For those that complain that they can't find truly historical guns at the shows and auctions, here's one for you. This is an early 1861production Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver that a friend called me about. He sent me a few photos and the first thing that caught my eye was the engraving style and coverage. This isn't a normal gun, it's deluxe engraved and similar Colt Navy Revolvers were presented to John B. Floyd, Jefferson Davis and others. It shows extra scrolling and punch-dot background to the shoulders of the cylinder as well as the front half inch of its barrel.
This gun was offered at only a slight premium over a standard Young engraved Navy! But wait, it gets better,,,,, much, much better. He told me the gun had a very faint inscription that appeared as though someone had tried to remove during its period of use. It read, "Capt. W. ?. Cahill, U. S. A.". For astute Colt Collectors, that's music to our ears as the USA portion of such an inscription stands for U. S. Army. It's a well-known fact that such guns were ordered for officers by Thornton, Whitley and others in the ordnance department at a discount for Military Officers and the inscriptions were provided by Colt at "no charge". Most of these officers in the regular Army were also West Point grads. I just happened to own a leather traveling trunk that belonged to a man that may have owned such a gun, and the alarms went off instantly. My trunk was owned by William L. Cabell, a captain in the regular Army that signed on with the Confederacy in 1861 and who together with Joseph E. Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard designed the first Confederate battle flag. Sure enough, after finding there was no Captain W. Cahill in the regular Army at the time, it had to be Cabell and examination of the inscription proved it, "Capt. W. L. Cabell, U.S.A.". Here's where the heartbreak sets in. The man that offered me this gun was a dear friend, so I shared my information and told him to keep it. He is now ready to sell. This is a consignment.
William L. Cabell was born in Danville, Virginia. Six of Cabell's brothers also held prominent positions in the Confederate Army. One other brother died just prior to the Civil War from an arrow wound received in Florida. Cabell graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1850 and joined the United States Army as a second lieutenant with the 7th U.S. Infantry. In June 1855, he was promoted to first lieutenant and regimental quartermaster on the staff of General Persifor F. Smith.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, Cabell returned to Little Rock, Arkansas, and offered his services to Governor Henry Massey Rector. In April 1861, he received a telegram from the Confederate States government and went to Richmond, Virginia, to assist in the establishment of the commissary, quartermaster, and ordnance departments for the Confederate military.
He was sent to Manassas, Virginia, to take the position of Quartermaster for the Confederate Army of the Potomac under General P.G.T. Beauregard. He served on Beauregard's staff and then on the staff of General Joseph E. Johnston until reassigned in January 1862.
After leaving Virginia, Cabell was assigned by General Albert Sidney Johnston to serve under General Earl Van Dorn, who was commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Cabell was promoted to brigadier general and placed in command of all Confederate troops on the White River, with his headquarters at Jacksonport, Arkansas. Soon after the Battle of Pea Ridge, Confederate forces were withdrawn from Arkansas and moved across the Mississippi River. Upon his arrival at Corinth, Mississippi, Cabell was given command of a Texas brigade with an Arkansas regiment attached. Cabell led this brigade in several engagements around Corinth.
Cabell was transferred to an Arkansas brigade, which he led in the Battle of Iuka and the Battle of Corinth. He was wounded leading a charge against the Union entrenchments at Corinth and again at the Battle of Hatchie's Bridge, which left him temporarily disabled and unfit for field command.
In February 1863, he was placed in command of northwestern Arkansas and successfully recruited and outfitted one of the largest cavalry brigades west of the Mississippi. Cabell led this brigade in over 20 engagements in the Trans-Mississippi Department including prominent roles at the Battle of Poison Spring and the Battle of Marks' Mills where he commanded two brigades under General James Fleming Fagan. Cabell was captured in Missouri (by Sergeant Cavalry M. Young of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry) during Price's Raid on October 25, 1864, and was held as a prisoner of war at the Johnson's Island prison camp on Lake Erie and then at Fort Warren in Boston, Massachusetts.
After the war, Cabell returned to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he worked as a civil engineer and studied law at night. He was admitted to the Arkansas bar in 1868 and practiced law for a few years. In 1872, Cabell and his family moved to Dallas, Texas. In 1874, he was elected mayor of that city and served four terms at various times. During his tenure, he expanded rail access to the city, established sewer and electrical services, started a program of paving streets, and presided over a period of massive growth.
After leaving office, Cabell became Vice President of the Texas Trunk Railroad Company. In 1885, he was appointed U.S. Marshal and served in that capacity until 1889. During the Spanish-American War, at age 71, he offered his military services to the U.S. government.
Cabell also remained active in Confederate veterans affairs. He oversaw several large veterans reunions, assisted in establishing pensions, veterans homes, and Confederate cemeteries in Texas. He served as commander of the Trans-Mississippi Department of the United Confederate Veterans.
William Lewis Cabell died in Dallas and was buried there five days later after a heavily attended military parade. Before his death, Cabell had converted to Catholicism.
Cabell's wife was the daughter of Major Elias Rector of Arkansas and served as a nurse during the Civil War. Daughter, Katie Doswell Cabell Currie Muse was President of the Texas Division, United Daughters of the Confederacy (25 May 1896 - 17 Dec 1897 & 17 Oct 1921 - 19 Oct 1922) and President General, United Daughters of the Confederacy (Nov 1897 - Nov 1899). Grandson Charles P. Cabell became a four-star general in the United States Air Force as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence during the 1950s. Another grandson, Earle Cabell, was also mayor of Dallas, serving at the time of the Kennedy assassination.