Cadwallader Colden Washburn

Cadwallader Colden Washburn, whose civilian career far outshone his tour of duty as a volunteer major general during the Civil War, was born on April 22, 1818, in Livermore, Maine, where his father had moved from Massachusetts in 1806. His first American ancestor had settled in Duxbury in 1632 and both of his grandfathers had been officers of the Revolutionary Army. Three of his six brothers served in Congress or the Senate, and at one point he and two of his brothers were simultaneously members of the House of Representatives. Driven by necessity, Washburn went west at the age of twenty-one and in 1842 began a law practice in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, some thirty-odd miles from where his brother Elihu had settled in Galena, Illinois. Washburn amassed an enormous fortune in the rapidly developing country from land speculation, banking, railroading, lumbering, supplying water power, and flour milling. He was elected to Congress as a Republican representative from Wisconsin in 1854 and served for three terms by reelection; he was also a member of the Washington peace conference of 1861. His brother Elihu was not only Abraham Lincoln's intimate but also U. S. Grant's principal sponsor—these connections may have had something to do with his phenomenal rise in rank from colonel, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry (February 6, 1862), to brigadier general of volunteers (July 16, 1862), and to major general (March 13, 1863 to rank from November 29, 1862). Nevertheless, he seems to have rendered good service while on active duty, first in Missouri under Eugene Carr in the Army of the Southwest and finally in command of the Department of West Tennessee, with headquarters at Memphis. In the meantime he commanded the Yazoo Pass expedition during Grant's initial attempts to take Vicksburg on the land side, and, during the final siege and capture of the city itself, Washburn directed a detachment of three divisions of the XVI Corps. General Washburn resigned from the army on May 25, 1865, and returned home. In the years following the war he served two more terms in Congress (1867-71) and was governor of Wisconsin from 1871 to 1873. At the same time he was instrumental in organizing Washburn, Crosby, and Company (now General Mills) in Minneapolis and invested in a number of other enterprises which brought him one of the great fortunes of the Midwest. He died at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on May 14, 1882, while on a health pilgrimage, and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.