William 1810 - 1895
Lawler, John 1832 - 1891
level junction (railroads)
Lime industry in Wisconsin
local train (railroads)
long lots
Ludington, Harrison 1812 - 1891
Mack, John Givan Davis 1867 - 1924
Madison, Dane Co.
mainline (railroads)
Manitowoc, Manitowoc Co.
Mapes, David Parshall 1798 - 1890
Marin, Paul, 1692-1753
Mcdougal, Milton 1917
meat packing industry
Miller, Roswell 1843 - 1913
Mohrsville [origin of place name]
narrow gauge (railroads)
North Freedom [origin of place name]
Omro, Winnebago Co.
pantograph (railroads)
per diem (railroads)
Pewaukee [brief history]
Philipp, Emanuel Lorenz 1861 - 1925
piston (railroads)
Plache, Kimberly M. 1961
plank road
Potter Law (1874)
Price, William Thompson 1824 - 1886
Putnam, Henry Cleveland 1832 - 1912
quarrying industry in Wisconsin
Racine [brief history]
Racine, Racine Co.
railroads in Wisconsin
Reed, George 1807 - 1883
Rest Areas on the I-Roads (Historic Marker Erected
Ringling [Rungeling], Albert 1852 - 1916
Road gang (logging)
road monkey (logging)
roads in Wisconsin (early)
roads in Wisconsin (modern)
rolling stock (railroads)
Rustic Road (Historic Marker Erected 1976)
Sanders, Col. Horace T. (1820-1865)
Shaw, Daniel 1813 - 1881
Sheboygan, Sheboygan Co.
shoofly (railroads)
siding (railroads)
six-foot (railroads)
standard gauge (railroads)
Stevens Point [brief history]
Stone, Jeff 1961
swamper (logging)
switchman (railroads)
Taylor, William Robert 1820 - 1909
Teasdale, Howard (1855 - 1936)
ten-foot (railroads)
The "Dinky" (Historic Marker Erected 1989)
The Point of Beginning (Historic Marker Erected 19
The Saukville Trails (Historic Marker Erected 1998
The Upper Mississippi (Historic Marker Erected 198
Thompsonville, Racine Co.
through platform (railroads)
timeline of Wisconsin history, 1900 -1999
Tittemore, James Nelson 1864 - 1949
trainman (railroads)
turntable (railroads)
Van Hise Rock (Historic Marker Erected 1997)
Vanderperren, Cletus 1912
Village of Cooksville (Historic Marker Erected 199
Washburn, Gov. Cadwallader Colden (1818-1882)
Watertown, Jefferson Co.
Wauwatosa, Milwaukee Co.
way car (railroads)
wheat cultivation
WPA (in Wisconsin)
yard (railroads)

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